While Avengers: Endgame is very good at drawing you into the sheer spectacle of itself as you’re watching, when you give it some distance, the movie’s narrative weaknesses become readily apparent. And that’s before the Russo Brothers started to further complicate things with their post-hoc musings. Apparently, though, the filmmakers have even more to say.
The way Endgame ended up killing off Black Widow in order to give the remaining Avengers the key to defeating Thanos is one of the most controversial elements of the film. It’s part of Endgame’s larger problem with paying lip service to the idea of female character development rather than actually going for it, full stop.
After turning Widow into the Avengers’ newest leader, the movie does away with her entirely when she sacrifices herself to retrieve the Soul Stone so that Hawkeye doesn’t have to—and the choice raises a number of questions, considering how, presumably, Scarlet Johansson’s set to return to the MCU in her own solo movie.
While the Russos didn’t get into any sort of specifics about when the Black Widow movie is meant to take place within the cinematic universe, in an interview with Slate they explained that, at one point, there were plans to use the character to explore the larger ramifications of Thanos’ initial snap that wiped out half of the planet. That sounds interesting until Anthony Russo spells out exactly what the directing duo mean:
One thing that we talked about a lot—and I thought was really profound, but it was almost too large of an idea for us to wrangle, but we did try for a while—is just the idea that one-quarter of all children have no parents. Assuming you started with two parents. So that’s a lot of global orphans. Just the staggering number of that.
I believe at one point really early in development, Black Widow was actually leading the organization in D.C. that was in charge of orphans, basically. That was what she was heading up five years later.
Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced the deeply troubling, reductive idea that Black Widow saw herself as a monster because of the Red Room procedure that rendered her sterile (though some debate this). Even though Endgame spends a significant amount of time revisiting earlier moments from the MCU from new angles, this would have been a terrible way to close out that particular narrative thread for her.
What’s been so weird about all of this is that neither Endgame’s directors nor its co-writers seem to have a cohesive vision of how the film actually ended, which has the effect of making everything they say now about the film feel reflective of their inability to agree upon one definitive story.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Endgame co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely stated that in addition to believing that one of the recent Infinity Snaps might have inadvertently created the MCU’s multiverse, they’re confident that Steve Rogers ended up staying in the past to marry Peggy Carter and start a family with her. Specifically, Markus and McFeely said (in what feels like a contradiction to what the Russos said) Peggy’s two children mentioned in Captain America: Winter Soldier might “have somewhat super soldier DNA.”
Markus and McFeely accept that different people will have different viewpoints on this topic. But, in their minds, Steve was Peggy’s husband all along.
“It was always our intention that he was the father of those two children. But again, there are time travel loopholes for that,” said McFeely.
Added Markus: “It does introduce the idea that there are two children who have somewhat super soldier DNA.”
As interesting as this can be, one has to ask at what point we’re meant to accept the text of the film as it is and to stop wondering what might have been, had the filmmakers ended up making different decisions. In this case, it’s not just because Endgame is a mostly-fine movie on its own, but also because the more the writers and directors talk, the more they make some of their ideas sound less than ideal. So—how about we all give this a rest, and start looking forward to whatever’s happening next.