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Biggest unanswered questions about Captain America's new life

Avengers: Endgame gives us some sad moments, but it also gives us one of the happiest endings in the MCU. Tasked with bringing the Infinity Stones back to their places and times of origin, Captain America (Chris Evans) uses the opportunity to stay deep in the past and allow himself a life with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Though he does not return to the present exactly as intended, an elderly Steve Rogers wearing a wedding ring appears to the teammates he left behind just moments earlier, and the aged hero passes off his iconic shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

This has left fans with lots of questions about Steve's new life, and a revelation from the filmmakers shortly after the release of Endgame has led to more. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, directors Joe and Anthony Russo confirmed that when Cap lives the life he always wanted with Peggy, it's in a different timeline from the rest of the MCU. From the argument between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) in 2012, we know that means when someone makes a change to the past, rather than changing the timeline that person came from, it creates a new timeline running parallel to the original where history unfolds differently — in either small or cataclysmic ways.

We already had huge questions about Cap's trip to the past, and what the Russo brothers told EW just brings up more. Here are the biggest unanswered questions we have about Captain America's new life.

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Did he end up in the ice?

Perhaps the first — and possibly the most important — question to answer is exactly how far back in time Steve Rogers traveled. Did he only return to 1970, return the Tesseract, and live his life with Peggy Carter starting there? Or did he go back as far as World War II and alter the events we saw in Captain America: The First Avenger

It's important, because no matter what way you look at it, it's difficult to resolve the fact that he's in a timeline with another Steve Rogers — the one who was always in that timeline — unless he does something that causes the death of the other Steve Rogers, which is a pretty un-Captain-America thing to do. 

It seems like the only thing that truly makes any sense is that, no, Steve Rogers didn't make any changes to the events of World War II. He would live his life with Peggy knowing that the Capsicle version was still frozen in the Atlantic, and that he would one day be discovered, thawed out, and drafted into the Avengers. Seems a little, forgive us, cold to knowingly leave someone frozen in the ocean, but on the other hand, there would be a question of how he could help his underwater alternate self in any case.

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Did he warn S.H.I.E.L.D. about Hydra's infiltration?

In Avengers: Endgame, Cap uses his knowledge of Hydra's decades-old infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. to his advantage. When S.H.I.E.L.D. agents — who he knows are mostly Hydra agents — transport Loki's scepter in a Stark Tower elevator, Cap convinces them to trust the weapon to him by whispering the phrase "Hail Hydra."

Living in the past would mean that Captain America would know that Hydra was slowly eating away at S.H.I.E.L.D., and he'd potentially have the opportunity to do something about it decades before the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He could prevent the countless deaths that resulted as part of Project: Insight, not to mention who knows how many assassinations and other covert actions the Hydra-infected S.H.I.E.L.D. committed over the years.

It would likely not be an easy choice for Steve. Obviously, he'd want to do it. Being in an alternate timeline, he'd know his actions couldn't negatively impact his friends in the original timeline. Presuming Peggy Carter would remain an employee of S.H.I.E.L.D., to not do something would mean knowing every day his wife was working with potentially deadly traitors. But, at the same time, he would have no clue what kind of long-term result his actions would have or what the world would look like. It could be that, despite their evil, Hydra stopped a tyrant or two rising to power who would otherwise be unopposed. 

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Did he help Bucky?

Even if Cap didn't go after Hydra as a whole, what about Bucky (Sebastian Stan)? In the past, Cap would know that his best friend wasn't dead as he had believed when he defeated the Red Skull in The First Avenger, but that he was captured, his mind and body would be altered, and he would soon be Hydra's most ruthless assassin. He would commit countless murders which would haunt him long after he emerged from Hydra's brainwashing. 

We don't know if any time travel responsibility lectures from any scientists in Star Trek or Doctor Who or Time Bandits or anything else could possibly stop Steve from doing everything he could to help Bucky. Steve was willing to make himself a fugitive and abandon his friendship with Tony Stark in order protect his Bucky — and that was a couple of minutes after he watched a recording of the brainwashed Bucky brutally murdering Howard and Maria Stark. Surely, no concerns about unintended consequences would stop him from saving his best friend.

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Did he save the Starks?

Considering what we said about Cap and Bucky, it may seem redundant to ask whether or not Cap would save the Starks, but think about it. Even if Cap succeeds in saving Bucky, as long as Hydra exists it will send someone to kill the Starks. Whoever it is might choose a different time, place, and method. But someone's coming for that super-soldier serum regardless.

Here's where Cap may have to seriously start thinking like one of those lecturing sci-fi scientists. As unhealthy as Tony's coping mechanisms may be after the deaths of his parents, would he have become Iron Man without that tragedy? If Howard were still alive in 2008, would it have been Howard who went to Afghanistan instead of Tony? In Iron Man, Tony's hours late getting on the plane for the weapons demonstration, and presumably that means the demonstration runs late too. Is he still late if he isn't the self-obsessed mess he is in the prime MCU timeline? If not, is he still kidnapped? And if not kidnapped, does he become Iron Man? And if there's no Iron Man, do any of the Avengers ever assemble? The questions never stop.

