This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
Since making his debut in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has been held up as the paragon of human nobility. He’s courageous, compassionate, he keeps the language family-friendly, and he’s infallibly honest. Or so we thought.
Late in Endgame’s third-act fight, just as all hope seems lost for our intrepid heroes, Captain America does the unthinkable. The Star-Spangled Man wields Thor’s hammer.
To tone down the spoilers, we’ll skip past the method by which Mjolnir finds its way into the final battle of Avengers: Endgame and focus on the rules that govern Thor’s hammer. Longtime fans of the MCU will know that Mjolnir can only be lifted by those deemed “worthy.” To date, the number of worthy people in the MCU has included just Thor himself, and poor, deceased Vision. The fact that every member of the original Avengers is incapable of hefting Mjolnir was a running joke in Age of Ultron.
Granted there were a few drinks in, but it still counts.
While celebrating a temporary victory in the second installment of the collective Avengers saga, the team sits around shooting the breeze. Hawkeye isn’t buying the idea of “worthiness,” so Thor suggests that Clint give Mjolnir a shot. As valuable as Hawkeye is to the team, he doesn’t have what it takes to lift Mjolnir. One by one, every Avenger tries his hand, and one by one, Thor’s hammer remains unmoved. With one exception.
Around the 1:20 mark, it’s Cap’s turn to lift Mjolnir. At 1:22, you can watch Thor’s face go from smug to concerned in a heartbeat when Mjolnir actually shifts from its resting spot. It’s a moment, but it’s there. At that moment, Cap seems incapable of lifting Mjolnir and Thor breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that his entire sense of identity is still intact.
Flash forward seven years — technically twelve — to the moment Thor is having an axe shoved through his chest. Suddenly, Mjolnir takes on a life of its own, soaring through the air and into the waiting hand of Steve Rogers. The obvious assumption, here, is that Captain America has always been worthy of hoisting Mjolnir, he just waited until there was no other option because he didn’t want to hurt Thor’s feelings.
Hell, Steve even played along with Tony Stark when Iron Man was casting doubt about Vision’s “worthiness.”
No one on the squad in Avengers: Endgame was upset about Steve Roger’s little, white lie, least of all Thor, who was just thrilled he didn’t get bisected with his own axe. More than anything, the moment is less evidence of a disqualifying trait than it is a front runner for the most awesome experiment in moral relativity in recent film history.