Previously on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: Sam and Bucky confront Walker and let him know that he needs to surrender the shield and turn himself in, a suggestion that Walker does not appreciate and refuses to take into consideration. Karli and the Flag-Smashers are still on the run and decide to make one last move to let the government know that they will not be pushed around by them any longer. After speaking once more to Isaiah Bradley and spending time at home with his family and with Bucky, Sam decides whether he should accept the shield and mantle of Captain America and whether it really is a step worth taking.
THE STORY SO FAR: Sam (in his brand-new Wakandan-made suit with shield in hand) and Bucky team up once more to finally put a stop to Karli, Georges Batroc, and the Flag-Smashers as they hold the GRC hostage to prevent them from signing The Patch Act. And John Walker, formerly known as Captain America and with his own homemade shield in hand, shows up as well to settle the score with Karli because of her killing Battlestar.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Sam as Captain America in his new Wakandan-made suit, and seeing him combine his aerial skills as Falcon with his newly-learned tactics in attacking opponents with his shield. Bucky going up against Karli and the Flag-Smashers, while also doing everything possible to rescue the hostages from burning to death after Karli tries to set them ablaze as a distraction. Sharon: “Seriously, Bucky, you had one job!” John Walker showing up and tagging himself into the fight, and deciding that saving lives is more important than his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Sam working in coordination with Ayla, the GRC member with flight expertise, to take over the helicopter and fly it to safety once he take out the gun-toting pilot.
Sam stopping the armored truck with the hostages from hitting the ground by using his own strength and ingenuity (as well as his jetpack and drones) to hold it in place and push it back to keep it from falling, as well as Bucky’s look of pride and admiration while watching him. Sharon and Karli confronting one another about how they disappointed they are in each other. Sam confronting the GRC about their treatment of the Flag-Smashers, their supporters, and thousands of others who have been displaced over the last five years, followed by Bucky showing his support for him with “Nice one, Cap” and patting the shield as they walk away. Bucky telling Yori the truth about what happened to his son. Sam visiting Isaiah Bradley about him becoming the next Captain America and his reasons for doing so. Isaiah’s reaction to his name and accomplishments on display at the Smithsonian’s Captain American exhibit. Contessa Valentina teasing Mrs. Walker about her possible involvement in the Flag-Smashers getting wiped out, right before Walker … well, walks out in his new costume and makes his debut as U.S. Agent. Sam and Sarah holding a large party attended by lots of people in the community, as well as by Bucky, who is more than happy to be there.
And also this moment right here at the end of the episode…
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: The design of the Captain America suit does look good and looks like it was lifted right off the pages of the comics, but it also looks slightly baggy on Sam as if it wasn’t made to be more fitted on him. According to some fans, the suit came across as slightly disappointing, considering that it was made in Wakanda, and when you think of T’Challa’s Black Panther suit, and how it not only looks cool but is really effective in terms of what it’s technologically capable of, Sam’s Captain America suit paled in comparison, as if Shuri made one of her lab assistants create and design the suit instead of doing it herself because she didn’t feel like it.
Sam’s fight against Batroc, which only proved once again that Black Nerd Problems was telling the truth with their recent article, “It’s About Time We Acknowledged That Sam Wilson Can’t Fight.”
John Walker’s fight against Karli and the Flag-Smashers, which wasn’t that great either because much like how Bucky’s fighting skills in the previous episode made it seem like he was Nerfed for story reasons only, the same thing seemingly happened to John Walker. The same person who was able to put up one hell of a fight against Sam and Bucky at the same time before he finally got knocked the f-ck out spent most of the fight getting stomped on like he was being initiated into the Bloods or Crips, and considering his military background and expertise, I expected him to do a better job defending himself against a teenage girl and her friends who have none of the combat experience he has, regardless of her abilities with the Super-Soldier Serum. And after seeing the mid-credits scene in last week’s episode, if you were hoping/expecting to see Walker do some cool shit with his new, regular-degular, non-vibranium shield … that never really happened, as both the shield (which of course took a lot of damage from the Flag-Smashers thanks to their super-strength) and Walker’s usage of it didn’t last too long.
I also could’ve done without seeing him and Bucky cracking jokes with each other about Walker’s strange need to quote Abraham Lincoln right before they finish tricking the Flag-Smashers into being arrested by the authorities. Especially when we just saw the two of them beating the sh-t out of each other not too long ago over Captain America’s blood-stained shield.
