Warning: this article contains full spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s finale!
Be sure to check out IGN’s review of the new episode!
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has ended its six-episode run on Disney+. While it remains to be seen whether the series will get a second season, it’s clearly setting up a number of future plot points in the MCU — not the least of which is Captain America 4. The finale may even be laying the groundwork for the Samuel L. Jackson-starring Secret Invasion series.
How does Sam Wilson’s rise as Captain America play into that alien conspiracy? Read on to find out.
Is Sharon Carter Really the Power Broker?
Sharon Carter’s character arc may well be the series’ most controversial element among MCU fans. While many have been clamoring for Emily van De Camp’s elite secret agent to the return to the spotlight, they weren’t necessarily pulling for Sharon to become an outright villain in the process. But that appears to be what’s happening. Sharon has been revealed as the Power Broker, and she’s keen to use her newly acquired pardon as a way of growing her underground network.
Why has Sharon undergone such a drastic transformation? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would have us believe she’s simply disillusioned. Having been branded a fugitive by the system she swore to uphold, Sharon has now turned on that system. She cares only about personal profit, even if that means arming a new generation of super-soldiers and turning them loose on the world.
We have to imagine there’s more to Sharon’s sudden heel turn, however. Would Peggy Carter’s favorite niece really turn her back on her allies and her country? This is one case where the most outlandish explanation may be the correct one. This isn’t Sharon Carter at all. She’s actually a Skrull impostor. That final phone call was likely to her fellow Skrull sleeper agents.
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Marvel is gearing up to begin filming Secret Invasion later in 2021. We don’t have many firm details about the plot of that series yet, but we do know it reunites Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos as they work to uncover an alien conspiracy on Earth. The original Secret Invasion comic revealed the Skrulls have spent years kidnapping and replacing various superhumans and politicians, paving the way for a complete global takeover. Even though Kevin Feige has confirmed the Secret Invasion TV series won’t focus on the Avengers as much as the comic did, we can assume the basic premise remains the same. Expect the MCU to undergo a Battlestar Galactica phase over the next couple years, as more and more familiar characters turn out to be shape-shifting impostors.
This would explain why Sharon has gone down such a dark road. The real Sharon may have been replaced at some point in the seven years between Captain America: Civil War and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Her Skrull doppelganger is now using Sharon’s face and connections to build an underground criminal network, all with the goal of destabilizing major governments and sowing chaos. If Skrull Sharon does her job well, Earth’s heroes may be too busy putting out fires to notice an alien invasion taking place right under their collective nose. It may be that even the Flag-Smasher movement is really a Skrull front. Perhaps “One world, one people” isn’t meant to represent humanity’s post-Blip destiny, but is instead the mantra of the Skrull Empire as it seeks to claim Earth for its own.
Contessa and Nick Fury
The finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier again features Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, further teasing a prominent role for this new character in the years to come. Contessa has successfully recruited John Walker to her cause, transforming him from Captain America to US Agent. Contessa tells her new super-soldier that things are about to get “weird,” ad we can only assume US Agent is the first member of a team designed to battle whatever weirdness is afoot.
Marvel has yet to reveal where Contessa will appear next in the MCU, though at one point she was meant to have a cameo in Black Widow. Secret Invasion seems the most likely option. The simple fact that Contessa and Nick Fury have such a close-knit relationship in the comics makes her a natural fit for a Fury-centric Disney+ series. We may come to learn Contessa is working with Fury to build this new team. The Avengers served their purpose, but now Fury needs a group of superhumans willing to cross lines and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Whether that team winds up being called the Secret Avengers, Secret Warriors, Dark Avengers or something else entirely, their mission may be to stop the Skrull invasion at all costs.
That said, we shouldn’t be taking Contessa at face value, either. While she was depicted as a faithful agent of SHIELD for most of her comic book career, 2009’s Secret Warriors revealed Contessa has actually been a triple agent all along. She betrayed Fury in service of Hydra, only to then turn on Hydra and defect to the Russian organization Leviathan. Even before that reveal, Contessa was among the many heroes replaced by a Skrull during the Secret Invasion crossover.
It remains to be seen whether either of these plot twists is in Contessa’s MCU future. But that recent comic book history suggests she’s not a character to be trusted in any universe. Fury clearly has his hands full these days, but he should be keeping his one good eye on Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.
Where Is the Real Sharon Carter?
This theory raises an important question. If the Sharon Carter seen in this series is actually a Skrull, where is the real Sharon? Is she dead, or simply a captive of whatever Skrull faction is preparing an invasion of Earth?
If the comic is any indication, it’s the latter option. The Skrulls don’t kill the heroes they abduct, in part because they use them as genetic fodder to create a new generation of Super-Skrulls. Like the original Super-Skrull, who was granted the powers of all four members of the Fantastic Four, these Skrulls have been given major upgrades that mimic the powers of various Avengers and X-Men. One particularly nasty Super-Skrull was even able to wield Beta Ray Bill’s hammer, Stormbreaker.
Ultimately, those heroes and villains who were abducted by Skrulls are able to return to Earth and resume their old lives, but at a cost. How do you reintegrate into humanity when an alien has been wearing your face and living your life for months or years? That struggle is most embodied by Spider-Woman, who essentially becomes the face of the invasion after she’s replaced by the Skrull Queen Veranke. The post-Secret Invasion series Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD deals with that lingering trauma, showing Jessica Drew becoming an agent of SWORD as a way of escaping her ruined life on Earth.
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Again, the MCU version of Secret Invasion isn’t as centered on costumed superheroes as the comic. The MCU has yet to even introduce Spider-Woman (that seems to be more in Sony’s ballpark). With that in mind, Sharon may wind up filling that Spider-Woman role in this version of the story. How will the real Sharon react to being replaced? Will her old friends still accept her after the Skrull invasion? If Sharon has indeed been replaced, then the real Sharon will have a lot to atone for when she finally wins back her freedom. The MCU might combine elements of Secret Invasion with that of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run. In that series, Steve Rogers is seemingly assassinated after the events of Civil War, and a brainwashed Sharon Carter is revealed to be the shooter. The idea being that while shooting Steve isn’t her fault, Sharon still faces a long, uphill battle to atone for her actions and recover psychologically.
Sharon’s story may well continue in Secret Invasion and into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 2 or even a Sharon Carter: Agent of SWORD spinoff. So if you’re disappointed in the direction the MCU has taken Sharon, know that this is probably just the start of something much bigger for the character.