Sometimes what comes after the plot wraps up is just as important as the rest of the story. Discussion and possible spoilers to follow for Avengers Endgame and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
So Tuesday I got to see Avengers: Endgame. I’d sum it up as: Satisfying. There are plot holes aplenty, but I generally didn’t mind because the character work, plot work, action setpieces, and so on were generally heartfelt, wonderfully acted, and will scripted. But there’s one part of the movie I wanted to focus on: That really, really long ending.
Now, I wasn’t looking at my watch, so I can’t tell you how long it was. I can tell you it was a significant length, though. It reminded me in all the right ways of the epilogue from Return of the King.
I’ve heard people complain about the ending of Return of the King.
Here, I’m not going to explain it. I’ll let someone much smarter than me explain why the ending of Return of the King (the movie version) is brilliant:
Yes, that’s the Just Write channel on YouTube. Yes, I’ve linked it before. Yes, it’s still awesome. And as it points out, while the plot wrapped up when the Ring was destroyed, the story continued. That’s one of the big ways that epilogues are useful: They wrap up the story when the plot is done.
Back to Avengers! So, why did I love that epilogue so much?
What’s the story, not the plot, of Endgame? I’d argue the story was about not trading lives. That theme is much louder in Avengers: Infinity War, but it’s still present here. Tony won’t give up his daughter to get everyone else back. I actually wish they had pressed this a bit more to underscore the theme, but it was still there. And the epilogue shows how well the succeeded or didn’t in “not trading lives.”
Clint was forced to trade a life when Nat sacrificed herself. And his ending is not all happy, is it? It’s bittersweet. He got his family back, but at the price of a dear friend.
Meanwhile, you have Cap, who never traded a life. He agreed with Tony that both his daughter and all those who were dusted would live. And in the end… Cap doesn’t even trade his own life. He gets what he always desired: His life with Peggy.
And that’s why that closing scene is so satisfying. It not only gives a fitting ending to Cap’s story, but to the entire Infinity Saga: We don’t trade lives. And the result is the best ending possible.
Do you have a favorite epilogue? What’d you think of Avengers: Endgame if you’ve seen it? Let us know in the comments below.