‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: A perfect soldier versus a good man
Christine Hilario | Wednesday, April 7, 2021
In “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Steve Rogers is chosen to take the super-soldier serum because he is “Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
The role of Captain America is defined by a desire to do good above all else. This is why Sam Wilson is perfect to take up the mantle after Steve Rogers’ retirement in “Avengers: Endgame.”
Throughout the MCU, Sam is shown to be a talented aerial fighter as the Falcon, but more importantly, the movies repeatedly showcase his compassion and loyalty. In “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” he runs a support group for veterans, and in “Captain America: Civil War,” he stands with Steve and helps protect Bucky, the Winter Soldier, despite having to go against the law to do so.
Although, in the movies, Sam plays a supporting role to Steve, here he gets the chance to shine and come into his own as Captain America as one of the leads in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Except it’s not as simple as that. Instead, this show takes the time to examine Sam’s role as a Black superhero in a racist country.
At the beginning of the series, Sam feels like the shield and the Captain America mantle is “someone else’s,” so he gives up the shield for the government to display in a museum. Although Sam chooses to give up the shield of his own free will, there are more complicated external forces that influence his decision. Captain America is an important patriotic symbol as well as a hero, and Sam is well aware that a lot of the country would be unwilling to have a Black man as their national icon. The government itself proves Sam’s fears right when they tell him he is doing the right thing by giving up the shield for museum display, only to give that shield to a white man that fits in with their ideals for Captain America: John Walker.
John Walker is a perfect soldier. He has an extensive military background and superior combat capabilities. By instating blond-haired, blue-eyed John Walker as the new Captain America and completely disregarding Steve’s chosen successor Sam, the government is perpetuating the idea that Captain America, a symbol of their nation, can only be one thing: white.
The government instates John Walker as Captain America because he fits the bill on a surface level, but he lacks the morals and selflessness integral to the role. When John interacts with Sam and Bucky for the first time, Bucky asks if he’s ever jumped on a grenade before, which is something Steve did before he even became Captain America. John is quick to answer that he’s actually jumped on a grenade four times before. However, the fundamental difference between him and Steve is that when Steve jumped on a grenade, he thought he was sacrificing his life to save others. John jumped on the grenades with a reinforced helmet, knowing that he would survive. While John may be a good soldier, he isn’t willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to be Captain America, further emphasizing why Sam should be the one to take up the mantle.
While Sam’s conflict with John is an integral part of the racial commentary in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” the show is also excellent at showcasing the more day-to-day struggles of being a Black man in America, from being denied a loan at the bank to getting racially profiled by the police.
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” manages to properly balance poignant political commentary with thrilling action sequences, and I’m excited to watch where the show takes its themes.
Title: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Season 1, Episodes 1-3
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell
Favorite episode: “Power Broker”
If you like: The Captain America trilogy
Where to watch: Disney+
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5