Sharon recruiting Karli, using her, and then killing her off right before she’s welcomed back to America and back into the CIA with open arms would make really good and incisive commentary on how white women climb onto the backs of Black women and other women of color in order to get what they want and what they feel they deserve, and then dispose of those same women without hesitation or regret once they’ve achieved their goal of grabbing the brass ring. Or at least it would have been really good and incisive if Karli or her storyline made much sense and provided enough entertainment.
As touching as it was to see Isaiah Bradley’s reaction to Sam making sure that he now has his own memorial as part of the Captain American exhibit at the Smithsonian that shines a light on his accomplishments and that of his fellow African-American soldiers who went through much of the same hell that he did, it still doesn’t change what happened to Isaiah and what he experienced. Much like the news stories we occasionally see that tell us about Black people who have to walk twenty miles on foot in order to get to work before walking that same twenty miles to get back home because they have no personal transportation, or children who operate a lemonade stand/bake sale in order to earn enough money so they can pay off whatever debts that are preventing other children like them from having lunch at school, this is not as happy or heartwarming or inspiring as we’re being led to believe. Nothing about Isaiah’s memorial at the museum can or will erase the 30 years of him being locked away in prison, of being repeatedly experimented on while locked away in prison, and the woman he loved never being able to see him again or hear from him again before she died. And Isaiah having to remain in hiding under a fake identity and pretend that he’s dead means that he won’t get any pension or reparations, which he is most definitely owed after everything he did on behalf of this country, and after everything that the country did to him. Which makes it even more unpleasant but believable to see Isaiah get little acknowledgment for his service to this country, whereas Sharon damn near gets the red-carpet treatment, partly due to her great-aunt, Peggy Carter, and her being a co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It was cool to see Sam stand up to the GRC and call them out about their stance and treatment towards the thousands of displaced people, but much of this scene still came off heavy-handed and went on slightly longer than needed. The scene between Sam and the GRC seemed less like it was about confronting an incredibly difficult and complicated issue that was tearing the world apart and making people feel frustrated and angry about everything that happened to them ever since The Snap, and more about making Sam-as-Captain America look positive and inspirational and like he’s one of the good ones (especially with all of the reaction shots from not just Bucky and Walker, but from Isaiah and Eli, Sarah, and Joaquin Torres). After seeing the public react to him rescuing two cops from their crashing helicopter, deflecting that helicopter into the river, and then saving the GRC members in the armored truck, this scene and the accompanying speech seemed like the show’s last attempt to try and convince everyone in the show and us at home that he was going to do a great job as Captain America, as if he didn’t already do that in the last two episodes in his interactions with Karli and Bucky, as well as during his training montage with the shield. (It also came across like Sam-as-Captain America was fulfilling all of the duties and requirements that many people have spent years demanding from Henry Cavill as Superman in the DCEU: saving people from harm, looking and being happy while saving people from harm, saying positive and inspirational things that make the public feel good, and doing things that make the public cheer and celebrate him) And after everything we’ve seen Sam go through this entire season, the last thing he should need or want is anybody’s approval or permission to be Captain America and do everything he can to defend this country from all enemies and keep others safe.
I know that Bucky was never the biggest fan of his therapy sessions with Dr. Raynor, but does he really get to walk away and tell her that he won’t be doing those therapy sessions any longer? Especially considering that they’re court-ordered and a requirement of him being pardoned for his crimes as the Winter Soldier, hence why he got arrested in Baltimore in the first place for not attending one of them like he was supposed to?
DOES STEVE ROGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No, but apparently, everyone still seems to think that he’s alive and now living on the Moon.
SHARON CARTER?: Yes, she does. Sam informs Bucky that he called her in to help them both out against Karli, Batroc, and the Flag-Smashers, and it doesn’t take long for us to finally get confirmation that she really and truly is the Power Broker, and that Karli was working for her in Madripoor until she and the Flag-Smashers got their hands on the Super-Soldier Serum and wanted to use their abilities to improve the world instead of taking it over.
SERIOUSLY? ALL THIS TIME, AND THE POWER BROKER HAS BEEN SHARON CARTER? REALLY?! OF ALL PEOPLE?!: Yeah, and as much as I get what the writers and Marvel/Disney seem to be going for, with having Sharon go from honorable SHIELD agent who is willing to put her own freedom on the line to help Captain America do what’s right, to a snarky and cynical and ruthless crimelord who is willing to use her pardon and reinstatement back in the CIA to continue being a ruthless crimelord using her resources to fatten her pockets and cause all sorts of chaos, but this particular story decision/sudden change in Sharon’s entire characterization didn’t make me happily go “Holy sh-t! I don’t believe this!” but instead made me go…
Part of me was still holding out hope that this was all part of a deep-cover operation that required her to lie her ass off and pretend to be someone she’s not (which was exactly how we first met Sharon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and also that Marvel/Disney would finally allow her to be the incredibly capable badass that she’s always been after having most of her screentime in that same film given to Black Widow instead, but after seeing her shoot Karli to death in order to protect her secret identity (and partly to keep Sam from getting killed), that hope has pretty much been extinguished.
