The purpose of the Falcon and Winter Soldier is to build upon the huge hole that was left from Endgame. Its purpose is to expand the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and also build upon existing characters who were underdeveloped in the movie.
There are a plethora of characters in these series and in the MCU that have little to no character traits, one of which is the character Sam Wilson.
The producers build off the character of Wilson aka the Falcon. The last time we saw him in Endgame he was offered the shield and the title of Captain America. Captain America is a huge role in the MCU and a huge offering to give to a person.
The show deals with this changing of the guard–the typical blond hair blue-eyed Captain America giving the heroic persona to another hero who happens to be a black man.
It’s clear, since 2019 when Marvel released Endgame, that the organization is trying to actually foster conservation about race in America and making sure that every race is getting proper representation in the media. We now have a well-developed, black character leading the Avengers.
In previous stories, I have talked about performative activism in media and movies, but I don’t think that is what Marvel is doing with the introduction of black heroes. My reason being that Marvel had already set in motion the fact that Wilson would be the next Captain America at the end of Endgame. This occurred in 2019; they already established their plans for him before the issues in May of 2020 with George Floyd, which brought with it the rise in racial social justice awareness.
The shield of Captain America is clearly a symbol of American justice and fairness, which applies to all cultures and creeds. Wilson becomes a symbol of all people of color in America that doubt themselves or struggle to identify in a predominantly white culture.
People who struggle with identifying themselves with a role can be an exploration of imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments.
Wilson earned the title of Captain America, but he feels since he is black that he does not deserve the role and cannot take up that mantle.
At the same time, we are introduced to the character of Bucky Barnes. Barnes has been with us since the beginning but has not benefited from much character development in essence remaining static. Here’s what we know about his past: he was Steve Rogers’ (AKA Captain America’s) best friend since the very first movie. Then he died, came back brainwashed, was un-brainwashed, brainwashed again, repeat. There are no significant changes in his character until this TV show. This show does a pretty good job at helping him grow as a round character.
Hydra is the one who brainwashed Barnes, and he spends most of the time in the show making up for his mistakes and making amends. Through the show, Barnes has the ability to show such as guilt for his past, and eventually, he comes to terms with himself and accepts the fact that he can’t do anything about the past now, but he can finally do what is necessary to make up for it–developing a true character arc worthy of any redemption story.
More specifically, the show begins with Wilson giving up the shield to the government, thinking he can’t live up to its name. As a result, he gives up the heroic role to the character John Walker.
Walker is a cocky, hot-headed, and selfish man, using his new title of Captain America to gain power over the people. Because he was given the role that Wilson rightfully earned, we, the audience, cringe and hate the idea of this kind of man representing the American Hero.
To play on our reactions, the directors chose to show Wilson having the same reactions to Walker’s embodiment of the persona. As a result, we empathize with Wilson even more. The key to getting audiences to enjoy any show is making us feel for each character; we’ve all been in a position where we have had to watch someone else do something we know we are better equipped to do. This is a great way to make us feel for Wilson and actually care.
To further contrast the two characters the plot includes an “incident”, and Wilson and Barnes go to help. Of course, Walker and his partner go to help, but they end up messing up the whole ordeal, letting the criminals getaway.
The people behind the screen use this scene to make sure that if we don’t already, the audience surely dislikes Walker in the role of Captain America.
**Spoiler Alert**The turning point of this show is when Walker’s partner gets killed in battle, and Walker, in a fit of rage, goes after one of the criminals and kills him by decapitation. But, he uses the shield, which symbolically means so much to us, Wilson, Barnes, and even the MCU.
It is also worth noting that this is the first time in all 11 years of this movie production we’ve ever seen blood on this shield.
Shortly after, we see Walker in court, being stripped of his mantle and a slap on the wrist. Why is this significant? It contrasts to a man named Isaiah Bradley.
Bradley is a Black Korean War veteran, who was unwillingly subjected to human testing of the Super Soldier Serum in the 1950s after Rodgers. A survivor of the trials, he was assigned by the United States military to eliminate the Winter Soldier in South Korea, although he failed.
Since he failed, the government sent him to jail for 30 years. We compare this to Walker, who basically got off scot-free. This direct comparison further supports Marvel’s goal of raising awareness of social injustice issues.
At this point, we are left with a cliffhanger, not knowing what’s going to happen to Walker, and whether or not Sam takes up the role of Captain America.
This is the final episode of the season, and we see Wilson finally take up the title as Captain America, and his suit looks patriotic and fills you up with that gust of hope that we haven’t had since Endgame.
It is so satisfying to finally see Wilson assume the role, and it is even more significant to witness a black man uphold such a position of prominence in America. It is time this position be looked at by qualification instead of color or image.