Warning! Contains SPOILERS for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4, “Everybody’s Watching”.
Captain America becomes a villain in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4, and that makes it one of the cleverest twists of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier introduced a new Captain America in John Walker, who was the perfect soldier designed to take on the mantle (which Sam Wilson had passed up) and seemingly be America’s next great hero. Unfortunately, things have not worked out that way.
When Walker was successfully introduced to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 2, it became clear that he was very different from Steve Rogers. In that and subsequent installments, he was shown to be more selfish and, more worryingly, far more aggressive. At the same time, however, he was a decorated soldier who had many of the correct qualifications (or apparently did) to be the new Captain America. However, as he struggled to live up to the hype and get the job done, things took an even bigger turn.
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That resulted in Walker taking the last vial of Super Soldier Serum in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4, “Everybody’s Watching”. The effects of that, making good great, but evil worse, combined with the death of Lemar Hoskins, aka Battlestar, caused it to break down. Walker brutally beat Nico, a Flag-Smasher, to death with Captain America’s shield, turning the character into a villain in a moment that was horrible, but in terms of very clever storytelling.
Captain America being a villain perfects the MCU’s dark mirror trope
From the beginning, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has loved using the dark mirror trope with its villains – that is, having bad guys who are reflections of heroes. This makes sense not just because it’s so common in comics too, but because doing so allows for a deeper exploration of who the hero really is and what makes him good. By showing what they could have become, it has added value in seeing that they were able to avoid that fate. From Obadiah Stane onwards, it’s something that has been a lot in the MCU, and particularly with Captain America’s villains – Red Skull and Winter Soldier, at least they use this effectively due to their use of the Super Soldier Serum.
John Walker in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier essentially completes this in regards to Captain America. In previous cases, the point was for Steve Rogers to fight those villains, but his absence really highlights even better how good he was. With John Walker using the serum and then brutally murdering Nico, one of the Flag-Smashers, then it’s like seeing an alternate setting from Captain America’s story. Walker is a decorated soldier who, on the surface, has all the right qualities and attributes to be Captain America, but clearly fails to be the one. “good man” that Abraham Erskine made evident was so comprehensive. Because Walker is Captain America, so he makes the dark mirror trope even more literal because this is not just another character, but a real Captain America gone rogue. Looking ahead to the rest of Phase 4 and beyond, Marvel being able to update it and add even more depth to it is not only key to Falcon and Winter Soldier, but also for the MCU in the future.
Captain America being a villain avoids a character issue inherited from phase 4
As Marvel continues on Phase 4 and its post-Avengers Endgame timeline, then more and more you have to consider the idea of inherited or replacement heroes. Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow are all gone (either dead or apparently believed to be), and the Hulk and Hawkeye are likely to have torch-passing moments as well in the future. Having different characters take over the existing cloaks is nothing new in the comics, but it does pose a challenge for Marvel Studios going forward as it needs to do something a little different. After all, having had over a decade of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man, it would be hard for someone else to come in and replace him in an easier way, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier it is the first attempt to deal with these legacies.
The spin of having Captain America as a villain, then, addresses this in two ways. First of all, it shows how Phase 4 (and what comes after that too) can cleverly use legacy characters and replacement figures. Rather than simply showing Sam Wilson learning how to become Captain America, audiences experience a very different journey, which in turn shows how difficult it is to live up to the iconic heroes that come before. It basically takes what is a creative struggle and makes it a plot point, but it also navigates it by doing something really different. Rather than someone else being Captain America, who may have his own personality but operates in much the same way that Steve Rogers did, the fact that Captain America is a villain does something entirely different. He’s a truly new Captain America, rather than a mere replacement, and in turn he can also give more meaning to if Sam finally takes on the role. There will be an even greater weight on his shoulders at that point, but also the knowledge that it has to be neither Steve nor Walker, but something else and most of all himself. That kind of logic can be applied to all inherited Phase 4 heroes, allowing them to not exist as shadows of what came before: She-Hulk is not simply replacing the Hulk, Kate Bishop is not just replacing Hawkeye, and shows how different and unique heroes can be.
With that, it also highlights how the inherited heroes in Phase 4 can not only be interesting new characters and take over from existing characters, but also add to their stories. The new Captain America adds a lot to Steve Rogers’ legacy – by making him a particular villain, and showing how he handles adversity, shield pressures, the loss of his best friend, and taking the serum, he really hammers. home Steve’s greatness. While there are many nuances to how the MCU is adding to his super soldier story, it is clear that Steve Rogers, while never perfect, was the only person who could have been the Captain America that he was.
Falcon & Winter Soldier’s Captain America twist is a phase 4 surprise
Since Wyatt Russell was chosen to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, so there has been an expectation of Captain America becoming a villain in some quarters, due to how John Walker’s story goes in the comics. But for many watchers of the show, this is the first time the general public has heard of the character, with little idea of what to expect. And so by giving him the title of Captain America, there is some expectation that he is a true hero, or at least an antihero, even if he is immediately very different from Steve Rogers, and clearly not as likable as so many fans. he took an instant dislike. By having Captain America kill Nico, he then takes a genuine turn, and one of the biggest possible from Phase 4 in such broad terms, given that Captain America is one of the two biggest characters in the MCU thus far.
However, even for viewers who are well versed in the comics and were hoping that the new Captain America would turn into a villain, there is a sense that this is still shocking. Walker killing Nico with the shield is a brutal and visceral moment; It’s bloodier and more horrifying than much of what the MCU has done, and it’s not the kind of scene that would be easy to include in an MCU movie due to its relatively graphic nature. Very similar WandaVision darkened in thematic terms as he explored pain, Captain America being a villain in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier shows how Phase 4 can, even in the context of something that is mostly very recognizable MCU, can still shake up the formula and do new things, especially in terms of taking the Marvel Disney + shows in bolder (and more) directions. dark).
Next: John Walker Makes Captain America Don’t Kill Iron Man Even More Powerful
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