(This article contains spoilers for “The Whole World Is Watching,” the fourth episode of the Marvel Disney+ series “The Falcon and Winter Soldier”)
John Walker (Wyatt Russell), aka the new Captain America, showed us his true self on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” this week — in more ways than one.
The new Cap has struggled to feel like he belongs in a world full of gods and aliens and super soldiers, and for good reason. He’s just a regular soldier the U.S. government decided to name the new Captain America without consulting so far as we know with any current MCU heroes. He hasn’t been trained to fight these battles, so of course he’s going to get whooped.
And so we have this new Captain America, and he’s just trash at his job. He’s embarrassed, and certainly looks like he hasn’t been sleeping because of his frustration at being sidelined by actual heroes. There’s an easy remedy to this issue: Partner up with Sam and Bucky, and follow their lead.
But this Toxic Masculinity Captain America can’t do that. He’s freaking Captain America. He’s supposed to be the lead. He can’t take orders from these…sidekicks. Even though they’re better than him at everything. Even though they’ve actually fought superhuman folks — and worse — before. Even though they have some idea how to operate freely like this, and John Walker doesn’t. The show is called “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” but this guy thinks it should be a Captain America show.
For most of the episode, the new Captain America is just a huge clown, seething with rage about his numerous inadequacies. Like some kind of message board incel wondering when we’re finally gonna talk about MEN’s rights.
And then he gets a hold of the final vial of super soldier serum. And he puts that stuff in his body. And he graduates to Captain Clown.
Way back in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the creator of the original super soldier serum, Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), said that ‘the serum amplifies everything that is inside. So good becomes great — bad becomes worse.” Steve Rogers was a “good becomes great” kind of situation, and it looks like John Walker is the other one.
It’s been kind of a strange arc for John on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” He was originally presented as idealistic and excited to help people, but he so quickly went from that to being a tool without much of a devolution. He just was a good guy, and then he was yelling at the real superheroes for being so good at their jobs that they’re making him look bad.
But I like where we ended up. I like seeing this trash person angrily beat down bad guys because he just hates them so much, and then tarnish the uniform and the shield by beating a guy to death in front of a crowd of people to get revenge for his injured or dead partner. It’s disgusting and it felt so incredibly wrong, and it was also an absolute thrill to watch.
I’d love for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” to go all the way with this deconstruction by having Captain America just become a cartoonishly evil, one-note villain. Normally the MCU likes to humanize its bad guys too much to do that, but we just got Agatha on “WandaVision” taking that exact path. Agatha had no layers whatsoever and had no motivation other than to get more power.
Why not do the same with New Cap?