(Spoilers from Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere will be found below.)
With the comic book community starved for movies, Disney+ shows (and, in its own way, the Snyder Cut) will be the closest thing we’ll get to cinematic experiences for at least a few months. Already, WandaVision hit a home run by giving fans a super weird experience, and a character-focused story that’s quite unlike many Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, but we’re back in action mode with the The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere. The show’s picks up shortly after Steve Rogers travels back in time to spend decades with his best girl, Agent Peggy Carter. So, we’re in a post-Endgame world, and a major MCU priority is to choose a new Cap.
This development felt inevitable. Chris Evans was done with the Cap role, and so was Steve Rogers after going through so much. He took that super serum, ended up frozen like a Capsicle for decades, and woke up to deal with the Internet and of not-so-dulcet tones of Nirvana. He encountered his best friend as a brainwashed HYDRA assassin, watched Peggy die in modern times, became a fugitive due to the Sokovia Accords, and pretended for years to be not worthy of lifting Thor’s hammer, only to whip out that thunder while fighting Thanos. Steve deserved a nice retirement of his choosing, but that sure puts the MCU in a tough spot, albeit an interesting one.
Look, there’s been a ton of speculation about who will be the next Captain America, and all eyes have been on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to make that reveal. And there damn well was a reveal in the final moments of the series premiere. What did this reveal mean, though? Wes, I’m talking about the dude in the Captain America suit. Is this guy, you know, the real new Cap?
We’ll talk it out, but recall that MCU fans hold a fresh memory of WandaVision Mephisto hints that went nowhere. Not immediately trusting that John Walker is the new Cap is probably a wise move. After all, Kevin Feige recently revealed that this show might get a second season, so the “Who is the new Cap?” question might be a long game, even though the show’s final trailer directly calls for a new Captain America. With that said, we can have some fun with this question, too, so let’s discuss the two most obvious candidates (the pair who once squabbled over legroom to set up their buddy-comedy vibe) to carry Cap’s vibranium into Phase Four. Then we’ll talk about that a few other candidates, including that new guy, John Walker/U.S. Agent, and my dream candidate.
1. Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie):
With Endgame, Marvel Studios teed up Sam Wilson as the rightful heir to the Cap mantle in the most obvious way, given that aged Steve Rogers bestowed the shield upon him as the Infinity Saga drew to a close. At the time, Wilson did not tell Steve “no” because, seriously, what mere mortal says no to the current Captain America when he declares his choice for the position’s honor? Then there’s the matter what actually happened in the premiere, which began with Mackie’s previous words (“It feels like it belongs to someone else”) echoing before he apparently stepped aside from the Cap mantle, and the government did not argue with him.
Previously, Anthony Russo stated that Steve saw a “kindred spirit” in Sam and a “similar ethic,” given that they’re both military guys who (I guess) think that contemporary beds feel like marshmallows. I’m being silly by adding that last detail, but seriously, Sam Wilson does become Cap in the comics at one point, yet we have seen zero confirmation that Sam ends up being the new Captain America in the MCU. As far as the debut episode of this show goes, it doesn’t seem like Falcon’s the new Cap. Yet the series is only beginning, so we must be patient for real results.
The only thing we know for sure is this: Sam Wilson as the new Cap is anything but set in stone, now that we’re living in a post-Steve Rogers world. Anthony Mackie recently very cryptic by pointing out [while using “I” in place of his character] that “at no point in time did I agree to or say that I would be Captain America.” Mackie further stated that “the show walks the line of who is going to take up the shield,” and he suggested to Uproxx’s Mike Ryan that Sam is working on figuring out whether he’s gonna be Cap. To muddy the waters further, Mackie recently pointed out (via Comic Book) that Sam is still essentially a Steve Rogers fanboy, so take this as you will:
“There’s still people out there that still appreciate comradery and friendship…just like everybody else, you don’t want to see Steve Rogers go away…just like he was your Cap, Steve Rogers was Sam Wilson’s Cap,” Mackie adds. “That’s why he says at the end of Endgame, ‘It feels like it’s someone else’s.’ He’s a fan just like everyone else…Sam is just a regular guy who won the lottery when Black Widow knocked on his door and he fell in love and was hoping to have a spinoff with Black Widow.”
