Disney+’s Marvel Phase 4 bombardment continues this week with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While it probably won’t have the mind-bending weirdness of WandaVision, it hopes to make up for it with exciting action. Also, while WandaVision was focused on two characters who never truly got the spotlight in previous movies, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier goes a step further by delving into the absence of one of Marvel’s top names.
In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Chris Evans has finished up his role as Captain America and Steve Rogers has been given his much-needed retirement. Now there is a void, which can hopefully be filled in by his two best friends.
Sam Wilson, the titular Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie), has been in six movies as of this point. Not everyone can check out every MCU flick, so a refresher course is in order on who Sam is and why he’s been hand-picked to be the next Captain America.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Sam Wilson was once part of the United States Air Force, acting as a pararescueman. He and his partner Riley used high-tech wingsuits in their missions, but after Riley’s death, a distraught Wilson left the Air Force. He remained in Washington DC, helping fellow veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and helping ease them into getting used to living civilian lives.
One day when out running, he found himself repeatedly lapped by Steve Rogers, who kept annoying Wilson with a courteous, “On your left,” as he ran past. Wilson knew of Rogers, otherwise known as Captain America. The scientifically enhanced super soldier helped fight the forces of HYDRA back in World War II, only to be frozen for decades before resurfacing in the present.
After the workout, the two bonded. As it turned out, Wilson’s familiarity with PTSD jibed well with Rogers’ confused and tragic situation as a man out of time. While a fellow veteran, Rogers had finally made a friend who wasn’t tied to his role in the Avengers or SHIELD.
Captain America and his fellow Avenger/SHIELD operative Black Widow discovered that for years, SHIELD had been infiltrated by HYDRA agents and there was seemingly nobody they could trust. The two went to Wilson’s home and told him that everyone was out to kill them. Wilson let them in while assuring them, “Not everyone.”
Revealing that he still had his cybernetic wing apparatus, the EXO-7 Falcon, Sam readily joined the fight against HYDRA and their ultimate assassin the Winter Soldier. During a mission to kidnap the double-agent Jasper Sitwell, the heroes were attacked by the Winter Soldier and it soon became apparent that the mysterious assassin was in fact Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s lifelong best friend who seemingly died during World War II, only to be taken in and brainwashed by HYDRA.
HYDRA’s plot involved arming and programming three Helicarriers (airborne aircraft carriers) to track down and snipe any and all potential threats to “freedom” using a special algorithm. Sam pulled his weight in helping put an end to the Helicarrier threats thanks to his EXO-7 Falcon wings. Once those were damaged, he ended up in the SHIELD HQ building, where he took on the corrupt soldier Brock Rumlow. Although Sam couldn’t overpower him, he was able to see a malfunctioning Hellicarrier drifting into the building before Rumlow did and was able to escape the damage far more unscathed.
As for Captain America, he had another confrontation with the Winter Soldier, but was able to get through to him and get him to remember enough of their relationship. An unconscious Cap was knocked out of a crashing Hellicarrier and landed in a nearby body of water. He would have died had he not been saved at the last second by a confused Winter Soldier, who wandered off to figure out his own identity.
Sam was there to greet the injured Steve when he woke up in the hospital. Shortly after, they met with Nick Fury about the status of what was left of HYDRA. Fury offered Sam a spot in helping him destroy the lats remnants of the terrorist organization, but Sam instead chose to join Steve in searching for the whereabouts of the Winter Soldier.
“You don’t have to come with me.”
“I know. When do we start?”
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
The Avengers banded together for what seemed like one last run in order to overwhelm the last major HYDRA stronghold and obtain a powerful scepter once wielded by the villain Loki. In the aftermath, the team held a big farewell party. Sam showed up as a friend of Captain America’s, but admitted that this Avengers lifestyle wasn’t for him.
