The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Explained is our ongoing series delving into Marvel’s grand new bromance between Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. In this entry, we’re looking one more time at The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale and asking, is Sharon Carter a Skrull? Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.
Something is up with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). She’s a Skrull. She has to be. I need her to be.
Whenever I complete a Marvel Cinematic Universe project, my first actions are to re-rank the films (and now, the shows) to my preference via Letterboxd as well as the mid-credits and post-credits stingers. For me, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ranks somewhere toward the bottom-middle or top-bottom, and a large reason for that revolves around its atrocious mid-credits stinger, which absolutely plops to the bottom of that list, hovering just above Thanos’ non-sensical declaration in Avengers: Age of Ultron: “I’ll do it myself.”
From her first moment in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter radiates breaking bad vibes. As she explains it to the boys, following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Sharon went underground. Her country was after her, and her friends abandoned her. She found a new life on Madripoor, the fictional Southeast Asian island where no-goodniks flee when they want to wallow in their villainy. The hotspot destination is a big one from the comics and is destined to feature prominently in future MCU projects.
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) were dragged to Madripoor by their untrustworthy frenemy Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl). They were under the impression that he could connect them with the diabolical Power Broker. This mysterious criminal puppet master supposedly set up the Flag-Smashers with a newfangled Super-Soldier serum before they betrayed them for their own revolutionary reasons. Zemo failed to make the meeting happen, and Sam and Bucky needed their butts miraculously saved. Sharon Carter to the rescue.
For the rest of the season, Sharon creeps on the sidelines. Through her dubious, unnamed connections, she helps Sam and Bucky track the whereabouts of both the Flag-Smashers and the new Captain America-gone-rogue, John Walker (Wyatt Russell). Her candidacy as a potential Power Broker seemed obvious, a perfect red herring. Surely, we thught, the Contessa (Julia Louis Dreyfus) or a surprise guest-appearance from Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (The Incredible Hulk‘s William Hurt) or Justin Hammer (Iron Man 2‘s Sam Rockwell) would fill those wretched shoes.
Nope! As revealed in the season finale, Sharon Carter is the Power Broker. While the audience learns the truth during a standoff between Sharon, head Flag-Smasher Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), and mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), Sam and Bucky are never made aware. They go about their lives, building boats together and hosting glorious cookouts.
In the mid-credits stinger, for her seemingly helpful role in apprehending the Flag-Smashers, the United States government finally pardons Sharon Carter of her illegal actions during Captain America: Civil War. Not only that, but they also offer to reinstate her as a CIA operative. She happily accepts.
As Sharon leaves the courthouse, she makes a phone call. In full volume in front of dozens of strangers, she instructs the unknown individual on the other end to “start lining up our buyers.” She may no longer have access to the Super-Soldier serum, but her new old job will grant her access to government secrets and prototype weapons. Dun dun dunnnnn!
Except, we already knew she was the Power Broker. Her evil smirk to the camera in the mid-credit sequence only confirms our disappointment in her heel turn. That’s not a reveal; that’s a no-duh. And it’s a no-duh that frustrates and upsets.
Look, it’s not like I adore Sharon Carter as depicted in the MCU. Her character is barely realized. In the comics, Sharon is an essential supporting player and a romantic interest to Steve Rogers. In the films, she’s a love interest, kinda. Her first and only kiss with Steve was mostly executed to serve Sam and Bucky’s story, their go-get-em-tiger smiley-nods of approval uniting their jealous rivalry for Steve’s affection.
To understand Sharon’s descent into Power Broker status, we have to believe that Steve Rogers never checked in with her. That doesn’t track with what we know about Steve. He would not have left her high and dry after Captain America: Civil War. He rallied his crew for Avengers: Infinity War, and she would have been involved in some capacity. In fact, Sharon Carter was supposed to be in that film, sleeping in Steve’s bed, but MCU mastermind Kevin Feige apparently put the kybosh on it.
Once the decision was made to climax Avengers: Endgame with Steve and Peggy Carter (um, Sharon’s aunt), Feige probably didn’t want to confuse those romantic messages. Mistakes were made; maybe that kiss never should have happened. But it did. And Steve’s a gentleman. Not free from sin, but he would not have ignored Sharon to the point where she would break bad so spectacularly.
As I see it, there are two options, and both lead directly into two distinct Disney+ storylines: Armor Wars and Secret Invasion. Number one, Sharon Carter is now a proper villain. She’s enraged at how she was discarded, and her years in the wild sharpened her cynicism. The other person on the phone during The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s mid-credits stinger is Justin Hammer. With Tony Stark dead, he’s closer than ever to achieving supremacy as an immoral arms dealer. The only person standing in their way is War Machine, James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). As Sam and Bucky protected Steve Rogers’ legacy, so will Rhodes regarding the wobbly Stark brand.
Number two, Sharon Carter is not Sharon Carter. Sharon Carter is a Skrull. Secret Invasion is a prevalent comic book storyline involving a global Skrull takeover. As shape-shifters, the aliens infiltrate critical roles within all major governments and super-powered teams. In the original storyline, this clandestine attack is revealed when the sometimes Daredevil companion Elektra is exposed as a Skrull. One after another, various heroes are revealed as having fallen victim to a Skrull swap. Panic sets in, and paranoia runs wild throughout the Marvel universe.
The MCU does not have an Elektra (unless they decide to incorporate the Netflix shows as rumored, but I’m still skeptical on that front). Feige needs to pepper his universe with Skrull suspects before his Secret Invasion series can kick-off. Sharon Carter acting squirrelly is a red flag, and her revelation as a Skrull would be a little shock that could lead to bigger shocks. Hawkeye is a Skrull! Smart Hulk is a Skrull! Resurrected Gamora is a Skrull!
The person Sharon is chatting to in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the already rumored Olivia Colman or Emilia Clarke. They’re arranging their chessboard, waiting to strike so they can control the planet with as little fuss as possible. They want the war to be over before it starts.
I can hear some of you, “But wait, aren’t the Skrulls good guys?” Skrulls aren’t good or bad. They’re a people, like us poor Terrans. So far in the MCU, we’ve met some friendly Skrulls in Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his clan. They’re buddy-buddy with Nick Fury and Carol Danvers, but some of his compatriots are less chummy. Remember, as explained in Captain Marvel, the Skrulls are on the brink of extinction. Eons of war have decimated their numbers and made them desperate. They need a home, and Earth sure looks nice in places.
Sharon Carter, as a Skrull, works. It doesn’t forgive all the flaws found within The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but it does decode the logical leaps her character takes. Even better, Sharon Carter as a Skrull makes me feel okay about Steve Rogers. The OG Captain America would not have left Sharon hanging in the wind. I refuse to believe it.
For a franchise that has recently made strides to manufacture its villains with recognizable, understandable motivations, a mustache-twirling Sharon Carter lands with a thud. As part of an alien race willing to do anything to halt their species’ eradication, Skrull Sharon Carter sits nicely next to Baron Zemo, Thanos, and Killmonger. They’re baddies with a point. Let’s, please, give Sharon Carter a point.