Spoilers for The Falcon & The Winter Soldier are ahead. Sharon Carter deserved better. It’s a belief closely held by many fans who were initially delighted to see Sharon (Emily VanCamp), great-niece of SHIELD founder and take-no-shit secret agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), appear in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. That feeling was short-lived, for almost immediately after Sharon arrived on screen after having casually stolen Captain America’s shield from the U.S. government, she was tasked with another, unnecessary role: kissing Cap to prove Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers still had game. The plot of Civil War quickly moved on, and just like that, the capable woman following in Peggy Carter’s footsteps was out of the picture.
Cut to 2021, and VanCamp’s Sharon is levelling hitmen and hired guns in a one-on-15 bare-knuckle brawl in her first appearance on The Falcon & The Winter Soldier in episode 3, “Power Broker”. Her eventual return was prophesied by the promotional materials for the Disney+ series, which includes giving Sharon her own character poster and one of the best scenes in the series’ first full trailer. Now a fugitive and enemy of the state for stealing back Sam’s (Anthony Mackie) Falcon suit and Cap’s shield (apparently the U.S. government doesn’t take kindly to giant vibranium discs going missing), Sharon lives in a sprawling mansion in the MCU’s fictional centre of scum and villainy, Madripoor. She’s become a successful art thief, selling authentic Monets and Rembrandts on the black market and reaping the rewards. Marvel seems to have heard our cries: Sharon Carter is back, and she is thriving.
But even VanCamp was surprised to see her again.
“I had put her to bed in my mind and thought that they'd moved past her in the Marvel universe,” the actor told Refinery29 over Zoom shortly after Sharon’s return. And in a way, the MCU has moved past the agent we once knew, too.
“I think it was really important that we don't just have the same Sharon come back into the universe without addressing all of the things that she must've gone through,” VanCamp noted, adding that it was the first thing executive producers Nate Moore and Zoie Nagelhout shared with her. “They really wanted to finally address that, because there've been a lot of questions like, where is Sharon?”
Her choice to help Cap in Civil War did not go unnoticed, and this woman who dedicated her life to her country (let’s not forget, she was tasked with protecting Steve during her off hours in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) has been shut out. So it’s fitting that she returns to the MCU via The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, a series that initially sold itself as a roaring good time with kickass action sequences before proving itself to be a thoughtful meditation on race, mental health, loss, and the truth about American patriotism. Sharon was devoted to her country, even when it meant standing at the other end of an unhinged Hydra agent’s gun. But what does she have to show for it now?
“She's been through the ringer, and she is obviously thriving in this new environment, but is it where she wants to be? Absolutely not. And you kind of wonder, why wasn't she pardoned?” VanCamp posited. Even Bucky (Sebastian Stan) earned a pardon, and he was a literal assassin for Hydra (against his will, but still). “That chip on her shoulder is real, and it kind of comes out in every different facet of the character and how she communicates; how she walks, talks, all of it.”
But while her combat scene in episode 3 was thrilling on- and off-screen — VanCamp had to study boxing and jiu jitsu to bring the gritty shipyard brawl to life — there’s a quieter, much more devastating thread in this chapter of Sharon’s story.
“The unfortunate thing is that this sort of wide-eyed, loyal, very dedicated agent that she once was is kind of stripped away,” explained VanCamp. “It was great to get to explore who Sharon is now, but kind of sad as well that she's had to go through all those things and was sort of abandoned. She’s almost left behind.”
While VanCamp is dutifully tight-lipped when it comes to the rampant theories that Sharon may be one of the series’ big bads, The Power Broker, it’s easy to see why those theories exist. Being left behind is practically a prescription for becoming a villain in a superhero story — and making Sharon the Power Broker would also be one hell of a way to make up for sidelining her in her last MCU appearance. It would also explain her seriously extensive arsenal of spy gear, her personal chauffeur, and the various suspicious locales from which she phones our heroes — including walking down a seedy Madripoor alley where not a single person even thinks about bothering her. But even if Sharon emerges as more of a threat than Sam and Bucky think she is, we can probably expect a rich, thoughtful, and even understandable explanation for that turn.
“The overall themes of the show are really complicated and I think the same goes for Sharon, after what she's been through. All of the lines are kind of blurred. There's not a lot of black and white, it’s a lot of grey in terms of what the characters are going through and who's right and wrong,” notes VanCamp.
However Sharon’s full story turns out, the actor who plays her says she’s happy to be invited back. “Marvel is getting better and better at really exploring women characters and doing them justice,” she said, referring to WandaVision and Black Widow.
What remains to be seen is just what kind of justice we’ll see for Sharon Carter. As you may have heard, she deserves something pretty grand.