The first season of the Disney Plus exclusive Marvel Cinematic Universe miniseries, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, concluded to rave critical and commercial success. In response, a new Captain America movie has quickly been announced. As the finale of the Marvel Studios / Disney Plus series revealed, we have a new Captain America taking the mantle. With the dangling plot threads left behind, how could the next Captain America movie be shaping up? Let’s take a deep look about everything we know so far in the aftermath of the series and the potential future of the new Captain America movie.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
After the epic conclusion in Avengers: Endgame, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier followed the saga of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. The titular heroes played by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, respectively, were the last people to have interacted with the now-aged Steve Rogers, the former Captain America. Cap had given his shield to Sam, a literal and metaphorical passing of the torch. Everyone assumed that Sam’s next MCU appearance would be as the new Captain America.
With the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, viewers on the Disney Plus streaming service discovered that is not the case. Sam remains as the Falcon (but with financial problems) while Bucky is dealing with the trauma of his past as a brainwashed assassin. Meanwhile, a new government-sponsored Captain America is presented. John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell) is a highly decorated soldier, but has neither the super soldier serum or the stoic fortitude that Steve Rogers possessed. Meanwhile, a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers has apparently been armed with the super soldier serum and is causing mayhem in the United States.
The series serves as Sam’s and Bucky’s journey toward accepting their roles and moving forward from the past. In between, we see the return of mercenary Batroc (Georges St. Pierre), Dora Milaje warrior Ayo (Florence Kasumba), Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and SHIELD agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). The latter two are making plays in the field in their individual shades of gray.
Other key characters introduced in the series are the leader of the Flag Smashers Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), U.S. Air Force lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), Lemar Hoskins/Battlestar (Clé Bennett), Sam’s sister Sarah Wilson (Adepero Oduye), Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) who had been part of the super soldier program during the Korean War, and the Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
The New Captain America and Other Plot Threads
By the end of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson officially accepts his destiny, becoming the new Captain America. Sam is given a new costume with Wakandan technology as well as reclaiming the trademark Vibranium Shield. But that is not the only one of the major plot ends at the denouement of the series. Other plot threads include:
- John Walker, despite losing the Captain America mantle, is recruited by the Contessa to become the U.S. Agent. This mirrors the original comic story where Walker replaced Steve Rogers only for Rogers to return and take back the mantle. Walker’s new uniform in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier emulates the one Steve Rogers wore when he was only referred to as The Captain.
- Joaquin Torres survives the ordeal. In the comics, Torres becomes the new Falcon.
- Isaiah Bradley’s grandson Eli Bradley is introduced. Eli Bradley become the superhero Patriot who joins other teen heroes in forming the Young Avengers.
- Sharon Carter receives a full pardon and rejoins the CIA, but is also revealed to be the Power Broker.
- Baron Zemo is incarcerated in the superhuman prison The Raft, but still manages to execute the remaining super soldier serum powered Flag Smashers.
These dangling plot threads will no doubt be explored in later projects, to varying degrees. There has been speculation that a second season of the series would be used to do just that. However, it would seem that Marvel Studios has other plans.
Captain America 4 Announced
After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series finale debuted on April 23, 2021, Marvel Studios announced that a new Captain America film is lined up. It's been confirmed that the next Captain America movie will be starring Anthony Mackie in the Captain America, and will involve series creator Malcolm Spellman and series writer Dalan Musson. There is no word yet on whether series director Kari Skogland would also be involved.
‘Captain America 4′ in the Works With ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Showrunner Malcolm Spellman (Exclusive) https://t.co/kCmdGjVVOs
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 23, 2021
This comes as a surprise, as the initial expectations were that there would be a second season to continue the seeds planted in the first. However, with the great success of the Disney Plus exclusive’s first season, it does make sense to use it as a springboard for Anthony Mackie’s big screen take on the Sentinel of Liberty.
Marvel Phase 5?
It is interesting to note that the complete slate of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is already in development, production, scheduled for release, or already released. Thus far, the Marvel Phase 4 projects that are already done and released to the market are Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The Black Widow film was supposed to have been released by now, but was delayed due to multiple issues, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, all the TV, movie, and streaming services projects are projected from 2021 to 2023. The interesting point is that Captain America 4 was not in the works or in the announcements at the time. With the success of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier leading into the new Captain America movie, where would it be placed in the Marvel/Disney calendar? Would the Captain America film be a late addition to the Phase 4 projects or will it be reserved as one of the early Phase 5 projects?
It would make sense to fast track the addition of the new Captain America film to the Phase 4 slate, so that its success is still fresh in the audience’s mind. Losing that momentum might hurt the potential numbers in the long run. An alternative to this would be a second season with the updated Captain America and the Winter Soldier title (as the end credits from the last episode of season one displayed).
