Catch up with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier before their new series takes flight

Catch up with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier before their new series takes flight

From left: Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie (Photos: Disney+)
From left: Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie (Photos: Disney+)
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

Despite pandemic-related shutdowns, phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in full swing over at Disney+. Jac Schaeffer’s WandaVision ushered in an exciting new mode of storytelling for Marvel, one that played with TV sitcom history as it dug deep into what trauma recovery really looks like.

The latest addition to the small-screen MCU, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is set to make its debut on Friday, March 19, with much of the explosive action of the big-screen iteration. The series comes from Malcolm Spellman (Truth Be Told, Empire), who also serves as writer, and is helmed by veteran TV director Kari Skogland. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) must make sense of the post-blip, post-blip-undone world—and they’ll have to do it without their old buddy Captain America (emphasis now on old).

There will be plenty of familiar faces in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, though, and some intriguing new arrivals. Because so much happened in Endgame—and has happened since—The A.V. Club has put together a handy character guide to help you get caught up on the MCU and comics backstory before diving into The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

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Sam Wilson, a.k.a The Falcon

Sam Wilson, a.k.a The Falcon

Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie
Photo: Marvel Studios

Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) is introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier while working at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. as a counselor for veterans experiencing PTSD, himself a veteran of the Air Force—he retired shortly after his wingman Riley was killed in action. After a chance run-in at the National Mall, Sam forms an instant connection with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a.k.a. Captain America, and the two bond over their shared military trauma. They team up for the first time when Steve is framed for the death of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) by Hydra, which has been embedded inside S.H.I.E.L.D. since its inception. Sam offers to help Steve take down Hydra, revealing his secret weapon: a high-tech wing suit that allows him to fly. Sam joins Steve and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a.k.a Black Widow, in a fight against Hydra where they run into Fury’s actual killer: The Winter Soldier, later unmasked as a brain-washed assassin and Steve’s best friend Bucky Barnes. Using the Falcon suit, Sam helps Cap, Nat, and Fury (who faked his death) take down Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D., but Bucky escapes in the fray.

In the ensuing years, Sam helps Steve search for Bucky, and joins the Avengers. In Captain America: Civil War, when the Secretary Of State comes to the Avengers with the Sokovia Accords—the MCU version of the Superhero Registration Act—Sam joins Cap in going rogue and refusing to sign. After a brief tussle at the Leipzig Airport, Sam is arrested and thrown in The Raft, only to be broken out by Steve soon thereafter. Sam, Natasha, and Steve’s whereabouts were then presumed to be traveling the world as a trio of nomadic vigilantes until Avengers: Infinity War, when Thanos attacked Earth, and the trio were called back into action. They traveled to Wakanda to help protect the Mind Stone in Vision’s head from Thanos’ forces, but they were unable to stop Thanos from retrieving the stone, and Sam was blipped out of existence along with half of all life in the universe. In Avengers: Endgame, the remaining Avengers manage to un-blip everyone who was lost five years earlier, and Sam joins in the final battle against Thanos’ army. When the dust settles, Sam, Steve, and Bucky are all left standing. After using the Stones to travel back in time to live a life with his first love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Steve returns to the present as an old man, and passes his shield on to Sam.

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Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier

Sebastian Stan
Sebastian Stan
Photo: Marvel Studios

Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) joined the military during World War II and was captured by Hydra during a mission. He was later rescued by none other than Steve Rogers, his dorky friend from Brooklyn, who had since become Captain America. Bucky and Cap went on various adventures, but while trying to capture evil scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), Bucky was thrown from a train and recaptured by Hydra. He was brainwashed by Zola and had one of his arms replaced with a metal prosthetic. Freezing and unfreezing him as necessary, Hydra used Bucky (codenamed The Winter Soldier) as a mindless assassin to further its goals and worm its way into high-level government positions. When Hydra tasked The Winter Soldier with killing S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Bucky once again met Steve Rogers—though he had no memory of their friendship.

Steve eventually got through to Bucky, who went into hiding after the dissolution of Hydra, but he was forced out when Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) framed him for the bombing that killed Wakandan king T’Chaka (John Kani). Steve’s desire to protect Bucky above all else drove The Avengers apart, especially when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) learned that Bucky had killed his parents. On the run again after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Bucky was taken to Wakanda and finally had Hydra’s brainwashing completely undone. He lived in peace until Thanos arrived and snapped him (and half of all life) out of existence, but he and everyone else returned when the Avengers went back in time and got the Infinity Stones themselves. After the final fight against Thanos, Bucky and Sam Wilson sent Cap back in time to replace the Stones. Rather than immediately returning, Cap stayed in the past and returned as an old man to bequeath his shield to Sam, with Bucky looking on in quiet acceptance.

