Firstly, Let me point out that there will be a lot of spoilers for the Falcon and the Winter Soldier show so if you don’t want anything spoiled and you haven’t yet had a chance to see it then take this as a big spoiler warning.

The final episode of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier was released on Disney+ recently and it got me thinking about how many well-developed characters there are in it, the story does focus very heavily on the titular characters but there are many that have surprising depth and character arcs to follow, here are some of them that I really enjoyed:

Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers

Being the antagonist of the program you’d think that they would be the bad guy, the person in the black hat but you’d be wrong Karli and the Flag Smashers start with the best of intentions to help the most desperate of people, those that have come back and have lost everything in the 5 years being dust, they steal medication, food, and supplies to save these people and help anyone who needs it which is very admirable.

Over the course of the program, Karli becomes disillusioned by how harsh the world is and begins to believe the people she fights against don’t deserve to live, killing any who stand in her way believing hers to be the rightful path, when Sam Wilson speaks to her about it she mistakenly says she’d kill them again if she had to, realising how she sounds it shows her the path she has gone down, maybe if Sam and Karli had time to talk it though she may not have gotten to the point of taking hostages and killing people so willfully that she does in the final episode, the Flag Smashers were trying to save the world using the tools that they had: the super-soldier serum.

John Walker/Captain America

Being taken from the role of a soldier which is a very regimented position of being told what is the ‘right’ thing to do to then being thrust into the massive shoes of Captain America was such a huge change for John Walker, you can see throughout the first 3 episodes all he wants to do is do the right thing and to be the symbol that Captain America is but he struggles to make the right decisions in the heat of the moment and clearly has a rage inside him that he struggles to contain.

After his partner is killed by Karli he loses the only thing keeping him on the right path and immediately loses it killing the first Flag-Smasher he can catch, he surrenders to the temper he has and cuts his head off with the same shield that was a symbol to a lot of people, now covered in blood John is shown as almost the antithesis of Captain America, using strength to overpower those he dictates as the enemy, once he is officially stripped of the title and shield John can’t stop and makes his own shield falsely believing he really is Captain America but only having one goal in mind, Revenge.

Fortunately, he realises before it is too late that revenge will not bring his friend back from the grave, and his pursuit of vengeance will only bring more pain to the people around him, when a truck full of people teeters on the precipice of falling he finally snaps out of his rage and saves them, hopefully, this final act will make him realise that revenge is not the path that will save him.

Isaiah Bradley

Even though he has such a sad backstory and he only has a small part in the show Isaiah Bradley is a very important part of the story, after the success of the serum that turned Steve Rogers into a super-soldier and his subsequent loss the US military worked on recreating the serum, during the Korean war a group of African-Americans were experimented on to try and create the next super soldier, Isaiah Bradly was the only person to have received any real powers and was then used by the US as a weapon.

In the show Bucky and Isaiah discuss how the Winter soldier was killing US soldiers in Korea and every single person who went after him was subsequently killed, so they sent in Isaiah to deal with him, unfortunately, after this Isaiah was imprisoned by the same people who he saved and was experimented on again to try and get the super-soldier serum out of him, fortunately, he was able to escape with the help of a nurse working in the prison and faked his own death finally living out a peaceful life in Baltimore.

It’s so sad that even though Isaiah put his life on the line for his country they continually betrayed him in the pursuit of power, even after decades of living peacefully having Sam and Bucky show up to his house reminded him of all the pain that he endured for his country to only have them take everything from him. fortunately, after seeing him and understanding the pain he has endured Sam arranges for a memorial to be made in Isaiah’s honor in the Captain America museum, showing that he was a true hero to a lot of people and that he really deserved the title of being Captain America.

Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier

Bucky has a very dark and painful backstory in that he was forced using brainwashing and mind control to be the Winter Soldier, an assassin used by Hydra to kill off any people who got in their way, and using cryogenic freezing they kept him alive for decades only unfreezing him to wipe his mind and use him as a weapon.

After all this time he is finally free of their control and has a chance to heal, using the futuristic medical advances of Wakanda Bucky is deprogrammed and moves back to America to live in secret and make amends for all the people he has hurt, working with a Psychiatrist he makes a list of all the people who either he gave power to or who he killed while being the Winter Soldier and to either capture or help them, but even with all the work he puts in he still has nightmares of people he killed and is haunted by their faces.

Even though he is working to be a better person he is still struggling and throughout the show he shows how much he still hates himself for all the terrible things he has done, and even with the help of Steve Rogers he worries that he is still that same weapon that Hydra used all those years ago, he even mentions when discussing with Sam Wilson why he gave up the shield, that if Steve was wrong about giving Sam the shield then he might have been wrong about him being a good person,

In the final episode, Bucky finally realises with the help of Sam that he is not the same person all those years ago and learns to finally forgive himself and consoles the final person on his list, the father of a man he murdered when he was brainwashed, this is a huge moment as it shows how far he has come mentally finally coming to terms with the things he has done and also allowing himself to be forgiven for it.

Sam Wilson/The Falcon and Captain America

The Falcon is one of my favorite characters, throughout the MCU history he has always shown heart and courage, even when he is faced with an unimaginable force to fight and even while surrounded by super-powered gods and monsters he is still there facing down that threat, even though he has no powers to speak of only his jet-powered wingsuit he never falters when he needs to stand up for a cause that needs him.

In the first episode Sam is not sure if the shield is even his to keep, still believing it to truly belong to Steve Rogers he surrenders it to a memorial for Captain America, unfortunately, the American government have other plans and take the shield and give it John Walker naming him the new Captain America, the betrayal that Sam must have felt at this point must have been terrible, to see the shield that was carried as a symbol by his friend for years was taken and given to someone who hadn’t earned the right to carry it causes friction between Sam and John.

Throughout the show, Sam shows the same optimism and internal strength that Steve always showed, even when faced with a group of superhuman terrorists, he sits down with Karli Morgenthau and tries to talk her down using the same ability he has to comfort veterans who struggle with PTSD, he sits and comforts Karli almost talking her out of hurting anymore people.
That is Sam’s true superpower: Empathy, he has the ability to care about everyone and understand the pain and struggles that they endure, that’s why partnering up with Bucky was the best decision, as it helped Bucky out of the dark place that the Winter Soldier left him,

After John Walker takes the life of one of the Flag Smashers Sam still tries to talk him around and shows he never resorts to force as a first choice but when it is apparent there is no changing his mind, both Sam and Bucky disarm John taking the shield back putting it back in the rightful hands of Sam, and when he has it he immediately shows that Steves decision to give him the shield was the right one, after being given a new set of armor and wings made out of the indestructible metal vibranium by the Wakandans, Sam stands tall as the new Captain America showing the world that he has earned that title, he defeats the Flag Smashers and saves those that are in danger.

Even after all the people that Karli has killed and the damage she has caused in the pursuit of creating one world, Sam still will not fight her letting her pound away on his shield to wear her out, he still believes he can help her and save her from the self-destructive path she has put herself down, but unfortunately, he is unable to save her and she is shot dead by Sharon Carter, this is followed by a very symbolistic moment where Sam carries the body of Karli in his arms as he glides back down to the city floor, making him seem almost angelic and showing that even in death Sam gives everyone the respect they deserve, this empathy and good nature will carry the new Captain America to new heights (if you’ll excuse the pun) and create a new symbol for people to look up to and aspire to be better.

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