WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Episode 4" of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Before the credits rolled on 2019's Avengers: Endgame, fans said goodbye to Steve Rogers as he finally got the life he deserved to live. But to the surprise of many, this did not mean that audiences would also have to part ways with the MCU's Captain America. Rather, Steve handed his star-spangled shield to Sam Wilson, implying that the Falcon would take on the mantle of Captain America.
But that's not exactly what fans are seeing play out in the first few episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Instead, audiences see Sam Wilson give Cap's shield to the Smithsonian Museum, but it doesn't stay there for long. What Sam didn't know was that the US government had their own idea in mind (go figure) and elected to appoint a new Captain America in John Walker.
Like Sam, John Walker isn't a super soldier, but he's got quite the resume to speak for him. Even still, fans were quick to notice that Walker is not a perfect man and certainly has his shortcomings. He's aggressive, short-tempered, and his focus is more on his own success as the new Captain America than it is on the greater good.
John Walker is a man trying to prove himself in a broken world, and he keeps coming up short. What will it take for him to turn things around?
CAPTAIN AMERICA BECOMES A SUPER SOLDIER ONCE AGAIN
The events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's "Episode 4" showed John Walker stumbling upon a single vile of the Super Soldier Serum. With no one else around to stop him, Walker pocketed the vail with the implication that he wouldn't be sharing it with anyone else.
This was later reinforced when Walker asked Lemar Hoskins, his right-hand man, about the gravity of taking the Super Soldier Serum should he ever have the opportunity. At first, it seemed that Walker was being smart about his decision, weighing out the pros and cons of taking the Serum and what it would do to him.
But fans learned not long after that Walker was essentially just looking for the first excuse he could find to take the Serum. As Walker and Hoskins closed in on the Flag Smashers in Latvia, they got separated and Walker found that Hoskins had been captured. As the new Cap was trying to find his partner, fans saw him encounter one of the Flag Smashers who was trying to stop him. But to the audience's surprise, Walker handled himself much better against this super soldier than he had in previous fights with the Flag Smashers or the fight he just had with the Dora Milaje.
If there was any question of whether Walker had already taken the Serum at this point, it was answered when the Flag Smasher was catapulted through a door and down a flight of stairs — a feat simply not possible for a human without some genetic tweaking. And sure enough, Walker followed the Flag Smasher down the steps and continued fighting, bending a metal pipe with his bare hands like it was made of rubber.
WALKER LOSES HIS WINGMAN
Upon watching this episode, it was clear that the way it played out will not be soon forgotten. In one of the heaviest MCU moments to date, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes come to the aide of John Walker as he fights the Flag Smashers. Lemar Hoskins escapes his capture and joins the fight just as Karli Morgenthau was about to deliver a devastating blow to Walker. But this move would cost Hoskins dearly, as Karli then adjusted her focus and aggression to Hoskins and killed him with a single punch as the rest of the room watched in horror.
The Flag Smashers fled following this development, but Walker was not far behind them. He caught up with one of the men, and although it was Karli that killed Hoskins and not the Flag Smasher that Walker had pinned down, Walker did not hesitate to take his life. And even after realizing that he was standing in the middle of the street of what looked like the town's most common area, Walker stood straight and adjusted the bloodied shield on his arm, letting the bystanders take a long look at the new Captain America and what he's capable of.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: MURDERER
It's probably safe to say that no one ever expected to see this out of Captain America. Before Sam even had the time to realize that Walker had taken the Super Soldier Serum, they were already in the thick of a fight with the Flag Smashers, giving them no time to evaluate or act on the highly consequential decision that Walker took upon himself to make.
Walker has already been operating with little-to-no oversight throughout The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and despite his good intentions, it's been clear that his own ideals take precedence over the greater good. Luckily, Walker had still been confined to his human limitations, making him less of a threat to Sam and Bucky and an easy feat for those like the Flag Smashers and the Dora Milaje.
The Flag Smashers have killed plenty of innocent people already, and they've taken the life of John Walker's best friend. But now Walker has got the same enhancements that the terrorist organization has been using on their conquest, which levels the playing field quite a bit.
On paper, it makes sense why Walker snapped. He's stepped into this role of Captain America already doubting his ability to handle the job. He's also doubted by Sam and Bucky, and they aren't the only ones who are rubbed the wrong way by seeing Walker take Steve Rogers' place (especially when Steve had no say in the matter).
