Full spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier below.
Well folks, with episode six of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we’ve reached the end of the line. The show came to a close in a finale that was filled with some great action, fun reveals, and ultimately proved that this show’s strength lies within its characters and themes and not so much the superheroics.
When we last left off, Sam was staring at a gift from Wakanda and the Flag Smashers were planning to run up on a vote by the Global Repatriation Council to forcibly move all of those who were internationally displaced due to the Blip. This episode opens with the Flag Smashers kidnapping members of the council and holding them hostage. Before they can get too far into their plan, Sam pulls up with the shield in hand and a fresh pair of wings on his back.
After taking out a group of Flag Smashers, Sam’s asked by a security guard who he is. When he simply replied “Captain America,” I was in Discord yelling “Damn right he is!” to my friends I was watching the finale with.
So yeah y’all, Sam Wilson: Captain America is officially in the building. Both literally and figuratively, in this case.
I’m not going to lie to you, the mechanics of the Flag Smasher’s plan were a little bit confusing. There were hostages on a truck and hostages in a helicopter, and if things went south Karli was down to kill them all to make their point.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a fascinating show because I felt like the character beats and thematic choices really overshadowed the superheroics, and the finale really put a magnifying glass on that. The action was great and I thought the aerial sequence with Sam taking on the helicopter was fantastic.
Upon my second time watching the episode, though, I realized that I didn’t really understand what was supposed to happen had the Flag Smasher’s plan gone off without a hitch. I knew the overall goal was to stop the vote, but I wasn’t quite following what was intended to happen had they successfully gotten the hostages out of the area.
John Walker pulls up to the fight and obviously still has beef with Karli. He teams up with Bucky to help take on the Flag Smasher on the ground, bootleg shield and all. I think of all the new elements Falcon/Winter Soldier has added to the MCU, John Walker has been the strongest.
They managed to take a character who was already interesting in the books and use him as a vessel to talk about white privilege, toxic masculinity, as well as the way we treat our vets and the horrible things they’re asked to do in the name of “freedom.” They created a messy, complicated character who exists in a strange moral area that the MCU hasn’t really tackled yet.
Speaking of messy, morally complicated characters, the finale revealed what we already kind of guessed: Sharon Carter is the Power Broker. Not going to lie, this reveal fell flat for me, mainly because it was so heavily telegraphed that I thought it just had to be a red herring, but nope. She was straight up power brokering this whole time, and it was revealed the call she made to Batroc was so he could spy on Karli.
Before Sam can realize what’s going on, a three-way shootout occurs between Karli, Batroc, and Sharon, with Batroc being killed and Sharon seriously injured. Sam finds Sharon wounded and presumes that Karli had just shot an innocent white lady and not the goddamn Power Broker.
The two engage in a fight where Sam is largely on the defense, refusing to fight Karli in an effort to get her to realize just how far she’s gone. Karli eventually gets the drop on Sam, but before she can pull the trigger, Sharon shoots her multiple times in the chest.
Sam flies Karli’s body to a nearby ambulance in an incredibly gorgeous shot. He confronts the members of the council who were set to vote on forcibly moving the displaced and reminds them of the power they wield and who their decisions actually affect. There were some great lines and honest truths in this speech, though I feel like the resolution just missed the mark for me.
Maybe had I not lived through a pandemic that white America successfully politicized I would be more receptive to the idea of “a common struggle” uniting us. We’ve endured what should’ve been a common struggle, and whiteness still did its thing. I think a more subversive ending—mainly one where the Flag Smashers didn’t die or their reach is still being felt—would’ve been interesting.
Once the core conflict is wrapped up we see Bucky go to Mr. Nakajima’s home; the man from the pilot whose son Bucky killed during his days as the Winter Soldier. He finally admits to Nakajima what he did, providing closure for the grieving father. Sam and Bucky then kick it at a neighborhood crawfish boil, showing that Bucky has finally reintegrated back into the world and successfully transitioning the pair from begrudging teammates to genuine friends.
This wouldn’t be an MCU story if it didn’t give us at least a few glimpses of the future, though. At the end of the episode we see John reunited with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. She gives him a new suit, this time in black, and tells him that with how weird the world is about to get; it’s going to need a U.S.Agent, not a Captain America. The post-credits scene shows Sharon getting her pardon and an offer to rejoin the CIA. She accepts and then immediately gets back to her war profiteering ways.
Overall, I found Falcon—oh wait, excuse me—Captain America and the Winter Soldier to be a solid B-show. The thing that held it back from true greatness was that things felt simultaneously slow yet rushed with regards to the Flag Smashers and the conflict driving the story forward. The series had a lot of interesting ideas and themes it played with, and I think it did so pretty well for the most part. I think two more episodes, specifically an episode that showed Karli and the Flag Smasher’s life during the Blip, really could’ve helped strengthen the series narrative backbone. Also, the Sharon Carter reveal was a bit of a letdown given how obvious it was from her arrival.
Still, I am incredibly excited to see Sam Wilson with the shield, and I’m curious to follow the threads this show left dangling. Between WandaVision and this series, it’s clear that the MCU is intent on following through on just how weird a post-Endgame world would be.
So that does it for me! Thanks for rockin’ with me over the last six weeks, it’s been delightful reading all of your debates and theories in the comments. Just know that the next time Sam Wilson picks up the shield I will (hopefully) be there to tell you all about it.
-Man, Sam Wilson was rocking that suit y’all.
-That “Captain America and the Winter Soldier” title card at the end had me clapping, can’t even front.
-If we don’t see U.S.Agent and Zemo team up in a Thunderbolts show, then what are we even doing here folks?
-Bucky was really doing his best stepdad audition for Sarah at the crawfish boil.