The Falcon and the Winter Soldier presented an idealized vision of Steve Rogers as a hero he never killed, ignoring much of his MCU history.
Warning: SPOILERS for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, episode 4, “Everybody’s Watching”.
The fourth chapter of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier It ended with a shocking scene in which the new Captain America, John Walker, struck down an enemy who had surrendered to death with his shield. As powerful as this scene was, along with another scene in the same episode, it seemed to promote the idealized vision of Steve Rogers as a boy scout who never killed anyone, clearly ignoring that the first Captain America in the MCU had amassed an impressive kill. count in his relatively short career.
The idea that superheroes never kill their enemies is a holdover from the Comics Code Authority of the 1950s, which prohibited heroes from directly causing the death of a villain. While CCA’s rules became less strict as time passed and were eventually dropped, most major superheroes (such as Spider-Man and Batman) still have strict codes against suicide. These codes are less common in Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where most of the Avengers have a background in espionage or in the military, where it is perfectly acceptable to kill an enemy in the line of duty. While Captain America has always been portrayed as fighting to subdue whenever possible, Steve Rogers was a soldier first and foremost, and would kill enemy soldiers if the mission called for it and there was no way around it.
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Steve Rogers’ legacy lies at the heart of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the conflict between the people who maintain that legacy in some way or fashion has fueled the plot of the series. However, the fourth chapter, “The Whole World Is Watching”, offered the first glimpse of how the world outside of the United States sees Captain America, in a scene where Flag-Smasher leader Karli Morgenthau and her follower, Nico, they recovered the rest of the Super Soldier Serum that Morgenthau had hidden in a hideout in the cemetery. Nico admitted that he had been a fan of Captain America as a child and that “made me believe that there is (They were) decent people in this world“Then he compared Karli to Captain America, thinking that the world was more complicated and people today needed heroes who”they don’t have the luxury of keeping their hands clean. Ironically, this same point of view was shared by the new Captain America, John Walker, who beat Nico to death with Captain America’s shield after Nico surrendered to a crowd of civilians in the final scene of the episode.
While the writing and directing of this episode perfectly brought home the point that John Walker was an inadequate successor to Steve Rogers’ legacy, he also seemed to miss most of the first Captain America’s career in doing so. While the world may have seen Captain America posing alongside the showgirls on USO shows as a bloodless symbol of American idealism, Steve Rogers was not afraid to get his hands dirty when necessary. A cursory examination of the first three phases of the MCU and the founding Avengers reveals that Steve Rogers killed dozens of Nazi soldiers on camera. Even if one dismisses Ultron’s unmanned robots and alien invaders for not counting as humans and ignores indirect actions (such as allowing Maria Hill to crash the SHIELD helicopters controlled by Hyddra loyalists in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) Steve Rogers still used a gun and threw grenades at enemy combatants on many occasions.
The key distinction in all of this is that Rogers’ definition of necessary force differed dramatically from Walker’s. Rogers drew the line for senseless killings and went out of his way to avoid direct conflict whenever possible, while John Walker seems to revel in battle and bloodshed. The big question that will come in the final chapters of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is whether Sam Wilson will take the shield himself to redeem it or whether he hopes that this time the United States government will not try to bring Captain America back.
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