Movie’s been out for a while now, but here’s your courtesy warning. Spoilers below the cut.
Sam Wilson comes back. …That’s not really a spoiler, right? We all knew the Snap was gonna be reversed.
But before he and the rest of the fallen are brought back, those left behind spend the next five years picking up the pieces. Each of our heroes cope in their own ways, some of them taking up the roles of those they lost, vacancies in leadership. Natasha runs a version of S.H.I.E.L.D., in a position similar to Nick Fury. Okoye has taken over leadership of Wakanda. And Steve? He’s leading a support group, helping people process their trauma.
Sam Wilson’s job.
This is a solid way of reminding us of Sam’s impact on Steve’s life. While we are told how close Steve’s friendship is with Bucky, the various Marvel movies show us Sam sticking at Steve’s side. Risking his neck. Taking the fall alongside him. Sitting with him at Peggy’s funeral.
Steve’s farewell in Civil War includes the statement, “My faith’s in people, I guess. Individuals. And I’m happy to say for the most part, they haven’t let me down.” And as we hear the last part, the camera lingers on Sam. And when Steve breaks into the Raft to free the other Avengers, it’s again Sam that the camera focuses on.
But Sam doesn’t stand out just because of his loyalty to Steve. He’s got the same “I can do this all day” tenacity. In Winter Soldier, he took a knife to a gun fight. And won. He’s got the same trust in individuals over systems. Consider how in Winter Soldier, he opens up the door of his house to find two fugitives, and he immediately takes them in.
In most of these movies, we see Sam following Steve’s lead, even saying, “I do what he does, just slower,” but in Endgame, it’s Steve taking Sam’s lead. After all, all those left behind are going to trauma similar to that which drove Sam back in Winter Soldier.
Steve Rogers: You lose someone?
Sam Wilson: My wingman, Riley. Flying a night mission. Standard PJ rescue op, nothing we hadn’t done a thousand times before, till RPG knock Riley’s dumb ass out of the sky. Nothing I could do. It’s like I was up there just to watch.
Instead of Sam reflecting Steve as he had in previous movies, Endgame has Steve reflecting Sam. And so it’s Sam – not Bucky – whose voice we get to hear as the herald of the triumphant return. It’s Sam who gets to say “On your left.”
Then when Steve comes back, aged and ready to pass on the shield, Sam approaches him. On his left. He’s finally caught up to Captain America.