Showrunner Malcolm Spellman Explains Why He Killed [Redacted] on Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Marvel and Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s first season has ended, and while many, including myself, are hoping for more, there is room to properly look at how this first season tackled the big issues it brought center stage. One of the things that still sticks in my craw is how the series handled the death of …
**Spoiler for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series.**
When Lemar Hoskins/Battlestar was introduced alongside his bestie John Walker, I already was a little … concerned. Lemar was the latest installment in the Black Best Friend MCU division, and that was already a pretty cringe development even if Sam Wilson was one of the titular stars of the show. Of them all, only Sam has been allowed to really shine as his own person outside the “sidekick” label. Even Rhodey doesn’t get to do that.
Lemar is introduced as supportive to John. They served together in war, and Lemar clearly sees a noble version of John that we as the audience cannot compute. They fight together and, in many ways, Lemar is the voice of reason in their personal dynamic duo. This, of course, makes it even more difficult when Lemar is accidentally killed in “The Whole World Is Watching.”
Karli punches Lemar so hard he crashes into a pillar and dies, one of the darkest scenes in the MCU that is then topped when John, in a revenge rage, bashes in the head of a Flag-Smasher with Cap’s shield as dozens of civilians catch him in 4k with their cellphone cameras.
I was really frustrated by this scene because it is a mixed-race Black woman, killing a Black man, for the emotional and character trajectory of a white man—a white man who I already do not like. It just felt very trope-y.
It was a trope that the showrunner, Malcolm Spellman, was apparently aware of.
“From the movies I saw all from the beginning of the ‘80s all the way through now, the purpose of the Black character was either magical negro whose job is to service a white character, and once that white character has gone on their journey, the magical negro disappears,” Spellman said, during a Fade To Black podcast interview with Malcolm Spellman. “Or, the Black guy or girl, but 99% of the time, guy, who’s there to get killed somewhere near the end of act two.”
Spellman explained during a podcast interview that he felt like the show had earned the right to kill Lemar because they told “all these other stories with heart.” And it was seen as necessary to get John Walker where they needed him to be.
I’m not trying to poo-poo on Spellman’s vision, but if you need to kill a Black man to motivate his white friend, then maybe you should give that Black character more of a function in the narrative. The only time we see Lemar’s family is after he has died, and even most of that scene is Lemar’s mother telling Walker how much Lemar loved being his partner.
Black characters are absolutely allowed to die in stories, especially war stories, but it is also jarring that Lemar existed only to serve a purpose for John and then die, allowing John’s Black wife to now take the place of Support Negro for that character. The optics are just very in your face, in a show that is already very obvious about its politics and themes.
“It was because you’d have to be a fool not to see what we were talking about,” Spellman said. “I mean, Isaiah’s a wreck, you know what I’m saying? He’s a wreck and he’s scarred. Wouldn’t we be diminishing it with words when he lifts up his shirt, if you have any sense of history, you know what images come to mind when he lifts up that shirt? What could we put into words that would trump that?”
Never assume people share a sense of history. You will always be disappointed.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an ambitious show that, when tasked to handle the transition from a white to a Black Captian America, put a lot of irons on the fire. I don’t think all of them worked, but I do think that it has raised a lot of questions that Black comic book fans have wanted to bring into the mainstream. At least now we have some common language to discuss parts of this.
Now we need a season two.
(via io9, image: Disney+)
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