This post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier managed to jam a lot of plot into just six episodes of television. Sam Wilson struggled with whether to take on the mantle of Captain America—and whether the country was ready for a Black Cap. He discovered that the government had created, and then jailed, a Black Captain America before him, Isaiah Bradley. He also had to contend with a so-called terrorist organization, the Flag Smashers, who used questionable means to reach noble ends of helping refugees.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes was trying to make amends for the evil he did as the Winter Soldier; Sharon Carter had become a black market art dealer in Madripoor; Baron Zemo was hunting down and killing supersoldiers; John Walker, the new Captain America, was letting his newfound power go to his head; a mysterious new villain played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus made a cameo; and Sam’s sister worked to fix up their family’s boat. Like I said, a lot of plot.
The season finale wrapped up most of these storylines and hinted at what the future might look like for all of these characters in the MCU. But you might have lost track of all the moving parts. Here, all our lingering questions answered.
Who is the Power Broker?
It was Sharon all along. She may not get a fun tune like Agatha did in WandaVision, but many fans probably guessed that Sharon Carter was indeed the power broker.
Sharon Carter really couldn’t get a pardon?
I don’t know what to tell you. It seems crazy that Bucky, whose killed hundreds (thousands?) of people, including Tony Stark’s parents, got a pardon and Sharon Carter—good friend of Nick Fury, niece of Peggy Carter, onetime love interest of Captain America (which, she winds up being his niece by marriage, so ew)—didn’t get a pardon. Something is fishy here.
Nevertheless, Sharon was forced to go underground and operate as the Power Broker, a black market art dealer, funder of supersoldier serum projects and general shady person. Whether Sharon Carter is a bad person is up for debate. She did seem to acquire some Jason Bourne-esque moves in her time living in Madripoor—she easily kills several assassins while Bucky and Sam interrogate the scientist who created the supersoldier serum. But they were assassins. She also kills sympathetic villain Carly, but Carly was about to shoot Sam.
Mostly she just seems to really like her new lifestyle, and who can blame her? She used to have to pretend to be a nurse with never-ending loads of piles of dirty clothes in order to spy on Steve Rogers in the laundry room. Now she gets to live in a house surrounded by real, stolen Monets and Matisses.
Sam, totally unaware of Sharon’s treachery, gets Sharon her pardon and her old job back. Now she seems poised to sell whatever state secrets she encounters to the highest bidder. Seems like someone that either Bucky or Sam will have to pull back from the brink of battle.
Who is Contessa Valentina and why is she significant?
Julia Louis Dreyfus may be playing our next big bad in the MCU. She appears in the fifth episode as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (a.k.a. Val). She’s been known as Madame Hydra—so, yeah, she’s not a good guy.
In the comics, she’s romantically involved with Nick Fury but revealed to be a double agent. In some storylines, she’s tied to HYDRA. In others, she’s tied to Leviathan, basically Russia’s version of HYDRA. Given that Dreyfus was originally supposed to make her big MCU debut in Black Widow we can guess that this version of Val is a Russian agent, perhaps even the one who trained Black Widow herself.
Now, she’s got supersoldier John Walker under her thumb. In the final episode, Val gives John Walker a black Captain America suit and renames him “U.S. Agent.” It seems that Val either a double agent in the U.S. government herself or has friends in high places. Either way, she’s up to no good.
What will happen to John Walker? Is he good or bad?
It’s hard to say what Marvel wants us to think since Walker flip-flops throughout the episode (and, frankly, the whole series).
The guy is clearly not cut out to be Captain America. Lamar Haskins said that the supersoldier serum enhances who the person already was. Before he took the serum, Steve Rogers was a brave man who hated bullies and dove onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. John Walker was a privileged white man who whined about getting his butt handed to him by a Black woman in a fight with the Dora Milajae. Then when Lamar was killed, he used the shield to decapitate someone who was not responsible for his friend’s death and begged for mercy. So, yeah, the government probably should have thought twice before decorating John Walker in stars and stripes.
To be clear, John Walker is essentially a cop who murdered a guy and got let off the hook. He should be in prison. But he isn’t. This show has a lot to say about how white men and Black men are treated differently by the American government. Case in point.
By the last few episodes, John Walker becomes totally unhinged. First, he shows up with his homemade Captain America shield (which of course is useless since it’s not made of Vibranium). He tries to kill Carly.
And yet, he gets a small redemptive arc, which is weird, to say the least. He sees the hostages in trouble and snaps into good-guy mode, trying to pull the truck full of imperiled legislators back to safety. He also helps Bucky arrest the remaining Flag Smashers rather than trying to kill them as he originally intended. And instead of arresting him or having a talk about how he should probably face the consequences of murdering someone, Bucky pats him on the back. Not great, Bucky.
Finally, Walker meets with Louis-Dreyfus’ extremely evil Val. (Anyone who gives you a business card without their name or number actually on it is probably a villain. That’s a classic move borrowed from the Joker.) So, it’s settled, then: he’s a bad guy.
Who is U.S. Agent?
