The MCU may have a new Captain America, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has repeatedly shown us John Walker isn’t the hero Steve Rogers was. Even after gaining superhuman strength in Episode 4, Walker proves just how unfit he is to wield the shield when he brutally attacks one of the Flag-Smashers in broad daylight, creating an international scandal in the process.
Many MCU fans are probably wondering – where does the series go from here? Is this the end of Walker’s tenure as Cap? Has he gone full supervillain at this point? Given how much Walker’s MCU story has mirrored his early comic book appearances, we have some idea of what’s coming in the remaining two episodes of the season. Here’s what very well could happen now that the new Captain America has shown his true colors.
John Walker’s Downfall
While some of the details have changed in the transition from page to screen, John Walker’s basic character arc has (so far) proven very similar in both versions. We’ve already taken a deep dive into Walker’s comic book background, but the gist is that he temporarily took over the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers abandoned it in Captain America #333. Where Steve is loyal to the American Dream, not the US government, Walker is fanatically patriotic and only too happy to answer the call of duty.
If there’s one takeaway from Walker’s tenure as Cap in the comics, it’s that the powers don’t make the hero. Despite being physically stronger than Steve and benefitting from world class training from the likes of Taskmaster, Walker finds himself increasingly torn between his sense of duty, his desire to live up to the mantle and his darker tendencies. At one point he even accidentally beats a villain named Professor Power to death, proving super-strength and a violent temper are a bad combination.
Just as in the MCU, Walker is eventually driven over the edge by the death of a loved one. Though in the comics, that incident comes when his secret identity is publicly outed, leading to the murder of his parents. Like many characters, Walker doesn’t maintain a secret identity in the MCU, so The Falcon and the Winter Soldier instead uses the death of Battlestar as the incident that pushes Walker to cross an unforgivable line.
Either way, the end result looks to be the same. The new Captain America has shown his true colors to the world, and perhaps permanently tarnished a once sacred image of American power and righteousness. In the comics, Steve finally steps back in and reclaims the mantle of Cap. That’s not going to be an option in the MCU. So the real question now is this – will Sam finally feel compelled to honor Steve’s request in order to redeem the legacy of Captain America, or is Walker’s crime proof that Captain America shouldn’t continue to exist?
From Captain America to U.S. Agent
Walker’s downfall as Captain America is really just the beginning of his story in the comics. The government fakes his death and sets him up in a new identity as “Jack Daniels” (yes, really). It isn’t long before Walker resurfaces in a new costumed identity, however. He returns as US Agent, sporting a similar costume and shield to that of Cap and acting as a bridge between the Avengers and the government. Over time, US Agent has gradually proven his superhero mettle and won the respect of his fellow Avengers, even if he tends to be a bit of a jerk.
Will we see Wyatt Russell’s character follow a similar path? That seems pretty likely at this point. Walker’s time as Cap already seems to be up. The whole point of crowning a new Captain America was to give the American people a symbol of hope and strength in a very chaotic time. Having that symbol plastered all over the Internet pummeling a helpless man to death sort of defeats the purpose. Walker is going to have to give up the costume and shield, whether he likes it or not. But he’s still a well-trained soldier who now possesses all of Captain America’s powers. The military will almost surely have a use for a living weapon like John Walker, but now as a more stealthy assassin rather than a public-facing, patriotic symbol.
Still, that assumes there aren’t more plot twists to come with Walker’s past and true motivations. In the comics, his strength is granted by the Power Broker, immediately placing him in debt to a powerful underworld figure. The Power Broker has been working behind the scenes in the MCU series, but at this point we don’t even know their true identity or if they might have collaborated with Walker beforehand. We don’t even know for sure Walker will survive the end of the series. Given Zemo’s hatred of super-soldiers in all their forms, he’s not going to be satisfied until Walker, Karli Morgenthau and Bucky Barnes are all off the table.
If the show follows the comics, though, Walker will ultimately be the one who convinces Sam to take up the shield, just as he compels Steve to reclaim the mantle in Captain America #350. If there is good left in John Walker, he won’t want Captain America to end because of his mistakes.
The MCU’s Sokovia Accords
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier deals a lot with the notion of accountability. To whom do superheroes actually answer? What’s the real, human cost of creating these super-soldiers? Who should be allowed to choose the hero who represents an entire nation? Should Captain America be a law-abiding representative of the government of a man of the people?
In many ways, that makes this series the most direct follow-up to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Civil War was all about the clash between accountability and freedom. Iron Man believed heroes need to have rules and answer to a governing power, while Cap feared what might happen when the Avengers are prevented from saving lives because of political concerns. In the end, Iron Man’s side won, and the Sokovia Accords became the law of the land.
At this point in the MCU timeline, we still don’t have a clear idea of whether the Accords are still in effect, much less being enforced. The new Captain America is a tool of the US government. Even Falcon is now working with the military after spending two years on the run, while Bucky has cut a deal for legal immunity. Does that mean they both signed the Accords after refusing in 2016? And have they basically made themselves fugitives all over again for aiding and abetting Zemo?
In the comics, Civil War led to the creation of the Superhuman Registration Act, but that law and its impact on the Marvel Universe quietly faded after a few years. The MCU could use the Blip as an excuse to similarly do away with the Sokovia Accords, but it could also seize the opportunity to continue exploring this conflict. The events of Infinity War showed the world what happens when the Avengers aren’t given the freedom to act as needed. And the surge in support for the Flag-Smashers shows that much of the world is disillusioned with the old systems of power. Where the American public might have once supported the idea of licensed and fully trained superheroes, they may feel a little differently five years after the Blip.
More than just revealing the identity of the new Captain America (assuming there even will be a Cap going forward), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will hopefully address these lingering questions and the role superheroes play in this post-Blip world. John Walker shows us a Cap very unlike Steve Rogers – one who puts loyalty to the government over his responsibility to the people. He’s clearly not cut out for his new job. But if the shield must now pass to Sam Wilson, what kind of Captain America will he be? Does he follow Steve’s example and reject the path of John Walker, or is there a third way?
For more on the show’s comic book roots, dig in on (the lack so far of) post credits scenes in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, check out the essential comics to read related to the show and learn more about the seedy city of Madripoor and its ties to the X-Men.
By Jesse Schedeen | IGN