Hasitha Fernando on the biggest takeaways from Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier…
WandaVision caught viewers by surprise with its trippy, sitcom heavy weirdness but right from the get go The Falcon and the Winter Soldier quickly established that it was gonna be quite a different beast of its own altogether. Set in the same cat-and-mouse universe of espionage and deceit established in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the series expanded on the narratives of Bucky and Sam in a post-Endgame world, delivering a great character driven drama replete with adrenaline fueling action sequences and excellent story beats. With the show now done and dusted, it’s time to sit back and analyze its biggest takeaways and their implications in the MCU going forward. For those of you who haven’t caught the show yet, SPOILERS follow…
1. Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers
Disney’s gender-swapped take on Captain America villain Karl Morgenthau a.k.a Flag Smasher proved to be a risky albeit successful move which created a relatable, sympathetic villain driven by unambiguous motivations. In the wake of the infamous Blip during Avengers: Infinity War half of the world’s population was snapped out of existence. Their eventual return, five years later, resulted in mass hysteria and widespread confusion as this led to the displacement of a major proportion of people like third-world economic immigrants and those who lost everything while Blipped. This in turn birthed multiple disenfranchised refugee communities worldwide, which were now under the charge of the Global Repatriation Council (GRC). The rising tensions and dissent due to the GRC’s actions and lack thereof, inevitably leads to the formation of the Flag Smashers; an anti-nationalist group whose goal is to create a world without borders and to provide resources to those in need. Although Karli and her motley crew don’t quite make through to their mission in the end, it’s quite possible that someone who embodies their ideology will resurface later in some shape or form in the MCU.
2. The White Wolf
At the conclusion of the TV series, it seems Bucky has finally found his peace by confronting his violent, blood-stained past. To say Wakanda played an integral role in him shedding his Winter Soldier persona is something of an understatement, as evidenced by the prologue of episode 4. Bucky is first referenced as the ‘White Wolf’ in the Black Panther post-credit scene and in episode 2 he corrects Sam when the latter teases him saying, ‘Wakanda made him the White Panther’. It seems that Bucky has embraced the White Wolf persona – which is something of an antithesis to his Winter Soldier character – now that he’s free of that dangerous alter-ego. He is trying to make amends for his past decisions but it’s a far cry from the White Wolf character in the source materials.
In the comics, White Wolf was the moniker given to a Caucasian boy named Hunter who was the adopted brother of Wakandan king T’Challa. A skilled combatant and brutal warrior, he was made the leader of the Hatut Zeraze – Wakanda’s secret police by T’Chaka during his reign as king. With T’Chaka’s passing however Hunter and T’Challa’s differences worsened which led the former to become a villain. The story arc of the comic book White Wolf and MCU’s Killmonger share many similarities so it will be interesting to see what the MCU’s take on Bucky’s White Wolf will be. But it’s safe to assume that with Bucky’s intimate relationship with Wakanda, he’ll probably play some role in the Black Panther sequels going forward.
3. The Super Soldier Serum
The secret to the Super Soldier Serum is undoubtedly one of the most sought after in the MCU. The untimely demise of Dr. Abraham Erskine at the hands of HYDRA and Captain America’s frigid encounter in the Arctic during WWII led to the secret compound’s exact composition being lost through the passage of time. The U.S government did try to replicate the Super Soldier serum over the years, however, with varying successes. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 3 we see that Dr. Wilfred Nagel had succeeded where his predecessors failed, and crafted a superior version of Erskine’s formula. Initially recruited by HYDRA to recreate the Super Soldier Serum for their Winter Soldier Program, Nagel’s work was left unfinished when HYDRA fell. Recruited by the CIA the disgraced scientist soon indulged his old passions and made significant strides with his endeavors as the CIA possessed blood samples of Isiah Bradley.
By 2018 Nagel was successful enough to replicate the original serum and was even able to modify it so that its users will not undergo any form of physical changes. However, his efforts were interrupted once again when he was snapped out of existence during The Blip. When he returned, the CIA’s Super Soldier program had been discontinued so Nagel fled to Madripoor where under the auspices of the Power Broker he perfected his concoction. During the events of Falcon and the Winter Soldier Nagel is killed off by Baron Helmut Zemo and whatever that was left of the formula was also destroyed. All that’s left of Nagel’s experiment currently courses through the veins of John Walker a.k.a U. S Agent, since none of the anarchist Flag Smashers gang survived. It’s difficult to say what could happen in the MCU as far as the Super Soldier serum is concerned, but it’s highly unlikely this won’t be the last we see of it.
4. Baron Helmut Zemo
In the comics Baron Helmut Zemo is depicted as one of Captain America’s most ruthless villains, but his MCU counterpart-brought to life masterfully by Daniel Bruhl – was reimagined as a Hannibal Lecter-esque master manipulator playing cunning mind games with the hapless Sam and Bucky. You never quite knew what the guy was up to and that always kept the audiences guessing about the character’s motivations, making Zemo an intriguing addition to the riveting TV show. After destroying the leftover vials containing the Super Soldier serum, dispatching its creator and ensuring his trusty butler Oeznik assassinated the remaining Flag Smashers, Zemo was accompanied by the Dora Milaje to the Raft at the conclusion of the series’ finale. What Feige & co. has in store for the character’s future is uncertain, but with Sam taking on the mantle of Captain America, Zemo would certainly have some creative ‘ideas’ he’d love to share with his ex-colleague.
In episode 3 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier we are introduced to the lawless nation of Madripoor. In the source materials the Principality of Madripoor was an island in Southeast Asia, located in the southern portion of the strait of Malacca, Southwest of Singapore. A haven for pirates, outcasts and criminals Madripoor does not allow other nations to extradite criminals who are within its borders. This notorious city was best known due to its relation with none other than everyone’s favorite adamantium clawed anti-hero Wolverine.
