‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: Sam and Bucky ‘Aren’t Supporting Characters Anymore’

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted in March 2021 on Disney+. Its season finale will air on April 23, 2021, concluding a story arc that encompasses six hour-long streaming episodes.

As part of Marvel‘s ever-expanding cinematic universe (MCU), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier picks up shortly after the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. The superhero drama follows the storylines of two individuals that fans first meet in the early Captain America films, causing many Marvel fans to reconsider and re-evaluate characters that they might have initially viewed as minor roles or supporting players in the MCU.

Marvel first announced ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ in early 2019

Marvel initially announced The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as part of the Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day celebrations back in 2019. The show follows in the footsteps of 2021’s WandaVision as the second installment of Phase Four of Marvel’s MCU

“The heroes of this new Disney+ series share a complex relationship that has evolved over multiple films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” explains the New York Times, noting the entire premise of the show is how “two faithful sidekicks become leads.”

Already halfway through its first season, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tracks the stories of Sam Wilson/Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The show starts right up in the chaos that immediately ensues after the final Avengers film where Captain America gives Wilson the captain’s iconic shield, implying that Wilson will become the next Captain America.

Wilson and Barnes were previously viewed as supporting characters

Sebastian Stan
Sebastian Stan | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions

It isn’t only the New York Times that’s highlighting how the entire Disney+ drama is built around two relatively minor characters from earlier Captain America movies. The actors themselves agree.

“Mackie…believes that supporting characters tend to be more interesting than the lead,” reports CBR, citing an interview that Mackie did for the YouTube series Hot Ones.

“The lead character is usually someone just to help push the exposition along, push the story along,” explained the actor, going on to say that “the best characters” are always the third or fourth supporting leads. “They’re the ones who actually get to get in and do the dirty work,” he adds. “They’re the ones that get to act. So, they’re always the ones bouncing and controlling the lead actor — and he’s just bringing them along for the ride. That’s why when you watch the Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor is always a more coveted category than Best Actor.”

And Marvel fans are starting to catch on with what Marvel and Disney are up to.

Marvel is investing more heavily in its secondary supporting characters


‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Scene that Sent Shockwaves Through Marvel

It’s not just The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that’s turning previously secondary characters into full-blown heroes in their own MCU portfolios. WandaVision — which premiered just weeks before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — did the same, turning Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany’s Vision into their very own franchise.

And fans are surprised, and increasingly delighted by the strategy. “These Disney+ Marvel shows are doing an amazing job in developing the supporting characters of the MCU,” posted one fan on Reddit

“Well that’s just the thing, these aren’t supporting characters anymore,” replied Reddit user BryanRazor. Another audience member chimed in, saying: “[The] thing I like about MCU, everyone will eventually become main characters within their own franchise and the audience have (sic) a choice to follow the character that they like rather than the one most famous.”

In his interview quoted by CBR, Mackie seems to agree. 

“The [MCU] movie was focused on the heavy hitters — the Iron Mans, the Captain Americas,” he said. “So, now I get more playtime, so you get to learn more about me.”