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Five Big Questions Before the Second Half of ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’

With three episodes to go, Sam Wilson still doesn’t hold the shield, the Power Broker still hasn’t appeared on-screen, and the future of the MCU still hasn’t been revealed

Disney/Ringer Illustration
Spoiler warning

It took a full episode for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to reunite its titular stars, but since then, the duo has traveled across the world together in pursuit of the anti-nationalist Flag-Smashers and the super soldier serum that birthed Captain America decades ago and is currently threatening global security. Meanwhile, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes are still adjusting to a post-Blip world, dealing with tension from wannabe superheroes, and learning that the country they’ve protected may not care about protecting them.

With three episodes remaining, there’s still a lot of ground for the show to cover, but all of Falcon’s major players now have been introduced—from the dubious John Walker to the greatest dancer that Madripoor has ever seen, Baron Zemo—and the stage has been set for Sam and Bucky to eventually reclaim the stolen legacy of Captain America.

While the action-packed Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been much less of a mystery to solve than WandaVision, there are still plenty of unknowns heading into the second half of the season. Without further ado, here are some of the biggest questions at the show’s midpoint.

Will Sam Wilson become the next Captain America?

Screenshots via Disney+

Based on the facts that Sam takes up the Captain America mantle in the comic books, that Steve Rogers originally named him as his successor in Endgame, and that Marvel has not been shy at all about showing Sam slinging the iconic shield in nearly every trailer for the series, it seems pretty safe to say that John Walker won’t be the MCU’s new Cap by the time the season ends. But it’s still a question whether Sam even wants to be the next Captain America.

At the beginning of the series, Sam decided that the shield would be better off in a museum than strapped to his wrist in a fight, and that it should ultimately be retired along with Captain America and his legacy. “The world has been forever changed,” Sam told the audience at the Smithsonian in the premiere. “A few months ago, billions of people reappeared after five years away, sending the world into turmoil. We need new heroes, ones suited for the times we’re in.”

Sam chose to give up that shield, and everything it represented, believing that it should be laid to rest along with the man who once wielded it. And despite the Smithsonian thanking him for his “wise” decision, it immediately handed the shield right back to the Department of Defense so the government could name a new Captain America in John Walker.

After witnessing this betrayal on TV, meeting the unworthy replacement, and learning the truth about the Black super soldier that the CIA secretly experimented on and wrongfully imprisoned, Sam’s faith in the country he once fought for and his belief in the value of symbols have been all but snapped away in a cloud of dust. By the end of the third episode, Sam is doubling down on his decision to give up the shield in the first place. “Maybe I made a mistake,” Sam tells Bucky. “Maybe I shouldn’t have put it in a museum, maybe I should have destroyed it.”

In the next three episodes, it’s unlikely that Sam’s faith in symbols will somehow be restored—that ship has probably sailed. Instead, it’s a matter of whether Sam will choose to be a hero for a country that is still institutionally racist, where even an Avenger is stopped and profiled based on the color of their skin. As showrunner Malcolm Spellman recently told The Ringer’s Charles Holmes, Sam won’t simply move past that history of injustice: “We knew we didn’t want to just have [Sam] 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.’ At no point is Falcon landing there.”

Who is the Power Broker?

In each of the past two episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has teased the character who is shaping up to be the series’ true villain, and while the third episode was even named after the guy (or girl?), halfway through the season he still hasn’t made an appearance.

The Power Broker was first mentioned in the second episode, when his lackeys are chasing after Karli Morgenthau and her Flag-Smashers as they’re boarding a plane with a stolen shipment of medicine. The following episode explained the backstory of why the Power Broker is after Morgenthau: According to Dr. Wilfred Nagel, a scientist working for the Power Broker (at least, until Zemo shot him), Karli and her crew stole all 20 vials of Nagel’s version of the super soldier serum, and now the Power Broker is out for revenge. The third episode brought us to the relatively lawless island nation of Madripoor, where the Power Broker is essentially king.

In the comics, the Power Broker was a shady businessman by the name of Curtiss Jackson (not to be confused with businessman and former Shady Records best-selling rapper Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent). Through Jackson’s corporation, Power Broker Inc., he and Dr. Karl Malus provided a risky but transformative service that granted super strength to paying customers. Although the basic elements of his character have remained the same, like what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did with the Flag-Smashers, the show has repurposed his comic book origins to better fit the context of the series and the MCU. The Power Broker didn’t originally have any direct ties to Madripoor, but the series has now planted him at the center of the place, while also swapping out his mad scientist for another one from the comics who has ties to Isaiah Bradley.

But the show may have also changed his original identity as well. The fact that the Power Broker has still not appeared after being mentioned in consecutive episodes seems to suggest that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is slowly building up the suspense for the potentially major reveal of his identity. And unless Marvel is simply hiding some secretly big name who landed the role, that buildup would also suggest that the Power Broker is a character who has previously appeared in the MCU.

A potential candidate for the Power Broker could be Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, a former lieutenant general for the U.S. Army and the secretary of state. Given his past as a longstanding government official, Ross would fit well within the themes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as he has tried time and time again to gain control over super soldiers and superheroes. Not only did he appear in Captain America: Civil War to present the Sokovia Accords to the Avengers before eventually locking many of them up in the Raft (including Sam), but Ross also has a history of wanting to re-create the super soldier serum that dates back to 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. (Remember that movie with Ed Norton?) Pair all that with Ross’s comic book ties to the Thunderbolts, a team of reformed super-criminals originally conceived by Baron Zemo, and there are plenty of ways that Falcon could bring in a character like Ross as the powers that be continue to plot out the future of the MCU.

