Through the first four episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Walker has proven to be a corrupted version of the Captain America ideal that Steve Rogers embodied. Whereas Steve Rogers grew from humble origins into the noble leader of the Avengers, Walker was gifted the gig as an extension of a decorated military career. From there, the differences only grow, leading Rogers down a path of righteousness, and Walker down another. Though the series is by no means over, this new Captain America calls into question the viability of super-soldiers as American symbols of power and peace, betraying that which Steve Rogers held most sacred.

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After Steve returned the Infinity Stones and grew old with Peggy Carter at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he offered the shield to Sam Wilson, who nobly declined the gesture, believing the role impossible to fill. Unfortunately for Sam, he was right; nevertheless, the United States government saw fit to try it anyways and push their candidate through. Introduced in Episode 2 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “The Star-Spangled Man,” John Walker is a three-time Medal of Honor recipient for his distinguished military service in Afghanistan. Though he initially displays humility and trepidation at the weight of the Captain America moniker, he soon grows into the role in a way entirely different from Steve Rogers.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve begins his journey as a scrawny kid unfit for enlistment yet bursting with valor. When he’s given the serum and subsequently used as a marketing ploy to sell war bonds, he’s uncomfortable in the public eye, preferring instead to utilize his unique skillset in real acts of heroism. John Walker, on the other hand, takes his role as a public figure very seriously, even seeming to enjoy — or at times demand — the recognition associated with the shield. While Captain Rogers never let the weight of the job compromise his integrity, Walker by Episode 4 has grown frustrated and jealous. Whether because of political expectations or personal insecurity, he hijacks Sam and Bucky’s operation with the goal of exterminating the Flag Smashers threat, takes the serum, and becomes a perversion of the super-soldier that Steve Rogers never let overtake him.

Walker Used the Shield to Execute Someone

In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4 “The Whole World is Watching,” John Walker brutally kills Nico, one of Karli Morgenthau’s Flag Smasher accomplices, following the death of his partner, Lemar Hoskins (a.k.a. Battlestar). Steve Rogers is no stranger to killing enemies in the line of duty, but it’s the manner in which the new Cap did the deed that separates the two. Walker chases down his victim and, despite desperate pleas of “it wasn’t me!” from Nico, forgoes all manner of jurisprudence and kills him before a crowd of appalled onlookers (hence, the episode title). What’s worse, Walker uses the Captain America shield —not only a symbol of patriotism, but an intrinsically defensive object—to execute Nico. Both the shield, and the reputation Steve Rogers built for it, are resultantly stained with blood.

Walker Was Willing to Use Surveillance on People

A key component of Steve Rogers’ arc in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was his aversion to the surveillance state being developed by S.H.I.E.L.D., or rather HYDRA posing as the former. Although he was working from an arguably outdated perspective, having only recently come out of the ice, he noted the hypocrisy in Project Insight’s concept, likening it to “holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.” Walker, on the other hand, embraces the tactical advantage afforded to him by military surveillance technology, using it to track Sam and Bucky so he can eliminate the Flag Smashers threat. Sam also takes advantage of keeping tabs on Walker, as Sharon Carter reports on the new Cap’s moves in Episode 4. Perhaps in the internet age, Steve Rogers’ anti-surveillance stance has become antiquated, but it nevertheless represents another difference between the old and new Cap.

Walker Seeks Admiration for His Accomplishments

Steve Rogers always displayed humility for his acts of valor, and he never used his elevated station to gain unfair advantages or benefits. Alternatively, Walker shows that he feels he’s owed some level of respect simply by virtue of his inhabiting the Captain America role. From the first tenuous olive branch he offers to Sam and Bucky as they ride in the Jeep together after the 18-wheeler fight in Episode 2, to his angry “do you know who I am?” retort when he’s spit on by one of Morgenthau’s alleged accomplices in Episode 3. Steve understood that respect for the uniform is earned not by virtue of the title itself, but by the example he led.

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Walker Embraces the Public Relations Component of Captain America

Leading by example was always Steve’s go-to approach, as he favored direct, boots-on-the-ground contributions to the cause over the more roundabout public relations/marketing angle. John Walker, on the other hand, falls seamlessly into his station as a public figure, beginning with his introductory interview in Episode 2, and continued with his signing of autographs in Episode 4. In his Avengers days, Steve found a foil in Tony Stark, who also relished the attention of the public eye. Unlike Walker, however, Stark was able to translate this confidence positively on the battlefield, leveraging his charisma to hold the team together. Comparatively, Walker exudes a Napoleon complex, and instead of confidence, his aggression feels performative, as if in an attempt to measure up to the great expectations of the shield.

Walker Forced Bucky to Leave Therapy to Go on a Mission

Steve was devoted to his country and a moral right, but his devotion to his childhood friend Bucky rivaled if not overtook those commitments. He practically divided the Avengers on the strength of his belief in Bucky’s humanity. A soldier, he understood the mental toll of that line of work, realized in full when he attended Sam Wilson’s support group in The Winter Soldier. So, naturally, he would never ask his suffering friend to forgo his mental and physical wellbeing in pursuit of a perp. Walker’s disregard for Bucky’s healing process shows an ignorance that Steve never displayed. Though The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has a spotty relationship with the accuracy of its portrayal of therapy, Walker’s move here was definitely a faux-pas.

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Walker Treats Sam & Bucky as Sidekicks and Inferiors

No matter the background, rank, or status of his contemporaries, Steve always knew how to treat people with respect. He trusted that if he respected his subordinates, they would deliver, and so he treated them as equally human. Walker does not possess this knack for leadership graces, and he consistently fails to acknowledge Sam or Bucky as his equals, when in fact they have a good case for being his superiors from a resume perspective. As is the case with his admiration issue, Walker doesn’t understand the nuances of leadership that came naturally to Steve. And now that Walker has taken the super-soldier serum, what was inside him will be amplified. For Steve, it was his pureness of heart and morally incorruptible character. For Walker, it appears to be his insecurity and aggression. The upcoming episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will undoubtedly explore how this dynamic plays out, further highlighting the differences between the old and new Captain America.

Key Release Dates
  • Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
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