Marvel’s new limited series, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, premiered on Disney+ on 19 March 2021, and received the highest streams on the platform over its opening weekend. Along with the return of the charismatic duo Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan (as the Falcon and the Winter Soldier respectively), the series also sees the return of Emily Van Camp as Sharon Carter.
The Return of Agent 13
Sharon Carter, the great-niece of Peggy Carter, is a former Shield agent and love interest of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Carter provided vital FBI information and support to help Steve escape with The Winter Soldier in Captain America: Civil War. She embodied the epitome of a supporting female character in the MCU; a character who existed as a love interest to a superhero to aid them in their time of need but was otherwise left underdeveloped.
Steve is now out of the picture – he went back in time in EndGame to live out his life in the 1940s with Sharon’s Great Aunt Peggy (definitely not your typical love triangle). As such, Marvel could finally be able to explore Sharon’s character in a whole new light now that she is out of Steve’s shadow. When the show was first announced there were some ripples of excitement about her return. However, after Darcy Lewis’ (Kat Denning) transformation in WandaVision, fans are all the more hopeful that Sharon’s return will be just as empowering and developed.
WandaVision: Setting the Precedent for Supporting Female Characters
WandaVision saw the return of Darcy Lewis, Jane Foster’s previously ditsy intern from the Thor and Thor: The Dark World. With a doctorate in Astrophysics and a wealth of wit, Darcy lit up our screens as a vital supporting character. Within minutes of her return to our screens, Darcy cracked the broadcast frequency and hacked the hex to communicate with Wanda. In general, she kicked ass as part of one of the best-supporting ensembles in the franchise with Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris).
Female supporting characters in the MCU historically haven’t had the most interesting roles. Either they play the love interest, the friend of the love interest, or the friend of the superhero – all of which exist to support the superhero’s narrative.
For instance, Hope Pym (Evangeline Lily) exists solely to add depth to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in both the Ant-Man films. Hope aids the two men when they require assistance, but otherwise, we learn very little about who she is. Some of Hope’s childhood is included in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but only to enable the audience to understand Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), his involvement in Shield, and his relationship to characters within the MCU such as Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
In spite of her abilities as the Wasp, Hope is the definition of a female sidekick as she exists solely for the hero’s development. This echoes Sharon’s role in Captain America: Civil War as being the very much outdated stereotype for supporting female characters.
So far, Marvel has used their limited series and hefty budget ($25m per episode) to revisit overlooked characters in the MCU and explore their identity in greater depth out of the shadow of their superhero partners. In the first two episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it has already become already apparent how much more there is to Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson than has been disclosed in previous films. The show takes a deep dive into the impact that prior events have had on these characters, therefore it would be a massive oversight if Marvel didn’t examine and evolve Sharon’s character too.
What Could We Expect From Sharon Carter?
As Sharon is the only female character from the films (that we currently know of) to return in this series, Marvel has an opportunity to give her a purpose in the narrative that is more than just helping the superheroes. In Phase 4, Marvel have chosen to bring their supporting characters into the foreground to give them the agency and screen time they deserve to explore human themes such as grief, race, identity and redemption. After the frankly epic development of Darcy Lewis’ character, fans are hopeful Sharon Carter will be explored in more detail, with more attention to her own identity and talents.
In the trailer Sharon demonstrates her fighting capabilities as Agent 13, attacking some of the ‘Flag-Smashers’ (the bad guys of the show) with strength and ability that we haven’t seen before. That version of Sharon would have been able to take on the room of Hydra agents herself in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Fans are hopeful that this is only a teaser of the strength and nuance of her character in the series, which will see Carter become as complex and well thought out as her male counterparts.
Mark Spellman only heightened the excitement telling TV Line that: “When we meet Sharon, she has definitely evolved. She has definitely grown up. I think fans are gonna love her, just her energy is so different now.” With the growing anticipation for the first reintroduction of her character, let’s hope that Marvel don’t disappoint.
WandaVision has shown that in amongst the CGI battles and witty one-liners there is plenty of room for multi-faceted supporting female roles who are as complicated as their male counterparts. Marvel should finally provide Sharon Carter with the depth and narrative she deserves.
The next episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming on Disney + this Friday
Words by Jess Bacon
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