It’s Been A Long, Long Time: Steve and Peggy’s Journey Towards Finding Home Again

Steve and Peggy last dance
Steve and Peggy: Source: BossLogic

It’s been a long, long time since the world spoke favorably of a female, let alone a female agent, one they never wanted to believe deserved her rank solely on the basis of her sex. Margaret “Peggy” Carter wasn’t always catching bad guys on the streets of New York rocking 1946 “Red Velvet” lipstick, but it would appear as though she was often placed in situations where she needed to prove her worth. A task she managed to do so by believing in herself, fighting the good fight, and taking her wit where it was appreciated all while falling in love with a man who was seemingly destined to never be hers. Or so that’s how it would appear in one timeline. She became an exemplar for women everywhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when she authenticated the fact that the right to choose for ourselves could be the key to living a dignified life. You can be all. You can be as you want just as long as you learn your value.

“The story of Captain America is one of honor, bravery, and sacrifice.” A kid from Brooklyn, a hero — the story of a man who could never give up fighting. A man who’d tirelessly choose the selfless path in life. The path that’d lead others toward victory while often leaving him bruised, broken, and alone. This is the story of a hero who’s so good, it’s almost unbearable to think of his tale without the enveloping sadness that follows. Steve Rogers is a son, a friend, a soldier, an ally, a lost love, a hero — an Avenger. A man who’s always fought for freedom he himself could never find. A man out of time. But what happens when the fight is over and you can finally choose for yourself? You get to do the one thing people have gotten tired of telling you, too — you get to live. And as cliché, as it may be, you get to love.

Steve and Peggy’s story is perhaps one of the most tragic arcs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the perseverance and the seemingly never-ending quest to stop bullies is what’s made them both so noble. And as it would appear, a story that’s been prophesied from the beginning, making it that much more riveting when reading between the lines — full circle if you will.I might, even when this is all over, go dancing.” And that they did.

There are more instances where Steve mentions not having plans than he does having them. Or a will, something tangible, anything even a little remotely different than a fight. The ability, choice even, to sit still in a quiet moment of serenity because Lord knows if any one man deserves it, it’s him. We’ve seen it time and time again with his character, he’s felt most alive when he’s fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. He’s felt most alive when he’s standing up to the bullies in the world. This strenuous, genuinely noble desire of his is both his superhuman strength and fatal flaw because as we’ve come to understand, sometimes great intent doesn’t equate to the right thing. It’s always been his tragic undoing. And the profound desolation surrounding Steve’s journey is often difficult to encompass for how existent it is despite his fictional status. It’s the story of a man who didn’t quite make it. The story of a man whose journey consisted of a lot of maybes. Maybe he’d go dancing one day. Maybe he’d move on. Maybe he’d put the shield down. Maybe.

How do you come back from a 70-year slumber to a world more chaotic than the one you left behind and move forward with no form of darkness lingering profusely in every corner you run to? Steve Rogers hasn’t always made great choices, that would imply that he’s somehow reached an unattainable form of perfection. But the honorable intent behind each and every one of his decisions is what’s made him a distinguishable hero. Though he hasn’t always been right, he’s followed orders, he’s followed commands, he’s followed instinctual belief. He’s followed Peggy Carter and the colossal impact she’s had on his life since the moment they met proving ceaselessly throughout the films that she is his true north.

And there’s great admiration in his choice to believe in a woman with a vigor stronger than anything else in the world — a choice that’s worthy of great praise because the decision to carry on Peggy’s legacy is what reminds viewers of how crucial she is in the universe. Some may forget, but we can always count on Steve not to let us down. Peggy Carter has been an integral part of the universe throughout most films as our perpetual showcase of what honor and strength truly mean. The gravity of her strength and work ethic has been a stunning part of the details revealing that great power comes from nobility and perseverance. “Compromise where you can. And where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, no. You move.” Intuitively, his choice has always been the dutiful decision to follow in her commands and legacy — whether she was with him or not. Whether it’d upset others or not, “do as Peggy says” would be his anthem. Always.

