Spoilers for Captain Marvel.
While there is a lot of discuss (and we will) for Captain Marvel’s first 120 minutes or so, it’s what happens to in about 90 seconds of post-credit action that raises a lot of questions and maybe … maybe suggests some answers about April’s Avengers: Endgame.
So if you haven’t yet seen Captain Marvel, or somehow inexplicably left before the mid-credits on purpose, you may want to tap out now.
For those who did stick around, you know Carol Danvers shows up very suddenly at Avengers HQ not looking a day older but with different hair and in a spiffy new costume. She appears because the remaining team members present - Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and James "Rhodey" Rhodes - have found Nick Fury’s beeper and are trying to determine what it is and keep it operating.
The “Where’s Fury?” moment mostly reveals in somewhat surprise fashion that Carol joins the action earlier than most close observers probably anticipated and has launched a thousand conspiracy theories about Marvel Studios digitally manipulating the Endgame Super Bowl commercial to remove her from scenes. Most specifically the ‘slow walk line-up’ and ‘look up on the lawn’ scenes.
But the small detail from the scene that suggests it takes place early in the film soon after the conclusion of Infinity War raises some new questions and launches some theories on its own …
Captain America is still rocking his Infinity War facial hair!
… and it’s the only glimpse of him with facial hair in the albeit brief moments with him in Endgame footage.
Exclusively clean-shaven Steve appears as follows (in order seen, not necessarily chronological):
1. Crying Steve
2. “I know it is” Steve talking to Widow about to launch mission
3. Surprised by Ant-Man Steve
Super Bowl Spot
4. Not having it support meeting Steve
5. Looking up on the lawn Steve
6. Slow walk line-up Steve (though not conclusive)
Now safely assuming he doesn’t shave his beard and grow it back again during the course of Endgame, again another safe assumption is the beard-less scenes take place after some time passes and/or after an event in which Steve would take the time to shave despite the world-changing circumstances around him.
The support meeting scene in particular suggests a narrative in which Captain Marvel's appearance on Earth doesn't immediately propel the story into the presumed undo-the-Snap plan. Carol appears and seemingly life moves on, with the characters still having time for contemplative civilian moments like that.
Perhaps Carol herself has time to find and reconnect with Maria and Monica, if either/both still exist?
But circling back, what sort of event might cause a man who came of adult age in the 1930s-40s to shave his rebellious, somewhat-out-of-character facial hair?
How about a funeral-memorial service for a fallen teammate(s)?
Now of course there is no shortage of fallen teammates and comrades to hold a service for - including his old best friend Bucky, his new best friend Sam Wilson, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Wanda, T’Challa, Vision, and Groot - all just the ones he’s knows about having been snapped on Earth. And we don’t even know what happened to burgeoning love interest Sharon Carter.
But the emergence of Captain Marvel so early in the story also provides new possible answers to one of the first Endgame trailer’s biggest mysteries - what happens to Tony?
We know now Carol literally has the ability of light speed travel herself. So she potentially can recover Tony’s ship in fairly short order if the Avengers can science a way into locating it or at least determine a path of the ship. The question is if it is Carol who locates the adrift ship, what is the state of Tony when she finds him?
The first trailer of course inspired many theories, including a couple of our own, that Tony doesn’t survive. Marvel Studios purposely put those theories into question, however, with the Super Bowl spot and the brief shot of Tony and Nebula seemingly working on repairing the ship. That moment was clearly inserted by Marvel with the intent to get fans to second guess their expectations and raises the distinct possibility Nebula in fact, rescues the stranded Tony at the last moment, though after leaving him to his own devices on Titan to begin with.
But again, we know Marvel is not above manipulating footage for the purposes of misdirection to keep fans from zoning in too close to surprises. While Nebula and Tony could certainly be repairing the ship after Tony’s message to Pepper and it is they who arrive back on Earth together and gets the Avengers out on the lawn looking skyward, that scene could also be Nebula helping him repair the ship just to get him off Titan, and he becomes stranded afterwards.
That's even assuming Tony and Nebula actually appear in that scene together at all and isn't just digital wizardry.
Nebula coming to Tony’s rescue, returning to Earth with him and being introduced to the team certainly seems logical and efficient enough. But it would also be somewhat out of character for Marvel Studios to create the deus ex machina of Tony being hours from death, saying goodbye in a poignant death scene only to be rescued at the last second by the very same character he just parted ways with.
So if alternately its Captain Marvel who locates and tows Tony’s ship back to Earth, perhaps with a deceased Tony on board, could that be the event that has Steve crying and is Tony's memorial the event he shaves his beard for? We’ve already contemplated what role Tony’s recovered recorded messages to Pepper could play in the premused time travel story.
Either which way, with Carol’s surprise early introduction, timestamped thanks to Steve’s glorious beard, several possibilities for the fate of Tony Stark are back on the table.
Which one makes the most sense to you? Tell us on our Facebook or Twitter pages.