John Walker came to help Sam and Bucky to stop the Flag-Smashers in the final episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Wyatt Russell was introduced in the premiere as the new Captain America. This was met with backlash from viewers. He was backed by the government and adored by the public, just like Sam and Bucky. Audiences instantly knew that it did not feel right that John Walker was wielding the shield.
Because of the negative reception to the character, Marvel Studios tried to humanize Walker. It tried to show that like Steve Rogers, even Walker felt the pressure of becoming Captain America. From there, he usually said and did the right things. He tried repeatedly to ask Sam and Bucky to work with him as they hunted down the Flag-Smashers. He didn’t do anything wrong until he was tested with the accidental death of his friend and partner, Lemar Hoskins.
The death of Lemar resulted in super-soldier-powered Walker going on a rampage in Latvia. Blinded by his anger, he ruthlessly murdered a member of Karli Morgenthau’s team in broad daylight while being watched by the civilians. When he returned to the U.S., Walker was stripped off of his Captain America mantle and the benefits he was entitled to as a veteran.
He was encouraged a little by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. He was set out to insist that he is still the star-spangled Avenger coming into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale. This set up a showdown between him and Sam, the rightful Captain America, and Bucky. While this looked to have started this way, he had a change of heart in the middle of the battle. He opted to help the heroes save lives instead of going after Karli.
The turn in Walker may have felt too abrupt. But this actually checks out with his character since, at the end of the day, he is not inherently bad. He is just dealing with some personal issues including something that looks like PTSD and came from his time in the military. This is a reason why in his emotional trial, he justifiably pointed out how the government should be actually blamed for whatever happened to him. The mental issues of Walker were hinted at in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. At the time of stress, he mumbles under his breath and looks like he goes through a panic attack. He is very volatile and goes through bursts of anger in certain circumstances. His personal doubts about not being an effective Captain America that stemmed from the lack of support from the government and Steve Rogers’ personal friends made this worse.
There was also a humiliating encounter with the Dora Milaje that convinced him that taking the super-soldier serum would solve his issues. But just like how Bucky’s Winter Soldier rehabilitation was not as shown in the show, Walker’s personal issues were also sidestepped. This makes his final decision in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feel unearned.
Somewhere, even Sam, who becomes Captain America, and Bucky knew that Walker was not evil. Definitely, his principles were not akin to Steve Rogers. Walker is also prone to make mistakes. But having an idea of how he went through in the military and how this can mess up someone made them empathetic towards him. Now the question is how Walker’s arc will continue after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Walker was given the new persona as U.S. Agent by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Looking at how emotionally volatile he can be, he is also prone to manipulation. This can ultimately make him a villain even if he does not intend to be one.
Directed by Kari Skogland, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, Daniel Brühl as Baron Helmut Zemo, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Wyatt Russell as John Walker, Desmond Chiam, Miki Ishikawa, Noah Mills, and Carl Lumbly.