Thursday, June 24, 2021

Eight Things ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ Set Up for the Future of the MCU

Marvel’s latest miniseries The Falcon and The Winter Soldier saw the epic, highly anticipated return of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes as the two found themselves (begrudgingly) teamed up again for a thrilling global adventure with an impressive lineup of both new and familiar faces. Over the course of six action-packed episodes, the show chronicled Sam’s journey to becoming Captain America and Bucky’s mental road to recovery, but it also set the stage for plenty of other potential new avenues in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, too.

While we’re currently in the midst of Phase 4 and looking toward the future of the MCU, we can say for certain that things are going to look quite different as we get further from the fallout of Avengers: Endgame and continue to pass on the spotlight to new characters. In addition to all of the exciting confirmed Marvel films and shows slated for the next few years, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has opened the door for quite a few other storylines as well …

1. Sam Wilson, All-New Captain America

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

When Steve Rogers passed on his vibranium shield to Sam Wilson in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame, the latter’s first response was that it felt like it belonged to somebody else. And thus, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier started off with Sam turning the relic in to the Smithsonian. However, after a tumultuous, emotional, and difficult journey throughout the course of the series, Sam has now finally accepted the shield and taken on the mantle of Captain America. His honest, heartfelt, blunt, and emotional speech in the finale, along with his conversation with Bucky in his yard in Louisiana, made it clear that he won’t be taking this role lightly, and solidified the fact that he’s truly the right man to take on this role.

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Rumors have been making the rounds lately about a fourth installment of the Captain America films, though there have been no official announcements from Disney or Marvel yet. Regardless, it’s safe to assume that Sam Wilson will be a pivotal, front-row figure in the MCU moving forward. And given the state of the Avengers post-Endgame, we could potentially see him start to reassemble the next iteration of the team.

2. James Barnes, No Longer the Winter Soldier

Eli Adé/Marvel Studios

“I am no longer the Winter Soldier. I am James ‘Bucky’ Barnes.”

Over the course of six episodes, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier finally had the runtime and the narrative space (which previous films had lacked) to truly do Bucky Barnes’ road to recovery justice. He’s been on a long and trying journey since The First Avenger, and even after Steve saved him in Civil War, he wasn’t quite out of the woods yet. The series explored his therapy, his book of amends, the nightmares that still plague him, his loneliness, his guilt, and even his time in Wakanda.

Although fans were rooting for a title card change for Bucky alongside Sam’s in the finale, the show has made it quite clear otherwise that he is no longer the Winter Soldier. Bucky does still retain his mantle in the comics currently, but it remains to be seen if he’ll perhaps lean into his identity as the White Wolf instead in the MCU, or something else entirely. Either way, we can expect to see Bucky confidently standing on his own two feet again in future film installments (hopefully as a main character!), finally having shed the unbearable weight on his shoulders. It’s also worth noting the significance of the moment in episode 6 when the GRC member directly thanked him for saving them from the Flag Smashers. James Barnes is a hero, and he can finally start to embrace it.

3. John Walker, U.S. Agent

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Well, it looks like we’re not quite done with John Walker just yet because he’s officially taken on his comic mantle as U.S. Agent. Now that he’s a juiced-up Super Soldier, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to hold himself back from using his powers, especially based on his behavior in the finale. However, considering that the U.S. government won’t be welcoming him back with open arms any time soon, he and his new black and red suit will have to go rogue (and maybe not with a DIY shield this time). In his last conversation with Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, she alluded to the fact that she’ll be getting in touch with him eventually, but it remains to be seen who she answers to and what her ultimate plans are. Either way, Walker and his anger issues will likely be popping back up somewhere else down the road in the MCU.

4. Sharon Carter, Double Agent

Eli Adé/Marvel Studios
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Sam Wilson made good on his promise to Sharon Carter to obtain the pardon from the government that she had been waiting on after spending years in hiding. However, based on the finale’s post-credits scene, the gesture came a few years too late. Sharon is Madripoor’s elusive and dangerous Power Broker, and that’s not something she’s willing to let go of just yet. So despite the fact that she’s been granted a full pardon and reinstated back to her position with the CIA, she’s decided to use that to her advantage so that she can leverage weapon sales and government secrets as the Power Broker. Though it’s unclear what facet of the MCU this will play into, this likely isn’t the last that we’ll be seeing of Sharon Carter.

5. Zemo & the Thunderbolts

Baron Helmut Zemo’s triumphant return to the MCU in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was a wonderfully entertaining surprise for fans, as there was an entirely new side to the Civil War villain that unraveled after Bucky broke him out of prison in Germany. Now that Zemo is imprisoned on the Raft instead of following his adventures on the show, this has created the perfect opportunity for the introduction of the Thunderbolts. Considering Zemo’s comic ties to the origins of the Thunderbolts, and the fact that the Raft has functioned as one of their bases of operations, the stage is set. Marvel just needs to pull the trigger. Looking forward to Phase 4 and beyond, it would be wise for the MCU to continue diving into stories about complex villains and antiheroes as well.

6. Joaquín Torres, the next Falcon

Julie Vrabelová/Marvel Studios

Joaquín Torres was a beloved new character in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier that has important comic ties to Sam Wilson. Though his origin story pans out a bit differently on paper, he essentially ends up taking on the mantle of the Falcon and fighting alongside Sam’s Captain America. In the series, Joaquín hasn’t quite become a superhero yet, but he is in possession of Sam’s old pair of wings (which he explicitly told him to keep), and he has the right attitude for the job. Assuming that he’s definitely going to fix the wings up and get them back in working order, this is the perfect opportunity for him to become the MCU’s next Falcon.

7. Eli Bradley & the Young Avengers

Marvel Studio

Isaiah Bradley’s story may be wrapped up after what Sam did for him at the Smithsonian (though it would be wonderful to see more of him), but it’s doubtful that this is the last that we’ll see of his grandson Eli. In the comics, Eli is one of the founding members of the Young Avengers, and he goes by the alias Patriot. The MCU has slowly been rolling out a handful of members of the beloved comic team in a subtle way throughout current and upcoming films and shows, including Kate Bishop/Hawkeye (Hawkeye), Cassie Lang/Stature (Ant-Man), Billy Maximoff/Wiccan (WandaVision), Tommy Maximoff/Speed (WandaVision), and America Chavez/Miss America (Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness). So it’s only a matter of time until we can hopefully see all of them team up as the next generation of young superheroes.

8. Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

At this point, we know next to nothing about the MCU’s version of Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, but she’s definitely up to something. In the comics, she’s a cunning triple agent with more than a few tricks up her sleeve. It’s refreshing to see a mysterious, powerful woman join the cast of the MCU. Given her conversation with John Walker in the finale (in which she stated that things were going to get “weird around here,” and then said she would be calling him), there’s far more of a story to tell about her yet.

All six episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier are now streaming exclusively on Disney+. Catch up on all of our coverage of the series here.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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