Captain America fans have been hating John Walker’s Captain America since the first The Falcon and the Winter Soldier teasers that showed someone other than Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) was wearing the uniform and the shield. But all that animosity wasn’t warranted, yet it continued to escalate online after the TV show’s premiere, to the point where some manifested their hatred towards Wyatt Russell, the actor who plays Walker. That sort of behavior has to stop, especially now that Episode 4 gave us an actual reason to hate Walker. In fact, the newest Falcon installment should make you realize how amazing Russell’s Captain America really is for the series and the broader MCU.
Beware: A few big spoilers from The Whole World is Watching episode follow below.
Chris Evans’s Captain America is so iconic for the MCU that even Mackie’s version will have a tough battle ahead in an effort to win our hearts and minds. Mackie’s Falcon is also iconic though, and if we get a Falcon replacement, he or she will have a tough act to follow — the TV show is already setting up Falcon’s replacement, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
Russell’s Captain America was doomed from the start, even if you had no idea that Walker isn’t anything like Steve Rogers. Comics readers already knew what to expect, so their hatred of the character would be expected. But if you’ve just discovered Walker, then there’s no reason to be annoyed at him for becoming Captain America. While it’s clear that his moral compass will not rank as high as Steve’s, it’s also clear that he’s not a villain.
Russell’s brilliant performance as the new Cap so far and the way Malcolm Spellman and the writers crafted this character combine to deliver a character who is not so different from the MCU heroes we already love. In previous episodes, we learned that Walker could be just as heroic as Steve was, though he is clearly much more arrogant. Both jumped on grenades in different situations, and both have saved countless lives. Both were also willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The difference here is that Rogers seemed much more honorable than Walker.
Episode 4 showed us other similarities between the two Caps. Rogers went for the super-soldier serum program because of his inadequacies. He wanted to go to war for his country, but he didn’t have the physical ability the army needed. Walker is a lot more athletic even without the serum, but his battle with the Dora Milaje shows us a defeated Cap who just realized he’s just not strong enough for regular people, let alone supervillains that he might have to face.
Even then, Walker doesn’t just go for the serum that he retrieved. He thinks it over and asks for advice from his best friend — Clé Bennett’s Lemar Hoskins isn’t just Walker’s teammate, and that becomes clear later in the episode. Walker ultimately does become a super-soldier like Steve and others before him. Some might say this falls under the “whatever-it-takes” mantra that we’ve all know so well.
Then the absolute worst happens. The Flag-Smashers accidentally kill Hoskins, and this sends Walker on a rampage. He chases them and enacts his revenge in the worst possible way. He beats down one of the Flag-Smashers and kills him by repeatedly smashing the Captain America shield into his face, with the whole world watching. This scene leaked well ahead of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere and might have further fueled your hatred of the new Cap.
But isn’t that something we’ve seen before? Let’s just rewatch what’s easily one of the highlights of Captain America: Civil War, one of the final battles between the two factions.
Just before the scenes in the clip above, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was one step away from killing the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) after finding out how his parents died. Bucky might not have done it on his own accord, but Tony would not accept reason at that point. His rage gets the better of him, yet we accept it because we’re already in love with the character. The only reason Tony doesn’t kill Bucky at that point is that Steve is there, and he can fight Iron Man all day.
Like Walker with Hoskins, Steve is devoted to his friend. He will defend Bucky to the death, even if that means lying to Tony about what the Winter Soldier did. And Steve is dealing with his own rage as the fight progresses. Steve’s Cap was just as close to killing Tony as Tony was to ending Bucky minutes earlier. The expression on Tony’s face at the end says it all. Steve could have killed Tony the same shield-wielding head-smashing move that Walker just used against a somewhat innocent Flag-Smasher.
Again, the difference is that Steve stopped, where Walker didn’t. Steve has a working moral compass where Walker’s is broken. But Steve and Walker are more alike than we might want to admit. They both operate in different shades of gray.
That’s something else Episode 4 excels at. The world as we know it after Endgame isn’t in black and white. The Flag-Smashers and Zemo (Daniel Brühl) aren’t perfect villains. We get to understand and appreciate what they stand for. Even Sam agrees with part of what he’s seeing.
Similarly, Sam and Bucky aren’t perfect heroes either. As far as we know, they’re operating without authority or oversight. They’ve helped Zemo escape to achieve their mission, and that’s preventing the Smashers from disrupting the world, especially considering they have access to the new super-soldier serum.
Like them, Walker’s Cap isn’t operating by the book, although he has been trying to show some restraint. He’s trying to be the hero the world needs, but the pressure of the job, his preexisting war baggage, the inability to perform as he had expected, and Hoskins’ death just stand in the way of that. Walker is, too, in the gray, with the rest of them. He’s on par with Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent if you will.
All of that should make you reconsider Walker’s Cap and appreciate what the actor and the showrunners have achieved here. After all, let’s not forget that the MCU is in need of villains, anti-heroes, and antagonists, not just new superheroes. In the short span of just four episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier managed to offer us at least two characters I wouldn’t mind seeing more of, Brühl’s Zemo and Wyatt’s Walker. A third would be Sharon’s Power Broker, but that’s just speculation for the time being.
Rumors do say that the Thunderbolts are forming in Falcon. Baron Zemo is definitely the right person to lead them, and Walker’s upcoming US Agent definitely has a place in that team of superheroes.