This article contains spoilers for the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Over 13 years and 23 films (and a show), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has maintained a loyal fan-base which has showered immense love over the multi-billion dollar franchise. However, all of that changed due to an eight-second cameo in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
In the first episode of TFATWS, we see Sam Wilson turn Captain America’s vibranium shield to the government, despite Steve Rogers’ wish that he carry on his legacy. Sam, according to actor Anthony Mackie, is reeling from the loss of his friend and leader, and feels like he doesn’t yet deserve to do so. He says that the shield feels like it ‘belongs to someone else.’
However, by the end of the episode, we see Sam’s shock as the government delegates the shield to a ‘new’ Captain America. His name isn’t mentioned in the show yet, but he is John Walker, played by Wyatt Russel.
According to the government, the people are reeling from the after-effects of Thanos’ ‘blip’ both with half of the population disappearing and reappearing. This Captain America, is supposed to inspire people, and unite them again. However, Sam is not very convinced as looks at his TV screen with shock. That is the cliffhanger the first episode ends in.
With promotional clips and leaked photos, a lot of Marvel fans had already known about this development. However, what the studios couldn’t have envisioned is the intensity at which the fans were disappointed that the show introduced a new Captain America who wasn’t Sam. #NotMyCap started trending on Twitter with people flooding the micro-blogging site with memes making fun of this new character.
So, why do people hate him so much? The ‘backlash’ itself is multifold. First of all, a large section of the Twitterati are mourning the fact that there is no chance of Chris Evans. These people are comparing the actors and not the characters, which is frankly, a little unfair and unnecessary.
Secondly, a lot of people are defining this as ‘fun leg-pulling.’ This means that people obviously know that there is a huge chance that by the end of the series Sam Wilson will be the legitimate Captain America. They are just jumping on the bandwagon because the character is not supposed to be likeable.
On the other hand, like every internet ‘war’, there are people defending the character, saying that he has only been brought to pose as a hurdle for Sam and Bucky.
Then there are fans who are genuinely concerned that if, instead of Steve’s choice, they choose John Walker as the new Captain America, because in the comics, the character does become Captain America for some time. But more on that later.
What seems to have been missed out by the protesting fans is that the makers have introduced this new Captain America to give another example of racism in the show. A hero like Sam Wilson, who served as an Avenger in many missions, and most importantly against Thanos, was not persuaded by the government to be Captain America. In fact, the government acted directly against his wish by delegating the shield to someone else. It was clear that the organisation is uncomfortable with the idea of a Black man being their leader.
Who is John Walker and is he a friend or a foe?
To say that this character’s legacy is complicated will be an understatement. He first appeared in Captain America #323 in 1986. He got his superpowers from Power Broker, a corporation that experiments on their customers with the help of a mad scientist by giving them superhuman strength. John Walker takes on the identity of Super Patriot, who is extremely and publicly critical of Captain America. He is an anti-hero figure in the Marvel Comics, and is hot-headed and misguided. However, he is shown the fault in his ways by Steve Rogers.
After Steve gives up the mantle of Captain America following a fall-out with the government (on the similar lines of the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War), John Walker is appointed in his place. Even though he disagrees with Captain America, he wants to honour this legacy. However, he cracks under the intense pressure and becomes increasingly violent. This is the first hint that the John Walker in TFATWS is up to no good.
In the comics, Steve Rogers and John Walker team up to defeat Red Skull. John then convinces Steve to take the position of Captain America back. The government then fakes Walker’s death and gives him a new identity as ‘US Agent.’ The US Agent then goes on his own adventures.
What does the new Captain America mean for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier?
Simply put, it is totally up to Marvel to take us in for a wild ride. Remember how fake Pietro in WandaVision turned out to be a ‘civilian’ Ralph Bohner? We don’t know what Marvel has planned but from the looks of it we can make a few guesses. First, we think Sam and Bucky will reluctantly accept the new Captain America. The duo has to deal with the Flag Smashers, an anonymous group of terrorists, who are the primary villains of the show. On the other hand, Helmut Zemo, the Sokovian villain from Civil War is back, and we know how easily he can brainwash Bucky.
However, what we think will happen is that John Walker will misuse his power as Captain America. He might even have more evil motives and might have joined hands with the other two factions. Since we know that Sam will eventually train with Steve’s shield, he (and Bucky) will go up against John Walker too. However, the only way to be sure is to wait for the next five weeks to pan out.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been directed by Kari Skogland and created by Malcolm Spellman. It also stars Emily VanCamp and Daniel Bruhl in pivotal roles.