First arriving in Madripoor in 1988’s Marvel Comics Presents #1, by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, Logan fashioned himself a new identity called Patch, by donning a white tux and an eye-patch. Whilst covertly operating as Wolverine, he was more well known as the troublemaker Patch, in the dark alleyways of this amoral megalopolis. Regardless it would be interesting to see if the MCU version of Wolverine (if and when it will be introduced) would have anything to do with Madripoor like the character’s comic book counterpart.
6. Isiah Bradley
One of the darker secrets in the MCU, Isiah Bradley was a patriotic African-American who fought in the Korean War as the first Black Captain America. In the 1950s he was forcefully drafted to the U.S Army’s Super Soldier program and successfully survived the ordeal, whilst most test subjects-his own comrades- perished. Endowed with heightened strength and durability Bradley was deployed by the military to track down and eliminate the Winter Soldier, during the Korean War. While Bradley was unable to kill the Soviet Super Soldier, he was able to inflict considerable damage to his formidable opponent before the latter escaped.
Despite Bradley’s services to the country the government feared the ramifications of having a man of color being a Super Soldier, and therefore had him locked up and experimented upon for thirty years. These tragic experiences made him a very bitter man, disillusioned by his country and what it stood for. In the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Bradley even attempts to dissuade Sam from taking on the mantle of Captain America saying that America will never let a Black man be Captain America, and that no self-respecting Black man should ever bear that mantle. In the series’ finale Sam proved Bradley wrong by becoming the star-spangled man, but whether the country, and the world in general, is ready to accept him as the new Captain America is quite a different question altogether.
7. U.S. Agent
Through the show’s entire season one of the most intriguing story arcs belonged to that of John Walker. A former Captain of the U.S Army’s 75th Rangers Regiment and highly decorated war hero, Walker was hand picked to succeed Steve Rogers as the new Captain America, when Sam temporarily hung up the spurs. However, living up to Roger’s legacy was not an easy one and Walker soon succumbed to temptation, downing one of the remaining vials containing Dr. Wilfred Nagel’s Super Soldier serum in episode 4. Later on, he gets into a pickle after brutally murdering a surrendering foreign national in a fit of rage following the aftermath of Lemar Hoskins’ demise.
Stripped of his mantle and discharged from service, Walker is approached by the mysterious Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and gets baptized with a new moniker – U.S. Agent. The character’s story arc in the comics wasn’t too different from what transpired in the show; however, the Commission on Superhuman Activities (not introduced yet in the MCU) played a more active role in his transition from patriotic war veteran to disgraced superhero. A bit of a wild-card even the source materials, it seems the character’s ambiguous temperament will probably be explored further in the MCU when next we meet him.
8. The Power Broker
One of the biggest curveballs that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier threw at audiences was through its reveal of the Power Broker’s real identity. When last we saw Sharon Carter it was just before shit-hit-the-ceiling in Captain America: Civil War and it’s revealed that Carter has been a fugitive of the law ever since, because she aided Rogers’ fight against the government. Since Madripoor does not extradite those who dwell in its confines, Carter made it her home, relying on her deadly skill set as a secret agent to become the Power Broker. She eventually crossed paths with Bucky and Sam, when the duo of troublemakers made their way to Madripoor where things go south. During the events of the series finale, she shoots and kills Georges Batroc and Karli Morgenthau, both of whom knew about her real identity. Carter also gets pardoned at Sam’s request and even gets back her old job, but it seems that she’s not quite done with her Power Broker persona, judging by how the disgruntled spy intends to capitalize on her new turn of fortune in the finale’s post-credit scene.
9. Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine
Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfuss wowed everyone when she made a surprise cameo as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale. It’s not revealed ‘who’ her enigmatic character represents, but one thing is certain- they do want to put John Walker’s abilities to good use and then some. An operative of S.H.I.E.L.D in the comics, she was at one point the leader of the organization’s elite cadre of female agents called the Femme Force. De Fontaine even joined HYDRA, taking on the identity of Madam Hydra, but heart of hearts her true allegiance always lay with Leviathan – a Soviet based terrorist organization born out of the Eastern Bloc. These radical nutjobs made their first live-action appearance in Marvel’s Agent Carter acting as one of its primary antagonists, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Since Agent Carter is firmly set in the MCU (unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) it’s not a stretch to imagine that Leviathan could make a comeback with de Fontaine’s character somewhere down the line. Only time will tell.
10. A New Captain America
Undoubtedly the most pivotal scene from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was when Sam Wilson took on the mantle of Captain America. Mired in self-doubt, ever since Rogers handed over his iconic shield to him, Wilson was unsure if people would ever accept a Black man as their Star-spangled man and if he could ever live up to the former Cap’s iconic legacy. Because of this he initially declined the shield, handing it over to the Smithsonian Institute and thinking it would remain a display piece of sorts. However, when the government recruits John Walker to be their poster boy, Wilson focused on tracking down the anarchist Flags smashers with the unlikely alliance of Helmet Zemo and Bucky Barnes.
At the series’ conclusion Wilson fully embraced his destiny and stopped Karli Morgenthau’s vicious attack on the GRC, effectively neutralizing the threat. Wilson then proceeded to talk at length about the inequality post-Blip refugee communities were facing, the world over, and how all governments should strive to do better. So, what’s next in store for our new Cap? Well, it seems that we’ll be seeing more of him sooner than expected, since The Falcon and the Winter Soldier head writer Malcolm Spellman was recently tapped to pen the fourth Captain America movie. Suffice to say it’ll be interesting to see how Wilson will fit into Rogers’ boots and how he’ll face the innumerable occupational hazards that comes along with it.
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.