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A Guide to THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER’s Key Players

While we’re all still reeling from the wilds of WandaVision, Disney has unleashed a new trailer for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The series will drop on March 19—just two weeks after Marvel Studios’ first groundbreaking series ends. So what’s their second show about? Who were all those characters causing chaos? Why do Bucky and Sam hate each other? Well, we’re here to do our best to answer those questions through the powerful medium of a list.

Sam Wilson and Bucky
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Disney+

There they are, the banter boys. Sam Wilson and Bucky are apparently the MCU’s newest odd couple. While the trailers hint at an unhappy alliance, we can assume they’ll end up supporting each other on their separate journeys. From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Sam will be exploring the legacy of the Captain America mantle, which he inherited from Steve, while Bucky comes to terms with the fact that Steve trusted someone else to take it rather than him. Tough times.

Zemo
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 Marvel Studios

You might remember this masked figure (sans mask) from Captain America: Civil War. While some maligned the villain as lackluster, this writer found his simple motivation—revenge against the heroes who killed his family—as powerful and resonant. We last saw him shamed by Black Panther into turning himself in at the end of that very movie. So what’s he up to now? And why has he suddenly gone full mask-wearing supervillain?

One of the biggest changes from the comics is that the MCU’s Helmut J. Zemo isn’t a Nazi (which was the correct choice). As far as we know, he isn’t related to any of the previous Nazi Zemos. In the comics, the name is a legacy title handed down a German family line. In those stories he’s driven by the death of his supervillain father, which echoes his motivations in the MCU.

Most interestingly, though, is the fact that Helmut Zemo hasn’t always been a villain. In fact, over the years he’s fought on the side of good for reasons both benevolent and selfish. With his return coming at such a fraught time in the MCU, don’t be shocked if Zemo isn’t simply the obvious antagonist we expect him to be. But don’t make the mistake of trusting him either.

Flag-Smasher(s)
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Disney+

One of the most exciting additions to the series is Enfys Nest herself. Erin Kellyman will reportedly be taking on an unnamed villain role; the trailers have pretty much confirmed she’ll be part of a reimagining of the Captain America foe known as Flag-Smasher.

It seems like the show’s Flag-Smasher will be represented by a group, whereas in the comics they’re a singular anti-imperialist terrorist who doesn’t believe in borders, countries, or supremacy of any one nation. Flag-Smasher runs an organization called ULTIMATUM, which could potentially be what we’ve seen in the trailers. Seeing as Captain America as we know him is out of action, it’s likely that the Flag-Smashers will be organizing against the new Captain America: U.S. Agent.

U.S. Agent
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Marvel Comics, art by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

A truly interesting and nuanced antagonist for Captain America, U.S. Agent is an exciting addition to the show. (The fact he’s being played by the wonderful Wyatt Russell makes it even better.) During Mark Gruenwald’s late ’80s Captain America run, John Walker is introduced as a villain known as Super-Patriot. But after Steve Rogers quits the role of Captain America, he’s replaced by Waker, the very man he once fought. That the government chooses John over Sam is relevant here.

Walker’s Cap is nothing more than a literal U.S. agent, elected to do the bidding of the government and military without question. While he does his best to live up to Steve’s legacy, he can’t control his own brutality and often crosses the line. It’s not until after his own scrape with the Red Skull that he abandons the Captain America name and later becomes the hero known as U.S. Agent.

In the context of the Disney+ MCU shows, that’s particularly notable as when he took on the U.S. Agent mantle he joined the same team as Wanda and Vision in the West Coast Avengers. This all ties into the fact Sam Wilson doesn’t look like he’ll immediately pick up the mantle of Captain America the way that Steve expected.

Sharon Carter/Agent 13
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Marvel Studios

Sharon Carter is arguably most notable for the fact that she made out with her great aunt’s husband, but aside from that she’s also a cool gun-toting S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Now that the MCU’s S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Nazis, it’s not 100 percent clear who she’ll be working for here. (Maybe Nick Fury?) If we look to the comics, she’s had a varied career including: killing Captain America, reviving him, infiltrating a white supremacist organization, dying, coming back to life, and even becoming an Avenger.

Her stint in the MCU has been a little less adventurous. She was assigned to spy on Steve after he was retrieved from the ice. Now that she’s back, it’s likely she’ll be an ally to Sam and Bucky, but under what guise we’re yet to understand. Her connection to Steve means she will probably want Sam to take on the mantle. But there’s also a chance she’s gone full government shill and will be on the boys’ trail, trying to get them to accept John Walker. Or maybe she’s on the run and needs their help?