Each week, as new episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier release on Disney+, LTN writers will reflect on each episode. You can find all of their reflections here.
Legacy, Legacy, Legacy, Legacy
Black excellency, baby, let ’em see
“Legacy” by Jay-Z
A person’s legacy can mean a great deal to that person and their family. Sometimes a legacy can impact millions. At the start of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson is in the midst of a whirlwind around his legacy. Upon Sam’s return from being snapped from existence by Thanos aka “The Blip,” we learn Sam has been running operations for the Air Force for the past 6 months. As Falcon, Sam hasn’t missed a beat; he rescues an American soldier being held by a group led by Batroc the Leaper (from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, portrayed by UFC legend Georges St-Pierre aka GSP). The Falcon is respected and recognized as a hero by a random grateful husband in Tunisia who stopped to thank Sam for bringing his blipped wife back. The hero legacy of the Falcon is flying high, but not so much for Sam Wilson.
Sam carries around the honor of having been chosen by Steve Rogers to wield Captain America’s shield, which is a heavy burden—so much so that Sam gives the shield to the Smithsonian. James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine pries into Sam’s decision to return the shield, and Sam admits the shield still feels like it belongs to Steve. He doesn’t “feel” like Captain America, and as a Black man I can’t blame him. Sam understands the legacy of Captain America—the power of the shield as a symbol of hope for the USA. To be the face of hope for a country with a “complicated” history with race is hard to reconcile. Coupled with the pressure to replace a legend in Steve Rogers, who epitomized America in every way, would have me running in the opposite direction.To be the face of hope for a country with a “complicated” history with race is hard to reconcile.
Sam seems to have the same idea and returns home to NOLA in an attempt to save the family. Family legacy is his focus and what he wholeheartedly believes will succeed. His sister Sarah has been holding down the fort while Sam was blipped. While she is ready to sell the family commercial fishing boat, Sam is thinking of the legacy established by their parents. This generational legacy is a window into the minds of Black people today; we must confront the question of generational wealth and how to use it if we have it. Sarah wants to sell as she is struggling to keep everything afloat by herself. Sam wants to preserve and extend what their parents worked hard to build and pass on to them.
Legacy aspects start to intertwine as Sam and Sarah look to get a loan to consolidate the family debt and get on track. The loan officer at the bank recognizes Sam and even gets in a selfie, but being Falcon and saving the world doesn’t help secure a loan for a Black man in America. No matter how powerful and influential Falcon has it, his fame doesn’t give Sam the power to set things right for the Wilson family. A few years ago, my parents sold the house they built that I wanted to keep in the family but like Sam, I wasn’t able to secure the funds. To say that it is frustrating to fail in securing the needs of your family is an understatement.
Sam and I are both moving forward despite the setbacks. Sam is determined to find a way to replicate his success level as Falcon in his family life. Making things more complicated, Sam thought he had passed on Steve’s legacy only to be visibly conflicted at the reveal of the new Captain America. You know the feeling when you see someone get promoted when it should have been you? That is what I see on Sam’s face as he watches new Captain America walk down the steps with the shield. How Sam will react remains to be seen as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues.Sam thought he had passed on Steve’s legacy only to be visibly conflicted at the reveal of the new Captain America.
I was a fool all through high school, kickin’ up dust
But now I’m labeled as a troublemaker; who can you blame?
Smokin’ helped me take away the pain
“Pain” by Tupac
How do we deal with pain? That is an age-old question—one of the oldest. Watching Bucky Barnes process his pain in episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier draws different feelings from the viewer than Sam’s journey with his family’s legacy. We start by watching Bucky in Winter Soldier mode on an operation just wrecking folks. An Asian bystander witnesses the operation and begs for his life as the Winter Soldier kills him. Bucky awakes with a jolt from the nightmare. Bucky is having recurring nightmares of his Winter Soldier operations. He has been free of mind control essentially since Captain America: Civil War, which is about 2 years and 6 months for Bucky, as he was blipped. He hasn’t really adjusted to normal life, and his level of discomfort in life is shown as he sleeps on the floor, interacts with his therapist, and awkwardly attempts social graces.
Therapy is being normalized in today’s world, but old habits die hard. Because Bucky is 106 years old, he is understandably resistant to sharing his thoughts with anyone. When one’s mind has not been one’s own for decades, the inner thoughts are precious and protected. Can you blame Bucky for keeping his true feelings private? As we watch, we learn that Bucky has been pardoned under specific conditions, and those conditions aren’t being kept if he stays silent. But Bucky values the safety of his mind over the threat of physical imprisonment. He reveals just enough to his therapist to satisfy her questions and stay free without revealing anything of substance. Instead, he takes matters into his own hands.Bucky …. He made a list of names and crosses names off as he does what he feels makes amends, which I think is an entirely different level of selfishness.
Bucky has decided to deal with his Winter Soldier past by trying to make amends for his actions. He made a list of names and crosses names off as he does what he feels makes amends, which I think is an entirely different level of selfishness. For example, as we watch, we learn that the Asian bystander killed by the Winter Soldier is the son of a Japanese man named Yori. Bucky has befriended Yori and has lunch with him regularly. Yet Yori doesn’t know that his lunch companion is the cause of his grief. Bucky seems to have no intention of providing any closure for Yori but is seeking his own relief. His tension with telling Yori can be seen as he stands outside the man’s apartment, but he cannot bring himself to admit what he’s done.
I imagine the inner conflict Bucky is not willing to share is similar to the Apostle Paul’s when he stated: “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:9–10). The story wasn’t over for Paul, and it is not over for Bucky Barnes. Hopefully, he reaches the understanding of Paul and seeks a righteous and repentant path to redemption and peace.
Here is likely the biggest conflict in the series for Bucky, one that mirrors Sam’s conflicts to an extent, and that is the war he is waging with his own legacy. For his 100+ years of life, Bucky doesn’t have a family legacy to resolve or a public legacy to build. Like his operations, Bucky’s legacy is beneath the surface. Sins the Winter Soldier committed aren’t public knowledge but concealed in the minds of dead men and classified government files. I wonder if we will see the entire, potentially massive, amends list for 50 years of being the Winter Soldier. Fifty years of legacy to be largely self-accountable. Will legacy keep Bucky beneath the surface or will he find the peace he had in Wakanda? That was a peace, where the sun shone on his face without condemnation, a place where James Buchanon Barnes was completely blameless.In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam and Bucky are on the beginning of legacy journeys that will soon converge and change the lives of both men. I can’t wait for the rest of the trip!