Steve does have one blessing here. If he does choose to save the Starks, it won't take much. Maybe just ask Peggy to say to S.H.I.E.L.D., "Hey maybe we should transport the game-changing super-soldier serum with something other than just an unarmed middle-aged couple?"

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What did he do with Mjolnir?

When Steve starts his trip back in time at the end of Endgame, he brings Mjolnir with him. When elderly Steve appears moments later, the hammer isn't there. So what did Cap do with Mjolnir?

The easiest answer — and the most responsible one — is that when he went back to 2013, he returned it to Asgard along with the Aether. After all, when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets Mjolnir from the past, it winds up being a critical part of the battle with Thanos. But it means the Thor of 2013 was just hanging out when suddenly his hammer flew away and then disappeared. If Steve returns the Aether, then the Thor of that time will still need to face Malektih (Christopher Eccleston), and leaving him without Mjolnir would be a bad idea for the entire universe. 

You have to figure now that he knows he can not only lift Mjolnir, but summon it, it must be a terrible temptation for Steve. In Thor: The Dark World, as the Convergence sends Thor and Malekith flying through different worlds, Mjolnir still tries to return to its master, even heading into space to do so. That means Steve could just be relaxing in a hammock on Earth, hold out his hand, wait patiently for the hammer, and know that somewhere on Asgard, Thor was just very surprised and is saying something like, "Not again!"

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What did he do for a living?

You have to assume Steve is not going to be able to be Steve Rogers in this new timeline — at least not in name. He won't have to disguise himself or anything, but there would probably be a lot of people commenting on how much he looks like Steve Rogers and him saying, "You know, I get that a lot."

So without the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., or the U.S. Army paying his bills, he's going to have to do something with his time. We got a hint about one possibility in Captain America: The First Avenger. After his disastrous USO show in Europe, we see Rogers drawing himself as a monkey. This is an intentional reference to the comic book version of Cap, who has worked as a professional illustrator. This is the only time we see Steve drawing in the theatrical releases of the films, though in a deleted scene on the Avengers home release, he can be seen drawing at a restaurant's outdoor patio. 

Of course, what would be truly perfect is if he ended up drawing for comics. Then — while of course we unfortunately wouldn't get the chance to see it on the screen — we could imagine the late Stan Lee as an editor looking over his work, and maybe telling Steve he shouldn't draw superheroes so much… there's no future in them.

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What about Sharon?

Then, of course, there is the disturbing question of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). Cap and Sharon first meet in The Winter Soldier, when Cap believes Sharon is a nurse who lives across the hall… though she's actually a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent assigned to protect Cap. There are sparks there early on, and there's a little bit of fire in Civil War, though we never see if it goes anywhere beyond impressing Bucky and Falcon with a kiss below an overpass.

We also learn in Civil War that Sharon is Peggy Carter's niece. It's already a little weird that Steve is interested in the love-of-his-life's niece, and he's only saved from being a creep by the extraordinary age situation. But things get weirder once he goes back in time and marries Peggy. When speaking to EW about Cap's time travel trip, the Russo brothers made sure to confirm that Sharon is not blood-related to Steve. That's good, but he would still be her uncle. So Steve will be the uncle of a niece he made out with. And assuming the original Steve of this timeline comes out of the ice eventually, Sharon will possibly make out with a guy who is a younger version of her uncle. Blood-related or not, it's weird.

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Would Cap get frustrated with the lack of tech?

When he first gets out of the ice, Steve Rogers is probably just as surprised by the technology as he is lost by the pop culture references. But it doesn't take him too long for him to adjust. We see Steve using touchscreen tablets as early as Avengers, and soon he's got a smartphone just like everyone else. He may have been from the '40s, but he's spent the past decade in a time where taking out a flip phone can make you look like you churn your own butter.

When Steve goes back in time, the first few months at least will be annoying. The first couple of times he has to make a call on a rotary phone? The first time the phone rings in his house and he has no way to tell who it is? The first time he misses a call and he foolishly asks his friend, "Why didn't you leave a message?" The first time he needs cash and he was to wait until the next morning to physically go inside the bank?

Hopefully his love for Peggy outweighs the frustration he'll feel the first time he misses an episode of his favorite TV show (on his three channels) because he doesn't have a way to automatically record it.

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How does he get back to the main MCU timeline?

As we mentioned earlier, while speaking to EW, Joe and Anthony Russo said that Cap's new life does not take place in the prime MCU timeline. By staying in the past and building a life with Peggy Carter, Steve creates a new timeline. That's why the Marvel Universe as we know it doesn't implode under the weight of thousands of contradictions as soon as he leaves.

But that leaves us with one huge question. The elderly Steve reappears with his shield so he can hand it off to Sam Wilson, so how does he do that if he wasn't in the prime MCU timeline? This wasn't lost on the Russos. "The question then becomes, how is he back in this reality to give the shield away?" Joe Russo said to EW. "Interesting question, right? Maybe there's a story there."

Maybe there's a story there? Obviously there's a story there, but either the Russos haven't bothered to conceive it or they're just not sharing it. They allow the mystery to remain mysterious, but in the end, it isn't too mind-boggling to consider that Steve could find a way back. His new timeline still has its geniuses, like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner… not to mention its mystics, like Stephen Strange. Who knows? Maybe the answer could be in Disney's acquisition of Fox, and a stranger by the name of Reed Richards.