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Warning: SPOILERS for the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are ahead!
From the moment it was announced that Wyatt Russell would play John Walker in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Marvel fans familiar with U.S. Agent were certain the character was headed down a dark path. While Walker doesn’t fully fall into the supervillain category in the comics, he is definitely an anti-hero whose methods are more brutal than Steve Rogers’, so for a lot of people have been waiting for his Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart to follow suit. That finally happened in the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with Walker ruthlessly murdering someone in public.
John Walker was already struggling with being the new Captain America in the previous episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but the events of “The Whole World Is Watching” made things much worse for him. From not getting Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to cooperate with him over their efforts to apprehend Karli Morgenthau, to getting badly beaten by the Dora Milaje of Black Panther fame when they came to haul Zemo back to Wakanda, Walker reached peak insecurity. He only caught one break in the episode: Zemo missed destroying one Super Soldier Serum vial when he got the drop on Karli, and after discovering said vial, Walker later injected himself with the formula.
Unfortunately, that good luck was soon offset when Lemar Hoskins, a.k.a. Battlestar, was accidentally killed by Karli during a scuffle between our protagonists and the Flag-Smashers. Overcome by rage, John Walker chased down one of the other Flag-Smashers and bashed him to death with his shield. This horrifying act was filmed by numerous people on their phones, so Walker’s once promising reputation as Captain America has now been tainted, if not completely ruined.
While John Walker has wanted to make a positive difference in the world as Captain America, he’s consistently shown an edge in the role and grown increasingly overaggressive, to the point that he literally once yelled at someone “Do you know who I am?” Being humiliated in “The Whole World Is Watching” was the tipping point, and now that he has Super Soldier Serum in his veins, those less-than-stellar qualities will only be enhanced. Remember what Dr. Abraham Erskine told Steve Rogers about his formula in Captain America: The First Avenger:
The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows... compassion.
Of course, what defines a good man isn’t something that can easily be answered, and even good men and women can fall from grace. In John Walker’s case, it’s been made abundantly clear he’s no Steve Rogers, but few can measure to up to his legacy. Sam and Bucky have been struggling with this in their own ways, and even Zemo acknowledged that Steve was an exception to his theory that one cannot be a superhuman without also being a supremacist. But make no mistake, John Walker’s true colors have been shown. It’s understandable he was upset about his best friend/field partner being killed, but retaliating in kind against the Flag-Smasher that didn’t even end Lemar’s life went a step too far.
Whether John Walker will descend further into antagonist territory or be able to partially redeem himself before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier concludes remains to be seen, as well as if he’ll even take on the U.S. Agent moniker. But as things stand now, it’s been solidified that he doesn’t deserve to wield the Captain America shield. Luckily, we know from promos that eventually Sam and Bucky will retrieve the weapon, and however they accomplish this, it’ll be for the better. Between that, stopping the remaining Flag-Smashers, capturing Zemo and uncovering the mystery behind the Power Broker, there’s a lot this series has to cram in over just a few remaining hours.