WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Episode 5" of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
In the most recent episode of the highly-praised Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the integrity of the MCU’s new Captain America was brought into focus.
After being brought back to the United States following the gruesome murder of a Flag Smasher, John Walker stood before a council of the US government who stripped him of his title and duties as the star-spangled man.
John Walker is clearly broken up about this, hardly being able to comprehend what’s being taken away from him. But it’s conveyed that Walker is more worried about his own pride than he is about being honest about his actions, no matter who’s asking.
For instance, Walker argued with the US government that killing the Flag Smasher was justified and necessary, despite that being far from the case. Walker also lied to Lemar Hoskins’ parents about who killed their son, claiming it was the Flag Smasher that Walker killed and not Karli Morganthau, making himself look like the hero that brought justice to Lemar’s killer when in reality he still hasn’t been able to catch up to Karli.
“I would never let the person who did that get away. And I hope you can find some measure of peace in that.”
-John Walker, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Additionally, Walker wore a sling to the hearing and to see Lemar’s parents, yet he’s shown without so much as a brace on his arm as he builds his own makeshift Captain America shield in the mid-credits scene of Episode 5. Does the Super Soldier Serum that Walker took have a weaker effect on a human’s healing factor, or was he milking a minor injury for pity? It’s sad that the question even has to be asked.
PRIDE: THE DOWNFALL OF CAPTAIN AMERICA
By the end of the episode, John Walker’s character has taken a similar form as a throwback MCU villain by the name of Ivan Vanko. With nothing left to lose, Walker takes it upon himself to create his own version of what he believes is rightfully his — the Captain America shield — just as Vanko did to Tony Stark with the arc reactor in Iron Man 2.
John Walker claiming that the US government “built” him is Walker’s way of deflecting blame rather than taking responsibility and owning up to his actions for what they truly were. It may have been a subconscious effort at first, but now he is willfully lying to anyone who asks why he did what he did. This is also similar to Ivan Vanko as he lived his life in pity due to his belief that he and his family were wronged in order to make way for the Stark legacy.
With Vanko, audiences learned that that wasn’t the case. But in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, fans are getting the first-hand look at the downfall of John Walker, as well as who he places the blame on and why he does so, and how he’s wrong in doing so. His character is being fleshed out so terrifically that pitting him against Sam Wilson seems almost entirely natural given the show’s many developments that have had direct effects on both Walker and Wilson.
And with Sam likely taking on the Captain America mantle after seeing him take the shield back from Walker and train to use it, there’s no one Walker would be more focused on than Sam Wilson — the man who took on the mantle that Walker still thinks is rightfully his. If only Sam had just hung onto that shield.
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WHAT’S WALKER’S PLAN?
For now, it looks like Walker has his sights set on reclaiming the mantle of Captain America — a direct violation of the United States’ mandate that he can no longer "represent the US government or its military." But if Sam Wilson is going to step back into the role as the US's star-spangled hero, then Walker's character is going to be set on a different path (provided he survives his rematch with Sam).
“Represent” was an interesting choice of wording for the US government council, as that could imply Walker can still operate under the United States as long as it is not made known to the public. However, this seems unlikely as Walker “will hold no rank in retirement and receive no benefits” from his time with the US military, and his rage that his life has been lived for nothing will surely play into his character's future.
Nevertheless, the US government put on a big, public show to let the world know that John Walker is being punished for his actions, but then he was let go without any legal repercussions. Additionally, they even left it up to Walker to return the Captain America shield to them, indicating that they may be leaving a door of opportunity open for Walker on purpose.
It’s important to remember that John Walker was introduced to the Marvel Comics universe as Super-Patriot — a name very fitting for the current John Walker that audiences know in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Much unlike the Captain America that came before him, Walker is more focused on following orders and being a “good soldier” rather than acting in the interest of the greater good. As a result, he sees no limitations when it comes to his means to an end. That’s a dangerous quality — and a coveted one for someone with an agenda.
"You did the right thing taking the serum... And I’ll tell you something, it has made you very, very valuable to certain people."
-Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
What’s tricky here is that “certain people” doesn’t necessarily mean that Fontaine is talking about “the bad guys.” In fact, it doesn’t even mean she’s talking about anyone other than the US government officials in that very building. For reference, there’s at least one person in the government that has a history of denouncing certain behaviors and then going and displaying those same behaviors himself in a much more reckless manner — specifically when it comes to the Super Soldier Serum.
