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Falcon Watch: Let’s Talk About Sam Wilson’s Backstory in the First Episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Sam Wilson holding Captain America's shield **Spoilers for Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s pilot lie within.**

We’ve known Sam Wilson since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the pilot of Falcon and the Winter Soldier is one of the first times we’ve gotten an in depth look into what made him into the man he is today. For the most part, we knew that Sam left active duty when his wing-man, Riley, died. The only reason he came back to fighting was because Steve Rogers enlisted his help.

Fast-forward to Avengers: Endgame, and Sam Wilson proved that he would always be the man to do the right thing, and with a simple “on your left,” we knew that the Avengers were going to defeat Thanos. By the end of the movie, Steve gave his legacy to Sam and trusted him with what Captain America stood for. But that doesn’t mean that Sam agreed.

In the pilot, we see Sam struggling with that legacy. He doesn’t want the shield. He doesn’t feel like it’s his, and even when he talks to Rhodey about it, he still thinks that the shield belongs to Steve Rogers and always will. All of that is setting the scene, though, because my favorite part of this episode for Sam is him coming to terms with people viewing him as a hero, compared to the life he left behind in Louisana with his sister and nephews.

Through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve seen bits and pieces of Sam, but this was the first real moment for me when he got the focus he deserved, and I saw a man who loves his family, loves where he came from, and is trying to find that balance between being a hero that the world needs. When we first see Sam in the pilot, he’s trying to stop Batroc with the help of Joaquin Torres. Sam is successful in his mission, and a man even comes up to Sam and thanks him for being an Avenger and helping stop Thanos.

It’s not the first time we see Sam being thanked and praised for his work, either. When we go to Louisana (a nod I absolutely loved, because Anthony Mackie is from Louisana himself), we can see Sam’s sister Sarah struggling to keep their family business afloat, and Sam tries to use his status as a hero as leverage with the bank to get them a loan. The bank teller is staring at Sam, trying to figure out where he knows him from, and when he realizes that the Falcon is sitting in front of him, he geeks out and takes a picture for him.

But even Sam being a hero doesn’t change the fact that the bank isn’t willing to help his family because they don’t have the credit (even though they were Snapped away for five years). The bank teller even makes some comment about the Avengers not paying him or him not being on Tony Stark’s “bankroll,” but Sam drives home the fact that people usually let them slide because they’re the Avengers and, more than that, everyone was gone and lacked income during the Blip.

The teller tells him that because everyone suddenly came back, things were “tightening up,” and Sarah responds with a comment about how it’s funny that when things tighten up, they always seem to tighten up for them as a Black family. And she’s right. This bank isn’t willing to help them but the fact that it is “tightening up” means they’re willing to help other people. Just not the Wilsons.

Sam Wilson wanted to be there for his sister and his nephews. He wanted to keep his family business running for them even though he couldn’t be there to help them when he was off being an Avenger. But he was willing to try to do whatever he needed to stop it. And maybe we would have seen his attempt at planning a next move if the announcement of the “new” Captain America didn’t cut in.

What was so interesting about learning all this about Sam was that it just fit with the man we’d seen in the movie franchise. I’ve loved Sam Wilson since his introduction, and his friendship with Steve was something I wished we had spent more time on. So getting to learn where Sam came from and what made him into the man willing to sacrifice himself time and time again was exactly what I had hoped Falcon and the Winter Soldier would do.

My fear now is what the future holds for Sam. The last we saw of the shield that should be Sam’s, it was given to John Walker as the newly anointed Captain America, even though Sam had agreed that the shield belonged in the museum to honor Steve. I have hope that the shield will end up back with Sam (hopefully sooner rather than later).

(image: Marvel Entertainment)

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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.