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Sharon Carter, a.k.a. Agent 13

Sharon Carter, a.k.a. Agent 13

Illustration for article titled Catch up with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier before their new series takes flight
Screenshot: Captain America: Winter Soldier

Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), a.k.a Agent 13, first entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Steve Rogers’ seemingly random neighbor in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She got to show off her S.H.I.E.L.D. training when she revealed her real identity and helped whisk away a gunned-down Nick Fury—who had tasked her to spy on Cap—while Steve chased Fury’s shooter, his old pal Bucky/The Winter Soldier. Since then, Sharon has pretty much been on Team Cap, including questioning Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)’s decision to bring him in and fighting off Agent Rumlow (Frank Grillo). Her next major appearance was in Captain America: Civil War, where she finally admitted to Steve that she is the great-niece of Peggy Carter, the founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and his great love before he went into the ice. After Peggy’s funeral, Sharon tells Cap that she had her aunt’s encouragement to further the Carter/spy legacy. After S.H.I.E.L.D. was dismantled due to Hydra’s infiltration in Winter Soldier, Sharon began working under Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) at the CIA’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Berlin.

Sharon’s arc in Civil War ties into her storyline in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. After the blame for the Vienna bombings is placed on Bucky, Sharon secretly tips Steve and Sam to his location so they can get to him before her boss. She also helps them listen in on Bucky’s interrogation. Even though Sharon is established as someone with strong ethics, she returns Steve and Sam’s confiscated Avenger gear to them before they flee from the government, knowing full well the act will turn her into a fugitive. But hey, anything to help Cap, including sharing a quick kiss with him before going on the run. In Avengers: Endgame, her name shows up as one of the victims of Thanos’ snap, but she returns (off-screen) when Hulk returns half the population back into existence, and is now poised to re-team with Falcon in the Disney+ series.

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Helmut Zemo

Helmut Zemo

Daniel Brühl
Daniel Brühl
Photo: Marvel Studios

Though he has his own lengthy comics backstory, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl)’s only appearance in the big-screen MCU is in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. In short order, Zemo captures and tortures a former Hydra commander, uncovering a notebook that contains the string of code words that turn Bucky into a killing machine. Then Zemo bombs the Vienna International Centre—killing T’Chaka, the King Of Wakanda—and frames Bucky for the bombing. After Bucky is apprehended and placed in CIA custody, Zemo poses as a psychiatrist interviewing The Winter Soldier, and quickly activates his old training using the code words. Bucky goes on a rampage, but Cap and Sam manage to subdue him and revert him to a docile state. Bucky is able to recall a particular detail about his interview with Zemo: Zemo wanted to know about Siberia, where the Winter Soldier program was born, and where there are five more Winter Soldiers on ice. It seems as if Zemo wanted to reawaken the team of Hydra super soldiers and create his own private army.

Except that’s not the case. Zemo doesn’t care about Hydra, or the Winter Soldiers. He just needed a believable reason to lure the Avengers—namely Cap, Bucky, and Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man—to Siberia. Once he has them, Zemo drops a bombshell: Bucky killed Tony’s parents. Zemo’s plan all along was to destroy the Avengers by turning them against each other; he blamed them for the death of his family, all of whom were killed in the battle with Ultron in Sokovia. Zemo gets what he wants, as the Avengers effectively disband after Cap and Tony’s colossal confrontation. But Zemo is apprehended by T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), T’Chaka’s son, and placed in CIA custody.

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More good guys—and bad—who could join the fray

More good guys—and bad—who could join the fray

Screenshots: Captain America: The Winter Soldier / The Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Screenshots: Captain America: The Winter Soldier / The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

Georges Batroc, leader of the mercenaries who hijacked a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship containing secret data on Hydra’s evil schemes (as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), will apparently be returning for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. (The actor who played Batroc, MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre, said as much in an interview.) Though ostensibly a normal guy, Batroc is a good enough tactician and hand-to-hand fighter that he was able to hold his own against Captain America… for a while, at least. He was last seen being interrogated by S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra agents.

U.S. Agent, a.k.a. John Walker, is one of several Captain America replacements employed by the government over the years in the comics, having similarly enhanced abilities as the real guy but with a significantly worse attitude. He’ll be popping up (potentially as a phony placeholder version of Cap) in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, played by Wyatt Russell.

The Flag-Smashers is a name used by a terrorist organization of some sort in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, but it’s the name of a single anarchist in the comics. Erin Kellyman plays Karli Morgenthau, the Flag-Smashers’ leader on the series, but there’s also a chance she’ll be a new version of Sinthea “Sin” Schmidt—the daughter of the Red Skull.

Steve Rogers could also stop by, though WandaVision was surprisingly short on surprise cameos from other Avengers. Of course, if he does show up, it’ll be the old Cap who already lived a whole life with Peggy Carter, so it would be unlikely for him to get into any superhero fights.

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