Falcon And The Winter Soldier Failed Sharon Carter
A few weeks back, when I thought Falcon and the Winter Soldier might be as juicy a theory stew as WandaVision, I wrote about the prospect of Sharon Carter being the Power Broker. In essence, it felt like the show was so obviously setting her up as the Power Broker that such a twist would be too predictable, and that we were only supposed to think she was the Power Broker to give more weight to the final reveal. Turns out, nope. She’s just the Power Broker, like we all knew from the moment we saw her, a reveal finally confirmed in her last scene.
“I’d rather have faith that there’s something more subtle at play than have it turn out that the character everyone expects to be a bad guy actually is a bad guy” is what I wrote at the time, and I still believe it. Sharon Carter and WandaVision’s Agatha Harkness reveal have both left me burned, but I already have faith that Loki is going to provide more twists and unpredictable turns. Maybe I’m just an idiot. But while making Carter the Power Broker is part of the way the show failed her, it’s far from the only way that Falcon and the Winter Soldier, particularly in the finale, let her down.
Before the show launched, many of the characters were kept secret. We saw no Isaiah Bradley, no Karli Morgenthau, and Wyatt Russell’s role as John Walker was severely underplayed. It seemed like Carter would be getting much more of the spotlight, and that her personal vendetta against Zemo would be crucial to the show’s arc. Instead, she and Zemo got over their differences rather quickly; in fact, we now know that she previously had business dealings with Zemo under the guise of the Power Broker. Having been one of Zemo’s original captors, there was a chance that the Zemo/Carter dynamic could have given both characters more depth, but while Zemo was explored, Carter was hung out to dry.
Even without that though, what was Carter’s story here? What does she tangibly do apart from meet Sam, be involved in some action scenes, and get her pardon at the end? I know the Power Broker is pulling strings behind the scenes, but they all seem like basic plot points too. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of motivation or development or agency – Carter just does exactly what the story needs her to do all the time, because she doesn’t really matter. But she should have mattered.
Even before it started making television shows, it has long felt like the MCU was one long serial drama with each movie representing an episode in a much larger story. The Avengers team-ups were season finales, with Infinity War and Endgame constituting the ending to end all endings… until Spider-Man: Far From Home came out less than three months later. The television shows have been forced into this pattern too. WandaVision needed to be hammered into an action-packed, open-ended climax it was unsuited to, because Wanda’s story in future films needed to be set up along the way. It feels like Sharon’s presence here is less about the show itself and more like spending an episode of the MCU getting her back into the fold for Captain America 4, or whatever else is planned. She might have a star turn in that, possibly justifying the way she was utterly misused here, but it still won’t be enough because the idea of her being the Power Broker is so inexplicable to begin with.
Make no mistake, Carter was badly mistreated by the US government. You’d think in a show that touches on governmental abuse of power, the effect this had on Carter would have been explored in more than a throwaway line to set up her eventual pardon, but still – her descent into villainy does make sense. She has been abandoned by the country she served and left to fend for herself; it’s a brilliant origin story, and quite a bit better than ‘Tony Stark was mean to me’, which accounts for roughly half of all the MCU villains at this point.
But because the show was so set on not telling us she was the Power Broker until the last moment, we never get to explore this. The only ones who thought she wasn’t were people who thought it was too obvious, which is definitely not the makings of a good twist. Sharon Carter, raised on her aunt Peggy’s ideals, lived to serve her country. It’s understandable – and would have made for a great television show – that she feels betrayed and begins to work within the criminal sector, using her previous connections and training to dominate her own slice of the underworld.
But betraying the morals of Peggy would surely have been harder. Sharon Carter’s dark dealings with the supersoldier serum are difficult to swallow. Her aunt Peggy was Steve Rogers’ true love, and it seems odd for Sharon to hold such little regard for the sanctity of the supersoldier serum. With just a little fleshing out of her character, I might have been able to buy it. Sharon is not Peggy, after all; Peggy struggled in a sexist world but was largely rewarded for her services to the government, even as she had to fight the standards and restrictions of her time. Sharon, despite the reduced sexism and increased support for female agents, faced much worse, being kicked out completely through no fault of her own, then watched the superheroes who worked alongside her be welcomed back with open arms while she was left to rot. If Sharon Carter is going to go down that dark route, we have to see it. Otherwise, it just feels like something that happened because the story needed it to, because the next episode in the MCU needs Sharon Carter as the Power Broker working within the government.
Sharon Carter has been badly wasted by the MCU so far, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier unfortunately continues that trend. Falcon seems like a show destined to be remembered for the stories it set up rather than the stories it told, and Sharon Carter is the best example of why.
Next: Falcon And The Winter Soldier Is Torn Between What It Wants To Say And What It Needs To Say
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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