1:16pm PT by Graeme McMillan
How 'Avengers: Endgame' Sets Up the Disney+ Marvel Shows
[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]
As everyone who's seen Avengers: Endgame already knows, the movie is the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, bringing storylines (and characters) to a close with the utmost melodrama and visual pyrokinetics. It's also the start of the next generation of Marvel Studios, which doesn't just encompass movies — there's also the potential offered by Disney+'s programming to be considered, and that's something that Endgame may have already factored into its storytelling.
(Yes, I know that there have been Marvel TV shows since 2013's Agents of SHIELD. To pretend that they're really part of the MCU as it appears onscreen is more than a little unrealistic, however.)
On multiple occasions, Avengers: Endgame offered off-ramps for creators working on the streaming shows, which Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has already promised will significantly interrelate to what's seen on the big screen. Each of the four Disney+ series that we know of — the untitled Loki and Hawkeye series, WandaVision and The Falcon & Winter Soldier — each got significant enough nods in Endgame that it feels as if they were purposefully setting up each show for fans as the movie wrapped up.
The most obvious gift Endgame gave to Disney+ was the aged Steve Rogers handing the shield to Sam Wilson, all-but-declaring him to be the new Captain America. This is comics-consistent, of course — in 2014's Captain America No. 25, an aged Rogers named Wilson as his replacement, leading to a three-year stint as the Star-Spangled Avenger — but it's also a move that gives new energy to the Falcon and Winter Soldier series; if that show takes place after Endgame, it is almost forced to answer the question of whether or not Sam takes on the role — and responsibility — that's been offered to him, and also how Bucky feels about it.
Given that the show isn't called Captain America and the Winter Soldier, one might be tempted to read meaning into Sam's choices (or lack thereof) as to the Captain America legacy. There's an alternate possibility, however: That the Disney+ property exists specifically to bridge Endgame and a relaunch of the Captain America movie series with Sam in the central role, and features him training with Bucky in order to be worthy of taking the identity on in the first place.
In terms of WandaVision, the Endgame lead-in may be less obvious — the movie, after all, ends with the Vision still dead, one of the few heroes who didn't return when the Snap was undone, because his death happened before that point. This would be more of a problem if the Vision was not a robot who could, theoretically, be rebuilt with an alternate power source, or if the Scarlet Witch had in comic book canon not been shown to manipulate reality, making the possibility of her magically resurrecting the character a possibility, if not an outright likelihood.
Suddenly the 1950s setting teased in the announcement makes a little more sense, when viewed in this light; what if Wanda has somehow broken reality in an attempt to bring the Vision back, instead resulting in an idealized suburban setting? It wouldn't end that well, however, judging by The Vision's previous attempts at suburban bliss.
As for the Loki show, it could answer one of the most obvious unresolved plots from Endgame: Where did Loki go after stealing the Tesseract when the heroes traveled back in time? Technically, that's an alternate Loki from an alternate timeline — assuming that the Ancient One's take on how changes to the timeline work, of course — but if a Trickster God has the Space Stone, exactly what is to stop him traveling between timelines as he wishes, and even returning to the original timeline to mess with the heroes who accidentally set him free?
Such a move would allow Tom Hiddleston to return to the contemporary MCU as Loki without, exactly, undoing his death in Infinity War — it's kind of a different character, almost, maybe, sort of. Sure, it's a dodge, but given the popularity of the character and Hiddleston in the role, I suspect it's one that the majority of fans would be happy to accept without too much complaint. (It's not as if dead characters have never been replaced by their alternate timeline selves in comic books before; Marvel's current Guardians of the Galaxy comic series features two by itself.)
When it comes to Hawkeye, the state Jeremy Renner's character is left in at the end of Endgame is, without a doubt, the most interesting his character has been throughout his entire MCU existence: balancing shame over his actions during the period he adopted the Ronin identity with his desire to be there for his family, especially in light of their deaths and resurrections. Add to that the idea that he'll be involved with the training of his replacement, Kate Bishop, and that's more than enough potential for a series bringing his story to a close right there.
All of this is purely speculation; it's just as likely that the Disney+ shows will go their own ways entirely unrelated to whatever was left on the field in Endgame. It would arguably be unfortunate to do so, though, especially given the lengths to which the movie leaves storylines in need of exploration and resolution. After all, wouldn't it be a waste of the world's longest, most expensive commercial for a streaming service if none of the dangling plot threads were picked up immediately for Disney+?