While Falcon and Winter Soldier has presented fans with much less existential mystery than Marvel‘s previous Disney Plus series, WandaVision, there are still many questions left to be answered in the final episodes of the show’s six-episode arc.
The most significant question that has served as the show’s backbone: Who will bear the title Captain America after the series finale?
In Avengers: Endgame, an elderly version of Steve Rogers passed on his iconic Captain America shield to Sam Wilson, his right-hand man better known as Falcon. But in the first episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier, Wilson donated the shield to the Smithsonian.
Instead taking Rogers’ place as Captain America at the conclusion of the premiere episode was John Walker, a decorated special operations officer of the United States Army.
Meanwhile, Wilson has teamed up with Bucky Barnes (the man formerly known as the Winter Soldier), as well as Baron Helmut Zemo and Agent Sharon Carter, to combat a sudden rise in anti-nationalist Super Soldiers.
We’ll have to tune into the final episodes to see how the story unfolds, but there are already plenty of fan theories about the conclusion:
Who Will Be the Next Captain America?
While Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers has not, and almost certainly will not, be making any Falcon and Winter Soldier appearances, the character’s impact on the show is undeniable. Even the logo for the show includes his shield.
For now, Walker still holds the Captain America title, but that probably won’t last for long. In the first few episodes of the show, Walker has already started showing signs of a flexible moral code, making it clear he’s not the man for the job. At one point he asked his sidekick Lemar “Battlestar” Hoskins, “If we get the job done, you really think they’re gonna sweat us on the how?”
In the comics, Walker, Wilson, and Barnes all had stints as Captain America, but it seems clear that Wilson is the one being ushered into the role for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, he put the shield in a museum and, yes, he’s been adamant thus far that he won’t take up the mantle; however, trailers for the series have made it pretty clear that he’ll be slinging that shield all over the place before the show is over.
What remains to be seen is how Wilson will feel about the symbolic meaning of carrying that shield. America hasn’t exactly been good to Wilson so far in Falcon and Winter Soldier. He was racially profiled and questioned by police, he was denied a loan, and he visited the home of Isaiah Bradley, a Black Super Soldier whose military heroics didn’t stop him from being falsely imprisoned and experimented on by the government for decades.
“We knew we didn’t want to just have [Wilson] get to some point where he’s like, ‘Oh, all good. I’m going to forget 400 years of history. It’s all good. We live in a post-racist world,’” series showrunner Malcolm Spellman told The Ringer. “At no point is Falcon landing there.”
Who is the Power Broker?
The outward villain through the first half of the show has been Karli Morgenthau, leader of the Flag-Smashers and a freshly formed Super Soldier. She received those powers by stealing 20 vials of the serum from a scientist whose work was being funded by the mysterious “Power Broker.”
Considering the third episode of the show was named after this faceless villain, and the character is now an enemy of both Morgenthau as well as the show’s eponymous duo, there’s plenty of build up for the big reveal. So who could it be?
Maybe the most convenient candidate is Sharon Carter. She’s certainly not the idealistic agent who risked it all for Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: The Civil War. Agent Carter 2.0 is disillusioned with the country that condemned her actions, and she’s deep in Madripoor’s world of shady dealings. At the very least, a working relationship with the Power Broker seems realistic even if it doesn’t make much sense that she’d lead Wilson, Barnes, and Zemo straight to the scientist responsible for creating the serum, ultimately resulting in that scientist’s death.
Another possibility — and maybe the stronger — raised by fans is the return of Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. That character, portrayed by William Hurt, first appeared in The Incredible Hulk where he was leading an effort to recreate the Super Soldier program that gave the world Captain America. Instead his experimental program leads to the creation of Hulk and Abomination.
More recently, Ross presented the Avengers with the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War and imprisoned Wilson, among others, for violation of that agreement.
Those movies provide plenty of motivation for Ross to cook up some Super Soldier Serum and the necessary background to make him a worthy enemy of Wilson and Barnes. Lastly, Hurt is set to reprise his role as Ross in the upcoming Black Widow film.
Initially, Falcon and Winter Soldier was set to be the first series to stream on Disney Plus, about three months after the release of Black Widow. When the pandemic forced a rearrange, Marvel kept those two releases three months apart, albeit in the opposite order. There appears to be a connection between the two, and Ross’ debut as a Phase 4 villain could be it.
Rumor has it the Thunderbolts will form at the conclusion of Falcon and Winter Soldier, an unsurprising theory given Zemo was the founder of that comic superhero team and he’s been a breakout star of the series. Other members of the Thunderbolts (of which there are many) have included Barnes, Ross, Walker, and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh’s character in Black Widow).