WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, in theaters now.
Of all the surprises fan witnessed in Avengers: Endgame, none may have been as anticipated as the final fate of Steve Rogers. In the film's closing moments, Captain America travels through time via the Quantum Realm to return the Infinity Stones and Mjolnir to their proper place in the timeline to preserve the space-time continuum... or so it seems.
Instead of returning home through the Quantum Realm, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes find Steve, now an elderly man, having lived his life reunited with Peggy Carter after traveling back to the 1940s. According to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, bestowing a restored version of the vibranium shield to Sam despite its destruction at the hands of Thanos means Steve created a divergent timeline, potentially setting the stage for a future Captain America movie.
"If Cap were to go back into the past and live there, he would create a branched reality,” Joe Russo explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "The question then becomes, how is he back in this reality to give the shield away?”
The Ancient One had explained to Bruce Banner earlier in the film that tampering with the timeline would create divergent anomalies with unknown consequences. Despite returning the Infinity Stones and Mjolnir to their proper moments, the filmmakers note the divergence involving Cap returning to the 1940s for Peggy and returning to the present with an intact shield may set up future stories for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, that's not to say the Russos are definitely planning another Captain America movie. Still, they certainly left the door open for one.
"Interesting question, right?" Joe Russo continued. "Maybe there’s a story there. There’s a lot of layers built into this movie and we spent three years thinking through it, so it’s fun to talk about it and hopefully fill in holes for people so they understand what we’re thinking.”
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos.