Ever since he first dared to adopt Steve Rogers's star-spangled identity, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have been waiting for that moment where Wyatt Russell's John Walker royally screws up as Captain America. And now everyone's least favorite Cap has gone and left Steve's signature star-spangled shield stained... with blood. In the finale scene of "The World is Watching" — the fourth chapter of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's six-episode run — Walker straight-up murders a defenseless Flag Smasher in front of a crowd of civilians, who capture the execution on their cell phones. It's a dark moment for a symbol that's supposed to represent the best of America, and starkly illustrated the enormous divide between the man who previously wielded the shield and the one who carries it now.
Not for nothing, but Russell would likely take those intense reactions as a win. “If you don’t [get that reaction], you did something wrong," the actor told Yahoo Entertainment recently about the antipathy fans have for John. "I don’t like telling people how to feel because it’s like explaining your art. It sounds cheesy, but it is. You go out and you do it, and however you feel is how you’re supposed to feel. I am not here to say, ‘You should like him!’"
And, for the most part, FAWS viewers are taking care to separate the art from the artist, praising Russell for embracing Walker's many, many flaws.
Of course, Walker's explosion didn't come out of nowhere: that act capped a series of dramatic events that exposed all the turmoil lurking below the mask. First, John was battered around by Ayo and other members of Wakanda's elite security force, the Dora Milaje, who handily defeated him without the aid of any enhancements like the Super Soldier serum that Flag Smasher leader, Karli Morgenthau, is carrying. Viewers were as shook by that epic beatdown as Walker, albeit for very different reasons.
With the bruises from that encounter still fresh, it's no surprise that John later pockets one of the last remaining vials of Super Soldier serum — the ingredient he clearly feels would complete his transformation into Steve's rightful heir. Because even though the Department of Defense feels he's right for the job, based on his performance in training and on the ground in Afghanistan, he's still intimidated by the weight of the symbol he's been tasked with carrying. "Becng Cap is the first time I've had the chance to do something that feels right," he tells his friend and partner, Lemar Hoskins, who encourages John's "pro serum" thoughts by floating the theory that: "Power just makes a person more of themselves, right?"
Lemar is also central to Walker's final evolution from aspiring hero to fallen hero. During a climactic brawl that pits Sam, Bucky, Lemar and a newly serum-enhanced Cap against the Flag Smashers, the erstwhile "Battlestar" absorbs a blow that knocks him down for the count, permanently. Enraged, Walker pursues one of Karli's fleeing henchmen and puts the power coursing through his veins to bloody use. Despite encouraging his pal's worst tendencies, fans were still sorry to see Lemar go, especially since it meant he'd never get to wear his comic book counterpart's awesome costume.
With two episodes left, there are still some major questions that the FAWS writers have to resolve, including, "When will Sam get the shield back?" and "Who the heck is the Power Broker anyway?" While Sharon Carter is widely perceived to be the answer to the latter query, there are other theories circulating that point the finger at a variety of MCU culprits.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+.
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