“Peggy, this is my choice.” today, directly equates to “you are my choice”, and if you had told me this would be the ending, I’d laugh in your face believing in it only if I’d somehow magically spellbound the writers to ease my weeping soul by giving me the one thing I’ve always longed for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But here we are and here I am. My future grandchildren are the lucky ones really, if the events of Avengers: Endgame hadn’t occurred, they would’ve never heard the end of “They never even got to dance.”

“Well I couldn’t leave my best girl, not when she owes me a dance.” And he was right all along, he couldn’t leave his best girl; he stayed true to his word, knowing she’s out there, knowing they could have a second chance without undoing the life she’s previously lived, he kept the promise made years ago. He might’ve been a little late, but instead of the Stork Club, he needed to find his way back home. To the home they’d build together anchored with adoration and unwavering loyalty. She’s his endgame, (And in no universe has the statement felt more appropriate to use.) And that’s why Avengers: Endgame’s version of time travel works so well, because if you know me personally then you know how much I also adore the idea of Daniel Sousa being Peggy Carter’s husband we hear about in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. How fortunate is she, best of both worlds, am I right or am I right? The world we live in today is a world where in some distant place in time Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter got to live out their happily ever after. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Almost four years ago I wrote about Peggy’s choice to pour Steve’s blood into the East River as a form of moving forward.

“Somewhere in time and perhaps in the depths of the East River, some elemental parts of their being could move on together. The symbolic meaning of rivers is one of the more ambiguous ones in the world of literature, but this scene represents the reflective intimacy in a quiet moment of closure where stillness equates to eternity – where Steve Rogers’ prominence is treasured most delicately and honorably.

The beauty in this scene lies in the everlasting presence of true love – the detail, in which Peggy Carter chooses to set Steve Rogers free in a place that’s truly immaculate. A place where science, money, malevolent eyes, and impure hands cannot get ahold of what’s left of him. To the world, he may have been a soldier, the legendary Captain America, but to Peggy Carter, he was just Steve Rogers – the kid from Brooklyn who’d captivated her heart through interminable kindness and pure adoration.”

And who would’ve known that somewhere in time would be a detail that’d actually ring true. Today, it’s no longer the depths of the East River, but the quiet comfort of the home they’d dance in, the garden where hope would grow in the flowers they’d plant alongside the white picket fence that was once a pronounced detail they’d only know of in their dreams. There are a great number of reasons why I love this story so much and why I’ve never been able to let go of it. (I’m the female version of Steve Rogers in this sense.) It is a reflection of emotions often too difficult to define — a type of encompassing and almost unbearably strenuous longing. A longing left behind from losing the person who’s touched the deepest corners of your being in such an intricate, enduring way, you genuinely fear you may never experience that level of affinity again. It’s a longing that never falters or ends no matter how hard you try to tuck it away.

The harrowing moments and grief they’ve lived through without one another are symbolic of the real detail we don’t think too frequently of if we don’t come from a military family. Sometimes soldiers don’t come home. Sometimes the heroic sacrifice is the end of their story forcing their families into a state of perpetual hollowness where they must find somewhat of a way to move forward. But it also mirrors the fact that sometimes soldiers do come home. And in both cases, love is the overwhelming illuminating emblem in dark times.

Because of the love they’ve shared and the potent belief they’ve always had in one another, obstacles, even the absence of the other have been conquerable. That’s why Steve’s choice, in the end, is such an obvious one for it pays such intricate allegiance to the vision he had in Avengers: Age of Ultron. (A film with a number of problems, which Endgame makes up for beautifully.) In Steve’s vision, fear has always been the inability to move on when there’s a fight at large, another war to be won. The family, stability he’d once longed for was no longer achievable because not only was the war still going, but he couldn’t move forward with his best girl. And when that war ends, when it’s finally over, he could find the will to do what he’s always wanted. Clearly exhibiting why he was never able to find love throughout the other films because the life he’s always wanted has involved Peggy.

