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Marvel brings its two star-studded heroes together in this week’s installment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes are finally side by side, although their relationship is a bitrocky.

One of the best parts of the latest episode is the banter between the two characters. It’s like the buddy cop partners you didn’t know you needed in your life. And this combination of characters has led to a fresh new take on the universe for Marvel, as we’ll see.

What can this episode teach us about writing and character development? Read on to find out.

Enemies-to-Friends

We’ve all seen and heard the enemies-to-friends trope thousands of times, but what makes this show’s dynamic feel authentic? 

For one, it’s the fact that we know these characters. We know their story, motivations, wants, needs, and therefore we already care about them. Bucky and Sam haven’t had a ton of screen-time together in past movies, so although we do know these characters, there’s still the mystery of how they’ll interact and mesh. 

Showrunner Malcolm Spellman knew there were tons of possibilities for these characters, way back when they were first introduced.


‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’Credit: Disney+

He told ComicBook.com, “There was about a 12-second moment in Civil War where it feels like every single Marvel fan knew that these two guys were gonna be able to support a movie or a franchise … in that 12 seconds, everybody knew what it was gonna be … the buddy two-hands genre. What we loved about them is the range, tonally, is you can go from as gritty as 48 Hours to as funny as Rush Hour.”

Consider how you can freshen up your storylines or take the plot in a new direction, just by putting your characters together in new combinations.

But don’t forget, you have to first write strong characters.

In one of our previous articles about writing empathetic characters, we talk about how empathy leads to “a connection that keeps you tuning into new episodes and buying tickets to the theater.” 

That’s one of the strongest elements of the show. The writing allows for us to sit with these characters and really connect to what’s going on with them internally. We see Sam struggling with his identity and race, and Bucky living with the trauma of his hijacked life. These characters are sharing with us and each other, resulting in our emotional attachment. 

Marvel set up these characters and their arcs in previous films, and they’re proof that when you have a strong foundation for your characters, the possibilities are endless.

Whether it’s a spin-off for TV or movies, or even additional comical books. Compelling characters always persevere.  


Credit: Disney+

Who Is John Walker?

Besides the hilarious back and forth, we’re officially introduced to John Walker, AKA “The New Captain America.” The episode does a great job at making us feel empathy for him as a character. He’s a decorated war hero, and according to everyone else’s accounts, a pretty stand-up guy.

His first scene opens as he rambles in the locker room of a football stadium nervously practicing his “Captain America lines.” We get a sense that he didn’t necessarily ask for this and that he’s just trying to do the best job he can. John then heads out to a stadium full of people and soldiers celebrating his new heroism. 

After their not-so-comforting meeting, Falcon and Bucky decide to take intel of the “Flag Smashers” and intercept one of their moves. This leads to an adrenaline-pumping fight sequence taking place on moving 18 wheelers. The anarchist group seems to have abnormal strength and speed. It’s also revealed they’re transporting a type of vaccine to unknown buyers. 

Bucky and Falcon get it handed to them in the fight as they came a bit unprepared, until—the iconic shield flies by, and John Walker swoops into the action dressed in the Captain America suit. The two Avengers watch in disdain as he actually handles himself pretty well before getting thrown off the truck. 

New Revelations

Toward the middle of the episode, Bucky takes Sam to a man he used to know and could possibly have some information to help them understand the mess they’re in. 

They’re greeted by a teenage kid. Bucky asks to see “Isaiah.” As they enter the house, Bucky is called out by an older man in the kitchen. He and the man have a conversation where it’s hinted they have a history together and even fought once or twice. Then the bomb is dropped. Isaiah is actually a Hydra super-soldier. The first Black superhero. 

Sam is furious at Bucky for keeping this a secret, and rightfully so. Who knows how much this could’ve helped Sam with his internal struggle of being looked at differently. The fact that there’s someone hidden who had to go through this and could probably be a great mentor for him is disheartening.


‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’Credit: Disney+

How It Relates to the Comics

This plotline with Isaiah Bradley is hinting at some exciting revelations based on the comics he has appeared in. 

Isaiah was a U.S. soldier who was taken as a test subject by the government in an attempt to recreate Captain America. The test was conducted with hundreds of Black men, and Isaiah was one of the few survivors. He was sent on a mission in Germany, and before he left he decided to steal the Captain America suit and shield. 

After he survived and successfully executed the mission, he was arrested and placed in prison for stealing the suit with an extremely harsh life sentence. Isaiah eventually got pardoned after 17 years with the help of his wife and suffered from mental and physical trauma due to the lack of resources in prison. 

This was an early start for racism against Black heroes, especially from the undeniable fact that they used exclusively Black men to test on. Isaiah’s story is tragic and…

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