Many fans think/expect/fear Tony Stark will die in the next Avengers, but there's one person who is absolutely convinced he will: Tony. The first trailer for Endgame opens with him adrift in space with no food, no water, and his oxygen on the verge of running out. In what he thinks are his final moments, he records a message to Pepper Potts saying goodbye. It's crushing because of how serene he is about his impending death, but he has found peace because he is saying goodbye to more than just Pepper. He is saying goodbye to something that gave him purpose and identity: Iron Man.
The first suit Tony made was just a machine he built to escape his kidnappers. By the first film's end though, when Tony famously (and selfishly) announced to the world "I am Iron Man," it had become so much more. It's a complicated relationship that has evolved over the years, and with it Tony's sense of self. In Iron Man 2 the palladium in his arc reactor was killing him. Being Iron Man was a death sentence, but Tony couldn't give it up. His identity was so wrapped up in being a hero he had decided he would die as Iron Man.His relationship with his suit only got more complicated from there. In the first Avengers, Steve Rogers challenged Tony's entire identity. "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?" Captain America said. "I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you." In the moment when Cap told Tony he wasn't a hero Cap was right, but Tony proved he could be when he took the nuke through the wormhole even though he thought it meant dying.That incredible, selfless show of courage led to him completely losing his sense of self in Iron Man 3, when the trauma of New York led him to obsessively build more and more suits. At the end of the film, after he destroyed them and had the shrapnel removed from his chest, he realizes his armor "was never a distraction or a hobby; it was a cocoon" he emerged from. And who was born from that cocoon? Once again Tony tells us, "I am Iron Man," but this time it's not just about the suit. It's who he has become.For as much as Tony and Iron Man are the same, Tony hoped one day he wouldn't need to be Iron Man, which ultimately led to Ultron's creation. "A suit of armor around the world," was Tony's goal. It must be tough to hope the world won't need you anymore. He'll never be able to protect the world from all threats though, which is why Tony has continued to work on his technology, making it more accessible and evermore a part of him until the nanotech suit fromÂ Infinity War.His identity has also brought him moments of incredible pain, like holding Peter as he vanished in his hands. Like most thing in life the same thing that brings him pain also brings him happiness. Without becoming Iron Man, he might never have given up his selfish ways and found Pepper. It also gave him friends and a meaningful purpose in life. Stark Industries hurt many people, but Iron Man protects them. When Thanos said to him, "I hope they remember you," he meant it, because Tony Stark the hero earned our admiration.Now he finds himself lost in space and on the verge of death. If you were alone in your final hours what would you think about? Probably the people you love. But would you also think about the life you led and whether or not it mattered? Would you wonder how people would remember you?The Tony Stark in the desert was uncaring, selfish, and brought the world suffering, but as Iron Man, he became everything Tony wasn't. And he knows that better than anyone. That suit of armor was a cocoon, and from it emerged a better person. Tony ends his message to Pepper by saying, "It's always you," but as he turns off his helmet he tenderly passes his thumb across the eye because this is also his goodbye to the suit that saved him.