Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios
Warning: There are spoilers aplenty right here concerning the ultimate episode within the first season of Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
It is robust to think about a greater week for TV followers to satisfy a Black Captain America.
Days after the world exhaled in reduction as Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, Marvel unveiled Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson as the brand new Captain America — within the course of, making a poignant argument for why a Black hero would stand as much as a defend a rustic that usually mistreats individuals who look identical to him.
The reveal got here through the closing episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Disney+ collection that blended splashy combat scenes and superior cameos from underused Marvel film characters with weighty speak in regards to the nature of heroism.
The consequence of the reveal was underscored by a brand new collection title flashed on the finish of the season finale: Captain America and the Winter Soldier. As any actual superhero fan is aware of, the unique Captain America — Chris Evans’ blue-eyed dreamboat Steve Rogers — determined to return to the Forties and reside out his life as a traditional man on the finish of Avengers: Endgame. Rogers’ final act in that film was handy his legendary defend over to Sam Wilson as an outdated man, encouraging his former sidekick to proceed its heroic legacy.
However having a Black man step as much as be a logo of America at a time when police brutality and systemic racism are front-page points could not be a easy matter.
Despite the fact that the primary season of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier targeted on an advanced plot about super-powered freedom fighters changing into terrorists, the true objective was to spend six episodes remodeling the Falcon. We watched him grow to be a Black hero who might shoulder Captain America’s red-white-and-blue Vibranium defend, absolutely conscious of all the problems he was taking up.
“Each time I decide this factor up, I do know there are hundreds of thousands of individuals on the market who’re going to hate me for it,” Wilson says in a single poignant speech within the season finale. “But I am nonetheless right here. No tremendous serum. No blond hair or blue eyes. The one energy I’ve, is to consider we are able to do higher.” At a time when common persons are risking their security to protest police brutality, placing a lot on the road for the idea that America could be made higher by the exhausting work of earnest individuals, that type of speech looks like a rallying cry.
Within the comedian books, Marvel’s storytellers realized a very long time in the past that Captain America had probably the most impression when he challenged and resisted the nation’s exceptionalist propaganda, fairly than reflecting it. So it was significantly satisfying to see this collection create a Captain America for a brand new age – when a lot of the nation’s systemic racism is immediately challenged.
This additionally explains why a lot on this collection outdoors of Sam Wilson’s storylines felt so underdeveloped, particularly the supposed unhealthy guys, terrorist/freedom fighters, the Flag Smashers. These have been common individuals who had taken a substance just like the “tremendous soldier serum” which gave the unique Captain America his elevated velocity, stamina and power. If you should dig into the sophisticated backstory of the Flag Smashers, you possibly can read it here.
Suffice it to say, these villains have been so common, they added little past motivation for Wilson’s Falcon and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier to bond. The Flag Smashers additionally gave a purpose for the heroes to faucet the experience of a villain devoted to killing anybody who takes an excellent soldier serum, Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo.
I want the present had additionally spent a little bit extra time with John Walker, the PTSD-suffering ex-soldier initially chosen by clueless American officers to be the brand new Captain America — solely to lose the title when he murdered one of many Flag Smashers. Walker, performed by blue-eyed superstar son Wyatt Russell, is seen within the final episode with one other compelling character, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (performed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a touch we’ll see extra of each.
Right here, Walker was positioned principally as a nightmarish instance of what occurs when an insecure, broken man chases the mantle of Captain America – and the tremendous soldier serum – for all of the incorrect causes. (I nonetheless do not perceive why his solely punishment for killing a subdued terrorist suspect in broad daylight was shedding a job. Although that does sound acquainted.)
I will additionally leap down the superhero fandom rabbit gap a bit extra to complain about one different factor in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: the combat scenes. Marvel’s superhero motion pictures have at all times been cautious about how every hero’s energy stacks up towards others, even throughout motion pictures. So it at all times irritated me a bit that these Flag Smashers, who’re basically common – if determined – people given nice velocity and power from a serum, might efficiently tackle the Winter Soldier, a extremely skilled murderer with matching velocity and power, a Vibranium arm and who fought the unique Captain America to a draw a number of instances. OK. I really feel higher now.
I will be sincere: As a Black comedian ebook and superhero fan, I wasn’t at all times in love with Marvel’s large display model of Sam Wilson/The Falcon. The movies had a means of at all times reminding us he was Captain America’s second fiddle – in methods the character himself, a proud Black man, inexplicably inspired. “I do what he does, simply slower,” Wilson stated, nodding towards beefcake white hero Steve Rogers in a single memorable line from the 2014 movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ugh.
Black characters accepting a subordinate standing at all times rubs me the incorrect means. So it was a revelation to see the argument made on this collection that each one the performance-enhancing serums, propaganda rallies and historically white-bread staffing selections on the earth cannot surpass a devoted Black man decided to defend his nation whereas additionally holding it accountable.
Pulling off that two-step of protection and accountability would possibly simply be the largest feat this new Captain America achieves.
And this Black superhero comics nerd cannot wait to see him attempt.