Avengers: Endgame, at long last, has arrived and we definitely need to talk about that ending. This not only serves as the follow-up to Infinity War, which left us with one of the biggest cliffhangers in the history of cinema, but it's also being billed as the end of a 22-movie arc that spans 11 years. As such, there is a lot this movie needed to accomplish and that means, in its final act, an awful lot happens. So let's dig in.
Warning: there are massive spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame. Those who have not seen the movie should turn back now. This is the last chance. Alright, let's start to unpack this thing. I'll admit, I've only seen the movie once and it's a lot to take in, so I'll do my best here, but let's go step by step and go over what happened, how it happened and the result of what happened.
The final act kicks off after the heroes have returned from the various missions on the "time heist." All six Infinity Stones have been gathered up, at great cost, since Clint had to sacrifice Natasha in order to get the Soul Stone. It's determined that Hulk should snap his fingers in their newly formed gauntlet in order to reverse Thanos' snap from Infinity War. So he does and, even though he's the Hulk, the snap takes a serious toll. For the most part, it seems this undoes the damage. Save for bringing Natasha back, which Hulk later admits he tried to do, it just didn't work. Clint gets a call from his wife. Trees spring up from the Earth. All seems well. But only for a moment.
During the trip back to 2014, things got weird with Nebula, as both versions of her brain melded together, revealing the Avengers' plan to Thanos from that timeline. He then tasks the evil Nebula with sneaking into the Avengers compound, since they trust her as an ally. While the core gang is focused on undoing the snap, she uses their time machine to bring Thanos and all of his massive army to the present day, where all of the Infinity Stones are once again gathered together for the taking. He nukes the compound and, as a result, it becomes a very dangerous game of hot potato with everyone trying to keep the gauntlet out of the Mad Titan's hands. At one point, the evil Nebula gets her hands on it. In a tense confrontation, the good Nebula and 2014 Gamora convince the evil nebula to relent just long enough for the good Nebula to shoot her dead.
This is worth focusing in on. In many movies about time travel, the other Nebula would be affected somehow. Think about Looper. Joseph Gordon Levitt kills himself and the older version of himself played by Bruce Willis disappears. In this case, as explained earlier in the movie, the good Nebula remains unaffected. Hence, they couldn't just travel back in time and kill baby Thanos. It's all a bit of a head trip, but it does seem like directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo thought this all out.
Now starts the biggest battle in the history of the MCU. Thanos wants the gauntlet and it's out there for the taking. A battle kicks off between Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, who take on the big baddie on their own. It's an epic fight that gives us one of the movie's best moments. Earlier in the movie, Thor gets his trusty hammer Mjolnir back from the past and he's using it and his ax, Stormbreaker, to give Thanos the old one-two. At one point, Cap needs some extra muscle and, in that moment, he becomes worthy and wields Mjolnir to give Thanos a serious run for his money. Ultimately, the three heroes have nearly exhausted themselves, despite their best efforts, and it's Cap standing alone against the oncoming army brought to Earth by the Mad Titan. Then something truly epic happens.
Remember how Hulk undid the snap? Well, it took them a minute, but we start to see some magic portals, the ones that Doctor Strange is known for, opening up, after Cap gets a radio message in his headset from his old buddy Sam. Starting with Black Panther, the dusted heroes begin to make their way onto the battlefield, one by one, through these portals. Doctor Strange, Spidey, Falcon and a whole host of Wakandans, sorcerers and Asgardian warriors. At this moment, Cap finally gets to utter the line we've been waiting years to hear.
Chaos ensues. The battlefield erupts with superheroes taking down the evil doers doing the bidding of Thanos. There's honestly so much going on it's hard to even process in the moment, but it's awesome. That much is certain. The gauntlet is passing from hero to hero in order to keep it away from Thanos. Captain Marvel makes a rather glorious entrance, destroying Thanos' ship and helping to protect the gauntlet. Eventually, it's left right on the ground for the taking. It comes down to Thanos and Iron Man. Thanos gets the gauntlet and it seems all is lost. But remember that whole thing in Infinity War where Doctor Strange saw 14 million some odd versions of the future and in only one of those futures they succeed? The good doctor flashes a single finger at Tony and it's clear, this is that one scenario, which leads to the movie's most heroic and heartbreaking moment.
This new gauntlet was designed using Stark Iron Man tech, so he was able to pull a little switcheroo on Thanos, leaving the one with the Stones on Iron Man's hand, while Thanos was left with a simple metal glove. Tony then gets to look into Thanos' eyes and "I am Iron Man," bringing things full circle, before snapping his fingers, dusting all of the bad guys and Thanos in the process. However, as we learned in Guardians of the Galaxy, no mere mortal can handle the power of the Infinity Stones. Even with his suit of armor, the blast was too much for Tony to take. He has a few moments with Peter and Pepper that are gut-wrenching before he dies. Tony gave his life to save the universe.
We then move onto Tony Stark's funeral which is honestly just about the most emotional thing for any hardcore Marvel fan. Everyone is there. Seriously, everyone. That teenager that the camera lingers on for a long time? That's the kid from Iron Man 3, all grown up. Captain Marvel, Hank Pym, Happy, Aunt May. Nick Fury. The list goes on. Everyone is there to mourn the loss of the fallen hero. There are so many emotional moments at the funeral, but it's particularly tear-jerking when we see Tony's old arc reactor in its case that says, "Proof Tony Stark has a heart."
After the tears stop falling, we cut to Captain America, who is tasked with returning the Infinity Stones to their appropriate points in time, which Hulk promised The Ancient One they would do once the mission was accomplished. Steve is supposed to return in just five seconds, but when Hulk tries to bring him back, nothing happens. Then Bucky notices an old man sitting on a bench nearby. Sam heads over to see that it's Steve, now an old man. It turns out, he decided to hang back in time once his goal was accomplished to live the life he never got to live with his true love, Peggy Carter.
We then get a rather important moment between Cap and Sam. Cap brought his trusty shield with him, knowing everyone would be there at this exact moment. Sam remarks that he's going to have a hard time living in a world without Captain America in it. At this moment, Steve gifts his shield to Sam, in essence, crowning him as the new Captain America. Before the movie ends, we see Steve and Peggy dancing in their home, bringing his character arc full circle, as the two had intended to dance with one another when the war ended.
One last, very important character arc that takes an interesting turn is that of Thor. He decides to make Valkyrie the new ruler of Asgard on Earth. He, instead, opts to head out with the Guardians on their space-bound adventures, presumably to search for Gamora, whose fate was left mysterious after the snap. That helps set up the events we'll see unfold in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which will seemingly include the God of Thunder!
And that's about it. There's a lot to unpack about what this could mean for all of the characters who made it out alive and what the future may hold for them in the MCU. That is probably a conversation for another day. Marvel, undoubtedly, has plenty of surprises in store on that front.