Basically, Mackie is giving fans many reasons to believe that Sam will not be the new Cap, but it’s as likely that, yes, Sam will pick up that damn shield in the end. Who knows? Hell, maybe he’ll turn into Mephisto, which you gotta admit, would be highly entertaining. What I’m saying here is that we should embrace the mystery and trust in the journey.
2. Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan):
Granted, I’ve got a soft spot for both James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes and Sebastian Stan (who is often the most underappreciated presence alongside flashier co-stars in well-received films like I, Tonya and The Devil All The Time), and I strongly disliked seeing Bucky stand by while Steve handed Sam the shield. Of course, I understand Steve’s reasons for picking Sam, but there are still a few reasons to root for Bucky getting it together to be Cap. For one thing, there’s comic book canon on his side, just like there is for Sam Wilson, and back in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier days, many fans saw the above moment as foreshadowing.
There’s also a lot of sentimentality at work here. Steve and Bucky were lifelong, “until the end of the line,” best friends, and if Bucky hadn’t fallen off that train and into HYDRA servitude, then he’d have never been brainwashed. Bucky wouldn’t have gone on to be HYDRA’s top assassin, even taking out Tony Stark’s parents in the process. All of those years of having his mind wiped, over and over again, left Bucky’s mental state seriously suspect at best; after all, he’s still able to be turned back into HYDRA agent mode if someone (like Daniel Brühl’s Zemo) simply speaks the correct words. And equally damningly, it’s clear from everyone’s willingness to believe that he killed Wakanda’s King T’Chaka that Bucky as Cap would be a public relations nightmare.
Still, there’s a certain contingent of the fandom who would no doubt enjoy seeing Bucky holding the shield. Kevin Feige damn well knows that this is the case, which is probably why the show’s Super Bowl trailer show both Sam and Bucky apparently training with the shield. In the series premiere, Sam and Bucky are not hanging together yet, and Bucky’s stuck in a strange limbo where he goes to therapy and tries online dating. That last part’s funny, and any Cap dreams (if the MCU Bucky ever had them) seem to be non-existent.
However, not all is lost. A new Falcon and the Winter Soldier clip shows Bucky declaring, “I read the hobbit in 1937 when it first came out.” That’s some serious nerd-flexing. I’m not drawing any significance to this line, but it’s endearing as heck and must mean that the Marvel gods are smiling upon Bucky in some way. (Also a bit of trivia: multiple Lord of the Rings actors, including Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman, have appeared in the MCU, so Bucky’s fandom is a cool nod, if nothing else.)
3. and 4. A New MCU Character From The Comic Lore:
— The Mystery Carl Lumbly Character (Carl Lumbly, obviously)
This one’s a bit tricky. Early in 2020, Lumbly (of Supergirl and Altered Carbon) officially joined the cast, and details on his role have remained a mystery. As Deadline noted last year, however, speculation ran rampant that Lumbly will portray the Isaiah Bradley, a.k.a. the “Black Captain America.” Granted, he took the super-soldier serum decades ago and, although he first surfaced in comic form with 2003’s miniseries, Truth: Red, White and Black, his backstory goes back to 1940 and acts as scathing commentary upon the Tuskegee Syphilis Study that took root during that era, so his cultural resonance would be heavy. If Lumbly (who is 69 years old) is actually playing Bradley, however, one would certainly expect him to be playing an older (un-serum-ed, and that’s possible because it happened to Steve in the comics) version of the character. Still, there’d be a lot of story-massaging to make this happen. Surely, he won’t be the new Cap.
— John Walker/U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell)
Alright, so we need to talk about what the hell happened in the premiere’s closing moments. Some seemingly random person, John Walker, was held out to America as the new Cap. Is this really the case, and who the hell is John Walker? He’s actually a character from the comics who temporarily did the Cap thing, and his character popped up on the show’s IMDb page (and, apparently, in at least one of the trailers, as seen below) as portrayed by Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn).