If the next Captain America film will be pushed to 2024 or later to be part of Phase 5, at what point in the story would it be set? Would it be an event set between others that came before it? That is a possibility, as with the Black Widow move. This film is set some time in the 5-year period between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, so there is a precedent for an MCU film to do so.
Old Man Rogers
Based on the story threads dropped in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the public believes Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, is out in space. Of course, at the finale of Avengers: Endgame, fans are aware that Steve Rogers is currently an old man, having taken the opportunity in his time travel back to the past to live a life with his beloved Peggy Carter.
However, in the comics, even as an old man, Steve Rogers played a role as a mentor behind the scenes. Could Chris Evans return to the MCU in this capacity? There have been long-standing rumors that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has been in talks with Evans on returning to the MCU in some shape or form. Would Captain America 4 be the project that makes this happen? Time will tell.
Another element from the comic books that was teased, but never fully realized so far, is Bucky Barnes’ time as Captain America. During the period after Marvel Comics’ Civil War, Steve Rogers was believed to have been assassinated by Sharon Carter. With Iron Man’s help and persuasion, Bucky reluctantly served as the new Captain America.
Interestingly, Bucky was the Captain America during the comics version of the Secret Invasion storyline. With Secret Invasion being one of the upcoming Phase 4 projects, could this lead into that? Having two people taking up the mantle, both being best friends and allies of the old Captain America, would not be out of place. It would also be a triumphant resolution to Bucky’s journey of redemption from being the former Winter Soldier to the heroic Captain America.
Sharon Carter: Double Agent
Although some were surprised with Sharon Carter’s turn as the Power Broker, fans of the comics are aware that the SHIELD operative formerly known as Agent 13 is no stranger to playing both sides. From her Marvel Comics origins Carter has been portrayed as a double agent, able to dupe even the Red Skull into believing she was loyal to him.
Which begs the question, who is Sharon Carter being a double agent for? As the Power Broker based in Madripoor, Carter had amassed wealth and influence that would have put her deep in the criminal world in the MCU. Could she be infiltrating the remnants of HYDRA? Or would it be A.I.M., as the end credits scene implies Carter’s contact is interested in military technology? Or could it be something and someone else entirely?
There are also speculations that Carter might be a Skrull impersonator. The Skrulls have been portrayed in the MCU as a force for good, based on their appearances in Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but they have traditionally been villains in the Marvel Comics proper. Carter actually being a member of a splinter group of Skrulls working against their brethren who are under Nick Fury’s S.W.O.R.D. interstellar defense program is not unreasonable. That Secret Invasion is a major Phase 4 entry would support this theory.
Dark Avengers and The Thunderbolts
With John Walker as the U.S. Agent under Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, it is highly rumored that this would lead in to the Dark Avengers. The Dark Avengers was the replacement Avengers team created after Civil War and would last until The Siege storyline.
Members of the Dark Avengers included the Norman Osborn version of Iron Patriot and other villains serving as analogues to other heroes such as Moonstone/Captain Marvel, Venom/Spider-man, Bullseye/Hawkeye, Daken/Wolverine, along with powerhouses The Sentry and the god of war, Ares. With the current MCU confirmed to not have an existing Avengers team (as indicated in the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier), a government-sponsored version would be a logical step. However, given that Walker’s reputation as Captain America has been tarnished, it would likely be a more covert operation. In the comics, Walker’s U.S. Agent has been a member of various rosters of Avengers, including Avengers West Coast and Force Works.
Another angle is Baron Zemo. Currently incarcerated in The Raft, he is obviously far from helpless. In fact, Zemo may be exactly where he wishes to be. In the comics, Baron Zemo recruits other villains to form a group called the Thunderbolts who masqueraded as superheroes during the time the Avengers and The Fantastic Four were missing. And who is currently the man responsible for the Raft? Defense Secretary and former General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. Coincidence? Probably not.
This would coincide with the hint that Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) will be replacing Scarlett Johansson as the MCU’s Black Widow. Defense Secretary Ross played by William Hurt is set to appear in the long-delayed Black Widow film. There were hints that Pugh’s Yelena Belova would appear in the climax of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but this was nixed due to the delayed release of the aforementioned film. Setting up the Thunderbolts to make an appearance in the new Captain America movie would be a possibility.
With the conclusion of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, rumors and speculation run high as to how the tentatively titled Captain America 4 film will take shape. Marvel Studios and its head Kevin Feige have a history of playing the long game when it comes to how and what the future of the MCU and its franchises will develop.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney Plus.