Walker has spent the last few episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier playing catch-up with Sam and Bucky and getting beaten up or spat on by pretty much anyone he's encountered thus far. In Episode 4, he's trying to return Zemo to prison since he doesn't see how or why he could be useful to their mission. Walker's efforts were opposed by Sam and Bucky, then he was easily defeated by Wakandan warriors, all while Zemo was able to make his escape.
So, Walker was once again belittled as an inferior combatant and his sentiments were disregarded, and Zemo — the man Walker is trying to put back behind bars — has gotten away, making Walker's efforts essentially all for nothing.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR JOHN WALKER'S CAPTAIN AMERICA?
"Power just makes a person more of themselves, right?"
- Lemar Hoskins, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Yes, what John Walker did at the end of "Episode 4" was wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be punished for it. Walker and Hoskins discussed how they did some pretty bad things during their time with the US military, yet they seem to have only been awarded for it. Walker expressed that he was given three Medals of Honor for living through what he recalls as the worst day of his life. This could be alluding to something bigger to come in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — or something that fans would see happen by the end of the episode.
Not much has been said about why it was Walker that was chosen to take up the star-spangled mantle, and the only person to really talk about Captain America at all has been John Walker himself. Even still, it can’t go unacknowledged that the US knows exactly who Walker is and what he’s capable of. His body was studied extensively by universities like MIT, so it’s safe to assume that his mind was held to the same high standard when being considered for the job of Captain America.
The US doesn’t like opposition, and oddly enough, Captain America was quite the thorn in their side at one point. Steve Rogers didn’t yield to anyone and that included the very country that he served for so many years. It would make sense that, in Rogers’ absence, the US would seek out a candidate to take his place that they knew wouldn’t steer away from or oppose their agenda.
Because of this, there’s a very high chance that this sort of action by John Walker is exactly what the United States wants from him and will choose to overlook something even as detrimental as this gruesome murder if it means that they get what they want out of his tenure as Captain America. The Flag Smashers are going after the GRC (Global Repatriation Council), who are trying to return the world back to the way it was before the Blip. John Walker is being positioned as the attack dog that the US needs to counter the Flag Smashers' efforts, and now that he has the Super Soldier Serum to back him up, the US may see this as a win rather than an issue and only catapult Walker further down this dark path that he's set himself on.
JOHN WALKER, U.S. AGENT
Any Marvel Comics fan recognized John Walker's name as U.S. Agent as soon as he was announced to be appearing in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, so the dark turn that this character is taking isn't so much of a surprise as it is an exciting development.
Obviously, Walker is operating under the Captain America mantle right now. However, the common expectation is that Sam Wilson will reluctantly step back into that role and take back the shield that was given to him — even if it means having to pry it from Walker's super soldier fingers.
But that doesn't mean that it will be the end of the line for Walker's work. Even if Sam becomes the newest Captain America by the end of the Disney+ series, that's not to say that Walker wouldn't still be a valuable asset to the US military. In fact, he wouldn't even be the first super soldier they've enlisted in the past twenty years.
Think back to 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Does the name "Emil Blonsky" ring any bells? General Thaddeus Ross was tasked with tracking down Bruce Banner and bringing him into custody, but Ross knew that it would be a near-impossible feat bringing down the Hulk without some serious help.
So, Ross created the assistance he needed. He found the most elite soldier he could find in Emil Blonsky and gave him a couple of doses of SHIELD's own version of the Super Soldier Serum. Of course, the strain of the Serum wasn't perfect, and it caused Blonsky to transform into the Abomination. But the focus here is on the methods.
The US government found a problem and couldn't solve it, so they resorted to making a super soldier out of a less-than-perfect man. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the US now finds itself in a remarkably similar situation — except this time, they don't have to take responsibility for administering the Serum to the soldier. Sounds like quite the golden goose egg, if they can get past the whole "Captain America murdered a man in the street" part.
Not to mention, the man that made Blonsky what he became is now the US Secretary of State and the lead-man on the Sokovia Accords. The concept of the Thunderbolts has long been rumored to be introduced early in the MCU's Phase 4, and Secretary Ross is in the perfect position to get the ball rolling. Ross has shown great favor to men like Walker, which is a scary notion, to say the least. The US may make the excuse that they need someone who can operate outside the lines that someone like Captain America is expected to stay within, which means that the murder that Walker committed could actually be the act that proves his worth to the United States. Yikes.
After the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's fourth installment, Sam Wilson may be convinced to take on the Captain America mantle, and he may have to go head-to-head with John Walker to do it. But don't expect that to be the last time that Walker makes his MCU presence known, as fans could see him put on Secretary Ross' back burner as the U.S. Agent.