The Special Way The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Is Bringing The Marvel Comics Villain Flag-Smasher To The MCU

One of the most interesting aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the way in which the canon is able to interpret and modernize decades-old elements from the comics, and fans will soon be introduced to the latest example with the launch of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier on Disney+. The six-part series will feature the live-action debut of Flag-Smasher – but rather than just being a single character with a particular goal, as he was when he first appeared in 1985’s Captain America #312, the adaptation takes the anti-borders concept and develops it as the philosophy of a group living in the post-Blip world.

It’s a cool approach that is set up well in the first episode – but, according to head writer Malcolm Spellman, what makes Flag-Smasher particularly special is the fact that it’s a point-of-view that audiences may find themselves empathizing with as the story unfolds.

After having gotten an early preview of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s first episode last week, I spoke with the series creator during a virtual press day this past weekend, and curious about his approach to Flag-Smasher I asked if he could provide a preview of what’s in store for the show’s antagonistic force. Spellman explained that the world that audiences are going to see on screen is very much a reflection of our own, and that parallel means that viewers won’t see the massive conflict as a black-and-white issue:

We wanted this series to be extremely relevant and extremely rooted in the times. And we wanted villains who believe they are heroes, and could actually mount an argument that the audience will be like, 'Oh, they're not crazy;' so that the heroes could be like, 'Eh, I don't know if they're crazy.' So there are more than one antagonist in the series, and all of them are... basically if Thanos created an MCU that is almost mirroring where we're at today, then these villains are very much of our times, you know what I'm saying? Just like the heroes are.

This is an exciting thing to hear about The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, if not especially because it means that its plot is going to specifically invite debate and engagement. This has been a key element in some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest works to date – including the Team Cap vs. Team Iron debate in Captain America: Civil War, and the open borders question in Black Panther – and it could result in the latest Disney+ original unfolding as one of the most complex and interesting stories we’ve seen from the franchise.

With the premiere of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier still a few days away, I can’t reveal too many specifics about Flag-Smasher in the series, but the group is identifiable by the handprint masks they wear – which you’ve probably noticed in the trailers that have been released:

Flag-Smasher super soldier in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

Like the specific villain their named for, the underground organization has an anti-nationalist platform, and aims to reform the world in the wake of the events that played out in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

You’ll be able to see Flag-Smasher at work for yourself very soon, as The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will debut this Friday, March 19 on Disney+ at 12am PST/3am EST. Admittedly the episode only reveals the tip of the iceberg, but you’ll immediately be hooked. And to see what else is ahead on the small screen front for the franchise, be sure to check out our Upcoming Marvel TV Shows guide

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.