The threads of 11 years, 22 films and yes … at least one TV show … have finally unspooled in Avengers: Endgame, and there is a lot to unpack.
The film has only been open for about 24 hours in North America and up to a few days in some overseas markets, and many, many fans have yet to see it.
But we also imagine a good deal of Newsarama readers saw it as soon as they could, so it’s time to start talking about the implications, ramifications and unanswered questions Marvel Studios’ critically-acclaimed magnum opus has unleashed.
Out of respect to moviegoers who want to preserve the same spoiler-free experience we were able to enjoy (which we highly recommend) we’re going to try to keep any hint of a SPOILERS out of the headlines, so if you haven’t it figured out already, now’s the time to jump on out if you’re trying to avoid them. After a pause we’re going to get to the meat of our first reactions to the film.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME Implications, Part 1 - Time Paradoxes
If nothing else, co-directors Joe and Anthony Russos, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and producer Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios fully understood the can of worms they were potentially opening with time travel. Back to the Future is name-checked not once but twice along with a half dozen other time travel movies, and a fair amount of exposition is spent both acknowledging the pitfalls and explaining how they were going to be avoided.
And all-in-all, they did a pretty seamless job. By utilizing Tony Stark’s daughter Morgan as the MacGuffin to illustrate how history wasn’t being rewritten, and Bruce Banner and the Ancient One’s nuts-and-bolts conversation about avoiding alternative timelines, Endgame creates a pretty clean pocket for the MCU to move forward without nagging time paradoxes.
But they didn’t quite get away scot free. In order to deliver a satisfying return hello-and-final(ish)-goodbye for invested fans to beloved characters, they took a few liberties and have created some apparent head-scratching dilemmas. Here’s a look at the ones that have stood out to us so far.
Spider-Man and His Amazingly Teenage Friends
Okay, all the snapped have returned to the world five years later. Got it. Now, we’re going to forgive and overlook the problems with four billion people reappearing after five years (that’s gonna stress the infrastructure, but hey, we can roll with that). But for Peter Parker, who happens to star in the next MCU movie, it creates an interesting question.
Despite the current MCU year being 2023, Peter is still the same age he was in 2018 when he was snapped, so a return to high school is perfectly logical. And we can easily assume best friend Ned was also snapped, and the two of them can continue their friendship as contemporaries.
But exactly where does July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home fit into the timeline? Were ALL of Peter’s friends, including MJ/Michelle, Betty Brant (Ned’s new girlfriend) and Flash snapped too?
That’d be the easiest answer, particularly if Peter and MJ’s relationship is going to develop in future films. That would allow for Peter’s teenage journey to continue apace and would explain Tony Stark’s absence. We’d have to allow for Far From Home taking place in 2023, but that’s not a dealbreaker, and it’s the path Marvel seems to have chose for the entire shared universe anyway.
If you can’t buy that every Midtown High teenager with a hand in Peter’s life was snapped too, that’d require Far From Home taking place before Infinity War. But again, Marvel is going to have to reconcile Peter’s age and the ages of his supporting cast members sooner or later - and making Far From Home a prequel just kicks the can down the road for the eventual part 3.
Verdict: We’re going with the former explanation.
TV or Not TV
Okay, the upcoming Jessica Jones Season 3 probably takes place pre-Infinity War. With the Netflix corner of the MCU going bye-bye, that one we can let go.
The current and upcoming seasons of Cloak & Dagger and Runaways, also pre-snap. Simple enough.
Or hell, make those two all post-snap. But it has to be one or the other. If the shows continue for third or more seasons, the elephant in the room is just going to get larger.
But as for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems like fitting it into the timeline is going to have to be addressed somehow, someway and soon. With what we know about the show’s new status quo, it seems like a five-year time jump to post-Endgame is entirely possible, and to continue for two more seasons (at least) pre-Infinity War would seem impractical.
