Warning: This story contains SPOILERS for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Sam Wilson just got betrayed by his own government, and he’s not happy.
The premiere of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier had Sam believing he was retiring the Captain America legacy. It ended with Sam shocked to discover the government had named a new Captain America without any warning.
The Falcon’s decision
The series opened with Sam (Anthony Mackie) in his Falcon suit defeating a terrorist group attempting to hijack an airplane.
Sam then headed to Washington D.C. to take part in a ceremony honoring the recently retired Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Among those in attendance was James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).
Sam gave Cap’s shield to the Smithsonian, saying, “this belongs to you.” Sam’s speech noted how there could only be one true Captain America in Steve Rogers, and he didn’t feel ready to carry on that legacy. As far as he was concerned, the Cap name retired with Steve.
The rest of the episode focused on Sam handling being back in New Orleans with his sister Sarah (Adepero Odouye), who reveals to Sam that she’s been having financial issues and may have to sell their family’s shrimp boat business.
This touched on how Sam was among those lost in “The Blip,” which leads to issues (it’s hard to get a bank loan when your credit score has a five-year gap). Sarah was also accusing Sam of ignoring the family for his duties as a soldier and Avenger.
But the biggest blow to Sam was when he turned on the news to see a Senator announcing a new Captain America, John Walker (Russell Wyatt), bearing the shield.
For Sam, the blow of this announcement is huge. He had felt entrusted with Steve’s legacy and that the government would naturally honor himself and Steve’s wishes to let the Cap legacy retire.
For the government to take the shield Sam had given to the Smithsonian and appoint a stranger who never knew Steve as his successor was something Sam never expected.
Talking to TV Line, showrunner Malcolm Spellman summed up how a loyal soldier like Sam will see this as a huge betrayal by his beloved country. He also touched on the obvious overtones of a black man being overlooked for a white replacement.
“The reason it happened is the doubt that Sam would naturally have in this country, if not the world. Being a Black man, he knows how he’s viewed and he knows the electricity that would come from him carrying those stars and stripes. You meet his family, and [they] already have opinions on it — you’re hearing some of it in jokes, but it’s very pointed.
A Black man being betrayed by his country I don’t think is a surprising thing to Sam or any of our viewers, but it is powerful because it gets to the heart of Sam’s doubt. And how he copes with that doubt over the series is going to determine who he is moving forward in the MCU.”
Spellman added to The Wrap how this tied into Sam’s line when Steve gave him the shield of “it feels like it belongs to someone else.”
“It’s the reason he said ‘No’ to the shield. The doubt that this nation is ready to move into the future for him is alive and urgent, and in every scene he’s in. It’s a difficult journey for him.”
The future of the show
Sam’s decision moving forward will be the focus of the show. The question is if he chooses to challenge Walker for the shield or simply move on with his own life.
The rest of the episode focused on Bucky (Sebastian Stan) still wrestling with his own past as the Winter Soldier. That included keeping an eye on an elderly man who was the grown son of a random witness that Bucky killed decades ago.
The episode also introduced the Flag Smashers, a militant group that wants to “unite” the world by destroying national borders. Spellman stated the addition of the group was only natural with how “The Blip” changed the world.
“We wanted the crisis that the heroes were dealing with to be something that every single fan could look at and be like, ‘Oh, I identify with that. That’s a very real crisis. We wanted these villains to be born from that crisis, and we wanted our heroes to be approaching them from a point of view that is so human and so anchored in modern struggle today, that this whole piece feels like the superhero franchise of the future. These heroes are of the times, they’re dealing with problems of the times, and their worldviews are of the times.”
The first episode set up the new status for several MCU heroes, and Sam’s reaction to this new Captain America will be a critical part of the journey.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier streaming new episodes every Friday on Disney+.