There’s a lot I appreciated about Avengers: Endgame but the homage it’s paid to all the seeds planted in previous films is what makes it so poignant and dare I say, almost perfect. And one of the most prominent love stories throughout the films has been Steve and Peggy’s. Captain America: The First Avenger and the obvious beginning aside, Peggy Carter has been a significant presence throughout each of the films reminding us of the fact that she’s not only ½ of the reason S.H.I.E.L.D. exists, but of the fact that Captain America’s strength comes from the belief she’s had in him. And it’s that very belief that’s transcended towards all the Avengers, along with the decision to pass the shield to its next Captain. Steve Rogers has always had a vision, a desire to save the world from the bullies in it, but though physical circumstances came in his way on tireless occasions, but alongside Dr. Erskine, Peggy’s belief in him from day one never wavered. The good man will always become great, but without her, he would’ve never been the hero we’ve grown to appreciate. Every time he’d open the compass with her photograph in it, he was searching for the strength he’d needed to find home again. To find the strength to win the fight. As Edwin Jarvis once said, “Captain Rogers relied heavily on you. For courage, strategy and moral guidance. You were his support.” Peggy’s belief shaped the man Steve Rogers became and his palpable goodness would go on to bring interminable hope into her life even after he died. In the wake of Nazis and terrorism, the understanding that such nobility existed, allowed Peggy to carry that truth towards creating an organization that’d stand in the face of bullies at all costs.

“A man out of time” has always been such a riveting detail in analyzing Steve’s character, for there comes a point where you imagine that he’d potentially adjust as we all do. But this isn’t a case of “I feel like I was born in the wrong time.” (Which I personally say at least twice a day.) It’s a legitimate situation where in this universe, in this time period, his moment was always meant to be temporary. The fact that the last thing Steve says in Captain America: The First Avenger is “I had a date” should’ve been the blatant indicator to all that this would be a difficult transition for him. He’d tell people to move on, he’d try, over and over again, but he’d never be the man he was supposed to having lost the opportunity to live in the time period he was from. And the notion of “meant to be” is another gorgeous sentiment Avengers: Endgame touches on so effectively. Back in Asgard, Frigga tells Thor: “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be […] The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” And Captain Rogers succeeded in the best way he knew how, he fought until the end of what’d be his greatest war, choosing then to be the man he’s always desired — a man who’s wanted family, stability, and the dance with his best girl. He was a man out of time for a reason. At the time, he was a man meant to fight alongside the Avengers, to fight for Bucky’s freedom against Hydra’s possession, and to find the next Captain America — befriend and believe in Sam Wilson. And who he’s always been is a good man deserving of the opportunity to choose as he pleases.

If every single person Steve Rogers had grown to care for wasn’t safe, if there was even a single soul he knew whose battle couldn’t be taken care without his assistance, Steve wouldn’t have chosen to get the life Tony Stark had always told him to. That’s not the Steve Rogers who’s worthy of not only carrying the shield, but the man out of time worthy of wielding Mjolnir. So few have given everything they have without asking for anything in return, and Steve’s been the most intuitively selfless this world’s ever known, but when the time finally came for him to choose for himself, it’s no surprise that he’d choose the love of his life.

It’s key to note something here about Steve’s choice, my decision to justify it, and my choice to stand fiercely with the analysis the Russo brothers have made regarding it. To understand this choice is to ultimately understand Steve as a person. He would never have made it if he knew he was altering the life Peggy had already lived. And that’s something I personally wouldn’t have wanted either despite how much I adore these two because as mentioned above, I also have great love for Daniel Sousa and the presumption that he’s the husband Peggy mentions in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But as Bruce explains, changing the past doesn’t change your present, which is a riveting way to make time travel unique to the films while introducing us to the multiverses present in the comics. If we understand who Steve Rogers is, we also have to believe that there’s 110% chance that in the alternate universe he creates with Peggy, he also saves Bucky from Hydra’s command, and tries to do the best he can to create a more peaceful universe. However, we also know that unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that the Bucky we know today, the one in 2023 with Sam has still lived through that darkness. Thereby, I’m choosing to believe that he’s created an alternate universe, as per the Russo Brothers confirmation, and that he wasn’t the husband Peggy referred to.