The other implication could be that Marvel Studios simply doesn’t give it much thought. While we got our requested cameo crossover in Endgame (but who had James D’Arcy as Jarvis from Agent Carter in the pool?), it appears like Marvel Studios could simply be apathetic to what goes on the non-Disney+ side.
Marvel TV may just choose to move also forward without addressing the issue, letting their loyal viewers simply decide for themselves where the series fit in, if at all.
Gamora, Where Are You?
So our first two questions are more due to the five-year jump. The latter two get into headache-inducing time travel shenanigans.
As we understand it, Cap returning to the past to put the stones back exactly where they took them completes a loop that begins in 1970 and ends with Thanos being turned into dust.
And a loop until that point may be the most practical way of thinking about it. Presumably, the Russos even astutely remembered for Cap to return Mjolnir to the Thor: The Dark World timeline where 2023 Thor hijacked it from.
So everything MCU, including the Infinity War Battle of Wakanda and the snap and the five years that passed all still happened, until the loop is completed and things move forward again the second Cap is sent to the past with all the stones
(and not for nothing, wouldn’t the story of his journey make for a good movie?)
But what about past-Gamora?
While it is explained Black Widow can’t return, Cap seemingly still returns the Soul Stone to Vormir, so Gamora can still be sacrificed for it in 2018 (Infinity War). But we don’t see Gamora dusted along with Thanos, the Black Order, and Thanos’ army in 2023, and we don't see her return home to the past.
And while current-Nebula is seen with the Guardians as they prepare to return to space with Thor, past-Gamora is not, and in fact Peter is running a search for her as the scene begins.
So does that mean the Gamora from the past is still out there in 2023, and took off on her own given she has no memories of being a Guardian or her attachment to Peter? Where would she go? Spaceships aren’t exactly commonplace on Earth.
But if she lived on but wasn’t sent back to the past, can she still be sacrificed by Thanos in 2018? But if she was, wouldn’t she just be dead again and as unsaveable as Black Widow?
Or are there now two past-Gamoras? One in 2023 and one who still dies in 2018?
Aaargh, someone pass the Tylenol.
Finally, this one is the most forgivable, but also maybe the most problematic from a time travel perspective. In order to send Chris Evans as Captain America off with deserved style, the Russos created their biggest paradox - or least the one you can’t think too hard about.
If Steve returned to the past to reunite with Peggy after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, and lived a very long life with her as her husband as the final scenes imply, it creates a multitude of issues.
For one, we’re going to allow for the fact that in Winter Soldier Peggy is talking about Steve as being her husband and father of her seeming children in the museum video and his protecting his identity. It’d be kind of creepy for Steve to alter the timeline for who should have been her other husband, but it also makes their exchange at her bedside hard to piece together. Is Peggy pretending for young-Steve that she hasn’t been and isn’t still married to old-Steve the whole time? Is old-Steve hiding in the bathroom when young-Steve pays a visit?
Who does Sharon Carter think her great-uncle is?
And does Steve have to keep truth about his knowledge of what S.H.I.E.L.D. really is (infiltrated by Hydra from the beginning) from Peggy their entire life together so the timeline isn’t significantly altered?
Does Steve also have to sit by over 70 years and let things like what happened to Bucky and events like 9/11 still happen when he could stop them?
Finally, how does he get a repaired shield to give to Sam without creating the same problem he fixed by returning Mjolnir?
As we say, these are all eminently forgivable, given the context. With Chris Evans’ desire to move on and a need to not have Endgame steeped in too much tragedy, allowing that sort of graceful and uplifting exit is not only understandable, but endorsable.
And it also creates some intriguing possibilities. In comic books, older Steve has served as a leader before, and of course has regained his youth any number of times. Would Evans be up for brief cameos as an MCU elder statesman? And/or would he be up for a triumphant return down the line?
And does this mean the guy with the super soldier physiology and who was rockin’ about 110 years at the end of Endgame has some biological offspring out there somewhere?
While the Steve paradox offers fans emotionally satisfying closure, it also opens some backdoor options at the same time - something to keep an eye on in the coming years.
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