You can reasonably expect as the time draws nearer for the release of Captain America: Civil War that I will write a few more MCU-related posts. As a fan, there is a lot at stake for me in this film. One of biggest, most burning questions that will be answered of course, is this:
Will Steve Rogers, our beloved Captain America, die?
In my Captain America post last fall, I said that I expected him to die in Civil War. Now let me amend that. It would be wrong to not expect anyone to die in this movie—as attached as we are to all of the characters, someone is going to bite it. Perhaps multiple people. There would be no emotional stakes otherwise. But I’m going to focus on Cap because he is the obvious choice for a dramatic, show-stopping death.
At this point, Cap dying or anyone else dying isn’t the worst case scenario. We can expect the Infinity Stones to somehow reverse that for Infinity War. And I’m not so much worried about favorite characters dying as favorite characters making poor choices such as killing other favorite characters. But characters dying, particularly Steve dying, is a reality we have to come to grips with.
There are plenty of reasons that Steve Rogers could die in this one. This is his story, and as the completion of a trilogy we should expect him to find some kind of closure for the messed-up life he’s had. Of course Steve died after Civil War in the comics. Of course having Crossbones and Baron Zemo manipulating things behind the scenes for the movie is bad news. On those grounds alone it would be wrong to not expect Steve to die. But Marvel Studios doesn’t follow the comics 100% for the films, and they’re changing up a lot of things for this movie.
Like Alexander Hamilton in the hit broadway musical, Steve has “imagined death so much it feels more like a memory.” In the first two Captain America films, Steve fully expected to die in the final conflicts of each. In The Avengers and Age of Ultron, Steve had no reservations against dying. He doesn’t mind dying in the fight for the greater good. He’s had a death wish pretty much since Bucky fell off the train in 1945.
Here’s my theory: the perfect moment for Steve to die, in either Civil War or either part of Infinity War, is when he least expects it. He gets shot from behind, like in the comics, or meets with something else he wasn’t prepared for. Then it would make more sense for him to “come back” by whatever means in a future film. Steve, as we know, isn’t a huge fan of people coming back from the dead, himself included. And it would make an unexpected twist for the story if his death was unexpected.
I do, however, have a good reason for Steve not to die. And that reason, in spite of being the reason Steve is partly suicidal, is Bucky.
The trailers and the Ant-Man post credit scene have made it clear that Steve and Bucky will get the reunion the fans have been waiting for since the end of Cap 2. From those same materials, we have also learned that their reunion will be very problematic. With both of them taking up arms against Iron Man and (undoubtedly) Hydra, they’re not going to have much time for rebuilding their relationship, which Steve and the fans really, really want. Steve is defending Bucky against pretty much everyone because Steve is trying to help him. But relationships require more than just blowing up stuff together, it takes time and talking and reconciliation and healing. Up until Civil War, post-Hydra Bucky has not wanted to be around Cap for some reason. Them being together and having a normal friendship again won’t happen overnight. Bucky being with Steve after the conflict is…somehow…resolved and Steve working to help his friend adjust would be really great. I’m just saying. Separating them again so soon would be unfair not only to Cap but to Bucky.
Whether or not this happens is going to come down to the choices that Steve and Bucky both make (and Tony Stark might have some say in the matter). Getting back to Steve, Steve also wants to put the greater good first. He risked his life to rescue Bucky from the Red Skull, not caring if he died as long as his best friend made it out alive. Then he let the Winter Soldier almost kill him so he could accomplish his mission to stop Hydra. Now, even with Bucky back in his reach, Steve still has a job to do. Getting Iron Man out of the way may only be part of that. But Steve absolutely does not care if this insane mission costs him his life, costs him whatever time he could have had with his friend if things worked out. And it might not matter because Captain America: Civil War could very well be the end of the MCU as we know it.