The Falcon and the Winter Soldier explored the fallout of Steve Rogers’ decision to hand down the shield to Sam Wilson. This didn’t go down so well with some in the government, who chose the blonde-haired, blue-eyed football hero and veteran John Walker as the ‘official’ replacement.
The plan didn’t work out, with the pressure of having to fill Steve Rogers’ shoes combined with the psychological impact of the super soldier treatment resulting in a complete breakdown. The low point was Walker murdering one of the “flag smashers” in public by beating them to death with Cap’s shield, leaving it streaked with blood.
Soon after, Walker was stripped of the official title, though his story isn’t over yet. The final moments saw him recruited into the Thunderbolts as ‘U.S. Agent’, though a paramilitary group of questionable moral quality might not be great for his future mental health. But, after hating him throughout the show’s run, Marvel fans have begun warming to Walker.
A thread on r/MarvelStudios underlines the intense pressure put on him, saying that most of Marvel’s heroes would have buckled under the pressure. The death of his friend Lamar is the key factor, with the OP wondering if Rogers would have gone down a similar route if Bucky were killed like that.
Others say that if Steve Rogers is how America “should be”, then John Walker is a reflection of the reality: lashing out, morally compromised, and teetering on the edge of sanity. After all, let’s not throw stones in glass houses here.
The Super Soldier Serum messing with his head is also a major mitigating factor. Presumably, he wasn’t informed of the psychological side effects, and it’s irresponsible for the military to put him through the process without having a team monitoring his mental health at all times.
It’ll be fascinating to see how John Walker works as part of an ensemble when the Thunderbolts get off the ground. It’s possible that after a taste of humiliation and failure he’ll commit worse acts — but then that seems to be exactly what Contessa is looking for.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to stream on Disney Plus.