“ No super serum. No blonde hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better ”. – Sam Wilson/Captain America
It’s been several weeks since the finale to Falcon and the Winter Soldier so I think the embargo on spoilers can be lifted.
I will say this outright, I loved the show. The pacing was great and the cast was phenomenal. Zemo quickly rose to become on my favourite MCU characters and Sam Wilson really came into his own as the hero and symbol that Steve knew he could be. After Endgame when Tony made the sacrifice play, nice little nod to the OG Avengers movie, Steve was tasked with returning the stones to their respective times and cutting off the branching time streams. As he stood on the pad, he said good bye to his lifelong friend Bucky and his new partner Sam. When he didn’t reappear, Sam and Professor Hulk frantically tried to get him to come back while Bucky spied his finally aged friend sitting on the bench. Steve spoke to Sam and gave him the shield that he retrieved from a divergent time stream effectively naming him as his successor. Same thanks him for what he gave him but does remark that “It feels like it belongs to someone else”.
Flash forward to the start of the show and we are given a much different Sam. Having returned from the blip and saved the universe, Same is now working hand in hand with the USAF to thwart terrorists worldwide. But most importantly, Sam is giving the shield up to the Smithsonian. Despite everything he did for Steve and the universe, Sam doesn’t feel that he is able to carry the mantle that Steve presented him with. As a result, he feels like he doesn’t deserve to carry the shield. Believing his choice to be right one, Sam gives the shield back to the government and tries to move on with his life. The government not wanting to miss an opportunity to have a fully government sanctioned and regulated hero, decides to present the shield to someone else and make them Captain America, that person is John Walker. Now Wyatt Russell, the actor who played Walker, deserves as much praise as anyone else on the series. He made Walker into a character that you couldn’t help but hate yet also sympathize with in his struggle to hold up the mantle. He tries as hard as he can to step into the boots that Steve left, but no matter what he does or how hard he tries, he just can’t measure up, and for someone who’s entire career is based off winning at any cost, that takes a toll.
Sam and Bucky watch as the title and legacy eat away at Walker until he does something you can’t come back from, he kills someone in cold blood using the shield as his murder weapon. Sam and Bucky refuse to let someone destroy their friend’s legacy and take Walker down, breaking his arm in the process. Not only do Sam and Bucky find out about Walker after Sam gave the shield back, but Sam also learns that Steve wasn’t the only Captain America and that an African American man named Isaiah Bradley was given the serum and it worked.
Isaiah was went on one mission before being kept in a prison cell for the majority of his adult life while scientists and government officials poked and prodded him to try and find out why the serum worked on him and nobody else. Isaiah became jaded and with the help of a nurse, declared dead so he could leave the facility and live his life in relative peace.
Same tries to get Isaiah to join him and tell the world what happened but Isaiah refuses stating that “they (the rest of the country) would never let a black man be Captain America”. Sam takes this to heart having experienced racial discrimination on an institutionalized level several times in the series up to that point: being denied a loan at the bank, being detained and searched on the street for arguing with Bucky, etc.
Bucky becomes a driving force behind Sam accepting the mantle because of the fact that he keeps saying that Steve chose Sam. Not only that, but Bucky also says that if Steve was wrong about Sam and the shield than he was wrong about Bucky and his efforts at redemption. Sam seeing how hard Bucky was trying to move on with his past actions relents and allows himself to finally believe that he is worthy of the legacy. It takes some time but Sam finally comes to realize that just because he wasn’t Steve doesn’t mean he can’t do the good that Steve embodied everyday. Steve fought for what he believed the world could be and he nearly died defending that belief in Endgame.
With some help from the Wakandans, an excellent training montage and with some advice from Bucky, Same accepts the mantle that Steve presented him with and becomes the new Captain America.
In his first act while carrying the stars and stripes, Sam with the help of his allies thwarts the Flag Smashers as they attempt to kill the GRC council in New York on the evening they were to vote on establishing the old borders around the world. When he reveals himself to the public and the world as a whole Same delivers one of the best speeches from the MCU to date:
Senator: You did your part in dealing with those terrorists. Now we’ll do ours.
Sam: Are you still going forward with resetting the borders?
Senator 2: Our peacekeeping troops will begin relocating people soon. The terrorists only set us back a bit.
Sam: You have to stop calling them terrorists.
Senator: What else would we call them?
Sam: Your peacekeeping troops, carrying weapons, are forcing millions of people into settlements around the world, right? What do you think those people are going to call you? These labels, terrorists, refugees, thug. They’re often used to get around the question ‘why.’
Senator 2: Those settlements that happened five years ago. Do you think it is fair for governments to have to support that?
Senator: And the people who reappeared only to find someone else living in their family home, they just end up homeless? I get it. But you have no idea how complicated this situation is.
Sam: You know what, you’re right, and that’s a good thing. We finally have a common struggle now. Think about that. For once, all the people who’ve been begging and, I mean, literally begging for you to feel how hard any given day is, now, you know. How did it feel to be helpless? If you can remember what it was like to be helpless and face a force so powerful, it could erase half the planet. You would know that you were about to have the exact same impact. This isn’t about easy decisions. Senator.
Senator: You just don’t understand.
Sam: I’m a black man, carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people out there who are going to hate me for it. Even now, here. I feel it. The stares, the judgment, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. And I’m still here. No super serum. No blonde hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.
We can’t demand that people step up if we don’t meet them halfway. You control the banks. Shit, You can move borders. You can knock down a forest with an email. You could feed a million people with a phone call. But the question is, who was in the room with you when you’re making those decisions? Is it the people you’re going to impact? Or is it just more people like you?
I mean, this girl died trying to stop you. And no one has stopped for one second to ask why. You’ve got to do better. Senator, you’ve got to step up because if you don’t, the next Karli will, and you don’t want to see 2.0. People believed in her cause so much that they helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. Why do you think that is? A few people have just as much power as an insane God or misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is how are you going to use it?
Sam isn’t the perfect soldier. He isn’t some alien with the power of a God, he isn’t a billionaire with fancy exo-suits or a living supersoldier that inspired entire generations. Sam is your average man who was raised in Louisiana by his parents who taught him that if you could help others you had the responsibility to do everything in your power to do so. Sam is the embodiment of what Dr. Erskine said to Steve all those years ago before Project: Rebirth; “…Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
This is why Steve chose Sam as his successor. Because despite everything Sam has been through he never let it change who he was. He isn’t the perfect soldier, he’s a good man. And that’s what Steve hoped he would realize by giving the shield to him.
Sam Wilson is Captain America heart and soul and I, for one, am all for it.