During their standoff, it’s apparent that John Walker’s (Wyatt Russell) psyche is completely gone. The weight of what he did at the end of episode five doesn’t fully resonate with him. In his state of mania, he cares about is having the shield. It’s his identity, which is why he’s fine with possibly killing Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Shaw) once they have their fight. In ‘Truth,’ there’s a tale of two soldiers – both chosen to serve a purpose by the U.S. Government. When John is picked to be the ‘new’ Captain America, it’s mostly to uphold the skeletal visual of Steve Rodgers. A mantle to which he could never live up to. Or anybody. There’s no way they could pick Sam to be the guy, right? A Black man as a patriotic symbol? John is a war hero with max dexterity and gusto. He lacks the morality and temperament that’s needed. That’s why the Flag Smashers escape and Battlestar (Clé Bennett) dies.
As he gets stripped of his Captain America title, is it possible to feel sorry for him? Maybe? He has an air of arrogance about him, however; he was chosen to fit a role and nothing more. In the hearing, he proclaims the army built him and created the monster he has become. Without the proper time to decompress from his previous tour, ‘the shield’ is what feeds him. It’s purpose and meaning. The serum only enhanced his thirst for it. Even though he helps Sam and Bucky, it’s out of revenge for what happened to Battlestar. Not some altruistic creed – he was going to kill Karli with no care in the world. Thus, this isn’t a full redemption arc, even with the U.S. Agent title.
On the other side, there’s Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). A buried secret of the super-soldier project that the U.S. government doesn’t want to get out. In his discussion with Sam, he speaks to his unit being experimented on. Some troops died, and the government sought to kill as a cover-up. While he was in jail and being experimented on, Steve Rodgers was heralded as a hero. His bitterness and skepticism are justified. Just look at when Walker talks to Battlestar’s parents. He doesn’t tell them the truth about what happened. Thus, another Black soldier has become collateral damage in a battle that they don’t have to.
While it took some time, Sam embodies the principles that Steve once did. He carries within him a high moral compass and provides excellent advice to Bucky and even Karli (Erin Kellyman) herself. But there’s a difference that he acknowledges to his speech to the senators and last talk with Isaiah. In that world, there will people who are less than keen on a Black man carrying the red, white, and blue shield. He chooses to preserve because somebody has to. However, heeding Isaiah’s warnings and what history has shown, there’s going to be opposition from the people he’s sworn to protect. With Isaiah’s service in the army and Sam’s commitment as an Avenger, they share a different paradigm that Marvel should continue to explore. Clearly, the GRC thought little of the repercussions for their decisions. From not properly vetting the man they called Captain America and the Patch Act. While wizards and witches exist, the turbulent ramifications of how the blip shaped the world can’t be ignored.
In the last two episodes, there’s also a paradox with Karli and Sharon. Like Zemo (Daniel Brühl) had said, Karli had embraced full martyrdom and is too far gone. First, wanting to take hostages, then being ok with killing them. Even to go as far as expecting her team to die for their cause. At first, The Flag Smashers were the personification of standing up for the disenfranchised – post-blip. As the series went on, the methods became more diabolical. Karli being ok with killing innocent bystanders to get her point across. Marvel has done this with other villains in their universe. Where the audience can resonate with their ideas while seeing them turn into what they hated in real time.
When speaking to the GRC senators, Sam makes a parallel between someone like Karli and the world leaders in power. If there’s one thing that the series has taught us, it’s that power is a nuclear reactor in the wrong hands. This finally brings us to Sharon, who is revealed to be the Power Broker. Unfortunately, Karli’s passion leads her to be a pawn in Sharon’s big game of chess. Now, one would think that Sharon would let up, given that she received a full pardon. Revenge is a long burning ember. Like Karli, Sharon has a grudge to carry out. Albeit, for an entirely different reason.
Steve Rodgers is gone, but his shadow cast cloudiness over post-Endgame MCU. Maybe instead of trying to be his exact carbon copy, somebody should just…be themselves? Sam’s road of being a new Captain America is going to be bumpy. Some racism. Some undermining. Especially when you consider the fates of other Black leaders who have tried to dawn the Stars and Stripes to bring people together. You have to at least try, right? In an unsettled landscape without borders, people are searching for leaders more than ever. Sam urges everybody to be better, but it remains to be seen if they can actually become that.