The Falcon Vs. John Walker: Who Makes The Ideal Captain America Successor?

It's not the shield that makes the man best equipped for the title of Captain America.

Continuing the legacy of Avengers leader Captain America, Marvel Studios' and Disney + six-episode limited series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has its sights set on Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon (Anthony Mackie)'s succession of the Captain America title. However, Sam faces a potential hurdle in his upcoming role of Cap. Introduced within the show to act as a physical and mental foil for Sam on his journey is John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell).

The Passing of The Shield

Marvel Studios' 2019 cinematic crossover event Avengers Endgame ends with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)'s Captain America / Steve Rogers (portrayed by Chris Evans) giving up his duties as Captain America, in order to live a peaceful life with his wife Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Rather than hand the shield to his childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who is just coming off a violent stint as Hydra's brainwashed assassin The Winter Soldier, Steve chooses the most logical option in another equally close friend and comrade Sam Wilson. One of the few African American Avengers within the MCU, Sam is immediately aware of the backlash and pressure that will come as a result of taking on this coveted title.

Not only does Wilson lack superpowers but he is a black man in modern-day America. Sam ultimately passes on the shield, which enables the United States government to hand the shield off to their own ideal Captain America candidate in Afghanistan war veteran John Walker. Along with his past tours, Walker even comes with his very own partner in Lamar Hoskins a.k.a. Battlestar (Cle Bennett).

A Common Threat

A highly trained white soldier gifted with blonde hair and blue eyes, John Walker is the epitome of exactly what the U.S. government envisions their Captain America to be, yet a complete betrayal of what Captain America should be. While John is courageous and does not hesitate in jumping into the face of battle, Walker does not exactly have the temperament or restraint needed to truly embody the Captain America mantle. Not every battle needs to be fought with fists but with precision and thought.

The series sees both candidates Falcon and Walker dealing with an ideal threat in a group of political radicals known as the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau (portrayed by Erin Kellyman). Each core member of the Flag Smashers is powered by Cap's super-soldier serum and they quickly make their presence known through corporate sabotage, bombings, and even a full-on city-wide takeover toward the end of the series in order to see their agenda through.

Rather than resolve the Flag Smashers ordeal with a battle, Sam attempts to take down Karli through more tactical means...words. Just as Steve Rogers would beforehand, Sam takes the time to view Karli as a person first and an antagonist second, which can arguably be a weakness of sorts. 


Overcoming Past Horrors

A minor yet vital character that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier introduces in the second episode of The Star Spangled Man is Isaiah Bradley (played by Carl Lumbly). A former Captain America himself, Bradley served in the Korean War and was given a variant of the super-soldier serum in order to battle The Winter Soldier amongst other wartime adversaries. In return for Bradley's enormous service to his country, Isaiah's own government had him jailed for decades and exiled the war hero as if he did not exist.

A relic of the past, Isaiah would grow to become disillusioned with the United States and the title of Captain America as a whole. Through Isaiah, Sam sees the potential road of where he can end up should he take up the mantle. It's Sam's own worst fears and insecurities personified through another black hero.

Though Wilson is aware of the hurdles that he will likely face not only from supervillains but the press, Sam goes on and does what is needed. It isn't until the season finale of the series One World, One People when Sam begins to actively fight crime with the Wakandan made Captain America costume and shield in hand. 

Like Sam, Walker faces a handful of insecurities in his role as Captain America. The most evident of which is his initial lack of super-soldier serum, a chemical that greatly enhanced the physical prowess and athletic capabilities of Steve Rogers. Once endowed with the super-soldier serum, it becomes clear that Walker was not the ideal choice for the next generation's Cap.

Rather than improve John's heroic tendencies, the serum only enhances all of the mental instabilities and violent nature existing within Walker. This comes to a head at the conclusion of the show's fourth episode titled The Whole World Is Watching, wherein a superpowered John violently eliminates a runaway Flag-Smasher, implicated in the brutal death of John's partner Battlestar, in front of several onlookers. Walker's public display of violence nixes any remaining goodwill with the public and the government. John's actions only reinforce that it isn't a serum or suit of armor that makes the hero but the content of character.

The Final Verdict

While Sam overcomes the insecurities and fully embraces his newfound role as Captain America, it is John who ends the series not as Captain America but as a U.S. Agent for mysterious benefactor Valentina Allegra De Fontaine a.k.a. Val for short (played by Julia Louise-Dreyfus). Though Val's intentions with John have not yet been made clear, Val has made it aware that she and her superiors were in support of his violent actions inflicted on the Flag Smashers.

It's an ideal job for a free agent, but not one who is meant to inspire such as Captain America.  In that regard, Sam is assuming the stars and stripes, while John is assuming a darker yet honorable role much more fit for his own personality and skillset. 

Now that a fourth Captain America film has been announced to be in the works of Marvel Studios, the choice of Sam's role as the MCU's new Cap will only be reinforced moving forward. 

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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