BARON ZEMO?: Yes. After his butler,
Not-Woodhouse Oeznik, blows up the armored truck that is carrying the remaining Flag-Smashers to The Raft to be imprisoned, we then see Zemo listening to the radio in his cell and hearing a news report about the fact that they’re now dead. Which just makes him smile, and lie back on his bed in a state of relaxation.
LEAH, THE BARTENDER?: Yes. She’s not entirely happy to see Bucky when she sees him standing outside her bar, and considering how abruptly he ended their date as well as the fact that she most likely knows who he really is and what he did to Yori’s son, she makes no further acknowledgment of his presence other than briefly glancing at him. Which Bucky understands and accepts before he walks away for good.
YORI, BUCKY’S FRIEND?: Yes. Bucky visits him at his apartment, which throws Yori for a loop since they’re not supposed to hang out together like they usually do until later that week, and he listens to Bucky as he finally tells him what happened to his son and answers all of his questions. We don’t really get to see how Yori responds to any of this, instead we focus more on Bucky when the conversation ends and he is leaving. And considering that this series is partly supposed to be about Bucky seeking atonement and trying to make peace with his past as the Winter Soldier, the scene probably would’ve been a much stronger one if it were slightly longer and actually did focus on Bucky and Yori talking about this revelation. But something tells me that such a moment happening onscreen would be too intense and too ‘grimdark’ for Marvel/Disney’s approval, hence why that doesn’t happen.
After Bucky leaves his apartment, we later see Yori interacting with Leah, who is clearly looking out for him the way Bucky used to do.
WHITE VISION, A.K.A. NEGA-VISION: No. Whereabouts remain unknown.
DO ANY OF THE AVENGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No, they don’t.
DO SAM AND BUCKY GET ON EACH OTHER’S NERVES?: No, especially since they’re too busy fighting Karli and the Flag-Smashers, and working to keep the hostages safe and alive to really annoy each other.
DO SAM AND BUCKY MAKE OUT?: Sadly, no.
DO WE GET TO SEE SAM AND/OR BUCKY SHIRTLESS?: No.
ANY EASTER EGGS WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: The face-disguising technology that Sharon uses to sneak past the authorities and meet up with Bucky is the same technology used by Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, to get the drop on Alexander Pierce and step on his moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And Sam using small, jet-powered drones to help him push the armored truck up and keep it from falling is reminiscent of Iron Man using that same technique to help Spider-Man keep the Staten Island Ferry in one piece when it was being torn in half in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
ANY FAN THEORIES SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE ACROSS THE INTERNET BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE?: Sharon Carter using her access as a CIA agent to provide technology and weapons to those who would use them to raise hell will possibly lead to the upcoming series Armor Wars with Don Cheadle reprising his role as James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine. Contessa Valentina being in direct contact with Zemo, which is how she knew that he was responsible for him killing the last remaining Flag-Smashers, and possibly setting up that Zemo, U.S. Agent, and any other inmates at The Raft will probably be recruited to form the Thunderbolts, for when things get weird and when Captain America isn’t needed. The eight-tentacled locks used to keep the hostages in the armored trucks as well as the bombs used by the Flag-Smashers (and by Sharon) look very much like they would be made and used by Norman Osborn of Oscorp, even though Norman nor Oscorp has officially been introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. Joaquin Torres going on to take over the mantle of Falcon is a theory that is still going strong, and seeing him take a break from working on his repairs so he can proudly watch Sam-as-Captain America give a tongue-lashing to the GRC certainly adds a little more fuel to that fire.
ARE THERE ANY SCENES DURING THE CLOSING CREDITS?: Yes. Sharon receives an apology for how she was treated by the government, as well as a full pardon and reinstatement to her previous position with the CIA. Right after this happens, she’s on her phone plotting to use her job as a way to get access to any and all weapons and technology she can get her hands on so she can sell them to the highest bidder since the Flag-Smashers are dead and super-soldiers are no longer an option.