We’ve discussed the importance of Steve’s choice and how evident it’s been from the beginning if you’ve looked closely, but we need to talk about what this means for Peggy Carter. And while the timeline between Avengers: Endgame and the events of Agent Carter aren’t clear, making the assumption that she isn’t married yet and S.H.I.E.L.D hasn’t been formed, it’s to safe imagine that she’s probably at a place of finding herself amongst men who still believe women can’t be anything more than wives or assistants. Steve isn’t the only person Peggy’s lost, she’s lost her brother, too, she’s lost friends, and she’s lost opportunities — she’s at a place where she knows the world around her can be unbearably cruel at times. However, being given the second chance to reunite with the love she believed she’d never have again gives her a new kind of compelling growth. We don’t know the road that leads her towards leaving the S.S.R, but we do know that having a man by her side whose belief in her agency never wavered could potentially be astounding. The chance to be completely vulnerable and bare amplifies the chance to be brave and unstoppable. In a time where women aren’t given many opportunities, having Captain America by her side could mean the world’s not even a little prepared for the greatness that she’s capable of — the immensity. The chance to be all that she wants to be beside the man who’d give her a boost if she asked to climb to the moon. Side by side as equals, as partners. And if we’re talking worlds of what if’s (Marvel series coming soon.) I’m under the full belief that exhausted old man Steve would sit behind the scenes, as she once did, while his wife captained the Shield. Because that’s who he is and that’s who they are, and there’s immense beauty in second chances like this one.

There’s an untainted, pure sense of serenity in the relationship between Steve and Peggy that’s inimitable in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it comes from the ineptitude to grasp just how much the other means to them — just how much the other’s shaped them. And for a while, there was great travesty in knowing that they’d never understand the profound effect they’ve had on each other. But today, in the new life they’ll build, they’ve been given the chance to spend years reminding the other of just how special they are. The chance to uplift one another, take care of, and love each other with a ferocity that comes from knowing prodigious loss. Steve and Peggy have both spent a significant amount of time trying to prove themselves to others, a significant amount of time learning their own value, understanding who they are in the world as individuals, and finding a sense of completion within themselves that’ll complement the others attributes beautifully. They were never not whole without the other, but together, they’re exceptional — stronger as one. There’s a sort of indescribable happiness today that’s paved intricately with sincere, ardent adoration and unsullied belief.

And sometimes belief in someone is leading them in a dance even if they may step on your feet. Steve and Peggy’s moment at the end of the film was transcendent — utter magic, pure, poetic and blissfully evocative. The delicate serenity in their dance had me bawling. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell have been excellent partners throughout the films, but this was Steve and Peggy in a way we’d never seen them before. It was character embodiment in a beautifully captivating moment I could write an entire thesis on. A thousand words exchanged in silence while “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” played in the background. They were still — the storms had ended, the wars had been won, and their lives were just beginning. The choice have their eyes closed as they danced conveyed the fact that for the first time in a long, long time, they were safe, nightmares would no longer follow — doors could remain open. Together, they can come undone, be one, and all they’ve ever dreamed of. It’s followed by a kiss that makes it all worthwhile.  It’s not in the midst of a battle this time, it’s in the comfort of their own home — the first of many. It’s a kiss that says “You’re mine and I’m yours. I’ve missed you, I love you, and I’ll always believe in you.” It’s stillness and stunning vulnerability, it’s love in its most immaculate form. It’s a kiss that promises everything will be okay. Together, they can finally breathe.

To believe in someone for all that they are means to see them as they truly are, flaws included. And it’s that very belief that we know carried on throughout their relationship marking their time together as “beautiful.” Captain Rogers’ words, not mine. The belief that means they’d be there for each other through every darkness and every perfectly magical moment, taking life day by day to appreciate the second chance they’d been granted. The choice has never wavered, given the opportunity and the right circumstances, they’d always choose one another. The right partner — today, tomorrow, and as long as there’s music in the world. Learning to dance and teaching is egregious with finding their way back home no matter how far the universe tries to pull them away. Because that’s what they’ve always been to each other, home. And home is what they’ve always longed for, the one place where they could be still in the arms of another.

For more on our Avengers: Endgame coverage check out Part Iand Part II of our Podcast Review ft. Morgan McNair. Formation: The Homage to Natasha RomanoffThe Sun Will Shine On Us Again: A Celebration of Brothers,  and In Memoriam of Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark and the Legacy of Iron Man, the World’s Best Defender: A Roundtable Celebration 

P.S. You know what you absolutely should do right after finishing this, listen to Queen’s “39.” The feels are real. 

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