WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, in theaters now.
Going into Avengers: Endgame, a lot of fans were afraid for Captain America. The film was billed as the final adventure for some of the original Avengers, and it's marketing had us all worried that Steve Rogers would make the ultimate sacrifice to save the universe. With fans ready for the worst, theories began to circle about what would happen to the red, white and blue shield, and the mantle of Captain America.
In the comic books, after Steve's untimely death, it was Bucky who became the new Captain America. Therefore, going by the source material, most believed Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier would be the one to get the shield. However, the ending of Avengers: Endgame packed an extra surprise. An aging Steve Rogers bequeathed the shield and mantle to Sam Wilson, the Falcon -- another character who also had a brief stint as Captain America in recent comics.
While most fans expected Bucky the become the new Captain America, Sam actually makes a lot more sense in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's overarching narrative. Here's why.
The Falcon Takes Flight
When Bucky first sees an old Steve sitting on the bench in the final minutes of Endgame, he isn't surprised in the least. He urges Sam to go talk to him, because he knows exactly what will happen. The simple truth of the matter is that Bucky doesn't want the shield -- even he recognizes that Sam is the one who deserves it.
Why? Because, as we have seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Sam embodies a lot of the same qualities that made Steve Rogers the perfect Captain America. He is an experienced soldier, yes, but he's also a good person. He doesn't hesitate to help those in need, even if it means going against the whole of S.H.I.E.L.D. or the U.S. government to do it. Sam has been Steve's faithful companion for years and, at his side, he learned from the best.
He may not have Steve's powers, but Sam represents everything that Captain America should. Sure, there will be a learning curve before he becomes a leader of Steve's caliber, but if anyone has a chance, it's Sam.
It's not that Bucky doesn't deserve the shield, it's that it's not really a part of his arc. Ever since Captain America: Civil War, the Winter Soldier has been on a path of redemption, and it's still not over. The best way for him to do that is to, once again, fight at Captain America's side.
Captain America and Bucky Live On
We already know that a live-action television series starring Sam and Bucky will hit the Disney+ streaming service. Not much has been revealed about Falcon and the Winter Soldier's story yet, but it now seems likely that it will pick up where Endgame left off, with Sam trying to live up to the mantle of Captain America and Bucky at his side to help him.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier may be the title of this series, but if you look at it another way, it will be a Captain America and Bucky television show. Yes, with Sam as the new Star-Spangled Avenger, the MCU has found a way for the Captain America and Bucky team-up to live on. The partnership between the two characters has been at the heart of the MCU ever since 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, and it will now continue on in another form.
Steve Rogers may no longer be the one wielding the shield, but he knew exactly who to give it to. "I'll do my best," Sam tells him. And that's why he is the perfect choice. Because that's all that being Captain America is about. It's about doing one's absolute best.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos.