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Did Avengers: Endgame Reveal A New Hero For The MCU?

Contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

A lot can happen in a three-hour-long movie, and plenty did in Avengers: Endgame. Emotional reunions, scenes to make you tear up, genuinely hilarious dialogue to remind everyone why Marvel movies are so much fun, and a life-or-death mission that Earth's Mightiest Heroes embarked on – Avengers: Endgame had it all and executed everything magnificently. And it kept intensity high until the very end, when it gave the Star-Spangled Avenger a soul-stirring send-off and teased the introduction of a new hero take his place. Let's break down exactly what happened.

Major spoilers ahead!

It wasn't but a few minutes after Thanos' Decimation in Avengers: Infinity War that fans began wondering what would happen in Avengers: Endgame, specifically which dusted characters would return from the dead and which surviving heroes would meet their end as the 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe reached a shared summit. The name on most everyone's list of heroes who would likely die in Avengers: Endgame? Captain America. Speculation heated up even further when Captain America actor Chris Evans reiterated that he would be retiring the role of Steve Rogers after Endgame

It pains us to say it, but Captain America did make his departure during Avengers: Endgame. Rather than get crushed by Thanos (Josh Brolin) or sacrifice himself to protect his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers lives through to the very end, then chooses to go back in time by himself and return the Infinity Stones to the places in time the heroes took them from, so as to keep the time continuum in tact and not cause reality to split into chaotic alternate branches. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), now Professor Hulk, explains that Steve can take as much time as he needs in the Realm, but since time operates much differently there, he'll be back in the present just five seconds after he blasts to the past. That time passes in a flash, but when Hulk finishes his countdown, Cap hasn't returned. Hulk, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) begin to panic trying to figure out what went wrong and how to rescue Steve from the Quantum Realm. Then things take a turn — the trio see a man sitting on a bench near the lake just a few meters in front of them. Could it be Steve?

Yes! That elderly man is none other than Steve Rogers. With white hair, wrinkles, age spots, and a soft voice, Steve is clearly at the very end of his life — a life that he only ever dreamt of having. You see, nothing went wrong in the Quantum Realm. After returning the six Infinity Stones to their rightful places, Cap chose to remain in the past, reunite with his one true love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and grow old with her. Steve tells all this to Sam, and then does something big: tells him to try on the Captain America shield and see how it fits. Though Falcon admits that it feels foreign, like it will always belong to someone else, Steve makes it clear that he wants Sam to be the new Captain America.  He's got the shield and seems to be the appointed heir to the mantle. 

So, what does this mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? 

It seems all but guaranteed that Sam Wilson will no longer be known as Falcon, and will instead protect the world as the new Captain America. Considering such a switch-up has roots in the Marvel comics, with both he and Bucky previously taking up the stars-and-stripes moniker at certain points in time, there is more than enough information at hand for Marvel bigwigs to feature Sam-as-Captain-America in upcoming movies. The studio hasn't announced its future slate of films (and will hold off until sometime after Spider-Man: Far From Home hits theaters on July 5), so there's still a chance at least one planned MCU entry formally sees Sam suit up as Captain America. 

It also helps that Sam Wilson actor Anthony Mackie is still under contract with Marvel (more on that in a bit) and might have a movie or two left to go. Granted, Mackie has fulfilled the standard deal for six movies — having starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and now Avengers: Endgame — but the actor did previously say that he penned a deal for "like 50" films. As he told Vulture, "I signed up for as many movies as I could. I was willing to go as far as they would let me, in whatever capacity they wanted to retain me."

Steve passing his shield onto Sam at the end of Avengers: Endgame might also have an effect on the Disney+ limited series Falcon and Winter Solider, starring Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie. Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios did previously announce show's title and logo, which are unlikely to change, but after what took place in Endgame, it stands to reason that the companies might confirm that Falcon and Winter Soldier centers on the title characters working together as a Captain America duo. They were both present when old man Steve explained his decision and have both operated as Captain America, so perhaps Bucky and Sam will want to unite and honor the legacy of the Steve they knew as the Star-Spangled Avenger. f

Then again, maybe Sam won't take up the Captain America suit and shield and will be content continuing to save lives and slay baddies as Falcon. Perhaps he'll simply keep a hold of the shield as a reminder of his pal Steve, and only put it to use when the going gets really rough. 

Anything can happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Avengers: Endgame so clearly taught us, so for now it seems all theories about a new Captain America post-Endgame are fair play.