One of the most anticipated MCU shows of 2021 is the upcoming The Falcon & The Winter Soldier series on Disney+
For showrunner Malcolm Spellman and star Anthony Mackie, the pressure is not just to give MCU fans an exciting series. It’s also to justify transforming Falcon into the next Captain America, a bold move for anyone, let alone an African-American character.
Taking up the shield
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, an aged Steve Rogers not only retired as Captain America but gave his iconic shield to ally Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
The comics have established a precedent for Cap giving up his identity and shield a few times. In a 2007 storyline, when Steve appeared to have been killed, longtime ally Bucky Barnes, now the Winter Soldier, took up the mantle.
Likewise, the comics also had an aged Steve letting Sam become the new Captain America. Sam did well in the role, but when Steve regained his youth, he returned the shield and became Falcon again.
As the series opens, Sam is still Falcon, indicating he has decided he’s not ready to become Captain America or somehow the shield was taken from him.
The series focuses on Sam and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky (seeking atonement for his actions as a brainwashed assassin) facing various threats, including Helmut Zemo, the terrorist from Captain America: Civil War.
Who is the new Captain America?
The show also features John Walker (Wyatt Rusell), who, in the comics, briefly took over as Captain America himself when Steve quit the role. When Steve returned, Walker became the similar-costumed US Agent.
The show’s Super Bowl trailer shows a “new” Captain America who quite clearly is not Falcon, which appears to upset Sam and Bucky.
It’s possible that, as in the comics, the government decides Walker is a better pick to be the new Cap. However, the release of a toy line indicates Sam will become Cap by the end of the season.
On top of all else, rumors abound that the show may work in Isaiah Bradley, the test subject for the Super-Soldier serum and an early Captain America hopeful.
This could also bring in Eli Bradley, who became Patriot in the Young Avengers.
Spellman spoke to Entertainment Weekly on how having an African-American as Captain America is an important move in these times.
“The idea of whether or not a Black man could become Captain America just felt like a huge moment and a huge opportunity.”
Living up to legacy
Trying to follow Chris Evans as Captain America is daunting, yet it appears Mackie is open to it. However, he admitted to his own concerns given the changing climate since Endgame opened.
“It was weird because at no point in time did I accept the shield. Sam never took the shield…You know, it’s a slippery slope. I think at this day and age, nobody expected us to be where we are today when Endgame came out, you know? So, it’s interesting now what that moniker means in America in the world today, as opposed to when the movie came out.”
Mackie’s words indicate he understands how different the national mood has become since Steve offered Sam the shield in Endgame. While the show is described as a “spy thriller,” it may also offer some commentary on current events.
Whoever ends up holding the shield at the end, Falcon & The Winter Soldier promises to present a Captain America trying to be an American symbol for a different era.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres on Disney+ on March 19.