Phase 4 is quickly proving that one of its biggest overarching themes is the idea of legacy after establishing so many long-standing characters throughout the Infinity Saga. This was proven to be the case in the MCU's second Disney+ outing, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which followed up on the stories for Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes after Steve Rogers passed the shield and mantle of Captain America to Sam.
Through the series' six episodes, Sam struggled with the process of actually becoming the next Cap, even giving the shield up completely less than 15 minutes into the first entry, "New World Order." While Sam still obviously kept up his duties as an Avenger, which continued through the series, his hesitancy and nervousness to be such a prominent figure was evident throughout.
As told by some of the individuals who brought this show to life, this passing-of-the-torch moment was one of the central focuses of the entire story...
FALCON ASSEMBLED ON DISNEY+
In the episode of Marvel Studios Assembled featuring behind-the-scenes footage from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, via SyFy, head writer Malcolm Spellman and lead actor Anthony Mackie touched on Sam Wilson's challenges during his evolution into Captain America in the series.
Spellman spoke on Sam's relationship with Isaiah Bradley, who is "challenging Sam just on whether or not a Black man should be Captain America." The head writer confirmed that this idea is "gonna be part of [Sam’s] ongoing struggle" as he carries the mantle in future Marvel Studios projects, referencing the two characters' dialogue with each other during the shows' last two episodes:
"Isaiah is challenging Sam just on whether or not a Black man should be Captain America. He has that line where [he says] ‘They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they would, no self-respecting Black man would ever want to be.’ We didn’t want Isaiah to be wrong about that. That’s gonna be part of [Sam’s] ongoing struggle. He says, ‘I know every time I pick the shield up, a portion of the world is gonna hate me for it.’ Sam’s gotta live with that as he goes off and tries to make this work."
Mackie followed up on this quote, seemingly humbled by the "emotional experience" taking on the character's mantle. He gave credit to Marvel for "giv[ing him] the opportunity" to have Sam Wilson become Captain America, and he praised the team for "the way that they’re hoping to change the way society looks at itself" going forward:
"It’s been an emotional experience, especially in a time in which we live in now. For Marvel to give me the opportunity as a Black man from the South to become Captain America, I think says a lot. Not only about the work that I’ve put in to get to this point that they would entrust me with that, but the way that they’re hoping to change the way society looks at itself."
SAM WILSON'S CHALLENGES AHEAD IN THE MCU
Even though fans are well aware of Sam's virtues and his accomplishments as an Avenger, this series still put forth the tough question of if the public was ready for a Black man as Captain America. This idea was reinforced as early as week one when the government bestowed Wyatt Russell's John Walker with the shield after Sam intended for it to be retired for the foreseeable future.
Through the next five entries, Sam proved time and time again that there was no better person than himself to become the Avengers' next leading man.
His empathy was on full display as he continually chose to talk his enemies down over fighting them unless a physical confrontation was absolutely necessary. After the mayhem settled in Episode 6, he set his worthiness into stone with his moving speech to the U.S. senators and the public, revealing his superpower to be the belief "that we can do better."
Sam has now accepted that he's the right man for the job after Steve Rogers told him just that at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but it's becoming clear that the struggle isn't over. This will likely be explored in either the show's potential second season or in the recently announced Captain America 4, but fans are already anxious to see more of the winged hero continuing his hero's journey.
All six episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are available to stream on Disney+, as is its episode of Marvel Studios Assembled.