This article contains minor spoilers Episode 2 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Last week, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiered and we got our first glimpse of, what seemed to be the new government sponsored Cap. So, I went to Google. I wanted to know who he was, and what was the deal with him. Who is this guy? and What
One thing that was clear right away from the context of the episode: this New Captain America is going to be a big issue for Sam and Bucky. But is he supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy? Or something else entirely?
Is John Walker a Villain, a Pawn, or The Real Deal?
Based on what I learned about the character from the comics, there have been multiple attempts recreate Captain America over the years. The secret to the super soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, died with Dr. Erskine. Imperfect versions of the formula had been tested on more people than the public (and probably Steve) ever knew. Something we learn more about later in this episode. Characters like Nuke, who appeared in Season 1 of Jessica Jones, Weapon X aka Wolverine, and even The Hulk were all created in an attempt to make the next Captain America. The new Captain America on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, John Walker was another fill in for Steven Rogers who went by US Agent. He’s been both a villain and an anti-hero. So, I was kind of under that impression he’s going to be a villain. What surprised me was that I didn’t think he was a particularly likable character. You would think a big bad would more of an attempt to hide his smug arrogance.
His nice guy routipetoo paper this. Sam and Bucky certainly don’t trust him, seeing Walker with that shield is a slap in the face to Bucky and Sam. I was suspicious from the start to be fair the opening scenes of the episode go along way to humanizing the character. To me, the cracks in Walker’s facade are already showing.
If He’s a Good Guy…
On the other hand, the series could be trying to subvert audience expectations. Sam and Bucky, along with the viewers, don’t trust Walker and even find his very existence to be an insult to the legacy of their friend. Walker could surprise us by realizing he’s in over his head and return the shield, and the legacy that comes with it, back to Sam. But don’t hold your breath.
John Walker & The Shadow of Steve Rogers
Steve Rogers is and always will be synonymous with Captain America. In the comics, Bucky and Sam have both taken up Cap’s mantle. Walker never earned the role. It was handed to him by the the government. Steve didn’t serve a country or government, he fought for the dream of what America can be at its best. Which led to some serious conflicts between Steve and the U.S. government in both The MCU and the comics. So it makes a lot of sense that the U.S. would want a Captain America they could completely control. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something much darker in John Walker’s past that hasn’t been revealed to the audience yet. I’d even go so far as to say that some of his backstory that told to us in Episode 2, had been at least partially fabricated for propaganda purposes.
When Will Sam Reclaim The SHIELD?
The heart of this series is Sam Wilson’s journey to accept Steve’s choice and become the true Captain America. More broadly, it’s about America and it’s complicated history with race. Captain America is the personification of the country, so what better way to explore those themes than to tell a story about a black Captain America? We’re already seeing how race politics are playing out in the show. By choosing John Walker instead of Sam, a statement has been made that the government is unwilling to pick a black Captain America. A, sadly, unsurprising move.
Sam is an Avenger, after coming back from the blip and saving the world only to be treated with the same discrimination that people of color deal with every day. When Sam and Bucky are in Baltimore in Episode 2, when the police arrive and their subsequent treatment of Sam was an all too familiar scene. Had the cops not realized that they were talking to 2 Avengers, that scene could have played in very different and horrifying way.
If and when Sam becomes Captain America within The MCU, he’ll face an uphill battle that Steve or Bucky wouldn’t because of bigots and racists in the public, politics and big business who won’t accept a black Captain America. During his time as Captain America in the comics they would even touch on everyday acts of racism, like negative social media reactions with #NotMyCaptainAmerica trending on social media. That’s one of the reasons Sam makes a very compelling Captain America in the comic book and he’ll make a compelling Cap in The MCU. Questions about race and class were baked in to the story when Sam was Captain America. It’s one of the reasons he’s so interesting in that role, because the writers could touch on real world issues that exist around us every day, in a way they couldn’t when Steve or Bucky were Captain America.
Marvel did a good job of showing that Steve was a product of his time and his war. That same opportunity is there when telling a story about Sam Wilson. With only two episodes so far, this series has touched upon some incredibly deep and fascinating issues and beings only promised to get more interesting as the season progresses.