Steve Trevor’s Return to the 1980s, Explained

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984.]

Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, returns us to the world of Diana Prince. This time around, the year is 1984 and Diana is 65 years older despite not having aged a day. She lives in Washington, D.C., and works as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute. Despite the prospect of having a new friend to commiserate with — that’d be Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Minerva, who later becomes the villain Cheetah — Diana still pines for the companionship of her long-lost love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). When an encounter with a mystical artifact seemingly resurrects Steve, Diana must figure out how he’s back from the dead and what it means for their future as a couple.

Steve’s arc in Wonder Woman comes to a pretty definitive end after he sacrifices himself to save the world. As such, his miraculous return in Wonder Woman 1984 has been a point of curiosity since the first trailer for the movie debuted back in December 2019. While the DCEU is a pretty magical place, death often sticks (unless you’re Superman) and it’s rare to see someone come back from the dead without there being disastrous consequences. So, how exactly does Wonder Woman 1984 justify Steve’s return?

What Happened to Steve at the End of Wonder Woman?

Cast your minds back to the final moments of Wonder Woman. As Diana fought Ares (David Thewlis), Steve and his team realized there was no easy way to prevent a plane from releasing tons of Dr. Maru’s (Elena Anaya) poison gas without killing millions of people and increasing the carnage wrought by World War I. Steve realized there is only one safe way to save the world and it required saying goodbye forever to his true love, Diana. After their final, heartbreaking conversation, Steve took control of the plane carrying the poison gas and flew it high enough into the sky so that – after making peace with his decision — he could blow it up, thus preventing the gas from spreading. It also meant he had to go down with the plane.

Image via Warner Bros.

How Exactly Does Steve Return in Wonder Woman 1984?

We see how Wonder Woman 1984 brings Steve back from the dead about 45 minutes into the movie’s runtime. Just one day before Steve’s return, Diana holds the Dreamstone (more on that below) while helping Barbara examine it. She makes a silent wish after reading the Dreamstone’s inscription, with the implication being that she is thinking about Steve as she makes her wish. The next night, at the Smithsonian Member’s Gala, an unknown man (Kristofer Polaha) approaches Diana. She tries to brush him off, being all too familiar with men trying to make unwanted passes at her. The nameless man — literally credited as “Handsome Man,” by the way — repeats Steve’s parting lines to her from 65 years before, thus convincing her it is Steve.

So, what Wonder Woman 1984 tells us is that the Dreamstone has brought Steve back in a sketchy version of reincarnation. Steve’s physical body may be lost to time, but his soul is not. As such, the Dreamstone pulled Steve’s soul out of the afterlife and placed it inside the body of a random man. In the scenes after the couple’s reunion, it is explained that Steve remembers his final moments in 1919, and then he remembers that he existed in a kind of heaven or limbo that he can’t quite describe other than “it’s good,” and then he woke up in Handsome Man’s body in 1984. Back at Handsome Man’s apartment, it’s established that to others, Steve looks like the man whose body he has possessed; however, to Diana, he is good old Steve.

Image via Warner Bros.

What Makes Steve’s Return Possible?

Steve’s return is made possible by the Dreamstone, an ancient artifact examined by both Barbara and Diana at the Smithsonian. The Dreamstone appears to be a trio of citrine crystal points that are bound together by a metal ring with a Latin inscription that reads: “Place upon the object held but one great wish.” Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) eventually gets his hands on it and wishes to literally be the Dreamstone. The magical object then disintegrates and infuses itself into Max Lord’s body, leaving behind the metal ring which, as Diana later discovered while looking through Max’s office for the artifact, bears an inscription in the ancient language of the gods. With the help of some research from Barbara, it’s revealed the stone has had a hand in the downfall of a variety of ancient civilizations. A consultation with a so-called Mayan mystic (Ravi Patel) in Washington D.C. also revealed that the Dreamstone carries a Monkey’s Paw-like price to those who use it, taking the wisher’s most valued possession as payment.

Diana learns the Dreamstone was created by Dechalafrea Ero. Also known as Dolos, Mendacius, and the Duke of Deception, he is a demigod of manipulation. The Duke of Deception is an actual character from the Wonder Woman DC Comics. First introduced in Wonder Woman #2 in 1942, the Duke of Deception is an enemy of Diana’s and a frequent ally of Ares, the God of War. Wonder Woman 1984‘s efforts to tie in Diana’s ancient past with her present-day stop after this scene, as does any thought of possibly introducing the actual Duke of Deception.

Image via Warner Bros.

Wait, What About the Guy Steve Is Living Inside?

The implications of Steve’s return are messy and problematic. As previously explained, Steve’s soul has possessed the body of Handsome Man, a random Washington, D.C. citizen. As far as we know, Handsome Man is a very fashionable engineer and bachelor that sleeps on a futon in an apartment with tons of photos of himself around the living space. Wonder Woman 1984‘s script, which was written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns (AquamanThe Flash), and Dave Callaham (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), doesn’t do much to flesh out Handsome Man’s character beyond these basic facts. This, in addition to only showing the actual Handsome Man a few times, helps the audience see only Steve when looking at the character rather than being forced to remember that this is not actually Steve.

I cannot speak to the intentions of the screenwriters or Jenkins in how they wanted this narrative decision to play out. As a viewer, seeing Steve’s soul inhabit the body of another man and then having Steve use that body however he pleases doesn’t sit well with me. If the Dreamstone is so powerful and magical, why not write that Steve’s soul and body were returned back from the dead? It requires only a slightly bigger suspension of disbelief than Wonder Woman 1984 already asks of us and frees Diana and Steve from turning into consent violators. That’s right: consent violators. In case that wasn’t clear, the two of them being physically intimate with one another while Steve is in the body of a man who can’t consent is absolutely not okay. It’s also completely antithetical to who these two characters are, as Wonder Woman established them: Honorable, considerate, and loving people.

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Image via Warner Bros.

What Happens to Steve at the End of Wonder Woman 1984?

Following a face-off with Max Lord and his forces in both Egypt and at the White House, Steve and Diana come to terms with the fact that the Dreamstone took Diana’s superpowers as the price for bringing Steve back. Steve encourages Diana to accept that it is not fair for him to stay while she is forced to give up her powers, especially when the world needs her to be a hero. Knowing that one of the two ways to get back what the Dreamstone takes from you is to renounce your wish, Diana does exactly that after kissing Steve for the last time.

Wonder Woman 1984 is now available to stream on HBO Max until January 24, 2021. For more, read our spoiler-filled breakdown of the Wonder Woman 1984 credits scene and refresh your memory on other characters in the DCEU sequel with our handy guide.

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