Warning: This is just one big ol' spoilery post. Like, seriously. Don't read anything more if you don't want to see spoilers, people!
When Marvel fans began contemplating how the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first "phase" would go, they all knew to expect serious heartbreak. After the startling decimation in Infinity War, and armed with the knowledge that actor contracts are over with Avengers: Endgame, things weren't looking too good going into the fourth Avengers film.
Luckily, Endgame takes a decidedly restrained approach to saying goodbye to some of the most well-known heroes from the film franchise. That doesn't make the ending less bittersweet — or less mildly confusing because of the insane amount of time traveling that takes place — but it does tie things up in a rather nice bow, as well as hint at the start of exciting adventures for some of its new heroes. Keep reading for a thorough (and hopefully enlightening) look at the end of an era with the original Avengers.
How Do the Avengers Find the Infinity Stones?
The bulk of Endgame's first handful of scenes details the Avengers's attempts to deal with the loss of their loved ones from Thanos's snap. Tony and Nebula are eventually rescued from their stranded spaceship by Captain Marvel, who delivers the two back to the Avengers Compound. Tony is bitterly angry with how things ended in Infinity War and doesn't want to join the team on their mission to find Thanos and take the stones from him. It turns out to be moot since the team learns that Thanos used the stones to destroy the stones and Thor kills him with a mighty swing of Stormbreaker. (This time, he aims for the head.)
We flash forward five years, with the remaining Avengers dealing with their loss in different ways — Steve takes after the dusted Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and leads group therapy sessions; Clint becomes a deadly vigilante; Nat seems to give up caring about anything but finding a way to bring people back, becoming consumed by work. The one Avenger who seems totally at peace — for once in his life — is Tony, who has moved to a beautiful lakeside estate with Pepper and welcomed a young daughter, Morgan. There's a lot of talk about composting as they live out their domestic bliss.
But even an ideal family life can't keep Tony from figuring out how to successfully time travel using Pym Particles when Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) presents the challenge to the Avengers. By using Pym Particles, the team is able to go back in time and collect the Infinity Stones before Thanos does to use the gauntlet themselves. They plan to reverse the murderous Snap and cancel out Thanos's plan of vengeance entirely.
How Do the Avengers Defeat Thanos?
With all the stones collected (a mission which results in the death of Black Widow) and Tony's Iron Gauntlet created, Hulk uses the new gauntlet to snap everyone back and succeeds in bringing everyone back. But before they can be reunited with the rest of their loved ones, Thor, Tony, and Steve go to battle with a past version of Thanos who has now traveled through time to battle for the Infinity Stones and destroy half the world all over again. (I know that sounded like a bizarre tongue-twister, but just bear with me.)
For a while, the three seem to hold their own against Thanos while the others attempt to climb out of the rubble that is now the Avengers compound. At one point, Steve gloriously wields both his shield AND Thor's hammer Mjölnir to bring the Mad Titan down to size — but then Thanos's massive army arrives, and it's obvious that things are about to get dicey. Thankfully, the Russo brothers are all for action clichés, and the entirety of the dusted warriors arrive just in time to go head to head with Thanos's minions as Captain America says, "Avengers, assemble."
The battle ends when Iron Man steals the stones straight out of Thanos's golden glove and into a makeshift gauntlet built into his suit. He snaps his fingers, despite knowing what it'll do to his body, and wills away Thanos and his army, who all disintegrate the same way people did in Infinity War. Tony's sacrificial snap instantly sends a fatal wave of gamma energy through his body, rendering him barely able to speak. He dies on the battlefield with his wife, Pepper, and protégé, Peter Parker, at his side.
How Do the Avengers Return the Infinity Stones at the End of Avengers: Endgame?
The film draws to a close at the intimate funeral for Tony. Pepper, Morgan, and Happy Hogan gather with the Avengers at Tony's lakeside home, where they pay their respects and say goodbye to the man that brought them all together. As people begin to leave, Hulk, Sam, and Bucky stick around so Steve can use the remaining Pym Particles to return the stones to their own timeline. When he doesn't come back in the designated time, however, the men panic. Then, Bucky notices a lone, much older man sitting on a bench near the lake with his back to them.
When Sam approaches him, he realizes it's actually Steve, who's now around the age of 100 (potentially more). Older Steve explains that after he returned all the stones to their proper timeline, he used his last time jump to go back and live a happy life with Peggy, eventually getting married to her. He encourages Sam to try on the shield, effectively passing on the Captain America mantel to his friend.
Where Are the Avengers at the End of Avengers: Endgame?
With Steve officially retired from being Captain America, Sam takes his new shield and presumably leaves with Bucky. The rest of the remaining Avengers soon follow suit, each finding their way to their next adventures. We're not sure where Bruce will show up again, but Mark Ruffalo is already tapped to appear in one more MCU film, so we'll definitely be seeing him again. Hawkeye and Ant-Man are reunited with their respective families, both scenes hinting at future installments currently in development. Thor sheds his royal responsibilities and leaves Valkyrie leading New Asgard as its queen as he joins the Guardians of the Galaxy on their ship.
Though we don't see where all the Avengers end up, there's still a lot to look forward to from Marvel. We'll be exploring Natasha's past with the Black Widow standalone feature, and there will also be the Black Panther sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and a few more Spider-Man films. And of course we can't leave out a possible sequel for Captain Marvel. This may be the end for some Avengers, but there's definitely more on the horizon for Marvel fans!