“How does it feel?” Those old words from an old Steve Rogers reverberate throughout Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as Sam Wilson reckons with how it feels to wield Captain America — not just the shield, and not just the name, but all the heavy and existential legacy that comes with it.
We didn’t know it when the credits started to roll on Avengers: Endgame, but we know it now: more than loose plot threads from the days of Endgame, we needed closure on Captain America — and that’s exactly what Falcon and the Winter Soldier provided.
Major spoilers for the Falcon and Winter Soldier finale ahead.
Ask many Marvel fans, and they will tell you that Steve Rogers is the best character in the entire Avengers lineup. (Don’t ask the folks who put up that Tony Stark billboard. It’s a trap.) Replacing Steve in the MCU is not as easy as passing a shield to another character and calling it a day. There’s more to explore. Passing power is never that easy, as much as movies and TV would have you believe otherwise. There are choices to make, big ones.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into television provides the space to explore those choices, and it’s a space that Falcon and Winter Soldier wields with all the seriousness of the shield itself. It offers Sam and viewers alike the opportunity to reckon with America’s history of racism, a hugely important and relevant topic that became the front-and-center conversation in a Marvel property — aka, the biggest franchise around. It’s no small deal.
With six hours spent on his internal and external journey surrounding the question of whether to accept the shield, Sam flies forward not just as a worthy Captain America, but the by-far obvious pick. And it frankly makes Avengers: Endgame all the more powerful. It adds new notes to the final scene between Sam and Steve, where the new Cap doesn’t even blink at the (literally) old Cap’s choice to stay behind in time. It’s a very quick leap from shock and grief to that wry smile: “Did something go wrong, or did something go right?” It’s the new Captain America’s self-described superpower in action: believing that we can do better.
But The Falcon and Winter Soldier finale makes one other incredible thing about Avengers: Endgame even better, too. Alone on a battlefield against Thanos and his army, Captain America steps forward into the fight, ready to take it all on with a broken shield and a battered body. He would have done it, too, as long as his legs would keep him upright. “I can do this all day,” and all that.
He doesn’t do it alone, of course, and that turning of the tides comes in the form of three words that were already significant within Marvel canon, but are now fully iconic: “On your left.”
Following straight behind T’Challa, Shuri, and Okoye, Sam Wilson bursts into battle, one of the very first heroes returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and now we know that it’s not just Sam bursting to light, but the new Captain America of the MCU, flying forward with the promise of a better future on his wings.
Watching those final Sam and Steve moments in Avengers: Endgame will never be the same thanks to Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as much a sequel to the final Avengers movie as it is to the Captain America trilogy. While there is still no closure on what happened next to “Old Man Steve,” at the very least we have a wide-open world to explore with “Uncle Sam.” How does it feel, indeed?
Falcon and Winter Soldier and Avengers: Endgame are streaming now on Disney+.