SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the first episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. If you have not yet watched, continue at your own risk!
After the week-to-week shocks of WandaVision, Marvel fans have now come to expect that episodes of Disney+ originals will conclude with big surprises, and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier didn’t disappoint in its premiere. While it was presumed throughout the debut chapter that the mantle of Captain America was being retired, with Sam Wilson turning over the vibranium shield to the Smithsonian, the final moments saw the country declare a new hero with the patriotic moniker – namely Wyatt Rogers’ John Walker.
Watching the twist unfold, it’s impossible not to think about the racial implications involved in the United States government overlooking a Black man (and Steve Rogers’ chosen successor) in favor of a random white guy. And those who find themselves compelled by that narrative can now breathe easy, as The Falcon And The Winter Soldier creator Malcolm Spellman has confirmed that the series won’t shy away from the serious subject matter.
I had the great opportunity to interview the filmmaker last weekend during the virtual press day for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (as featured in the video above), and in discussion of the premiere’s final moment I asked how the series is approaching the racial overtones present in the new Captain America announcement. Not only did Spellman confirm that larger context of the sequence, but he also confirmed that it’s material that the Disney+ original will be digging into deeply in subsequent episodes:
We don't blink. It is Sam's journey. There's no way to hide that Sam as a Black man, and we'd be dishonest if we did. The Marvel fans have proven post-Black Panther and Captain Marvel that they're very willing to go on these rides and deal with stuff that substance. And so we went right at it.
As recognized by Malcolm Spellman, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier won’t be the first time that a Marvel Studios production has commented on the subject of race in our modern world, as Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther had those issues at the foundation of its plot – with Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger making the argument that the powerful Wakandan resources should be used to lift up Black communities around the world (though his plans were a tad heavy on the militaristic side of things). And while Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel isn’t about race, it has its own progressive initiatives and isn’t shy about promoting feminist values and gender equality.
For The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Malcolm Spellman not only found the subject necessary to discuss in the story being told, but it was part of his original pitch to Marvel. His approach got the approval of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Anthony Mackie, and it will be an issue that Sam Wilson grapples with as he negotiates the complex history of Captain America’s red, white, and blue shield. Said the filmmaker,
Anthony [Mackie] and Kevin [Feige] would have never had any other way. And that's why I came. I fought to get this job because that was something I wanted to take on, like just the concept of him saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the shield is such a relevant conversation.
What is the story of John Walker, and why is he deemed more worthy than Sam Wilson to be Captain America? How will Walker operate with the moniker? How will Sam fight back? These are all questions that are currently burning in our brains, and it’s painful that we have a full week to wait before the next chapter.
That being said, set your calendars now, because episode two of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will be dropping on Disney+ next Friday, March 26 at 12am PST/3am EST.