If you somehow haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet, turn back now. I’m serious — now. If you read past this paragraph, I claim no responsibility in your knowing two major spoilers.
And here’s one more short, tiny paragraph just to make extra sure. Okay, here we go…
Enough burying the lede: Here’s how Black Widow could possibly be revived from her great fall that yielded the Soul Stone.
I’m not going to call this a theory — that’s too kind. The word “theory” suggests you actually think this is what could happen. I don’t. But if somehow Kevin Feige were to ask me how we could get Natasha back — how that new Black Widow movie we keep hearing about could avoid being pure prequel — here’s what I’d say.
In fact, let’s frame it like it’s the opening to said Black Widow movie. Maybe in typical Marvel Studios style, their marketing materials have creatively misled us to think it all takes place in her “red ledger” days — that’d be pretty sweet.
My Black Widow movie starts with perhaps the most macabre opening shot ever to lead off a film from Disney — Natasha’s dead body resting lifeless at the bottom of Marvel’s literal Mount Doom. But you know how the camera kind of pans down toward her in Endgame once this happens? We’re going the opposite direction. All the way up the mountain to a stoic Red Skull, looking down upon her. It’s 2023 and this has just happened. Maybe we even see Hawkeye returning to the Benatar with the Soul Stone.
Doesn’t matter — we’re back at Red Skull. For a moment, maybe we’re pondering just what exactly his deal is these days. ’Cause really, what do we know through two movies? He’s just kinda there as a guardian — not much else at all. Who appointed him as such? How much control does he have? Can he bend the rules if he wants to?
Before we have time to let our imaginations run away with those thoughts, we hear a voice from offscreen. “I never thought I’d see you again,” it says. Before the speaker is revealed, we wonder whose voice it is. It does sound familiar, yes — we’ve definitely heard it spoken — but there’s still something kind of off about it.
“When last we spoke, I told you I had seen the future,” we see Red Skull say with a closeup on his face, a blurry silhouette emerging over his shoulder in the background. He’s still very stoic as we’ve seen in the last two films — but is there a hint of disdain in his voice? “’There are no flags,’ I said. My last words on Earth — not what I had in mind at the time…but also not entirely inaccurate, it would seem, given my current situation.” Do we hear a slight chuckle at the irony?
We THINK we know who he’s talking to now. But the voice is not what we expected, and we still don’t have a good look at the speaker: “You’ve waited a long time for this. Haven’t you?”
“Sixty-nine years...not that ‘years’ mean much to one such as myself these days.” Then — in a flash, and with no warning — the Red Skull flies at his new visitor, taking on the full hostile personality you’d expect of someone in the form of a wraith. The figure leaps out of the way, turns and speaks…
“Maybe that amount of time has clouded your memory,” the man teases. The camera starts to focus in on him as he continues, “But I can do this all day.”
It’s Steve Rogers all right. Yes, Steve Rogers. NOT Captain America — there’s no shield. No uniform. Just a tan jacket worn by an old man.
Indeed, the same old man who just handed his shield over to Sam Wilson nine years in the future from Vormir’s current 2014 reality.
How could this be? Wasn’t Steve supposed to return the Soul Stone in his younger days, before he headed back to live a happy life, presumably shortly after saving the day in 1945? Well, remember what Bruce had to say when asked how long it would take…
“For him…as long as he needs. For us…five seconds.”
As long as he needs… Any reason he couldn’t have “needed” almost eighty years?
Once Steve made the decision to — as Tony would have told him — get a life, he knew what fate awaited him. He knew he’d be happy for decades…but that he’d also outlive Peggy by many years — the Super Soldier Serum ensured that. And with his knowledge of future events, he knew just the right time to pass the mantle of Captain America to a friend who had earned it.
In his mind, Steve has nothing else to live for at this point — save for one final act of unspeakable heroism. One last grenade to throw himself upon.
Red Skull continues to attack. Steve continues to evade — he’s over 100 years old, but more spry than an Olympian in his twenties. He truly can do this all day — and Red Skull knows it.
Realizing this, the wraith returns to his initial position, regains his composure, and asks: “Why are you here, Captain? You know your friend’s death cannot be undone. Nothing can bring her back.”
Steve is somewhat amused. “My ‘friend’? How would you know that? Looking through time and space to keep tabs on my life, I take it? Kinda nosy for someone without a nose.”
“The Space Stone transported me here and stole my human form,” the wraith responds. “All with the gift — perhaps the curse — to see all…Steven Rogers, son of Joseph and Sarah.”
“Then you do know why I’m here.”
“You hope to exchange your soul for hers. I told you before — her death cannot be undone. Not even with the Soul Stone you carry.”
“Says who?” Steve challenges.
“I did not create the rules, Captain. I simply…know them.”
“Then defy them. Like you did the Nazi party when you founded Hydra. Like you meant to, to rest of the world.”
Steve removes the Soul Stone from his pocket, lifts it to the air.
“Take this,” he says. “And take with it the man who bestowed this cruel fate upon you in the first place.”
The Red Skull’s stoic face intensifies, filling the screen, the Soul Stone held aloft and still in frame. Almost begrudgingly, his arm swoops across the screen as we fade to black.
It is done. Steve’s ultimate showdown with his most personal of nemeses has ended in his own death — but more importantly, his final great victory.
We return to the scene by the lake. Sam Wilson has left an old man sitting on a park bench, returning to Bucky and Bruce. Sam holds up the shield and smiles — they’re all as happy as they are in disbelief.
Then, moments later, a familiar female voice:
Something even more unbelievable — Natasha. Standing right there. They stare in astonishment, then rush to greet her.
In the distance, an old man smiles, taps his wrist, and disappears nine years to the past…