The Falcon and the Winter Soldier shine a light on two of the most underrepresented heroes in the Marvel franchise. More importantly, it gives a glimpse of the world after the battle with Thanos from the Marvel movie “Avengers: Endgame.” However, what is most noteworthy of the plot thus far is the obvious focus on real-world issues. Racism, veteran mental health, and government greed are all touched upon in Marvel’s latest installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Perhaps the starkest thing we’ve seen through the first two episodes is the introduction of the new Captain America, John Walker. He is given the title “Captain America” by the government so that the American people have a symbol of hope to look towards. However, while a great soldier, he pales in comparison to the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, and this was made known right away as Walker gets thrown around in his first on-screen fight. What is most upsetting about the whole situation with Walker is that he dawns on Rogers’ iconic shield; the shield that Rogers gave to Sam Wilson, “The Falcon,” as his last dying wish hoping Falcon would continue his legacy. However, Falcon gave the shield up to the government out of respect for Rogers, as he felt nobody should wear the shield again. That didn’t last long, as the government decided to take the shield out of retirement to wrongfully give it to Walker.
Essentially, Walker is being portrayed as the government’s pet that they can parade around the country. What’s most notable about Walker as a character is his story arc in the comic books. Walker replaces Rogers and defeats fake enemies that were planted by the government to give him some sort of legitimate claim to the shield. However, Walker eventually becomes too extreme in his patriotism and loses his way. What was most suspicious in episode two is that Walker drops into the fight out of nowhere. He claims he was able to track The Falcon because of his technology stating, “We are the government,” afterward. This is ironic and concerning when you understand Walker’s comic book past…
In addition to the “Captain America” arc, two things that have become prevalent in the plot are racism and veteran mental health. At one point in episode two, police officers stop Falcon (who is African American) and Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes (who is Caucasian) and ask Bucky if Falcon is “bothering him” since they were in an argument. This came minutes after a kid referred to Falcon as “The Black Falcon” which prompted Falcon to push back saying he was just “The Falcon.” All of this happens with murals saying “Stop the Violence” being shown in the background. Bucky has his own issues to deal with, as we spend a large portion of his story arc thus far actually in therapy sessions. It’s hammered to us as an audience that he’s pretty much alone as he only has eight contacts in his phone, which his therapist makes a snarky remark about, and his reluctance to converse with a girl while on a date; a date he didn’t even plan himself. In fact, Bucky is actually arrested by the aforementioned police officers as he had a warrant out for his arrest due to missing therapy.
The final cog in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier thus far is the main “antagonists,” The Flag-Smashers. I put quotes around “antagonists” because it’s unclear whether or not they will end up being the villains. Their leader is referred to at one point as “Robin Hood” and that they’re becoming increasingly popular amongst everyday Americans. While their mission of bringing life back to the way it was before the blip sounds malicious, I believe there’s better intent behind it. Their motto “One World, One People” hints at equality and shifting the government’s favoritism to previously vanished people back to a focus on being fair to all. This is a stark contrast to Walker and his “stay out of my way” mentality to Falcon and Bucky. Granted The Flag-Smashers maliciously attacked all three, but the sentiment remains.