In the comics, Walker moved from being a vigilante, Super Patriot, into being the government-approved Cap replacement, but I question whether that will happen here, or whether he’ll be more of a bad dude. And honestly, I was wary of reading too much into his presence in the trailer, since Marvel Studios (and now Disney+) are both so good at pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Remember how we saw Thor sitting next to a bread bowl in a trailer — totally out of character for the ripped God Of Thunder — and we never suspected that “Lebowski Thor” was the character erased from an Endgame trailer during the suited-up group walk? It’s semi-diabolical, but Kevin Feige is really talented at hiding things while pretending to reveal things; he’s so talented that people can’t even get mad when Marvel Studios trailers lead us astray. Whatever the case, comic readers know that John Walker’s got super strength on his side, and he trained with Taskmaster, who we’ll see at some point in Black Widow, on how to handle the Cap shield.
And there’s no ignoring the flat-out fact that John Walker was introduced as the new Cap. Yet will he remain that way on a permanent basis? My gut feeling says no, and again, reading into trailer stuff could prove counterproductive, but there’s probably no way that we saw Sam and Bucky practicing with the shield for no reason. To not actually explain that in the show would go too far, even for Marvel Studios-style teasing. Stay tuned here is all I’m saying. When it comes to whether John Walker will or won’t last too long as Cap, there must be much more revealing to come.
While I’ve got you here, I’d like to talk about my own far-fetched hope for who will really become the new Captain America…
5. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp)
Alright, there’s about 95% chance of me being wrong by pushing Sharon Freaking Carter as a Lady Cap (she was absent from the series premiere, too), but hear me out. We haven’t seen Sharon since she violated the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War by aiding then-fugitives Cap, Falcon, and Bucky before apparently disappearing into the wind and abandoning her Agent 13 title. In Endgame, she was recorded as a victim of Thanos’ snap but, obviously, she would have been resurrected by the end of the film. She didn’t surface as part of the grand Avengers: Endgame battle, yet all of a sudden, she’s busting into this show’s Super Bowl trailer around the 1:00 mark, wielding a gun, kicking ass, and sounding like she’s not entirely thrilled with Cap or Bucky.
So, what’s she been doing all this time, and is she working for the good guys or the not-so-good ones? That’s a tough call to make for a few reasons. There are alternate versions of Sharon’s character that saw her fall under HYDRA mind control, but I would really hate to see that happen here, like say, if she had anything to do with Zemo at all. Then again, Baltroc actor Georges St-Pierre has told us all to prepare for some extra wild fan theories inspired by this season, so god help us all.
What I’d like to happen is this (although it surely won’t happen because it’s simply too good to be true): Sharon comes back and acts a little bit crabby with Sam and Bucky because she previously saved their asses, and look at what a fine mess has been made. Her previous love interest, Steve Rogers, traveled back in time to marry Sharon’s aunt. It’s not as though anyone could have stopped Steve from doing what he did, but it’s still gotta be an awkward situation for Sharon. And my dream would be for something to happen that’s similar to what we’ve seen in Marvel’s animated What If…? trailer, which showed off an alternate version of Peggy Carter after she took the super serum instead of Steve and became Captain Carter. Is there any damn reason in the world why we couldn’t see Sharon Carter become a live-action Captain Carter?
Well, this would obviously enrage those who live and die by comic book canon, but seriously, this is all make-believe. I would love to see Sharon as Captain Carter-America, but mostly, I simply want to see a lot of Sharon. Yes, I’ve joked about how the title of this show should have been The Falcon and Winter Soldier and Sharon Freaking Carter, but I’d like to see this ancillary character gain more of the spotlight and have a chance to be superheroic. As drawn by the MCU so far, Sharon’s a tough lady who’s sacrificed a lot in the name of the Captain America mantle. Even if there’s a 5% chance of her holding the shield in the end, I wouldn’t be mad at if it happened.
Disney+’s ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ will premiere on March 19.