The final moments of Avengers: Endgame see Captain America finally get his dance with Peggy Carter, but while some fans decried this as Cap forgoing his moral obligation, it perfectly completes the character arc for the man behind the shield: Steve Rogers. Since the bittersweet finale of Captain America’s MCU debut, Rogers’ personal life was plagued by the dream of a happy romance which heroic duty plunged into a deep freeze.
At every turn through his MCU arc, Steve Rogers’ private life has been stymied by his job as Captain America. In Captain America: The First Avenger, his heroic plan to down the plane prevents he and Peggy from getting together. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, his burgeoning chemistry with both Black Widow and his agent-neighbor Sharon is never able to fully develop because of bigger issues with SHIELD and Hydra. In Captain America: Civil War, he lays Peggy to rest, along with his chances at ever having a normal happy life.
So when given the opportunity to travel through time and change the narrative of his life, of course he decides to “try some of that life Tony was telling [him] to get.” After defeating Thanos, returning the Infinity Stones, and completing all tasks assigned to Captain America, Steve finally decides to do what’s best for him. Within the very same movie, he can be seen yearning for his lost love, wistfully watching Peggy through a window during the time-heist. And in the end, to the very song that played in his apartment in The Winter Soldier, he fulfills the promise he’d wished he’d kept at the end of The First Avenger. While it means giving up the title of Captain America, it’s clear that this trade-off is one Steve wanted – perhaps one he’d always secretly wished he’d been able to make, as his life until that point had largely been sacrificing what he wanted for the sake of helping other people. With successors set up to take over his place, and the largest crisis the world had ever faced avoided, it seems only fair that Steve Rogers was able to finally get the happy life – and happy ending – he’d been sacrificing for so long.
Naturally, astute fans were quick to point out all the moral quandaries created by this new timeline. If Steve went back to the 1940s and lived out a happy, quiet life until reuniting with Sam on that bench, doesn’t that mean he stood idly by as innumerable disasters took place? He couldn’t intervene, so as not to dramatically alter the timeline. Would Captain America really allow Hydra to undermine SHIELD, or for any number of horrors to transpire under his watch?
These concerns not only ignore the MCU’s confusing time travel logic, but miss the narrative heart of the MCU. Avengers: Endgame is built around the idea of second chances and learning from mistakes. Cap learns not to rely on dogma, but instead use cunning for the greater good in sidestepping the infamous “Elevator Scene” fight. Similarly, at the end of a long journey, Steve takes the opportunity to remedy his biggest mistake: not giving Peggy that dance. Though the mantle of Captain America will continue onwards, the perfect end to Steve Rogers’ arc had been coming for a long, long time.