The problem with Sharon Carter in CA:CW isn’t that she was an unnecessary love interest. It’s that she was too necessary - Sharon acted on multiple occasions as a sort of deus ex SHIELD Agent: providing affirmation for Steve’s feelings, helping Steve and Sam get to Bucky when he’s triggered, getting weapons for them and then disappearing. Indeed, @pictures-to-prove-it and I talked after the movie and agreed that it seems like most of Sharon’s scenes were probably cut, leaving a very odd collection of “Sharon makes Steve’s Job Easier While Keeping Nothing For Herself” scenes left in the final cut of the film.
By the time she kisses Steve she’s already advanced the plot 4 times, but there’s no consideration taken for her risks, her needs, her development. We never get to see Sharon really consider her actions. In a movie full of male characters getting to explore the consequences of their actions, Sharon never gets to even think about it. Does she ever wonder if Steve is worth this?
Does she wonder if Steve is even right? How can she work for the U.N. knowing that they’re wrong? If she doesn’t work for them, then what does she do? Where does a no-longer-SHIELD Agent find her place in a world that she knows wasn’t built for her, that she knows is actively seeking to destroy humanity, if humanity doesn’t destroy itself first? Does she lie awake at night thinking about the lives that have been lost because of her work? Does she lie awake at night thinking about the other lives she could have lived, were she not Sharon Carter?
We don’t know, because every time she’s on screen, it’s completely about her saving Steve’s ass. The problem with Sharon Carter in CA:CW isn’t that she’s an unnecessary love interest; it’s that she’s not treated like a human. And the way to remedy this?