This article contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
From the moment that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier first premiered, it wasn’t really much of a spoiler to say that we all knew that the show would end — one way or another — with Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) picking up the shield for real and embracing the identity of Captain America.
But according to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier head writer Malcolm Spellman, the path to that singular image of Sam in his new Wakandan-built outfit and wings, shield on his arm, might have gone several different ways: “We entertained a lot of different stuff,” he tells Den of Geek. “I won’t get into what, but maybe different people were going to be holding the shield in other episodes.”
Of course, Sam wasn’t the only person to carry the shield in the now-concluded six-episode series. The other significant person was John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the government’s official selection to take over as Captain America — who ended up not being a wise choice at all despite good intentions.
But whether others in the series might have been in the running is kind of a moot question now, according to Spellman: “It fell by the wayside pretty quickly, because there was such poignancy to Sam’s journey that we very quickly did not have to clutter it with a bunch of plot and a bunch of tricks.”
The “bunch of plot” comment is an interesting one. Speculation has been flying around for a while that certain subplots — including one heavily rumored plotline involving the villainous Flag-Smashers unleashing some kind of virus on the world — were jettisoned from the series because of a) production delays and changes due to the real-life COVID-19 pandemic, b) sensitivity to what was happening in the world with regards to that, and c) the slimming of the show from eight episodes to six.
Spellman acknowledges that some aspects of the plot were left undeveloped, but that the conjecture has been blown out of proportion. “There was no downside to it,” he remarks. “It wasn’t significant. I’m trying to figure out what I’ve said with my big mouth that made people think there’s a story here. I must have said something that sounded way chunkier than the truth, which is that it wasn’t a major thing.”
Spellman adds that the show’s reformatting from the originally announced eight episodes to six was simply a matter of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being the first to go into production (even though WandaVision ended up premiering first) and Marvel figuring out the format for the first time.
“We were first up, so there were no other series going,” he explains. “They were figuring out the model with me. And as we told the story and broke it and stretched it out, it just naturally came to create the energy that Marvel and Kevin (Feige) wanted. Which was yes, go as deep as a serialized story can go, but also have the urgency of a movie. Six became the number because it forced the storytelling. It gave it room to breathe but forced it to get back on track quickly.”
In the end, Spellman (who “cannot confirm” that he and TFATWS staff writer Dalan Musson are writing the script for a little movie called Captain America 4) insists that he got to make the show he aspired to make and tell the story he wanted to tell. “Marvel will, first and foremost, ask you to create what you want to create,” he says. “And they’re working right there side by side with you.”
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming on Disney+, while the next Marvel series, Loki, premieres on the service on June 11.