To be honest, the idea of Sharon Carter suddenly turning heel into an antiheroine (or possibly a supervillain depending on how big you think her evil empire is) actually works, for the most part. After all, she risked her life, reputation, and career for a man who left her to fend for herself for the better part of a decade while he traveled back in time to romance her dead great aunt and secured pardons for his far more murderous friends. She was abandoned by the very institutions she dedicated her life to serving and essentially forgotten by those who claimed to have her back.
It Is certainly understandable – perhaps even laudable – that she might have some very complicated feelings about all that. Revenge? Payback? Justice? Sharon is completely within her rights to want all those things. And her character is made all the more interesting by the fact that she now sees the world in complex shades of grey rather than the clearly delineated sense of right and wrong of her previous blonde All-American girl persona.
The problem is, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does absolutely zero of the work that’s necessary to justify this twist, and the result is something that feels like just another moment in a long line of incidents in which the MCU refuses to grant its female characters anything that resembles real interiority. The show takes advantage of what we all understood Sharon’s previous identity to be for shock value, even as it asks its audience to do all the heavy lifting of figuring out for ourselves why she made any of the choices we saw onscreen.
To be clear, the idea of Sharon Carter as a pseudo villain of some type is pretty fascinating on paper. After all, how do you go from a perfect blonde SHIELD poster girl to a murderous kingpin of what is essentially criminal Pleasure Island? What does that kind of journey – emotional or otherwise – involve? What are the compromises you have to make? How do you justify those kinds of decisions to yourself – particularly if you, like Sharon, were previously a pretty upright, moral person? I have no idea, and apparently, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier doesn’t either.
That Sharon, of all people, would suddenly be okay with not only manufacturing but selling super-soldier serum is laughably bizarre, as is her decision to kill multiple people, including Flag Smasher ringleader Karli. (As is the fact that it occurs immediately after a conversation where both women acknowledge how similar their lives and origin stories are!) The show makes no effort to explain Sharon’s involvement with Batroc or why she would suddenly be okay with the Frenchman’s desire to kill Sam (which, let’s not forget is the one basic fact we know about his character) when she’s also the person who rescued her (ex) friend from Selby back in the series’ third episode.
Plus, the show’s awkward attempt to conceal this most obvious of twists made for some pretty gaping plot holes: Why did Sharon help Sam and Bucky track down the very scientist she was using to make super-soldier serum? What was her reason for fighting the Flag Smashers if she was already using them for her own nefarious ends? What, it bears asking, is the point of any of this?