This post contains spoilers for the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally supposed to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into television on Disney+. The pandemic foiled those plans, and WandaVision went first. But now that both shows have wrapped up, MCU fans are finally starting to get a sense of what a post-Steve Rogers, post-Tony Stark world might look like.
Sam Wilson finally took on the mantle of Captain America and will be a key player in Phase 4 of the Marvel Universe. Until now, the Avengers team has faced what Sam (accurately and hilariously) calls “The Big Three”: Aliens, Androids and Wizards. But let’s not forget about the threats from erratic supersoldiers, Russian spies and old friends who become new enemies.
By the end of the show, Sam has plenty of new bad guys to take on, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ mysterious villain Contessa Val, her new minion U.S. Agent and the Power Broker herself, who turns out to be (spoiler alert) Captain America’s old ally, Sharon Carter. These new rivalries will likely impact the plots of future movies and shows, including Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and even the Wakanda-set TV show in the works at Disney+.
Here’s what’s next for the MCU.
Will The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have a season 2?
Marvel has not yet announced whether The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will get a second season. Marvel Studios seems to plan to have characters from its TV series frequently appear on the big screen and vice versa. Wanda, for instance, will follow up her WandaVision arc with a part in the movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
As of right now, Anthony Mackie (who plays Sam Wilson) and Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes) are not set to appear in any Marvel movies or shows. But obviously, their characters aren’t retiring. Likely, Marvel was holding its cards close to the vest until Mackie made his official debut as the new Captain America. We can likely expect an announcement on a new Captain America movie or TV show soon.
It’s also possible that the characters will make cameos in other shows and movies before that moment. Bucky, for instance, has close ties to Wakanda and could appear in the forthcoming Black Panther sequel or the Wakanda series planned for Disney+. And surely the new Captain America could be called on by any of the other Avengers to battle evildoers.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Val is the next big bad
You don’t hire Julia Louis-Drefyus for a small cameo in a TV show. To the surprise and delight of many Marvel fans, it looks like the Seinfeld and Veep vet will be a major villain in future MCU movies.
Louis-Drefyus’ Contessa Valentina de Fontaine was supposed to make her big Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Black Widow. But that movie was delayed for over a year because of the pandemic—it’s now releasing in July—and it’s unclear whether Dreyfus will appear in it at all.
But we do meet her in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a mysterious figure eager to fund the further adventures of the erratic John Walker after he’s stripped of his Captain America title.
In the comics, Val was a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent romantically tied to Nick Fury. But it’s eventually revealed that she is a double agent and in fact works for the Russian spy ring Leviathan. Leviathan was a rival of HYDRA and briefly showed up onscreen in the short-lived MCU TV series Agent Carter.
Val’s Russian origins would explain how she might play into the Black Widow plot since Natasha Romanoff was also trained as a covert Russian agent before defecting to the U.S. and joining S.H.I.E.L.D. We can even speculate that perhaps Natasha used to work for Leviathan or for Val.
Given Val’s connections, it seems that, like HYDRA, Leviathan has infiltrated the U.S. government and is up to no good. They will likely supplant the now mostly-defunct HYDRA as the villainous presence in the future Captain America stories.
U.S. Agent will likely be an agent of chaos
John Walker is a rather erratic presence in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, flipping back and forth between noble hero and villain with anger management issues, multiple times. Val sees potential in this entitled, unpredictable soldier and gives him a new suit and the name U.S. Agent at the end of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale.
In the comics, the government strips John Walker of his Captain America title but allows him to continue operating as a supersoldier. He heads up the West Coast Avengers for awhile, though his unpredictable behavior and bigoted views disturb other members of the super-team. They never fully trust him. He participates in various super-team team-ups throughout the years and even becomes warden of The Raft for awhile.
Whether U.S. Agent will be an agent of chaotic good or chaotic evil in the MCU has yet to be seen, but I’m betting on the latter.
This probably isn’t he last we’ll see of Zemo
Almost certainly not. Marvel seems interested in exploring a new arc for Zemo. Daniel Bruhl got some of the quippiest lines and craziest outfits in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We found out that he is, basically, Marvel’s Batman, an immensely wealthy loner with a faithful old butler. And while he did kill people in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he arguably only killed “bad guys,” the scientist who created the supersoldier serum and a group of Red Hand flunkies. Well, that’s an argument he would make, anyway.
Yes, Zemo murdered Black Panther’s father, T’Chaka. And it’s not totally clear how Marvel might help Zemo win the audience over again. But Marvel has a way of swaying our sympathies toward villains who speak truth to power. In Black Panther, Killmonger is right about Wakanda’s imperative to help those impacted by a long history of colonialism and racism—it’s his violent means to that end that are the problem. Even Thanos has a point about the environment, though he could have used the Infinity Stones to double the resources in the universe rather than cutting the number of living beings in half.
Zemo has a sympathetic backstory—the Avengers accidentally murdered his family—and plenty of charm. This is not the first time that Marvel would have transformed one of its most popular and eccentric villains into an anti-hero. Loki, who killed what was probably thousands of innocent people when he attacked New York City in Avengers, is now getting his own TV show.
