As far as Marvel Studios’ mid-credit stingers go, the one dropped in Captain Marvel must rank among the best, simply for how it stokes the fires of anticipation smoldering beneath Avengers: Endgame. We’re a little over a month out from release; we’ve all agreed that we’ll be there opening weekend, and still we find ourselves capable of becoming even more excited. Such is the absurd enthusiasm of the Marvel zombie. Twenty-one films into the franchise and we’re still capable of frothing at the mouth mere hours after consuming our last cinematic meal.
Nick Fury’s future-fitted pager seen at the end of Avengers: Infinity War offered a glimmer of hope. A savior is coming to ring Thanos’ bell. Now, we’ve met that superwoman, and we understand why the sudden disappearance of her one-time buddy cop partner might motivate a serious cosmic ass-kicking. Her addition to the leftover Avengers has serious ramifications, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same again.
I cannot get the image of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) getting the drop on Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the rest out of my head. “Where’s Fury?” Steve Rogers gobsmacked in the face of her seething force. He better have a good answer. Cut to black.
We already know that Evans is ready to hang up the shield after Endgame. We don’t know what that means for the character of Captain America. Even since the introduction of both The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) comic book fanatics were placing bets on when Cap would kick the bucket and who would carry on the mantle. The act of sacrifice is built into the DNA of Steve Rogers. He’s gotta go, and I’m emotionally preparing myself for that satisfying tragic play. Will Bucky or Sam fill the suit in his place? Maybe. Sure. I dunno.
I am certain that a leader is required for The Avengers heading into Phase 4 and beyond. Neither Buck or Sam can really fill that role. Not yet and maybe not ever. If Marvel Studios takes either of those characters in that direction, their narrative will involve the struggle to earn those stars and stripes. Carol Danvers, on the other hand, is a natural fit.
Yes, both Carol and Steve come from military backgrounds. However, we should recognize their determination to serve as more valuable than their actual service. They answered the call to be the best they could be, but then they were denied by the institutions speaking. Steve was a scrawny little weakling and an embarrassment to every soldier that put their eyes upon him. Carol was a woman. How dare she. Steve found his loophole by sacrificing his body to science, and Carol had to settle for the role of guinea pig test pilot. Their defiance rewarded in true superhero fashion, and no one can ever deny their will again.
They make their way onto the battlefield and are only accepted after they sacrifice everything they have to offer. Resurrected as demigods, they can now serve the weak using only their moral compasses to guide them. They don’t need orders; they give them.
Captain America awakened in the 21st Century, and the country he went to war for in 1942 has evolved into a gray blob of ambiguity. His faith in our institutions obliterated. All he can trust is himself and the values that steered him towards Dr. Erskine’s super-soldier program. He values others above himself. His true superpower being unwavering selflessness. That becomes problematic when he has to choose one person against another, and suddenly friendship compromises personal duty. When Steve Rogers can’t make up his mind, the MCU falls into total chaos, and it takes a space tyrant to realign his mission. And he still fails.
Captain Marvel returns to Earth after half the population in the universe evaporates. We’ve all now seen what she can do to a fleet of Kree warships. Snatching the Infinity Gauntlet off Thanos’ wrist would have been totally doable with her in the game. If only The Avengers had dropped Fury a line, but based on past global catastrophes, he probably wouldn’t have pestered her anyway. Dammit, Nick. Aaannywaaaay — Carol Danvers is gonna be pissed. While she was off saving a dying race of Skrulls, Steve Rogers and company dropped the ball.
We know that Endgame will feature a strong turn from Captain America and Iron Man. Most likely, the narrative will act to reunite these squabbling teammates and send Chris Evans to the promised land of MCU retirement in glorious fashion. Captain Marvel will get her moment in the movie, and it may just be to separate Thanos’ head from his shoulders. The void left by Steve Rogers cannot be filled by Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. is slinking into the background as well. Doctor Dolittle’s adventures begin next year.
Assuming that the dusted Avengers return (duh), T’Challa could step up, but Wakanda is still in shambles and he is needed there. Thor also has to pick up the pieces of his people. Banner forever wrestles with the demon within. Doctor Strange is too misanthropic. Spider-Man is a baby. Ant-Man might as well be a baby. The Wasp and War Machine are barely recognized as their own creations by the franchise holders. Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch are reeling from personal tragedies. These headcases need Captain Marvel to organize their melodrama into a fighting force.
With The Avengers knocked down for the count by Endgame’s start, Captain Marvel will stand. She won’t do it to satisfy anyone else but herself. That’s where her drive differs from Steve Rogers. As her comic book shepherd Kelly Sue DeConnick told Polygon late last year:
“Carol falls down all the time, but she always gets back up — we say that about Captain America as well, but Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do. Carol gets back up because, ‘Fuck you.'”
Carol Danvers survived a lifetime of doubters. The word “no” came out of the mouth of every man she put herself before. Their dismissal fueled her rage. Don’t tell her what she can’t do. She can and she’ll do it better. Thanos is just one more chump that needs to learn. When Steve Rogers and pals are at their lowest, she’ll inspire them with her absolute confidence of self.
Steve and Carol get each other better than most, but their similar internal engines won’t make them the best of buddies. Their short time together amounts to respect over friendship. A torch is passed. The Avengers are in good hands.