“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has always been about Captain America. Say what you want, but the story has always centered on the Marvel Cinematic Universe giving us a new Captain America.

Heading into the show, we always thought Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) would take up the shield and fill the role his friend, Steve Rogers, left open. There was even an outside chance that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) would become the superhero.

What we got, instead, was John Walker (Wyatt Russell), who was forced into the role by the U.S. government. Sam didn’t want the role. Bucky wasn’t exactly a clean successor given his violent history. So the U.S. gave the shield to John Walker.

For three weeks, we’ve seen the world celebrate the new Captain America. He’s not a super soldier. He arrests people with handcuffs and pistols. He is a soldier in a superhero’s suit rather than a superhero in a soldier’s fight.

All of that came crashing down this week, and Marvel may have changed how we perceive Captain America forever.

The fourth episode of the series — titled “The Whole World is Watching” — focuses on Sam and Bucky teaming up with Zemo (Daniel Brühl) again. This time, they seek out Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), leader of the Flag Smashers rebel group and owner of the super soldier serum. But they’re not alone in their search as Walker and Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett) join the fight.

I don’t want to spoil the outcome for the latest episode because it is truly a doozy, and it’s going to be one of those moments that stands the test of time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the perfect, game-changing moment for this show and the MCU — something that we will not soon forget.

But it caps off an entire episode centered around defining the role of Captain America. Is Captain America about being a strong, super soldier? Is the role for an idealist, a supremacist or a pacifist? Is Captain America someone who wants power or justice? These questions come at us all throughout the episode. We’re asked to consider these ideas as we try to understand the role of Captain America and who should really take on the role.

Is Walker the best fit? Does Bucky have a claim to the role? Will Sam take on the mantle? Even Karli — despite all the chaos and death she has caused — has a claim to the throne, too.

How to watch ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Episode 4

The character of Captain America — like Superman — has always been seen as the ideal of superheroes. Someone who fights for justice without murder. These heroes have an ideology to save the less fortunate and bring down the villains. Now, we’re getting asked questions to make us wonder what Captain America really means. Is it being clean in your approach? Is it about promoting peace and not destruction? Does it mean just having super strength?

Our world has been full of chaos for the last 13 or so months because of the pandemic. You could argue it’s been going on for longer with international political strife and domestic violence here stateside. Episodes like “The Whole World is Watching” make us consider what it means to be a hero and what heroes mean to us. It makes us consider what we want in our leaders and what we hope to see in terms of justice.

Though the ending of “The Whole World is Watching” leaves us in a darker place, the message is clear — the darkest of times can give light to the brightest of dawns. For the Captain America character, the dawn is coming. And after this latest episode, we now have a better idea of what we want to see when the sunlight hits — both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in our own lives.