Writer Malcolm Spellman and director Kari Skogland on Sharon Carter, John Walker and more.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did a lot over its six episodes. The series set out to tackle what it means to be a Black man in America, what it means to be Captain America, and what it would mean for a Black man to become Captain America, along the way grappling with race and privilege, nationalism and white supremacy. It also introduced a new squadron of super soldiers into the MCU, as well as a Captain America that never was and a Captain America who never would be, a mysterious Contessa, a traitorous Power Broker and more. On top of all that, there was the return of the Dora Milaje and one of Marvel's best baddies, Baron Zemo.
"I'm pleasantly surprised at how well people are responding to the themes and the topics that we really embedded in the storyline," director Kari Skogland tells ET's Ash Crossan. "That was the most important thing for all of us making the show, was that there was a really great water cooler conversation that was happening at the same time. Of course, with the twists and turns that we were building in, that water cooler conversation was even more pronounced."
The series ended with Sam (Anthony Mackie) officially picking up the shield and accepting the mantle of Captain America, while Bucky (Sebastian Stan) found a new sense of family with the Wilsons after atoning for the sins of the Winter Soldier. So, what comes next? Mackie will reportedly star in a Captain America movie of his own, to be penned by head writer Malcolm Spellman. Perhaps a second season on Disney+. Not that anyone is talking. Even Mackie himself claims, "I haven't heard anything."
"Never believe the headlines is all I can tell you," Skogland weighs in. "As you well know, you never know from Marvel what they're going to do next. So, it'll all be a surprise."
"When Kevin says it, then it is," Spellman says for his part.
In the meantime, Skogland and Spellman spoke with ET to break down all of the twists, turns and reveals of the finale episode, "One World, One People," including what that post-credits scene means for Sharon Carter and the redeemability of John Walker.
Captain America and the Winter Soldier
The finale ends with an updated title card honoring Sam's new mantle as Captain America. Bucky, however, remains the Winter Soldier, despite having spent the season unburdening himself from his time as a brain-washed assassin and embracing a new identity as White Wolf.
Malcolm Spellman: I'd have to ask Marvel if they expected people to be as triggered by the Bucky part of it, the Winter Soldier part of it. It was an idea from Marvel. This is my opinion: I think the spirit of it came from simply wanting to honor the journey of the series, and had they said, "Captain America and James 'Bucky' Barnes," the poetry of what the series meant might not have landed. I believe personally -- and I only know as far as what we did on this series -- Bucky has gone through his battle and his test and has now emerged with a clean slate. And the Winter Soldier, in my opinion, is gone. Unless something else happens, right? I don't think "Captain America and the Winter Soldier" was intended to even trigger the fans in that way. The spirit of it was to show this evolution that a new Cap was born. They wanted to keep some of the title intact so that you would get that evolution.
Kari Skogland: It was thrilling to be able to put "Captain America." There was a lot of conversation about that title, the design of it, the nature of even how it came on, the subtlety of it and so on. So, these are very thought through. They're not random at all, and then once we'd seen all six, I think it was probably Kevin who said, "You know, we should put it at the end." To be able to put "Captain America" was, I think for all of us, a proud moment.
Agent Carter aka The Power Broker
The one-time S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (played by Emily VanCamp) returned as a fugitive hustler living in the outlaw nation of Madripoor, but the finale revealed the full extent of how much she has changed: Sharon is actually The Power Broker, a shadowy villain pulling the strings behind the scenes of the entire series.
Skogland: First of all, Emily is super deserving as both an actress and as a character. It was really great to imagine her action sequences, because I wanted them to be really muscular. She worked very hard on that choreography, and it's a lot of her own stunts. There's very little stunt work in there that isn't her. So, it's a testimony to not only her work, but her bad-assery. The thing about the rollout of her as Power Broker was to really milk the, Who is she? What is she doing exactly in Madripoor? Where are we going with this? I think that was particularly fun, because the intention was to keep it really close to our chest right to the end.
