(This article contains spoilers for the finale of Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+)
In a show full of interesting things, John Walker — now going by the title U.S. Agent — is of particular interest. A large part of that is because his story is very disjointed — he goes from sounding pretty much exactly like Steve Rogers at the beginning of the second episode to being a petty, jealous goober who executes his foes while a crowd of people watches without much of a transition.
But this week, John has a moment of reflection while he’s fighting with the Flag Smashers, and he then briefly fights alongside Bucky to help take them down. It was a weird thing. Why Bucky would suddenly be OK with him aside, it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder, “Wait, is he a good guy now?”
John Walker is definitely in an ambiguous place right now. He’s clearly not the best guy in the world, and he’s overly emotional and susceptible to people telling him what he wants to hear. And he’s now apparently working for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ mysterious Valentina, who we figure will play a major part in the MCU from here.
Valentina is certainly not the best person either, and judging by her comic book history we should expect her to become either a major villain, or a more morally grey Nick Fury type.
If it’s the latter, then John fits in naturally with her, because that’s how he is in the comics as well. A guy who sometimes does good stuff, and sometimes does bad stuff, and has a tumultuous relationship with actual heroes. The way that he was portrayed throughout “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” follows that characterization almost to a T, so it would make sense for him to be the same way as U.S. Agent.
Let’s talk about the comic book version of this guy for a second. While it’s not clear whether U.S. Agent is an actual government role in the MCU, that’s exactly what it was in the comics. The idea was basically “What if Captain America was comfortable with black ops.”
Among his other jobs, he was for a time put in charge of supervising the West Coast Avengers, where he really found his groove fighting alongside the team and proving himself on multiple occasions. After the West Coast Avengers disbanded, he joined up with other teams, including The Invaders, Omega Flight, and a later incarnation of the main Avengers team.
He never becomes a straight-up villain again, but he remains something of an egomaniac and jingoist dick who clearly wishes he was Captain America even years after he accepted he isn’t up to the job.
Like many comic book heroes, U.S. Agent had a bunch of other adventures and went in and out of retirement. He even became warden of The Raft at one point. And most importantly for what might happen in future Marvel shows and movies, he even ends up recruited by a group of US government jerks who don’t like Sam Wilson’s version of being Captain America — though even then he basically ends up siding with Sam anyway.
The gist here is that John Walker is the sort of person who wants to do the right thing, but is OK with doing war crimes on America’s behalf to accomplish it. He’s the sort of person for whom determining whether he’s a hero or villain or something else will likely depend on the the situation.
Think of it this way. Captain America is supposed to represent America’s stated ideals — but U.S. Agent much more closely resembles what America actually is. How that will play whenever John Walker emerges into the greater MCU is anyone’s guess.