The more interviews the Russo Brothers give, the more apparent it becomes that they don’t know how the time travel in their own movie works. As someone who adores Bill & Ted and Back to the Future, this irritates me, especially when these very films get mebtioned in Endgame. Their take is that you cannot change the past because travelling there is part of your future, in laymans terms ‘what has happened has ALWAYS hapened.’ This means that 2012 Loki has always escaped with the tesseract and Quill has always been knocked unconciuos on Morag. I don’t feel like unpacking all of that, so let’s go over the films ending instead.
Having won the climactic battle against Thanos and his army, the Infinity Stones must be returned to the precise moment in time from which they were taken. This task is left to Captain America, now wielding Mjolnir, but ends with him returning to 2023 having lived a life with Peggy Carter. Let’s go through that journey, or at least what I think that journey must have been, given every other films’ time travel laws; this means that Cap must travel chronologically through time from 1970 to 2014, ending in, what I presume, is 1945.
The Space Stone, in the form of The Tesseract, must be returned to SHIELD Headquarters in 1970s New Jersey. This would occur just moments after Tony Stark and Cap originally left and requires him simply to make it to The Vault.
The Time Stone is returned to the Sanctum Sanctorum in 2012, moments after Professor Hulk has left. The Stone is simply handed back to The Ancient One who was in on the entire plan, putting her mind at ease. The Mind Stone, in the form of Loki’s Sceptre, is returned to SHIELD as they exit Stark Tower moments after Stark and Antman have left. This is also a simple exchange as 2012 Cap is already believed to have the sceptre on him. From here, it’s not so easy. 2012 Loki has to escape with the 2012 Tesseract, otherwise there is no reason for Cap and Stark to jump to 1970. However, the timeline cannot be properly restored until they have both returned to 2012 NY.
Luckily, the human race has a habit of tracking it’s history. I believe that, in this universe, any mention of “A Trickster” or even just “Loki” is an actual sighting. This means that Cap jumped from 2012 to a specific time and place in history to retrieve him, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have come quietly. But Cap still has Mjolnir. Loki probably isn’t going to argue much with that. From here it’s back to 2012, to deposit Loki and his Tesseract with a trustworthy SHIELD agent. This most likely occurs during the Schwarma scene.
The Reality Stone, in the form of The Aether, as well as Mjolnir, must be returned to Asgard in 2013. Presumabley this happens moments after Rocket and Thor have left. Since Thor’s mother Frigga is already aware of the plan, its a simple handover. I don’t know how they got The Aether back into Dr Jane Foster…… but they did.
The Power Stone, in its orb casing, is returned to Morag shortly after Nebula has been taken by Thanos and his ship has left. It gets placed back on its podium and from here Cap jumps to Vormir to return the Soul Stone. Since Red Skull is the official Keeper of the Stone, he presumabley holds the power to return it to its cosmic shrine. It is only at this point that the Original Timeline has been restored and Cap can jump to 1945.
I’m going with mid-September 1945, because the Captain America from that era is still in the ice and thought to be dead when the war ends. I’ve read countless theories that “Captain America wouldn’t just sit by and allow the atrocities from 1946 onward to occur” and you’re right, usually he wouldn’t. Though, the fate of the entire Space-Time continuum is on the line here which means that, though it may pain him, Cap knows he HAS to allow these atrocities to occur in order to restore the Original Timeline. Remember that era’s Cap is also still in the ice, and will still go on to be found in 2011, and fight Thanos, and win. So Steve Rogers from 2023 lives a quiet and happy life, until the passing of his wife Margaret Carter in 2016. He is still in an alternate reality.
Up until now, only time travel has been used. What needs to be done now is a jump to another dimension. Luckily the Spiderman: Far From Home trailer indicates that this is now possible. The Snap (presumabley the Reverse Decimation) has torn a hole in the fabric of reality, so we’re told, which means that Cap has to wait until 2023 to make the jump. By this time SHIELD will probably have equiptment to do that, allowing Captain America to finally return to his own timeline at the same time he left, only several metres away… and about a century older.
I’m sure that everyone has their own interpretation of these events, and I’m sure that the Russo brothers will come forward with theirs. For me, this is the logical solution for returning the Infinity Stones, and so this is what I will continue to believe. To each their own.
Until Next Time…