Spellman: We had a blast with it because it's A) the Carter legacy, as sort of the pristine family of MCU. But also, Emily has such an innocent baby face. It was a blast to write this character, who comes from Marvel royalty and is expected to be the princess of Marvel and kind of looks like that, just chopping people's heads off. Where it came from was, it wasn't like Marvel said, "Oh, we're going to just destroy the Carter legacy." We sat down and said, "When was the last time we saw Sharon?" In Civil War, right? And what happened to her? She was completely abandoned by the world's intelligence agencies. What would she have to do? Hustle and fight and use her skills to stay alive. And to me, Sharon, as a character, was allowed to grow up. And the assumption she's going to just be good or bad or that we've determined what her future is, no. She's now in a position where she can go on an interesting journey for better or for worse.
The post-credits scene sees Sharon pardoned for her past and reinstated to her old job, only for the newly appointed Agent Carter to turn around, phone a contact and inform them that she now has all sorts of government secrets to sell.
Skogland: We always knew it wanted to be there, but we tried it in other places. We tried different ways of doing it. Experimentation is a big part of how you find the best of the best. So, I'm never afraid of just throw it all out and build it all up again. But at the end of the day, we thought, "No, let's just hang on right to the living end to finalize the end reveal." We had a few different swings at that, and this seemed to be the best of the best.
The Redemption of John Walker
How do you solve a problem like John Walker? Wyatt Russell's highly decorated veteran makes his MCU debut in the premiere, ushered in as the new Captain America. But when Walker goes rogue, illicitly takes super soldier serum and kills a Flag Smasher on camera, he's stripped of his title and rank.
Wielding a homemade shield, Walker refuses to step down and instead inserts himself into the battle between Sam and Bucky and the Flag Smashers. In a defining moment, he's presented a chance to get revenge or save innocent bystanders, and he chooses the latter. But did the series let Walker off too easy, all things considered?
Spellman: We tried to be careful with Walker, and Wyatt took everything and made it nuanced beyond. Like, there was no way to write the layers to Walker the way Wyatt conveyed them. He surpassed anything that you could try and do intellectually in your head. And we never judged John Walker. We never said he was the bad guy. There is definitely some iconography and some attributes about this country that we don't like that are embodied in him, but he is also the story of veterans, right? Who sacrificed so much for this country and this country may not even be capable of taking care of them the way they should. All of those conversations are in the DNA of John Walker, and we didn't set out to say John Walker would be good or bad or redeemed by the end of this thing.
We put him through this journey, and as he was cracking up mentally, he had this huge defining moment where the truth is, for all the flaws and craziness of him in that moment, when it was about taking on the righteous cause, he stepped up in that moment. At the same time, I don't think we let him off the hook. His career has been destroyed. For someone who has dedicated their lives to the military, to get anything other than an honorable discharge, that's a big deal. If you take it surface level, he got off easy. If you watch what happened to this man -- you are not honorably discharged, you're lying to Lemar's family because you feel so much shame, you've gone half crazy to the point of no return and barely pulled yourself out of that -- I don't think that is an easy journey. I think what Wyatt is able to do is show that urgency and maybe that chaotic mindset at the end of how full-throatedly he's embracing where he's about to go in this black costume. Right or wrong, it could feel like he got off easy, but I would not say he did.
Call Her Val -- But Don't Call Her Val
The series saved its biggest surprise for its fifth episode, which introduced Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, an enigmatic power player who recruits Walker after his fall from grace and rebrands him as U.S. Agent. Reportedly, Val was meant to make her debut in "Black Widow" before appearing on "The Falcon and the Winter Solider," which could have delivered a different sort of reveal.
Spellman: Can I tell you today's the first day I heard all this from people like you? I didn't even know. If you look at John Walker, we needed him to go on this journey, and we talked about the CIA and S.H.I.E.L.D. or whatever, and Val emerged as a character who would be the right person to embrace him after all he's been through. I have no idea about her relationship with Black Widow. They would never in a million years tell me what's happening in Black Widow. So, I'm telling you the god honest truth, I have no idea how fans are going to react during Black Widow, because I didn't know until today she was in it. She's murder [though]. She's great.
All episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are now streaming on Disney+.