At the end of episode 5, the Dora Milaje capture Zemo and tell Bucky they are taking him to The Raft, a prison in the middle of the sea where Bucky, Sam and Cap’s other allies were once held during Captain America: Civil War. In the comics, the Raft has acted as both a prison and the home base for a super-villains group that Zemo creates called the Thunderbolts. It’s possible that a villainous Thunderbolts super-group could be in the works.
Sharon Carter will be a double agent
We now know that Sharon Carter was the Power Broker. She seems to be something of a kingpin on the island of Magipoor, funding supersoldier research to build her own goon squad and selling artwork on the black market.
Now, thanks to an unwitting Sam, she’s gotten a pardon and her old job back as an agent with the U.S. government. As she leaves D.C., she calls her associates to let them know she’ll now have access to U.S. government information and is willing to sell to the highest bidder.
Could Peggy Carter’s niece really break bad? It’s likely that Sharon will end up more an anti-hero or a thorn in Sam’s side than a true villain. After all, she did save Sam’s life. Don’t be surprised if her old boss Nick Fury or even an elderly Captain America himself shows up to set an old friend straight.
Danny Ramirez will become Falcon
Remember when Sam decided to carry Captain America’s shield? His friend, Joaquin Torres, asked Sam what he should do with Sam’s old wings. “Keep ’em,” Sam said.
After that, many fans expected actor Danny Ramirez to don the wings in the next episode and become the new Falcon, as Joaquin does in the comics. We didn’t quite get that image in the finale—and Sam got his own set of Wakandan-built wings in his new Captain America uniform. But expect Joaquin to eventually emerge as Sam’s wingman—literally. The superhero is named Wingman.
Eli Bradley will probably join the Young Avengers
With all these new bad guys it’s hard to imagine how the remaining Avengers will take all of them on. But don’t lose hope: we’re getting more heroes too. Elijah Bradley, Isaiah Bradley’s grandson, will likely rise as a new hero in the MCU.
Marvel has been long hinting at a future Young Avengers team. In the comics, Wanda and Vision’s children, Billy and Tommy, become part of that Young Avengers team. And while Wanda’s children were revealed to be mere creations of her subconscious in WandaVision, the finale of that show hinted that Wanda was figuring out a way to bring Billy, Tommy and Vision to life once again.
We’ve already met Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie Lang who aspires to be a superhero herself. Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, and Riri Williams, a.k.a. Ironheart, are each getting their own TV show on Disney+. Kate Bishop, Hawkeye’s protege, is set to star in Hawkeye. Teen hero America Chavez will be a character in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In the comics, Elijah Bradley become the superhero Patriot, modeling his costume after those of Captain America and Bucky, and a founding member of the Young Avengers team.
Many fans are also hoping for a throwback show that chronicles the adventures of the first Black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley.
More hints the X-Men are coming
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made a short pitstop in Madripoor, a fictional island where basically every bad guy in the MCU hangs out and does evil stuff like taking shots of snake guts. Madripoor also happens to be a favorite haunt of Wolverine, and several fans speculated we might get a look at Logan in the series.
That didn’t happen—Disney has not yet even announced who they’ll hire to replace Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in future films. But the X-Men are definitely on their way to the MCU. Disney bought Fox and thus acquired the rights to use the mutants (not to mention the Fantastic Four) in future MCU films. It’s just a matter of timing.
In the meantime, Marvel Studios is having a little fun with its audience. First came Fake Pietro: In WandaVision, Wanda’s murdered brother Pietro (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Avengers: Age of Ultron) shows up on her doorstep, but he’s played by Evan Peters, who portrayed Pietro in Fox’s X-Men movies. Fans speculated that he might be the key to a parallel universes plot that would usher the X-Men into the MCU, but he turned out to just be some schlub named “Ralph Boner,” a masterful or annoying troll, depending on your perspective.
That show also suggested that Wanda had her powers from birth, and they were only amplified by an Infinity Stone. That could mean she (and Pietro) had their powers from birth, thanks to the X-gene. So we may already have technically met mutants in the MCU.
Now the appearance of Magipoor feels like a tease. We do know based on the trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that our newest Marvel superhero, Shang-Chi, will wind up in Magipoor at some point in that movie. So we are inching ever closer to reuniting with Wolverine and Storm and Magneto.
Read more: Every Single X-Men Movie, Ranked
While we don’t yet know whether The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2 will happen, fans can look forward to many more shows on Disney+ while they wait.
Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston, is set to premiere June 11. What If?, an animated series featuring the voices of MCU stars, Ms. Marvel, about the first Muslim superhero int he MCU, and Hawkeye, starring Hailee Steinfeld, are all also set to debut in 2021.
Next comes the Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight, the Tatiana Maslany show She-Hulk and a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, all premiering this year, as well. Undated shows that have been announced include Samuel L. Jackson’s Secret Invasion, Dominique Thorne’s Ironheart, Don Cheadle’s Armor Wars and a yet-to-be-titled series set in Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda.