“When bad things happen and you can stop them, but you don’t, they happen because of you.”
Captain America is seen as the epitome of a hero. He is one of the few worthy enough to lift Mjolnir, he has access to Iron Man’s armoury and he’s been entrusted with Wakanda’s technology by Black Panther.
Coupled with all the charm, world-saving, and moral grandstanding, it’s easy to believe that Captain America didn’t make a single false move throughout the eleven year Avengers saga.
But upon closer examination Captain America has made some of the worst decisions in the entire MCU (post suspended animation). And these poor choices come to the forefront in Avengers: Endgame.
While the movie in its entirety was absolute superhero perfection, the Captain America storyline was not. The decisions he made were not very hero-like at all. This is either because Marvel’s entire concept of time travel is so severely flawed that even the smallest examination will cause the core of the entire MCU to cave in on itself, or more likely because Captain America is actually a colossal jerk.
It may seem like a ridiculous thought at first but let’s take a moment to examine the evidence.
After the battles in Endgame have been fought and balance has been restored to the universe, Steve volunteers to return the Infinity Stones to their proper places in time. As luck would have it (because of the time travel rules established in the movie), Steve can take as long as needs in each decade and on each planet with very little or no time passing in his original timeline.
As he’s about to leave Bucky says goodbye to Steve in the weirdest way ever. “I’m going to miss you”, he says. This is a pretty deep farewell considering that Steve will be back in the blink of an eye. But Bucky knew something we didn’t. Steve wasn’t planning on coming back.
After returning the Infinity Stones Steve goes back to the 1940s to be with Peggy Carter indefinitely. It’s supposed to be a heartwarming moment where Steve finally gets his happy ending dance with Peggy – but it’s really not.
It’s just a real jerk move. Here’s why…
Even if an alternate timeline was created when Steve decided to stay in the 1940s, it doesn’t change anything that happened in the MCU. We know this because an old version of Steve appears sitting on a bench by a lake to pass on the Captain America shield to Sam Wilson.
By this logic, travelling back in time just means that there will be two versions of Steve existing in the same place and time. A carefree version living a quiet life with Peggy and the Captain America version that gets frozen is revived and goes on to save the world with the Avengers.
This begs the question… Is Cap really the hero who can’t sit idly by while things go sideways (as he pointed out to Tony Stark in Civil War)?
Time travel doesn’t have any effect on his memory which means he knows about all the bad things that are going to happen.
He knows that Bucky didn’t die and is being used as a weapon by Hydra, he knows that S.H.I.E.L.D was infiltrated by Hydra at the highest levels, and he knows that Thanos is going to snap half the universe out of existence. And he just does nothing…
Heroes are supposed to be selfless – thinking only about others and not themselves. We were led to believe that Steve wanted to be that hero. Wasn’t that why he agreed to be injected with the super-soldier serum?
And let’s not forget some of the other major jerk moves he’s made throughout his time with the Avengers.
- He refused to sign the accords which were created to limit civilian collateral damage.
- He knew Bucky killed Tony’s parents and didn’t tell him.
- His constant defiance caused a rift in the Avengers.
- When things didn’t go his way he just left.
It’s also worth noting that choosing Peggy destroys the loyalty aspect of his relationship with Bucky. Because every decision he made was ultimately for Bucky, leaving was not very “till the end of the line” of him.
To summarize: Steve Rogers was a lanky young man who desperately wanted to fight in World War II because of his hero-complex. He was injected with the super-soldier serum which gave him superhuman strength. He fought in the war and defeated Red Skull, but crashed into the icy Arctic and was trapped in suspended animation.
Nearly 70 years later he was revived and joined the Avengers. He went on to make horrible choices and could have ultimately prevented Iron Man’s death – but didn’t.