And with that, the first season of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier comes to a satisfying, if bittersweet end. So far, I’ve greatly enjoyed Marvel Studios foray into episodic television, with Wandavision tackling grief and how it manifests and now The Falcon and The Winter Soldier tackling issues of race and class politics. There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, so let’s dive right in.
As always, there will be spoilers, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
First things first: Sam Wilson in his new uniform looks sick as hell. When the Wakandans decide to make you a suit, you best believe it’s going to be awesome. And Sam used it to good effect throughout the course of the episode, proving that a good man doesn’t need the Super Soldier Serum to be Captain America. And much like Steve before him, Sam did everything he could to end the conflict with the Flag Smashers as quickly as possible while still protecting everyday citizens. His safe of the police officers in the helicopter was quite fun. To be honest, the entire sequence of him chasing the helicopter was just made of awesome. It was Sam’s fight with Karli, though, that struck me as the best part of that portion of the episode. Refusing to fight her while trying to bring her back to the light, Sam demonstrated yet again why he is the perfect choice to be the next Captain America, which is his compassion, a trait he shares with Steve Rogers.
Karli’s fate was sealed the moment she used a car bomb to blow up the GRC relief station. I mentioned in my review of that episode that Karli’s path was going to lead to more suffering and eventually her death. We saw that come true here. Whatever ideals she started off with, they slowly became corrupted until she lost track of what she wanted to accomplish in the first place. By far, Karli has been one of the more sympathetic villains introduced in the MCU. Her point of view is completely understandable but her methods increasingly become detestable.
The reveal that Sharon Carter is the Power Broker is something my friends and I called back in episode three. It was either going to be Sharon or Zemo and with Zemo going to the Raft (not that he doesn’t still have his influence on the outside), that left Sharon to carry the weight of being the big bad behind the events of the series. Her turn to villainy is also understandable: she was abandoned by Cap and the Avengers after the events of Captain America: Civil War and I’m willing to bet she survived Thanos’ snap, meaning she’s had to fend for herself for the better part of seven years without any kind of support. That she would turn into the Power Broker and command the shadowy underworld of Madripoor is not that shocking, to be fair. What intrigues me now is where her story goes from here now that she has her pardon and her old position in the CIA back.
John Walker’s arc in this last episode was… unexpected. I figured they would keep with his crazed, revenge-driven narrative a bit longer, potentially making him a secondary antagonist for the finale. Instead, we get the start of a possible redemption for the newly christened U.S. Agent. It’s interesting to me that Walker doesn’t interject or speak out when Sam lays down the law for the GRC members he helped save. It shows an element of growth in his character, specifically him being willing to let go of the notion that he is Captain America. I’m willing to give Walker the benefit of potentially redeeming himself but as is the case in comic book stories, his descent into darkness may have only slowed but not stopped.
Speaking of Sam’s speech, here’s the best part of it:
“I’m a black man carrying the Stars and Stripes! What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this up, I know there are millions of people out there that are going to hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it: the stares, the judgement and there’s nothing I can do to change it. That I’m still here, no Super Serum, no blonde hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is the belief that we. Can do. Better. We can’t demand people step up and we don’t meet them half way. You control the banks! Shit, you can move borders! You can knock down forests with an e-mail, you can feed a million people with a phone call. But, the question is: who is in the room when you’re making those decisions? Hm? Is it the people you’re going to impact? Or is it more people like you? I mean, this girl died trying to stop you and no one has stopped for one second to ask why. You gotta do better, Senator! You gotta step up! Because if you don’t, the next Karli will! And you don’t wanna see Karli 2.0. People believed in her cause so much, that they helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. Why do you think that is?! Look, you people have as much power as an insane god… or a misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is: how are you going to use it?”Sam Wilson, Episode 6 of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”
Sam’s words bring to light his struggles as a black man and accepting the mantle of Captain America. This is echoed even further during his conversation with Isaiah when he talks about how African-Americans helped build this country (which they did unwillingly). For anyone who doesn’t want to acknowledge that racial politics are being discussed in this series, you really haven’t been paying attention since the first episode. And the scenes where Sam reveals that he’s ensured Isaiah’s story is shared right alongside Steve’s was heartwarming in so many ways. Seeing Isaiah break down and hug Sam while shaking was wonderful.
The central question of this series has been Can a Black Man be Captain America?
The answer is a resounding Yes, he sure as hell can.
The denouement of the episode also wrapped up many of the dangling threads in the series, the most poignant of which was Bucky visiting Yori and revealing his part in the death of Yori’s son. Sebastian Stan has proven without a doubt that he is a remarkable actor (which is something considering he spent the majority of his time sharing the screen with Anthony Mackie, who just oozes cool and charisma effortlessly). For the first time since his reintroduction as The Winter Soldier, Bucky is at peace with himself and has found a place alongside Sam, even going so far as to refer to Sam as Cap.
If there isn’t another season of Captain America and The Winter Soldier, I’ll certainly be disappointed. But this single season of comic book television has done a great deal about opening viewers eyes to uncomfortable truths that we like to keep under wraps in America, namely our past treatment of People of Color. For something as often silly as a comic book TV show to do that is why I got into writing stories in the first place: to hold a mirror up and show others what is there and what they don’t want to see. I’d say the series accomplished that goal and then some.