Today’s fifth and penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a hugely significant one whichever way you slice it, as it explored weighty, real-world themes, ramped up the plot and featured a surprise cameo from someone who could be a major new player in the MCU. What’s more, it teased Sam Wilson finally embracing his destiny as the next Captain America. And, at the same time, it just established who will take over from him as the new Falcon.
As well as Bucky, Sam’s had another ally backing him up throughout the season so far, Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), a young intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. You might say the Falcon had taken Torres under his wing, and that literally came true in episode 5. After Sam and Bucky manage to apprehend John Walker, an exhausted Wilson takes his destroyed wings to Torres so he can fix them up. But when Sam leaves with just the shield, Joaquin asks what he wants to do about the wings. “You keep ’em,” Wilson says.
It’s not exactly a heartwarming passing of the torch, like Old Man Steve handing Sam the shield in Avengers: Endgame, but this moment could be more significant than it first appears. In the comics, Torres is the second Falcon after Wilson takes over as Captain America. Debuting in 2015, he was a Mexican teen who was experimented on by the Serpent Society, turning him into a human/bird hybrid using DNA from Sam’s pet Redwing, which meant the heroes had a telepathic link. Wilson then invited Torres to be his sidekick as Falcon.
That origin story is probably a bit outlandish for the MCU, but Sam leaving Torres to do what he wants with his wing suit keeps the door open for him to decide to follow in his friend’s footsteps in some future chapter of the franchise. Whether that’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2 or somewhere else. In any case, the finale may shed further light on what’s next for the character.