Val gives him a new black Captain America suit and dubs him U.S. Agent. In the comics, John Walker loses his title as Captain America but gets to continue working as a soldier. The government fakes his death, and gives him a new identity as U.S. Agent. He runs the West Coast Avengers team for awhile and comes into conflict with almost every member of that team. He also has hallucinations and goes on jingoistic rants. At one point, he nearly kills his teammate Spider-Woman.
It’s safe to say that the Avengers don’t trust him. But he continues to take on different roles on various super-teams. He even becomes the warden of The Raft (more on The Raft later) for a time. He tries to reclaim the mantle of Captain America but fails.
It’s unclear if Val is part of the U.S. Government or just a general baddie or who, exactly, John Walker will be working for. But expect him to be an anti-hero or outright villain in future movies and shows.
Is the supersoldier serum really gone?
Probably not—or at least someone will work on brewing up some more. And the debate over whether the supersoldier serum ought to exist is too juicy of a topic for Marvel to drop.
Zemo argues that supersoldiers ought not to exist: Steve Rogers was the exception, not the rule. Most people, are corrupted by the power. Even those with good intentions, like Carly, can turn violent to achieve their once-noble ends.
But Steve Rogers maybe isn’t as exceptional as everyone says. There are other examples of heroic supersoldiers. Bucky, now de-brainwashed, is making amends. Isaiah Bradley, we learn, put himself at great risk to save his fellow Black supersoldiers when the government considered killing them to hide the evidence of their experiments on Black soldiers.
Plus there are plenty of other chemically-enhanced heroes running around the MCU who are paragons of nobility. Many people have pointed out the contrast between the scene where John Walker brings down his shield on one of the Flag Smashers, decapitating him, and the scene where Steve looks like he’s about to do the same to Tony Stark. Steve, of course, merely breaks Tony’s suit and lets him live. At that point, Tony yells that the shield doesn’t belong to Steve, and Steve tosses it aside. By contrast, the shield has to be pried from Walker’s hands.
But the scene also parallels a scene in Black Panther in which T’Challa catches up with Ulysses Klaue, a man who killed Wakandans and stole from them. T’Challa approaches Klaue when Okoye whispers, “The world watches.” T’Challa looks around and sees dozens of cellphone cameras. He takes Klaue into custody instead of attacking him. John Walker, when surrounded by people filming his deeds, makes a very different choice and—this cannot be emphasized enough—desecrates the symbolism of the shield by decapitating an innocent man with it.
John Walker’s behavior stands in stark contrast not only to that of Steve but T’Challa and Peter Parker and Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau and any other Avenger imbued with powers after proving their heroism or through sheer accident. It would be a surprise if another character in the MCU doesn’t earn the serum or come upon it by accident.
How do Isaiah and Elijah Bradley factor into the future of the MCU?
Much of the final episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is spent with the most interesting new character in the MCU, Isaiah Bradley, and his grandson Elijah.
Isaiah Bradely tells Sam that after Steve Rogers got buried in the ice at the end of World War II, the American government sought to create more supersoldiers. In parallel to the Tuskegee Experiments, the U.S. government experimented with dangerous imitations of the supersoldier serum on Black soldiers, including Isaiah. When several of those Black supersoldiers were captured by enemy forces, the government discussed bombing the POW camp to hide the evidence of their experimentation. Before they could, Isaiah Bradley, saved his fellow soldiers.
However, all the supersoldiers except for Isaiah eventually died from the serum. The U.S. government threw Isaiah in jail for insubordination, told Isaiah’s family he was dead, and experimented on him for years to try to figure out why he survived the serum when others didn’t. Eventually a nurse helped Isaiah fake his death and escape. When Sam meets him, he’s living in Baltimore with his grandson, Elijah.
In the comics, Elijah Bradley eventually becomes a part of the Young Avengers team. There are signs that other young MCU characters, like Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie Lang, Hawkeye’s protege Kate Bishop, Captain America’s sidekick Ms. Marvel, Iron Man’s heir apparent Riri Williams and Wanda’s children Billy and Tommy could all join together to fight crime.
What is The Raft?
The Raft is a maximum security prison located underwater and reserved for the most dangerous criminals. Steve Roger’s allies in Captain America: Civil War—including Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang and Clint Barton—were imprisoned there after then-Captain America’s fight with Iron Man. Steve managed to break them all out of the facility with a little help from frenemy Tony Stark at the end of that film.
“The Raft” gets name dropped several times in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, signaling that it may become an important part of the MCU going forward. Zemo is currently located there, and perhaps one day a team of super-villains will join forces on The Raft and stage an escape with an aim to take on whatever new superhero team replaces the Avengers. After all, we know that Zemo has help on the outside. His butler blows up the remaining Flag Smashers at the end of the show.
Will The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have a second season?
It’s unclear whether Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes will continue to fight crime on the small screen or head back to the big screen. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has said that ideas for a second season of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have been discussed but nothing is green-lit yet.
As of now, Marvel has not announced whether Anthony Mackie or Sebastian Stan will show up in any future Marvel movies. But it’s almost certain Mackie will get his own Captain America flick. It’s just a matter of which ones and when.
In the meantime, it’s likely that Bucky could find his way back to Wakanda and take on the mantle of the White Wolf if another battle needs to be fought on those shores. He owes the Wakandans and Shuri, especially, a great deal for deprogramming him after he was brainwashed.