Who will wield the shield? It's the question at the heart of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Marvel's second Disney+ series, and it's only grown more complicated as the show has gone on.
Right now, two contenders for Captain America's legacy are still in play, each one armed with shields of their own. But is there still another candidate in play for Cap's shield? An iconic image from Avengers: Endgame leaves the possibility wide open as we head into the Falcon and Winter Soldier endgame.
We’re all expecting Sam Wilson to become the next Captain America, but in doing so we may be overlooking a huge loose thread from the end of Avengers: Endgame; one that even the most eagle-eyed fans seem to be overlooking.
The Broken Avenger
Endgame’s finale battle is Marvel's very best action scene for so many epic reasons. There's the "on your left" of it all. There's Iron Man's final sacrifice. Then, of course, there's the most crowd-pleasing moment in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, let alone the Russo Brothers' final Avengers movie: Captain America wielding Thor's hammer Mjolnir.
But Steve Rogers carrying Mjolnir is only half of what makes his final battle scene so powerful. In his other hand, Steve still wields the shield, using Tony Stark-levels of ingenuity to make the mighty Thor's signature weapon and his own signature shield work in tandem. It's a fusion of the three core Avengers' best powers in one tight sequence.
And still, it's not enough to topple Thanos. Steve fights valiantly but momentarily loses the battle as Thanos butchers Captain America's shield, breaking the symbol in half. It's the low point of the fight until all of Cap's friends assemble for the final push — and it might be more important than you think.
Where is Captain America’s broken shield?
So much happens in the final moments of Endgame, both in terms of Steve and far beyond him, that it's easy to lose sight of that question … and that might be a huge oversight on the part of the fandom.
At the end of Endgame, Steve returns from his time-travel mission and gives his shield to Sam Wilson. But this is not the same shield he used in the final battle against Thanos. When Steve travels back in time, he's armed only with Mjolnir and the Infinity Stones, nothing more. He's left his broken shield behind him. The shield Steve gives Sam is from another reality altogether, which is certainly a provocative thing to think about for a number of reasons.
Here's one of those reasons: Cap's original shield is still in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, completely unaccounted for. So who has it, and will they make a push to become the next Captain America?
The Next Next Captain America
There are two shields on the table right now. First, Sam has the one given to him by Steve. Second, there's the shield John Walker is forging for himself.
But where's the broken shield? Who has it?
The answer could help dictate the present state as well as the future state of Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will a third player emerge with a claim to the star-spangled mantle, as it were? And if so, who are some of the candidates?
If Sharon Carter is the Power Broker, could she make a play for the proverbial throne with the shattered shield?
Is this an opportunity for Bucky Barnes to pick up half of Steve's legacy, a symbolic gesture as he goes on to help Sam actualize his role as the new Cap?
The Inverse Analysis — There's so much still in the air for Falcon and Winter Soldier, including quite literally Sam himself, should he get his wings back online (or get a Wakandan upgrade). With only one episode left on the clock, it might be too late to delve into the third Captain America shield in play.
But while it may not make a comeback in Falcon and Winter Soldier, it's worth keeping in mind that this third shield is still very much out there. Maybe Marvel doesn't have plans for it yet, but that's the keyword: yet.
Avengers: Endgame is streaming now on Disney+.