NOTE: This post contains massive spoilers for the finale of Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

That's a wrap on the second Marvel Cinematic Universe television series on Disney+ as Falcon and The Winter Soldier (or, Captain American and the Winter Soldier, as the end credits showed us) came to its dramatic conclusion this morning. Along the way, we were treated to Sam Wilson's first look as the new Captain America, the end of the Flag Smashers as we know it, and an uncertain future for both the newly minted U.S. Agent (John Walker) and Agent Sharon Carter.

Leaving Something To Be Desired

I'll be straight with you. I absolutely LOVED this show. But this finale was not my favorite piece of content that has ever come out of the MCU. In fact, it might be one of my least favorites. In the end, most of the episode was spent in action scenes addressing a conflict that we knew would be resolved in some capacity. We knew the Flag Smashers would likely be crippled or destroyed, but we didn't have answers to a lot more personal questions.

How does making amends impact Bucky Barnes? What is going to happen to Sam's family in Louisiana? Where do we next see Baron Zemo and what was his overall role? What path does John Walker take now that he faces a fork in the road? They spent about 40 minutes taking down the Flag Smashers and about ten minutes tying up a whole host of loose ends.

Show, Don't Tell

Beyond some of the more personal storytelling aspects that I wish were included, I prefer my television shows to have a good bit more cinematic exposition rather than character explanation. So when Sam went into a four-minute monologue to the GRC council that is basically "these are the themes and the reasons why we made this show," I found it a little flat. He summed it up in one line in episode five: "what would be the point of all the pain and sacrifice, if I wasn't willing to stand up and keep fighting?" That's enough for me.

This show, in the end, was about heroes and what makes a hero. Can any man or woman be a hero? Must a hero have power and weapons?  Is being a hero about supporting a righteous cause? Is it the ability to offer self-reflection and make amends? Can a fallen hero be redeemed? Those of us that have been on the MCU journey for 13 years are aware enough to understand these themes, and I just didn't feel that they treated us that way in this episode.

Questions Answered and Questions Remain

But, despite my personal criticism, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and nuggets that can point to speculation moving forward. Let's dig into some character questions to try and decipher what's next.

Is Sam Wilson Officially the New Captain America?

This was answered with a resounding yes at the end of episode five, but we got our first glimpse of the new Captain America in the finale. I had to chuckle when one of the extras on the show made the comment that "no, Captain America is actually on the moon," citing an ongoing MCU theory, because Wilson's new suit looks like it belongs in space. While I love Sam as the new Cap, I'm not really a fan of the flying astronaut Captain America.

Does this combo-suit also mean we won't see Sergeant Torres as the new Falcon after he took Sam's old suit? Probably. We will have to be satisfied with Falcon America or some kind of hybrid.

For comic book speculators, Captain America #25 - the first appearance of Sam as Captain America - has been on a steady climb for a while. We recently saw a CGC 9.8 copy break the $600 barrier a few days ago when the same book sold for around $200 in February. So unless you want to pay the premium, you may be waiting a while for this one to come back down.

Who is the Power Broker? 

Much like WandaVision, we didn't get the big Power Broker reveal many were looking for. There was no General Thunderbolt Ross setting up a super-team. It wasn't the Kingpin as was speculated widely. It certainly wasn't some of the wilder ideas like Ultron or the GRC creating havoc to make their own cause look better.

As many predicted, the coincidence that Sharon Carter was reintroduced in the episode titled Power Broker was too much to overlook and Agent Carter is confirmed to be the power-wielding head of Madripoor. In the post-credits scene, we see (Double?) Agent Carter accept her former SHIELD position again while simultaneously communicating with her nefarious partners that they now have the access they've always wanted.

This sets up Carter as a major player in the MCU going forward, which is great news for many of us. But we don't exactly know why she pulled a WWE-style heel turn. She was that disenfranchised at the U.S. for abandoning her that she becomes full-on treasonous? Then why did she take Bucky, Sam and Zemo to see the scientist who designed the Super Serum? We may never know the motivation here, but at least Carter's long-term MCU future is secure.

Seeing as how she will be a major force moving forward, Tales of Suspense #75 (coincidentally also the first appearance of Batroc) will likely see a major bump going forward. CGC 7.0 copies were selling for under $200 a couple months ago. This might be the last chance before a spike. Don't sleep on Captain America #22, however, for reasons we will see shortly.

