Last night, Marvel Studios released the new trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The trailer featured footage of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) battling the anarchist terrorist group called the Flag-Smashers, including one who may or may not be Songbird. However, U.S. Agent is curiously absent from the footage, which seems strange as he is one possible heir to the shield in a series that is supposed to determine the next Captain America. Perhaps Marvel is keeping U.S. Agent out of the spotlight to preserve a twist, that John Walker is both U.S. Agent and Flag-Smasher.
If you're not familiar with the comics, you might be confused. While the Flag-Smashers are an organization in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Flag-Smasher is a costumed persona that multiple Captain America antagonists have used over the years. In that way, it isn't unlike what is happening with the Captain America title at the center of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's plot. While Flag-Smasher has led the ULTIMATUM terrorist organization in the comics, it seems the Marvel Studios creatives decided that Flag-Smashers was a catchier name and gave it to the whole "anti-patriotism" group.
Co-creator Mark Gruenwald conceived Flag-Smasher as a symbolic villain. Where Red Skull was the embodiment of Nazi fascism, Flag-Smasher represented anti-patriotism, anti-nationalism, anarchist ideologies. In a way, that made him the polar opposite of John Walker, another creation of Gruenwald and artist Paul Neary, who replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America for a time in the comics before later becoming U.S. Agent. Where Steve Rogers represented the best of American ideology, Gruenwald intended Walker to be Captain America as a villain, embodying the darker aspects of national pride and the practical realities that Steve Rogers' ideals elevated him above.
By turning anarcho-terrorist Flag-Smasher and nationalist zealot U.S. Agent into a single character, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can link his fanatically patriotic ideas to violent acts, or it could take down "both sides" of political extremism in one blow, a move drenched in the centrist politics to which Hollywood blockbuster franchises often cling. Simultaneously, it would also be the kind of "big twist" reveal befitting the spiritual successor to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which revealed Hydra's infiltration and corruption of SHIELD. The math adds up.
Do you think Marvel Studios will go this route with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know what you think in the comments. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will debut on Disney+ on March 19th.