REALLY? THAT’S IT?: That’s all, folks. That is the only scene to watch during the closing credits.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: Much like this entire season, there were many things to like and enjoy, but there were also many other things that left plenty of room for improvement and kept the show from firing on all cylinders. As I said in the recap for last week’s episode, Erin Kellyman has been doing impressive work with the material that she’s been given, even when the material that she’s given isn’t all that great (and the last-minute changes to her storyline due to the COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn’t help), and no matter how hard the show tried to make us care about Karli and the Flag-Smashers, it never really worked. The season finale’s attempts at having Karli stop being half a gangster and be willing to kill hostages if necessary came off just as ridiculous and unbelievable to me as it did to her fellow Flag-Smashers as they stood there and listened to her going about killing hostages and sacrificing themselves if necessary in order to keep the movement going.
Wyatt Russell’s performance as John Walker was another highlight of the show, and as we saw him go from embracing his role as Captain America to losing control due to his own self-doubt and sense of entitlement, to trying to prove to others as well as himself that he is (like Battlestar described him earlier) someone who makes the right decisions when in battle, he was one of the very best things about The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and the fact that he gave Twitter so much reason to talk about this character (for better and for worse) is proof of that.
That being said, if you’re someone who watches/used to watch The Walking Dead and you really don’t like the idea of Negan getting a redemption arc after all of the horrendous sh-t that he’s done, I don’t know if you’ll feel any better or happier about Walker getting a redemption arc and getting to suit up as U.S. Agent after murdering someone as Captain America in front of dozens of witnesses, whereas Karli and her friends, who wanted nothing more than to stop being pushed around by the people in charge of the world and made to feel as if they have no rights, didn’t receive that luxury and ended up being killed as a result of fighting back and standing up for themselves so they could all be heard (even though their way of doing so did a hell of a lot more harm than good).
The rest of the cast did fantastic work as well, particularly Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Daniel Bruhl as Baron Zemo, and Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson. Julia Louis-Dreyfus showing up as Contessa Valentina was a very pleasant surprise.
Last but not least, there’s Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, who clearly worked their asses off carrying this series on their shoulders, and no matter the quality of each episode, they were both terrific to watch. When the show actually remembered that we were interested in seeing Sam and Bucky deal with their own personal demons (Sam trying to deal with the complicated history of Captain America and his shield, and whether or not this was a responsibility that he actually wanted; Bucky learning to forgive himself for everything he did as the Winter Soldier, while also trying to make amends for those actions), and try and overcome them while also learning how to work with each other, how to trust each other, and how to not let anyone else tell them who they are or what they should be, Mackie and Stan were even better, which made the show better. That ball kept getting dropped in favor of having them argue and get on each other’s nerves for laughs, and so we could watch Zemo show off his dance moves, but it says a lot that the show’s best episode moved at a much slower pace compared to the rest of the season as it mostly focused on Sam and Bucky spending time with each other off-duty, and finally start coming to terms with who they really are and what they need to do in order to be at peace with that.
This finale was entertaining, though it didn’t entirely stick the landing, and it will still be interesting to see what comes next. Especially with the newest announcement this past weekend that Marvel/Disney are planning to soon release a fourth Captain America film (or third, if you’re one of the few fans who think that Civil War wasn’t really a Captain America film and was more like The Avengers 2.5) focused on Sam as Captain America and is being written by The Falcon And The Winter Soldier showrunner Malcolm Spellman and staff writer Dalan Musson. Until that film drops in theaters and gives racist f-ckboys and Pick-Mes more reasons to complain about how Captain America is just too damn “woke” for them to enjoy, we still have Loki which premieres on June 11, as well as What If…, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel to keep us all occupied and entertained by Disney Plus for the rest of 2021.
And to the hardcore Marvel fans who tweet about the Marvel and Star Wars shows on Disney Plus immediately after they begin streaming, and who start tweeting spoilers and screenshots from these shows before the sun has even risen and before people have had their morning coffee:
Tweeting about spoilers and posting screenshots like this…
…right before you post the actual spoilers and screenshots isn’t going to prevent anyone from seeing them. Twitter isn’t a message board forum that lets you use spoiler tags to hide what you’re talking about, so just accept that all you’re doing is being impatient and inconsiderate in spilling all of the details and ruining all of the surprises for people who haven’t had a chance to watch the newest episode yet.
This episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has been brought to you by “The Boys Are Back In Town” by The BusBoys…
“Supervixen” by Garbage…
“Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige (no, I don’t care what Mary says, it’s “dancery,” not “dance soiree”)…
And “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground (rest in peace to Gregory Jacobs, a.k.a. “Shock G,” a.k.a. “Humpty Hump”, who died this past Thursday at the age of 57).
Header Image Source: Marvel Studios