Warning - This article contains spoilers for the fifth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier .
Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more or less picked up the pieces of the previous installment of the hit MCU series. It began with an electrifying fight scene with rogue Captain America, John Walker, versus Sam and Bucky, who were looking to take back the shield by any means necessary.
By the end of the episode, Sam began to fully accept and step into his role as the world's new Captain America, having reclaimed the shield and truly realized its importance and weight, both positive and negative, that it carries as a symbol. He even unboxed a special gift from the Wakandans on behalf of friend and ally Bucky Barnes.
That gift is more than likely a new suit featuring a certain star-spangled color scheme, and it will officially make Sam the new Captain America in the eyes of the MCU's public.
But, what does it mean for Sam Wilson, a Black man, to actually be the new Cap after all the horrible things that happened to Isaiah Bradley and his compatriots in pursuit of more super soldiers to wield the shield?
THE MANTLE OF CAPTAIN AMERICA COMES WITH SOME BIG BOOTS TO FILL
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier director Kari Skogland spoke to Entertainment Weekly regarding the significance of Sam taking up the mantle and picking up the shield.
Skogland mentioned that Sam finds out that "what defines a hero today is not the same ideal as it was when Steve first picked up the shield:"
"We wanted Sam to engage in both a public and private conversation of what it means for a Black man to pick up such an iconic historically white symbol. By starting off with his acknowledgement of how important it is as a symbol, and that it is connected to a bygone era, Sam opens the door to the idea that what defines a hero today is not the same ideal as it was when Steve first picked up the shield, because the shield means different things to different people."
The team behind the series felt it was crucial to treat the act of Wilson becoming Cap with the significance it deserves, and to not brush it off by putting the event in the first or second episode. That meant "exploring all sides" of the idea:
"It is important that we explore all sides to its future as a symbol, given it represents the American flag and the deep history that comes with something that represents equality and freedom,"
This is more than likely why the mantle was first given to John Walker in the narrative of the show. Skogland said that "those very coveted ideas that are the core to the American Dream are actually fragile:"
"It needs to be an ongoing discussion because those very coveted ideas that are the core to the American Dream are actually fragile and need to be protected from those that go down a slippery slope, no matter how well intentioned, that actually puts freedom and equality in the crosshairs."
Skogland also made a point to explore Sam's intuitively compassionate side when it comes to conflict with opposing forces. This is something the audience saw on display in Episode 4 when he calmly tried to find some common ground with Flag Smasher Karli Morgenthau:
"I wanted the show to explore the redefinition of a hero who has traditionally been seen as a warrior/soldier to being a first responder and front line worker. To see a hero who has a strong moral fiber and yet is not rigid so is able to conciliate, include and discuss with the opposition with an eye to solving global issues because they are ultimately interconnected to our universal quality of life."
SAM'S THE RIGHT HERO FOR THE JOB
It's interesting to see that such careful consideration was given to the role of Captain America within the MCU and Sam Wilson's place in all of it. It would have been easy for Marvel Studios to put Sam in the Cap uniform right off the bat, early in the series as the "cool, attention-grabbing thing."
But, instead, they took their time with it, only having Wilson truly accept the job at the end of Episode 5. The storyline with Walker only further served to drive home the point.
At the end of the day, Steve Rogers gave the shield meaning. John Walker was trying to derive meaning from the shield. And Sam Wilson? Well, all signs point to him being the right man to carry on the symbol and legacy of Captain America, both from an in-universe perspective and for the real world; Black kids all around the world can watch the show and see a hero who looks like they do and who represents, at least in part, some of the struggles they face. Isn't that what it's all about?
Marvel Studios' The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will drop its series (season?) finale on Friday, April 23, only on Disney+.