The Trauma of 'Avengers: Endgame'

Captain America and Iron Man have both suffered during their time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that could be what brings them back together.

Marvel has been restrained with Avengers: Endgame footage, and very little has been revealed about how the Avengers plan to save the universe. December's debut trailer offered a reflection on how the Avengers got started, and Sunday's new Super Bowl spot contains thematic call-backs of its own, specifically for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who will have a bigger role in Endgame.

The spot opens on a desolated New York before cutting to Rogers, sitting at a support group. "Where do we go, now that they’re gone?" reads a sign, as Rogers narrates: “Some people move on, but not us.”

The sight of Rogers in a support group recalls a similar scene from Endgame directors The Russo Bros. first Marvel film, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when Rogers visits Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who leads a veterans support group. And much of what comes up in that conversation mirrors what Rogers is facing now, such as the problems of “guilt” and “regret” that Wilson says veterans face.

One particularly poignant moment, though, is when Wilson recounts the friend he lost in aerial combat. “Nothing I could do, like I was up there just to watch,” Wilson says. “After that, I had a really hard time finding a reason for being over there.” Now, Wilson is dead, killed in action, as was Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Rogers’ own war buddy — for the second time. All Rogers could do is watch. It’s all that any of the surviving Avengers could do.

Going to this intimate setting not only allows the heroes to mourn, it also helps the Russo Bros. wrap up the journey they began with Winter Soldier.

In that conversation with Wilson back in The Winter Soldier, Rogers speaks about his struggles with purpose and how he’s unsure of what makes him happy now that he finds himself living in the 21st Century following the events of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), which ends with him revived in modern times after being frozen in ice during World War II.

This support group in Avengers: Endgame could be where Rogers, potentially having “a really hard time finding a reason” to fight again, is reinvigorated with purpose and sets off on a final mission. Not only does the narration seem to point to that, but the shot of Rogers tightening the grip on his shield, reunited with it for the first time since Captain America: Civil War (2016), does too. Even Rogers’ line from the first trailer, in regard to if the Avengers’ mysterious plan is going to work, highlights this urgent sense of purpose: “I know it is, because I don’t what I’m going to do if it doesn’t.”

And if the rumors of a time-travel plot turn out to be true, his mission to save the universe could also be what helps him return to the past to have his dance with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), whom he left behind when he was frozen and who died offscreen in Civil War.

But Rogers’ grief and potential PTSD could also be an avenue through which Endgame could reconnect him with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) before both of their stories are closed out. Tony Stark’s own PTSD has been a prevalent part of the character since the original Avengers (2012), and was a main focus in Iron Man 3 (2013). It was his PTSD that prompted Stark to make the mistake of creating Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and utter what would later become Endgame's subtitle: “That up there, that’s the endgame.” And over time, through moments like the support group conversation in The Winter Soldier, it’s been clear that Rogers has also been dealing with something similar for a long time.

At the end of Infinity War, the two characters were brought to their tipping points — Stark failing his protégée Peter Parker (Tom Holland), and Rogers losing his biggest battle ever.

As Captain America and Iron Man (likely) join forces again in Endgame, honing in on their trauma could lead to powerful reconciliation, something that must happen if Chris Evans is really done with the character after this film. Their trauma from the events of Infinity War, something they experienced apart, could be what allows them to truly mend their relationship, and realize that they need each other to save the universe.