What Does Bucky Have Left To Do?

Unlike with WandaVision, there don't seem to be many A+B=C, easy steps to the next projects for the characters on FATWS. Exhibit A with this is Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. We have a few moments of Bucky making amends with the father of the young man he murdered many years ago. We know he crossed all the names off his list in his pocketbook. What happens next?

It's not a stretch to think that after 75+ years of fighting, Bucky retires. I suppose he developed enough of a bromance with Sam that the duo could keep working together in the future, but the show sure did seem to try and provide a sense of finality with Bucky. At this point, the story arc of the Winter Soldier is complete, so the MCU would need to just shoehorn him into other projects if they want to keep using him. But if Sam's Captain America gets his own set of movies, it's a good bet the best sidekick around shows back up again.

Could Captain America #6 finally start to see a slight decline after its sharp spike in recent months? A CGC 9.8 here also recently crossed $600 for the primary cover. If you would like some affordable (and well-written!) Falcon/Winter Soldier books, you might want to invest in the OTHER Captain America #25 (from the Civil War storyline) which is the first meeting of Falcon and Winter Soldier. A 9.8 copy of this book is still selling for under $100.

What Path is John Walker On?

After being unceremoniously stripped of his title and authority in episode five of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we saw Walker fashioning a new shield at the end of the last episode. Walker inevitably shows up to the Flag-Smasher battle. He is presumed to be still out for revenge for the death of his friend, but instead has a mini redemption story. He chooses to save a truck full of GRC members instead of attacking an enemy. Not the Walker we thought we would see after this embarrassment in front of the committee.

But is that representative of the future John Walker? At the end of the show, we see Walker don the official black and white U.S. Agent costume made famous in the comics. It is provided by Contessa Valentina Allegra, who plays coy as to whether or not she had a role in the remaining Flag Smashers being blown up by Zemo's butler. Clearly she has some evil plots up her designer sleeve. Even Walker's comments upon seeing his new costume provide a clue. "It's the same, but black!" Foreshadowing, much?

Walker was a character we loved to hate, so I expect much more of that in the future.

That Leads Us To Contessa Valentina. What's Her Endgame? 

Contessa Valentina replies to John Walker's comment with "It's about to get weird." This leaves us with one of the biggest speculative moments of the show.

Is her future plan to form the Dark Avengers, which includes has included U.S. Agent, Norman Osborn, Mac Gargan, Hawkeye,  and Iron Patriot? Remember Captain America #22? This is the issue where Sharon Carter becomes Iron Patriot. According to Key Collector, Dark Avengers #1 sold 290% more copies this week on the appearance and speculation of Contessa's future squad.

Is her plan to form the Thunderbolts? The group, originally formed by Baron Zemo, has ties to U.S. Agent, Batroc, and other super-soldiers. Prices for Incredible Hulk #449 have been rising for a month in anticipation. It's still affordable in the upper range, however, recently selling for under $200 in a 9.2 grade.

Or will she become her most infamous personality - Madame Hydra? Does she resurrect an organization that was, for all intents and purposes, destroyed after Captain America: The Winter Solider and attempt to wield its global power for her own gain? Either way, her first appearance in Strange Tales #159 sold for a record $1,800 in a CGC 9.4 last week.

The MCU seems to be setting her up as the anti-Nick Fury. And I'm loving it, wherever it goes.

Now The Long Wait Begins

One positive piece of news for comic speculators? There has been very little news concerning the future of these characters, so there is time for them to percolate. Will there be a season 2 of Captain America and the Winter Soldier? No one knows. We do have a report today that a fourth Captain America movie is in the works, but it's in such early stages it will likely be years before it's in theaters.

Look at the themes of this show. The definition of a hero. Letting our pasts define us. Understanding we are all citizens of this planet. It seems the MCU wanted to just drop a lot of bread crumbs that could lead to different paths.

We have heard of Kevin Fiege and the team's plans through the end of 2023. Will we really see none of these plot points resolved until after that time? Will these stories and characters be interwoven into what we see on the big and small screen in the near future? Can they write some of these stories into upcoming Disney+ shows?

That's the end for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it would seem. Like with most Marvel Cinematic properties, we are left with more questions than answers. But those questions are often the starting line for those of us who are speculators. Let the race begin.

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