Warning: spoilers ahead for episode one of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
An Easter egg in episode one of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney Plus makes a not-so-subtle nod to the first time Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) was introduced in the MCU in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The first episode of Marvel’s new TV series sets off with a bang, with the Falcon embarking on a dangerous rescue mission with the Air Force and James ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan) attempting to make amends for his past life as the lethal Winter Soldier.
Viewers also catch a glimpse of the anti-patriotism group Flag-Smashers in action for the first time, as the group – who believe the world would be better off unified without borders – carry out a robbery of a bank in Switzerland.
At the very beginning of the season premiere, Sam is seen with Captain America’s shield, which he was given by a now-elderly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) at the end of the 2019 blockbuster Avengers: Endgame.
Despite Steve having clearly stated that he has faith in Sam taking up the mantle, six months after the events of Endgame, Sam decides to give the shield away, handing it over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of an exhibition in honour of Captain America.
While some viewers may have been caught up with the shock that Sam would willingly relinquish ownership of such a valuable object, others may have spotted an Easter Egg that references the very first time the former pararescueman met Steve.
In the opening scenes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which came out in 2014, Sam and Steve meet while both going for a run in Washington DC, with Steve easily lapping Sam while saying the famous phrase ‘on your left’ every time he passes by.
At the end of their run, having introduced themselves to each other properly, Steve receives a message from Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) that she’s coming by to pick him up en route to a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D.
As Black Widow arrives in a swanky car, she says to Steve and Sam: ‘Hey fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil’ – of course referencing Steve, who was born in 1918.
At the time of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there was already an exhibition dedicated to Captain America at the Smithsonian Museum.
However, the fact that this is where Sam is giving away Captain America’s shield, a few years after he and Cap first met, is a real full-circle moment.
As anyone who has seen trailers for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will know, Sam does at some point get Captain America’s shield back, as he is seen practising with it in a backyard with Bucky.
However, how he is to retrieve the shield, now that it has been handed over to the ‘new’ Captain America, John F Walker (Wyatt Russell), remains to be seen.
Episode one of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier closes with Sam watching a news broadcast of John being handed over the shield, having been dubbed the new Captain America and acting like the squeaky-clean Cap who was coerced into selling war bonds to the public during World War II.
It appears that even in spite of his self-doubt, Sam is likely feeling a great sense of regret over giving the shield away.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier releases new episodes on Fridays on Disney Plus.