Marvel’s second Disney Plus series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is almost here, starring Anthony Mackie’s flying hero Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan’s brainwashed Bucky – but really, the series is as much about another Avenger as it is about this duo.
From what we’ve seen so far, the series will focus on the legacy of Captain America (Steve Rogers) and what that character represents in the modern era, as well as how that mantle will be passed on to Sam or someone else over the course of the drama.
All of which has us asking a few key questions ahead of the first episode, starting with…
Does Captain America die in Falcon and the Winter Soldier?
While Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers survived the events of Avengers: Endgame he then went back in time and was implied to live a long life with his first love Peggy (Hayley Atwell), returning to the present as an old man and handing his shield over to Sam Wilson.
However, there are some clues that by the start of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Captain America has actually passed on, with some shots of Sam in a black suit and a military guard hinting at a sombre occasion.
Of course, it could be that these scenes represent a different situation entirely, but we do have to wonder whether there’d be so much discussion over the next Captain America if the original was still around to give his verdict.
Is Falcon now Captain America?
At the end of Avengers: Endgame Falcon was given Captain America’s shield, and said that it felt like “it belongs to somebody else”.
“It shouldn’t,” was Steve Rogers’ reply – but apparently, in the new series Sam hasn’t fully taken on the character’s mantle.
“I think there are a lot of expectations and presumptions about — you get handed an icon, you become that icon. Is that easy? Spoiler alert, it is not,” Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige told Variety.
“What does it really mean for somebody to step into those shoes? And not just somebody, but a Black man in the present day. That’s what Mackie and our head writer Malcom Spellman and all of us didn’t want to shy away from.”
Specifically, then, it seems like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will follow Sam’s struggle to take on the identity and the pressure of becoming the new Captain America, with the character likely to take on the identity by the end of the series.
Why did Sam get the shield and not Bucky?
Many fans did wonder at the end of Endgame why Falcon was chosen as Steve’s apparently successor over his old friend and frequent shield-flinger Bucky – and while both characters have become Captain America at different times in the comics, Feige and the Marvel team decided that Mackie’s hero was the right choice in the MCU.
“The shield had gone to a few people in the comic books in the past, but four years ago, it did seem like some of the great potential of those storylines and the journey Sam and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) had gone on over the course of the films, it seemed right that he would hand it to Sam,” Feige said.
Meanwhile, Avengers: Endgame director Anthony Russo noted that the recently-brainwashed Bucky wasn’t necessarily the best choice for the role anyway.
"The thing we’ve loved exploring about Bucky is he’s got a very complicated history," he said. "He has a damaged mind.... You don’t want to hand a very powerful weapon to somebody who is vulnerable like that."
Still, who knows? By the end of this series, maybe Bucky would be more willing and able to pick up the shield himself if Sam doesn’t want it. Assuming there isn’t another candidate in the wings…
Who will be the next Captain America?
It’s possible that neither Sam or Bucky will take on the role of Captain America, with many fans theorising that a third character – Wyatt Russell’s John Walker – will become the “official” Cap at some point in the series.
In the comics, Russell began life as a villain called Super-Patriot, later becoming a new Captain America after Steve Rogers gave up the position (and interestingly, at a time when the government dismissed Sam Wilson, thinking the US wasn’t ready for a Black Captain America).
Later still, Walker took on the similar mantle of “USAgent” when the real Steve Rogers returned. However, unlike the original Cap Walker is significantly more violent and less stable, often killing his opponents accidentally, so it seems likely that this new version may be more of a villainous figure than he first appears.
The fan theory suggests that the US Government will hire Walker as a replacement for Rogers, overlooking Sam and creating a more political, more reactionary version of the hero that Sam and Bucky will at some point face off with. Fans have already glimpsed Walker in what appears to be a Captain America costume, hinting at this plot development being a major theme of the series.
Altogether, it seems like we could be in for a real battle over the Captain America legacy in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Who will eventually take the shield? We might have to watch on to find out…
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier begins streaming on Disney Plus on Friday 19th March. You can sign up for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out more Sci-Fi shows on our dedicated page or our full TV Guide for more listings.