The Flag Smashers were arguably the weakest element of the recently-ended The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – with a not-particularly-compelling ideology about bringing down national borders, and a tendency to kill people when it suited them, this group of revolutionaries-turned-villains were hard to care about.
But what if the show didn't tell their whole intended story? What if real-world events changed part of the show's narrative?
That's a wild fan theory that's been posited about the show for a few weeks, and is worth examining in the wake of the show's finale. Essentially, as the theory goes, when we first meet the Flag Smashers in episode 2 of the show, they're stealing vaccines in a series of moving vehicles – along with Super-Soldier serum. Bucky specifically identifies that they're stealing medicine, including vaccines.
Later in the show, we briefly see Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) spend time with a dying Donya Madani at a GRC facility – clearly a loved one of hers. When Bucky and Sam meet new Super-Soldier serum creator Wilfred Nagel, he mentions that Madani died of tuberculosis. Still, YouTube channel New Rockstars posits that Nagel's line could could've been added via ADR (additional dialogue recording), since we don't see the actor actually say 'tuberculosis' on-camera.
Madani, meanwhile, was played by actress Veronica Falcón, a key cast member in HBO's Perry Mason series, which makes her barebones appearances in this series a little strange.
The crux of the theory? The presence of the vaccines and Madani's death were originally connected – that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier featured some kind of disease-themed storyline that was cut for obvious sensitivity reasons around current events. The theory goes that ADR was then deployed throughout the series to patch over this storyline, along with some key reshoots.
Just over a year ago, a rumor from Murphy's Multiverse suggested that Marvel was reshooting parts of the first few episodes because the show originally featured a pandemic-themed storyline of sorts – possibly a bioweapon, according to the report. This was never confirmed or even discussed by Marvel, however, so we're treating this as a wild rumor.
Here's the theory in detail:
We've reached out to Disney Plus's UK PR agency to see if there's anything in the rumor of changes to the plot during production, and will update this article if we hear back.
Does the theory make sense?
New Rockstars' theory also suggests the Power Broker could've originally been behind a bioweapon attack in an earlier version of the story, therefore making them a bigger threat in the series – we now know the Power Broker is Sharon Carter.
In episode 6, we do see Sharon use a chemical weapon to murder a guy. If the Power Broker was behind this rumored bioweapon attack in earlier versions of the story (and that's a big if – there's not quite enough in the theory to sway us), the modus operandi lines up, and might've been a clue to the audience of the character's true identity.
Still, it wouldn't explain why the Flag Smashers are working for the Power Broker, since they'd surely be opposed in that scenario. This theory asks almost as many questions as it answers.
Ultimately, too, the finished series doesn't bear many obvious scars of reshoots – the Flag Smashers are just a slightly confusing group in terms of their motivations and methods. It does feel like there's a missing piece as a viewer, but that might just be down to the deliberate creative choices of the producers.
Wild speculation, then, assuming there's any truth to the theory: if the Flag Smashers' hatred of the GRC was originally motivated by the organization hoarding vaccines at a time when vulnerable people needed them, their actions in the series might've made more sense.
As it stands, opposing the GRC's desire to repatriate individuals to their home nations doesn't really justify why Karli is so trigger-happy in the show. If the GRC's actions were actually killing people, rather than simply displacing them, it might make more sense that she's happy to blow up one of their facilities and murder innocent people.
Still, like we say: take all of this as rumor and speculation.
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Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.