For whatever reason, Sam left the party early, leaving the other superheroes to lounge around and playfully see who could lift Thor’s enchanted hammer. The corrupted AI Ultron made himself known during the incident and attacked the heroes.
By the time Ultron’s plot to “save” humanity through global cataclysm was foiled, the Avengers line-up had been tremendously altered. Iron Man had been trying to step down from the superhero lifestyle (hence the creation of Ultron in the first place), Thor left Earth to seek out the Infinity Stones, Hulk left out of shame for the damage he caused during a rampage, and Hawkeye retired to be with his family.
Figuring that there still needed to be an Avengers line-up, Captain America and Black Widow started fresh with Falcon being brought into the fold, alongside War Machine, Wanda Maximoff, and the Vision.
Ex-con and master thief Scott Lang became the second Ant-Man, mentored by his predecessor Hank Pym. With the ability to shrink himself while retaining his normal-sized strength, as well as being able to communicate with ants, Ant-Man was tasked with stopping Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross from recreating the shrinking technology and selling it to the highest bidder.
Ant-Man needed a special device to help with his adventure and he didn’t realize until too late that it was held at Avengers HQ. Ant-Man came across Falcon, who considered him a potential enemy despite his aloof and straightforward nature. The two ended up fighting it out with Ant-Man escaping with the necessary device.
Disgruntled and embarrassed, Falcon asked Black Widow to make sure Captain America was not made aware of this incident.
After Ant-Man foiled Cross’ plans, his friend Luis told him that the impressed Falcon was looking for information on where to find Scott.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
The Avengers took part in a mission in Lagos, Nigeria to prevent a horribly burned Brock Rumlow from stealing biological weapons. Falcon was involved, using his new pet drone Redwing. While Rumlow was defeated, he attempted to blow himself up and take Captain America out with him. Wanda Maximoff used her telekinesis to try and remove Crossbones from the area, only for him to explode by a nearby building, taking out dozens of innocent civilians.
The governments of the world decided they were done with letting the Avengers run free to do whatever they wanted. They introduced the Sokovia Accords, which insisted that the heroes either had to work with government oversight, retire, or get arrested. This caused a major rift in the Avengers with Sam agreeing with Captain America that the concept, while well-meaning, was a bad idea. Due to his refusal to sign with the Accords, Sam was given an honorable discharge.
At the signing of the Accords, a bomb went off, killing King T’Chaka of Wakanda. Evidence pointed at the Winter Soldier’s involvement, though it was really the work of Helmut Zemo, a man driven to revenge against the Avengers due to his family being killed during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Captain America refused to believe Bucky was behind it and successfully tracked him down, only to then fight off the authorities who were out to apprehend Bucky.
Cap, Bucky, and Falcon were also attacked by Black Panther, T’Chaka’s furious son T’Challa, who wanted revenge for his father’s death. Ultimately, the four of them were captured by the authorities and War Machine.
Zemo infiltrated where Bucky was being held captive and read off a series of words that would trigger him into once again being a brainwashed killing machine. In the chaos, Cap and Falcon were able to subdue Bucky and escape. Initially, they figured Zemo’s plot had to do with unleashing other Winter Soldier counterparts, all frozen and awaiting orders in a secret facility.
Also, it was established that not only did Sam not trust Bucky, but the two of them genuinely did not like each other and only played nice due to their mutual friendship with Steve.
Knowing that Iron Man and the other pro-Accords heroes would oppose them, Cap’s side brought in Hawkeye, Wanda Maximoff, and Ant-Man to help even the odds, while Agent Sharon Carter was able to get access to Cap’s shield and Falcon’s wings. Cap’s faction took on Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Vision, Black Panther, and Spider-Man.
While Cap and Bucky were able to successfully escape the situation, the rest of the team gradually took the loss. As Iron Man and War Machine attempted to intercept Cap’s aircraft, Falcon created a diversion. Vision fired a laser beam at him, only to miss and hit War Machine. Despite Falcon’s efforts to save him, War Machine crashed into the ground. A horrified Falcon apologized, only to be blasted into unconsciousness by Iron Man.
