Episode 4 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier ended with a shocking John Walker moment that echoes controversial Captain America scenes from the comics.
Warning: SPOILERS for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, episode 4, “Everybody’s Watching”.
John Walker’s twist on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4 references equally shocking (and controversial) stories from Captain America from Marvel Comics’ alternate universe “Ultimate” (Earth-1610). At the end of “The Whole World Is Watching,” Walker, who had injected himself with the super-soldier serum, brutally beats a man to death in a shockingly gruesome scene for the MCU. The moment firmly establishes that John Walker is unfit to be Captain America, but he also makes a comment on the ethics of military-sanctioned violence. The shots are framed in a way that is reminiscent of Mark Millar scenes. The Ultimates running, which similarly sparked questions about Captain America and morality.
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The ethics of political violence is a major theme in The hawk and the winter soldier, particularly the episode “The whole world is watching”. The Flag-Smashers, until now, have been characterized as sympathetic rebels who use violence as a tool to liberate their people, a cause admittedly honorable, but achieved through dishonorable means that hurt innocent bystanders. When Battlestar is killed by Karli Morgenthau, the moment unfolds like a tragic accident; In a room full of upgraded soldiers, Battlestar has the misfortune to be caught in the fray and shot down. It was not a calculated move, but the result of reckless action.
John Walker’s response, reactionary as it may be, is intentional. The Super Soldier pursues the closest of the Flag-Smashers, Nico, and brutally beats the man to death as a horrified crowd watches. Nico had given up and posed no immediate danger, further illustrating just how vicious and cruel Walker’s instincts are. Walker’s staging and attack mode echo scenes from Ultimates who saw Steve Rogers’ Captain America brutally hit an opponent with lethal force: he attacked Herr Kleiser with his shield and he killed the Azerbaijani terrorist Abdul Al-Rahman.
How The Falcon & The Winter Soldier Reference The Ultimates
The most obvious parallel between John Walker in Falcon and the Winter Soldier Y The Ultimates is the scene where Rogers hits Herr Kleiser with his shield, using enough force to cut Agent Chitauri in half (ultimately leading to the villain’s death, with the help of the Hulk). Although the situation is less morally corrupt than that of the deranged Walker seeking revenge, Ultimates it does paint the American Captain in an unusually cruel and hideous light, with the Gorro shown in anger striking a man with his back on his back. The conflict also includes arguably the most infamous line from Captain America from the Definitive Universe of Marvel Comics: “Give up? Give up??!! Do you think this card in my head represents France?“- creating an interesting contrast to John Walker brutally beating a man who tries to surrender.
The other parallel is equally justifiable in the context of The Ultimates, but more problematic when examined with a critical lens. On The Ultimates Vol. 2, # 12, Steve Rogers kills Abdul Al-Rahman, who, like the Flag-Smashers, is a terrorist fighting for a cause. Al-Rahman, also known as Colonel, is the Azerbaijani equivalent of Steve Rogers – he was also a scrawny kid when he was selected to receive the Super Soldier Serum, but instead of wanting to fight to defend America, the Colonel wants to destroy him. Captain America beheaded Abdul in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, rejecting (or at least ignoring) his opponent’s perspective on American foreign policy in the Middle East. Overall, the tone of the Liberators story is deeply offensive, but it reads like a destabilizing exploration of superhero ethics (like Alan Moore’s Watchmen), Ultimates raises interesting questions about the political nature of superhero narratives and the power (and appeal) of propaganda.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is much more palatable than The Ultimates, and the Disney + series has been careful to set clear moral boundaries: Without fully denouncing the US military, the series criticizes propaganda and violence “in cold blood.” In the MCU, aggression is often necessary, but heroes are separated from villains by their ability to exercise control and show mercy.
Next: Why The MCU’s Captain America Is Wearing Handcuffs Now
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