Skip to main content

Falcon Watch: Sam and Bucky Struggle to Relate in “The Star-Spangled Man”

These two love to fight each other.

Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+.

We knew that Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was always going to be about a fight for the shield, but the more we learn about John Walker, the more it becomes clear that both Sam and Bucky are willing to do anything to uphold the views and legacy of their friend, Steve Rogers. Though they fight and aggravate each other, the entire second episode just drove home how similar the two are and how they handle situations that feel out of their control.

For as long as we’ve known both Sam and Bucky in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they’ve either been confident in their positions with Steve at the wheel or knew what they needed to do for the greater good. Now, with the world still trying to recover from the Blip and a new Captain America on the scene despite Sam’s belief he was retiring the shield, there is a lot that needs to be discussed. So, let’s look at how both Sam and Bucky are handling it.

**Spoilers for Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 “The Star-Spangled Man” lie within.**

Sam Wilson was always going to measure himself up to Steve Rogers. Maybe it was one of the reasons he thought he didn’t deserve the shield. So, when confronted with a John Walker’s new Captain America as a man who was not trying to be Steve but upheld the government and their ideas for Captain America, both Sam and Bucky were thrown into a world of deciding for themselves what the shield stood for.

Throughout the entire episode, Sam and Bucky fight with each other and bicker over things in their normal cadence. But what really hit for me was how both of them were quick to put their anger with each other and their differences aside to honor their friend—especially in regards to John Walker and how he seems to feel as if he’s “done the work” to deserve the title.

During a therapy session for Bucky that Sam is asked (actually required) to join in on, Bucky finally admits to Sam that he’s mad Sam gave up the shield because if Steve was wrong about Sam, then that means he was probably wrong about him. The problem is that Sam Wilson is always going to have things influencing his decision that, as he says, Bucky and Steve will never understand.

falcon and the winter soldier sam

Sure, in that moment, he follows it up by saying that his choice of what to do with the shield was a decision that felt right to him, but the implication is clear. That shield, in Sam’s mind, belonged to Steve Rogers. That was that. And it is clear now that the government was happy to pick some soldier who would play along with their ideals to carry on the title after Sam put the shield where he thought it belonged (in a museum). It wasn’t a disservice to Steve and his legacy. It was something that Sam didn’t think was his to begin with.

These two are just two men who are trying to navigate this new world and figure out their place, and neither of them want to talk about it. Sure, Bucky is in therapy but it is mandated by the government and it is clearly like pulling teeth to get him to talk. And Sam keeps trying to talk to Bucky but then gets frustrated with him and the two just end up bickering back and forth.

The one thing they can agree on though is their hatred of John Walker. Walker, in the comics, isn’t a man to be trusted, and what I loved about “The Star-Spangled Man” is that we were given all these nods to him seeming like a man to trust but as the episode went on, it was clear that he wasn’t someone who should even have that kind of power, let alone the title of Captain America.

And Bucky and Sam could instantly tell. Yeah, the government gave the shield away and yes, they’re both angry about that, but it is Walker and his “I’m not trying to replace Steve Rogers” energy that neither Sam Wilson nor Bucky Barnes instantly trusted. He swooped into their mission and then tried to play their buddy not once, not twice, but three different times, and it clearly didn’t sit well with either Sam or Bucky.

So while the majority of this episode was filled with them both just bickering back and forth, it also had moments where we can clearly see how Bucky and Sam understand each other. Bucky could tell that Sam didn’t feel worthy and didn’t think the shield should be his for one way or another. So, he took Sam to meet Isaiah Bradley, the first Black Captain America, as a way to show Sam that the shield has never just belonged to Steve Rogers—long before they were forced to actually admit their problems out loud in therapy.

Sam, despite his anger and frustration with Bucky, also realizes later that forcing Bucky to talk to him is not only delaying their plans but not going to help either of them in that moment, so he takes his own high road with Bucky and decides that they’ll finish the mission to then never see each other again. (We know that won’t happen. These two love to fight but also clearly care about each other.)

There were so many moments in this episode that show the stark difference between Sam and Bucky and their situations, and yet it was weaved perfectly with these moments of clarity for the audience. There is a moment in the episode where Sam and Bucky leave Isaiah Bradley’s home. The two are fighting because Sam never knew about Isaiah, and both Sam and Bucky are confronted with two police officers. The officer asks Bucky if there’s a problem and the only reason the situation didn’t escalate was because Bucky angrily responds with “Do you know who this guy is?” and the cops realize they’re Avengers.

So when the next scene is Sam telling Bucky that it is maybe something Bucky and Steve will never understand, it all just plays into this idea that Sam is grappling with what the shield means and especially what it means for him as a Black man in America. Especially now knowing that not only was there a Black man who was Captain America before, but having the additional weight of being recognized, nationally, as the first Black Cap.

This episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier did an incredible job not only setting up where the story is heading overall but gave us a deeper look into how both Sam and Bucky are coping in this new world they were thrust back into. The fight for the shield just got a lot more interesting, and the more I learn about this, the more I hope that we get a very specific moment for Sam Wilson that exists in the comics.

(image: Marvel Entertainment)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

 —The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.