Sam, Hawkeye, Wanda, and Ant-Man all ended up locked up in the island prison known as the Raft. Iron Man visited and assured Sam that War Machine was still alive, albeit paralyzed. He understood what they were up against with the army of Winter Soldiers, but needed Sam to tell him where to go to help Cap and Bucky. Sam reluctantly gave up the information.
As it turned out, the Winter Soldiers plot was a red herring and Zemo only wanted to gather Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man for the sake of revealing that the Winter Soldier was the one who killed Tony Stark’s parents. Despite brainwashing being involved, Iron Man went into a frenzy and the following battle tore apart what was left of the Avengers. Cap won the fight, but left his shield behind as a sign of respect to Tony.
Sometime after, Captain America infiltrated the Raft in order to break out his allies.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
While Bucky was getting mental treatment in Wakanda, Cap led a team of Secret Avengers with Black Widow and Falcon, righting wrongs from the shadows against the government’s wishes. Bruce Banner reached out to Cap to warn him about the coming of Thanos, an intergalactic warlord obsessed with gathering the six Infinity Stones and gaining ultimate power. Since Vision had one of the Stones in his forehead, he was an obvious target.
The Secret Avengers helped protect Wanda and Vision from Thanos’ top soldiers, the Black Order. They then visited Avengers HQ to bring in Banner and War Machine, who openly refused to acknowledge the Sokovian Accords’ bureaucracy in the face of this cosmic threat they were up against. They went to Wakanda, hoping their scientists could remove the Mind Stone from Vision’s skull without killing him.
Thanos’ forces invaded Wakanda and Falcon took part in the massive battle. Eventually, Thanos arrived, having been fitted with the other five Infinity Stones. Despite Falcon’s efforts, Thanos easily bypassed him. He was able to obtain the Mind Stone and snapped his fingers, finally achieving his twisted goal of removing 50% of all life from the universe and preventing overpopulation.
Sam Wilson was one of the many casualties. Alone and unseen laying in the grass, he started turning to dust. After he faded away, War Machine wandered into the area, calling for him.
It took five years, but due to lots of traveling through time and space, the Avengers were able to assemble the Infinity Stones and bring back everyone who vanished. Before they could see the scope of those actions, Thanos attacked. The team of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor fought him, but ultimately lost.
A hurt Captain America, armed with a broken shield and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, readied himself to fight not only Thanos, but his entire army of invaders. Then, he heard a crackle in his earpiece.
“Cap, do you read me? Cap, it’s Sam. On your left.”
Magic portals opened up, bringing in heroes and warriors from all over the universe. Falcon flew out of the portal from Wakanda, showing Steve that he wasn’t alone. Once again armed with Mjolnir, Cap rallied the Avengers into battle and, in the end, Thanos and his armies were reduced to dust.
Falcon appeared with the other heroes at Tony Stark’s private funeral. Afterwards, he, Bucky, and Hulk joined to watch Steve gather Mjolnir and the Infinity Stones onto their time machine. To tie up loose ends with their time travel adventure, Cap had to return all the objects back to where and when they were removed. To everyone’s confusion, Cap didn’t reappear on the platform once he was finished.
Bucky and Sam then saw an old man on a bench, sitting peacefully in the distance. Sam discovered an elderly Steve Rogers, who admitted that after returning the Stones and hammer, he decided to live his own life. Without telling the details, he spent his days in a timeline where he married his World War II love interest Peggy Carter. Now too old to be Captain America, he revealed the trademark vibranium shield (fully restored) and handed it to Sam, insisting it was his turn.
“Thank you. I’ll do my best.”
“That’s why it’s yours.”
That catches us up. Now Sam Wilson, another man out of time, is the hero wielding the shield. What does that mean for his future and the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? We’ll find out on Friday, March 19 when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres.