This article contains spoilers for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
Following the success of WandaVision, Marvel Studios didn’t wait long to return audiences to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) via their streaming service Disney+.
That’s right, their latest television series The Falcon And The Winter Solider has got off to a flying start today with a great first episode that brought us spectacular action, but also took time to flesh out both Sam and Bucky.
Naturally there’s plenty of discussion within the episode about the legacy of Captain America, with Sam donating the shield to the Smithsonian as he felt unready to take on the mantle.
As he tells Rhodey (nice to see Don Cheadle pop up here): “it feels like it belongs to someone else”.
Although Sam thought he was donating the shield to the Smithsonian for preservation and display, the US government had very different intentions for it as we see right at the end of the episode.
A running theme in the MCU has always been don’t trust bureaucratic officials, so it’s to no surprise that the government are up to no good, manipulating and using the symbol of the shield.
In a twist delivered during the episode’s closing moments, Sam watches a press conference on the news which sees a politician unveil a big surprise.
The government official tells the cheering audience: “We need someone to inspire us again, someone who can be a symbol for all of us. The United States Of America has a new hero. Join me in welcoming your new Captain America!”
That’s right, there’s a new Captain America in town but it isn’t Sam or Bucky… well not yet anyways. Instead it is, as teased by the marketing ahead of the show’s release and revealed in the episode, U.S. Agent, a.k.a. John Walker, holding the very shield Sam donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
But who is U.S. Agent and what is his role within the show? Let’s dive into it…
U.S. Agent In The Comics
In Marvel Comics Walker straddles the line between hero and villain.
After the death of his brother, he wanted to honour his legacy by becoming a hero, but by turning to a villain called the Power Broker, a misguided Walker became bad guy Super-Patriot.
Thankfully though Steve Rogers helped Walker find some more positive guidance, and thus when Rogers retired from the role of Captain America the government selected Walker as the man to continue that legacy.
It wasn’t easy for Walker to step into Steve’s shoes though as he felt crushed by the pressure, resulting in the shield and mantle being returned to Rogers.
Walker still wanted to be a hero though, and so took on a new costumed identity as U.S. Agent, a government operative who became an ally to the Avengers also joining various other superhero teams.
Placed into the West Coast Avengers team by the government as a way for them to keep an eye on the heroes, U.S. Agent does come into conflict several times with members such as Hawkeye, but he also proves himself to be a worthy fighter.
In the comics he’s actually considerably stronger than even Rogers, possessing superhuman strength, agility and endurance.
Not only does Walker have the power, but he also has the skills too having been trained in various forms of combat during his long history in the comics.
U.S. Agent In The MCU
In the MCU actor Wyatt Russell portrays Walker, who we first meet as the newly unveiled Captain America, although the costume he is wearing as Cap is incredibly similar to his U.S. Agent one from the comics.
It’s currently unclear what role he will play in the story, but the fact that Walker doesn’t always play by the rules in the comics, and the cheeky wink he delivers to the camera at the end of the episode indicates to us that he may be trouble.
The frown on Sam’s face as he watches the reveal tells us that he ain’t too impressed by what the government have done so there will be a conflict there, and we reckon he will butt heads with Walker too.
Who doesn’t love some good old fashioned rivalry though?!?
Not only is the MCU taking inspiration from the comics which saw the government hand-pick Walker as the next Captain America, but given that the world is still struggling with the fallout from the events of the Blip, it makes sense that they will want a strong and patriotic figure to help inspire a nation. Walker is their man!
The government don’t care that Steve gave the shield to Sam, or that Sam donated the shield to a museum – they just want to bring the American people together and gain their support.
In a trailer for the series we see Walker heading into a stadium dressed as Cap to great applause, indicating that the government’s plan works.
Walker is unlikely to be a villain in the show, but he will definitely help create some tension and conflict as our duo of Sam and Bucky will surely have something to say about him as Cap.
Perhaps he will prove his worthiness to the pair by helping join the fight against the Flag Smashers and Zemo, who are being set up as the main antagonists? Maybe then Walker will realise that Sam should be the new Captain America, and thus pass on the shield?
This will then allow him to take on the role of U.S. Agent as he does in the comics, becoming an ally for our heroes in the future of the MCU.
Of course this is just us theorising, but head writer on the series Malcolm Spellman told IGN that the MCU version of Walker is less morally dubious and more worthy than the one in the comics.
He said: “We wanted John Walker to be worthy of being Captain America if we were going to give him the shield. You read the books, and he’s an awesome character in the books, but you can’t hand that guy the shield in the MCU.
“I’m not going to say softened him, but we humanised him, and made him much more worthy. But he does have an intense journey, and he does have to earn it.”
Right now we are only at the very start of that journey having just been introduced to Walker, but it already sounds like it will be an intriguing one.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier airs exclusively every Friday on Disney+.