"In the first episode, 'New World Order,' Sam declines to succeed Steve and returns his shield to the U.S. government," says Justin Charity. "Sam is reluctant to appropriate a symbol that belongs—prohibitively, in Sam’s mind—to Steve. He also seems to doubt the political appetite for a Black Captain America, at one point even saying, 'Every time I pick this (shield) up, I know there are millions of people out there who are going to hate me for it … No blond hair or blue eyes.” The series’ plot line means to show Sam rethinking his reluctance, overcoming his perceived inadequacy, reclaiming the shield, and redefining the role of Captain America. Instead, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier discounts and debases Sam. Here’s a hero who fought alongside Rogers in the world’s darkest hours, an Avenger in his own right, and yet the series assumes that Sam’s own call sign and legacy as the Falcon doesn’t count for anything. Rather, the title Captain America counts for everything. Until he takes up the shield, Sam has no place in the pantheon or even the Smithsonian; he can’t even get a small business loan. At no point does Sam interpret this belittlement of his own identity and legacy as the ultimate disrespect. Instead, he gradually capitulates, and he doesn’t even make his selling out look good. By the season finale, Sam hasn’t become Captain America by overcoming some unique and urgent threat to national security or world peace. He’s a poor combat fighter who becomes Captain America after a shadowboxing montage in which he tosses the shield like a glorified frisbee among the trees in his backyard."
Director Kari Skogland discusses how race became an extensive topic of discussion: "From the beginning, the story of a Black man picking up the shield, a very white iconic symbol, was obviously a racially charged conversation. It was most important for us to not only have the conversation, but to push the envelope and get it right," says Skogland. "That was very well thought out. Malcolm Spellman, the head writer, was very conscious, bringing in Isaiah Bradley as a character to help us with that conversation, Black man to Black man. For him to say to Sam that no Black man would pick up that shield is a very important moment. It is about change and moving forward. We have a character who is not a supersoldier, and who is—to back up, what is it to be a hero? If being a hero in the old paradigm was much more soldier-warrior, which was born of the ’40s comics, which were anti-fascist in their incarnation, then this was going to explore what is it to be a hero as a first responder. After 9/11, that idea of a hero changed into a first responder and, during the pandemic, first-line worker. (Sam is) not only picking up a white symbol and representing it for his community, but also evolving the idea of what a hero is."
Falcon and the Winter Soldier shot the ending near the beginning: "I mean, in terms of the dock work, the party, and all that," says Skogland. "That ending. That was shot like week two of shooting so that never really changed. In fact, the very end scene between Bucky and Sam when they’re just standing and kind of looking out the future, the classic walk off into the sunset scene, we shot that like week two. It was just a moment we were on the dock and it was a beautiful sunset and I just took the camera and because I didn’t really have an end scene in mind yet—one shot to wind it all up—I said 'Let’s just try this and see if it works.' And so we did, we had a little extra time that day, and it never changed. It ended up staying because it worked so well. It had a lovely bonding quality to it."
Creator Malcolm Spellman is quite aware of the sh*tstorm that Sharon Carter's journey has stirred up with fans: “Some fans were upset with where Sharon ended up,” acknowledges Spellman. “Emily (VanCamp) is an awesome actor and Sharon Carter is an awesome character. To me, there’s more to do with her now. The decision was not arbitrary. We sat up and tracked everything that likely happened to her after Civil War. She’d been shut out by all the intelligence agencies, so that when she tried to make overtures to come back, they tried to grab her and arrest her. So they forced her into being a criminal. She was discarded, she was betrayed by the institutions that made her. Similar to John Walker, but way more aggressively.”