Last week, we examined the fate of Tony Stark in Avengers 4 following the next installment of Phase 3. This time, we will take a close look at the story of Steven Rogers and what the writers at Marvel likely have in store for the Captain America character.
While Tony Stark's story has been about survival, Steve Rogers has always been about sacrifice. Unless writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and the Russo brothers choose to ignore the entire development of his character arc, it is probable that Captain America will face his death in the next Avengers sequel, likely in order to bring back those who had been lost to Thanos.
A Tragic Hero
When we examine the story of Steve Rogers, there is an underlying theme that governs all of his actions: sacrifice. This is the essence of Captain America. He does what he believes is the right thing and protects those who need protecting, even at the cost of his own life. He is an altruistic hero whose moral code does not waver.
In fact, Rogers character was written with the intent to encapsulate the ideals most highly valued in our modern society. He is loyal, pure, respectful, chivalrous, selfless, powerful, and gentle. He is the hero that all heroes should aspire to be.
Unfortunately, Rogers' most admirable quality is also his biggest character flaw, and with a flaw as hazardous as sacrifice, it is likely that Captain America will become a tragic hero, succumbing to his own compulsion to pay for victory with his mortality.
Pattern of Sacrifice
We have already seen the character jump at the opportunity to lay down or gamble his life in order to protect others. In Captain America: The First Avenger, before Rogers was given the Super-Soldier Serum, he dives onto what he believes is a live grenade to protect a crowded group of fellow soldiers (who had not shown Rogers any kindness or camaraderie).
He then flies a plane into the Arctic to prevent the detonation of weapons in a populated area, under the assumption the impact and detonation would end his life. In The Winter Soldier and Civil War, Rogers pursues his friend Bucky in an attempt to save his old friend's life, admitting that, of all the Avengers, he is the least likely to die in the process.
A Character Flaw
By the time we get to the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos is in pursuit of the final Infinity Stone inside of Vision's head. Interestingly, in this situation, Rogers would have done exactly what Vision intended on doing: sacrificing himself to save the universe. Instead of empathizing with Vision and accepting his decision, Captain America tells Vision that the Avengers do not trade lives.
This is the point in the story where Captain America's moral code begins to show its flaw. Rogers has chastised Tony Stark in the past for not being the type of person to make the sacrificial play, but when Vision wants to lay down his life, Cap' cannot accept it. Arrogance, or hubris (as it was coined when tragic heroes were first studied), leads Captain America to believe sacrifice is a necessary, admirable quality-as long as he is the one losing his life.
If Vision had been allowed to sacrifice himself, then Thanos would never have retrieved all five Infinity Stones, and that fateful snap would never have taken place. Caps' desire to save one life resulted in a net loss of fifty percent of the universe's population.
As it stands, the Avengers will now need to reverse the events of the first Infinity War movie. Whether or not Rogers feels guilt in allowing Thanos to attain all three stones is something that will be interesting to watch for, as it would likely mean that he would be recognizing the flaw in his moral code.
Whether or not he feels guilty, however, will likely have little consequence on his actions. Captain America's story has and always will be a search for the right time to sacrifice himself in order to save others. With a villain like Thanos, and half of the lives in the universe at stake, laying down his life to restore everything that was lost would be the ideal conclusion to the first Avengers story-and one that the writers are likely to have recognized as well.