Secretary Ross learned in Avengers: Infinity War that he had little-to-no control over the enforcement of the Sokovia Accords when it really mattered. Imagine him taking matters into his own hands and employing his own super soldier to make his job easier, much like he did with Emil Blonsky in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Don’t put it past him; Secretary Ross is a man of great pride as well.
But the more likely scenario here is that John Walker is being recruited for something far more secret and outside the parameters of the United States government, for someone like Fontaine to approach him so ominously.
U.S. AGENT, DARK AVENGER
So this begs the question: who needs a man of John Walker's skill set? Fontaine believes that Walker was right to kill the Flag Smasher — and that he shouldn't have stopped at just one. That's a dangerous notion in itself, but what makes this more interesting is that Fontaine never says who she's with. In fact, she never mentions any person or organization other than herself. Is "Val" leading this charge in recruiting the failed Captain America, or is she simply a consultant similar to how Tony Stark operated under the Avengers Initiative?
If Fontaine is acting on someone else's behalf, that opens yet another door of opportunity for both John Walker and the larger MCU. Walker may seem focused on reclaiming the Captain America mantle, but what happens if Sam Wilson bests him yet again? Then what?
This isn't the only time that the MCU has had bigger players lurking in the shadows, moving pieces and waiting for their time to strike. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, a mysterious benefactor was after Hank Pym's work with quantum technology. Although it may be a slim chance, there could be a connection between that benefactor and Fontaine's appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. No one knew why that benefactor was after Pym's work; if someone is looking for the latest and greatest tech to use for their own gain, who's to say they're not also looking for the latest and greatest super soldier as their muscle?
There's a lot of comic book backing to support the theory that someone — a very specific someone — is working behind the scenes to put together an unstoppable organization. He has yet to be introduced in the MCU, but that someone could be Norman Osborn. Many fans have already felt that Osborn's presence has been teased in prior MCU installments, such as Osborn possibly being the one who bought Avengers Tower in New York to convert it to Oscorp headquarters, mainly because this development took place within the MCU's Spider-Man franchise. Others believe that he was the benefactor behind Sonny Burch's treachery in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
If there's any chance that Osborn was the one that sent Fontaine to talk to Walker, then this could tell fans a few different things. First, it could tie closely to the storyline that was seen in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man where Norman Osborn injected himself with a concoction similar to the Super Soldier Serum, which could lead to the introduction of the MCU's Green Goblin. But thinking in even bigger terms than that, this could be what opens the door to the MCU's Dark Avengers.
Similar to how Captain America led the Avengers for so many years, US Agent — the alias that John Walker will presumably take on if Sam Wilson is going to take over the Captain America role — led the Dark Avengers in Marvel Comics for a time. If someone is building a team that stacks up well against the MCU's Avengers, who better to start with than the man who literally tried to be Captain America?
If someone in the MCU is looking to build up a team to combat the Avengers, the Dark Avengers would be a pretty great way to do it. Spider-Man: Far From Home proved through Mysterio that the world is more than receptive to new heroes that prove themselves. There are surely those in the world that sympathize with John Walker following his fallout as Captain America, so although "Episode 5" made sure fans knew that the world was unhappy with John Walker, Fontaine showed that not everyone is against him, and that some even support the choices that Walker has made.
WHAT'S THE NEXT MCU STEP FOR JOHN WALKER?
Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended with the series' first post-credits scene, and it came with huge implications. John Walker has taken it upon himself to build his own version of the Captain America shield. Considering he's welding it in his own workshop, it probably won't fair too well against the real star-spangled deal that is Sam Wilson's shield of vibranium, but Walker's work seems to be more of a symbol for where he is at in his life.
The idea itself screams desperation. Walker is so consumed by trying to prove himself as Captain America that he is throwing away his life's achievements. By welding his Medals of Honor onto his makeshift shield, Walker will be carrying that shield as a reminder of what he called "the worst day of his life." Claiming that he never did anything other than what was expected of him, he's clearly embittered by the US government kicking him to the curb. There's no telling who is safe when John Walker takes to the streets as this homemade hero that he's trying to be.
The series finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is likely going to position Sam Wilson going head-to-head with an enraged John Walker, who is hurt by not being able to fill the shoes of Captain America while seeing Sam step into that same role that he so highly covets. If the story plays out the way that fans expect, then Sam will arise victorious, leaving Walker in the dust once again.
But just as Walker is making his comeback now and refusing to quit despite his circumstances, perhaps he'll remain in that same mentality following the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's story. And if Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has anything to say about it, John Walker has already got a brand-new gig lined up for him, which could possibly catapult him into the role of US Agent and potentially even leading a team of Dark Avengers down the road.