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The Falcon And The Winter Soldier's Place In The MCU Is Even More Crucial Than You Thought

With the recent conclusion of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," it seems Marvel has proven that "WandaVision" wasn't just a fluke. With both of these Disney+ original series boasting Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes ratings and fans still buzzing about theories and memes, it's safe to say that the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn't end when "Avengers: Endgame" closed out the decade-spanning Infinity Saga in 2019.

But "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" isn't just important to the MCU because it's good. The events that transpire over the course of the series' six episodes play a crucial role in defining the future of the franchise, and their reverberations will no doubt be felt in future Marvel superhero stories on both the big and small screen. Here's why "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is an even more crucial piece of the MCU saga than you might have thought.

Sam Wilson now fully embodies Captain America

Upon Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) retirement at the end of "Avengers: Endgame," the original Captain America passed his mantle and shield on to Sam Wilson, The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). But "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" opens with Sam handing the shield over to the U.S. government to be placed in the Smithsonian's Captain America collection. The rest of the series delves into why Sam made this decision, and how he (with the help of former Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes) comes to officially fill Captain America's shoes.

"A big question of the series was, can we make it feel like this [the shield] is Sam's?" executive producer Nate More said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "Not that it was given to Sam, but this is Sam's. In my mind, the notion that Sam would, if we're ever so lucky, be the head of the Avengers one day."

This opens up many potential prospects for the character once known as Falcon. Continuing the legacy of Steve Rogers is no small task, as the character is meant to represent the best of humanity. The last Captain America was worthy of wielding Mjolnir, one of the universe's most powerful weapons. Truly becoming Captain America makes Sam Wilson one of the most influential people in the entire series. He's no longer a sidekick — he's a leader, a teacher, and possibly the most important defender Earth has.

In fact, the new Cap has already changed the world

Throughout the emotionally-potent story about Sam Wilson grappling with the implications of being a Black Captain America, there are multiple plotlines in which Sam betters the wider world around him. The show's main conflict surrounds Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), leader of the group known as "The Flag Smashers." This ambitious group of super-soldiers became refugees after the "Blip" brought back half the world's population at the end of "Avengers: Endgame." Facing reassignment into camps by the Global Repatriation Council, an international organization responsible for managing the sudden population increase, Karli intends to reunite the world with a common purpose and end the GRC's mistreatment by any means.

However, her methods become increasingly violent, and Sam knows he has to stop her, despite agreeing with her motives. As Captain America, Sam finally speaks with the GRC and convinces them to alter their policy to provide greater support for the Blip's refugees

At the same time, Bucky introduces Sam to Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a Black super soldier who was abused and mistreated by the U.S. government, and who received no credit for his heroic deeds in the military. Though the two disagree on the plausibility of a Black Captain America, Sam and Isaiah find a mutual respect. After becoming Captain America, Sam uses his newfound influence to give Isaiah his own spot in the Captain America museum.

New and unpredictable characters have entered the fray

It wouldn't be a true MCU event if it didn't leave a plot thread or two dangling for the future stories to pick up. No doubt, one of the most important ones presented by "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is the introduction of John Walker (Wyatt Russel). When Sam Wilson gives up Captain America's shield, the U.S. Government decides to name Walker the next Captain America. However, once Walker takes his own super soldier serum and proves too violent and unstable to fill the role of Cap, Sam and Bucky take the shield back.

Enter Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), known in the comics as Madame Hydra (or Val for short). Despite the misleading name, comic book Val is actually a true-blue SHIELD agent (via Marvel Wiki). In the MCU, however, her origins and motives remain unknown, which is why fans have reason to be concerned when she picks up Walker following his loss of the Captain America title and grants him the Moniker "U.S. Agent."

The finale found Walker making an effort to correct his past lapses in judgment, so it's uncertain whether this pair will prove themselves to be friend or foe to the Avengers. Moore also told EW that "it actually would have been selling the character [of John Walker] short just to go full heel." Regardless of their morality, however, it's clear that U.S. Agent and Val are going to be big parts of the MCU in the near future, for better or worse.

Meanwhile, old characters remain active

But those two newcomers aren't the only MCU characters with big plans for the future. When Sam, Bucky, and the recently freed Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) begin tracking Karli Morgenthau, they reunite with ex-SHIELD agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). After the events of "Captain America: Civil War," Sharon was exiled from the U.S. and (unbeknownst to the others) became the mysterious Power Broker. This influential mastermind rules the underworld in the city of Madripoor, and possesses power beyond any of the heroes' reckoning.

When Sharon reunites with Sam and Bucky in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," she plays the part of the innocent victim. She convinces them that life on the run has been nothing but torture for her, and that she desperately wants to return to the U.S. and SHIELD. When Sam Wilson uses his new influence to make this happen at the show's conclusion, he's actually playing right into the Power Broker's hands. Now with access to top-level government secrets and technology, she's poised to take advantage of new opportunities. The full effects of her meddling are yet to be seen.