Whoever the Power Broker may end up being—whether he’s a familiar face like Thunderbolt Ross, Mephisto, or an actual newcomer—he might be the least of Sam and Bucky’s worries if Karli and her freedom-fighting terrorists actually got ahold of all 20 doses of the new super soldier serum. But more likely than not, the Power Broker still has a trick or two (or even a vial) up his elusive sleeve.

What is Sharon Carter hiding?

Sharon Carter is back, and she is certainly not the same idealistic CIA agent we last saw stealing Steve’s shield and Sam’s Falcon suit from the American government in Civil War. (Becoming an enemy of the state for helping out the good guys will do that to you, I’m sure.) After being one of the few agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be important enough to have an actual name (like Kevin Feige has, we’ll ignore ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. here), the fugitive has found herself a new home in Madripoor. And, despite her purported interest in returning to the States with a presidential pardon, it’s clear that Sharon is doing very well for herself living amongst thieves and criminals.

Sharon has worked her way up to a fancy apartment on the wealthy side of Madripoor by selling stolen works of fine art. Or so it seems. Given the ease with which she was able to locate Dr. Nagel, along with that moment at the end of Episode 3 when she told her driver, “We’ve got a big problem,” it seems like she’s involved in something more nefarious than stolen art. Considering that the Power Broker runs Madripoor, and that Sharon clearly has ties to his world, she may have found a more lucrative gig working for him as well. And taking that line of thinking a step further, could Sharon Carter be the Power Broker herself? It may be too much of a heel turn for Agent 13 to become a criminal overlord, and it’d also be a difficult fit within the MCU’s timeline, but she’s nevertheless hiding some crucial information from Sam and Co. about her likely connections to the still-unseen villain.

Sharon has changed dramatically since Civil War; her character was once defined by her morals, and would refuse to compromise when it came to doing the right thing. While giving a eulogy for Peggy Carter during the 2016 film, Sharon quoted her late aunt and inspired Steve to refuse to sign the Sokovia Accords: “Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right; even if the whole world is telling you to move,” Sharon told the audience. “It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move.’”

Now, years later, Sharon is roaming the streets of Madripoor, gruesomely killing people like a vengeful John Wick. It’s no longer clear what she stands for.

How will Isaiah Bradley’s story impact the rest of the season?

In the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky took Sam to meet Isaiah Bradley, a Black super soldier whose identity had been kept secret by both Bucky and the U.S. government. Despite being a hero who the Army sent behind enemy lines during the Korean War to face the infamous Winter Soldier, Isaiah was imprisoned and experimented on for 30 years.

Sam, who was left speechless during the brief conversation at Isaiah’s house in Baltimore, was understandably outraged by the fact that no one ever told him Isaiah Bradley’s story. It certainly didn’t help that when Sam met the former CIA scientist who harvested Isaiah’s blood to synthesize a new super soldier serum, Dr. Nagel referred to him merely as an “American test subject,” failing to consider Isaiah’s humanity as much as the American government had.

As Sam continues to reject Bucky’s pleas for him to take back the shield and reclaim the mantle of Captain America, Isaiah’s story will surely play a major part in his decision-making process. Crucially, it will also help shape Sam’s understanding of all of this discourse around legacies and symbols—and who America is willing to accept as its heroes. With Isaiah’s introduction being such a significant revelation for both the series and the entire MCU, it seems likely that he’ll be revisited and that his origins will be explored in full. A real conversation between Sam and Isaiah, should it ever come, could end up being one of the most important moments of the season.

How will the events of Falcon shape the MCU in Phase 4?

As much as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is about Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, it’s also very much about the MCU, as it has already taken great lengths to build upon the catastrophic events of Infinity War and Endgame. Like WandaVision before it, Falcon is unpacking the trauma that comes with the losses of Avengers like Vision and Captain America. However, unlike its streaming predecessor, which largely remained within the boundaries of New Jersey and Wanda Maximoff’s (terrifying) imagination, Falcon is exploring how the entire world has reacted to the Blip. The Global Repatriation Council, an international governing body concerned with aiding those displaced by the Blip, has been introduced to consider the logistical and political nightmare that would arise if billions of people were to suddenly disappear and then reappear five years later. The Avengers saved the universe, but they couldn’t stop it from drastically changing. Groups like the Flag-Smashers and LAF were inspired by the chaos of the Blip; characters like James Rhodes, Baron Zemo, Sharon Carter, and, most recently, Ayo of the Dora Milaje have all popped up—these connections to the MCU’s past are being used to lay the foundation of this new world as Marvel leaves behind the Infinity Saga and steps into Phase 4 with different stars leading the way.

Perhaps above all else, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is concerned with symbols and the mantles of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s no coincidence that this series, which was originally designed to kick off the MCU’s transition into the world of television, stars two longtime sidekicks who—like Wanda Maximoff—are taking on bigger roles in Phase 4. With Riri Williams slated to become Iron Man’s spiritual successor in the upcoming Ironheart, Jane Foster returning to take up the mantle of the Mighty Thor in 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder, and—after the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman—with a new king (or, more likely, queen) set to star as the next ruler of Wakanda in Black Panther 2, the MCU will soon roll out even more TV shows and films that will pass the torches to a new generation of heroes. Falcon is tasked with creating the blueprint that many of these future properties may choose to follow, as Marvel begins to forge a new future.