After two consecutive episodes of globe-trotting adventures, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier remembers what the show is about in Episode 5, “Truth.” As the title suggests, the episode spends time with Sam and Bucky as they find their truths.
A Hero’s Journey
After a brief confrontation with Walker where Sam gets the shield back, there’s not much more Sam can do to stop Walker or the Flag Smashers at the time. He decides to make right what he can.
That starts with visiting Isaiah Bradley which leads to a powerhouse scene between Anthony Mackie and Carl Lumbly with some of the series’ best performances.
Sam wants to know the whole truth about what happened, no matter how painful. And it is a painful scene to watch, as Bradley outlines the years of torture and humiliation he faced all because he dared to question the government’s methods for experimenting on soldiers without their consent then trying to cover it up.
The government erased him from existence, costing him everything.
Anyone familiar with the very real Tuskegee study and similar occurrences will probably not be surprised to hear about this unethical experimentation on a Black man but that doesn’t make it any easier to listen to.
“They will never let a Black man be Captain America.”Isaiah Bradley
Of course, Sam isn’t completely naive to the world around him, but there’s still a part of him that believes things can be made right. That despite the long history of injustices towards Black people in America, that he can get Bradley justice now.
Bradley insists there is no justice or change, and Sam is a fool for thinking he can be Captain America or even wanting to be.
It’s a tough balance for the show to reach, acknowledging the horrors Bradley faced while also showing why Sam refuses to give up all hope. Mackie artfully portrays that internal battle in this scene and later in the episode.
Sam heads back to Louisiana to make things right with his sister, which involves fixing a boat and a visit from Bucky. It’s a great way for the show to tie together the stories about Sam’s family and his relationship with Bucky.
There’s the natural comedy that comes with Bucky showing up in Sam’s tiny hometown, but more importantly, we get the conversation we’ve been waiting for these two to have. Instead of just bickering, they get to challenge each other and connect in an authentic and compassionate way that only friends can.
“The legacy of that shield is complicated, to say the least.”Sam Wilson
It breaks your heart when Bucky admits the shield felt like the only family he had left, which is why he was so angry at Sam for giving it up. What’s left unsaid is that Sam is his family now. Sure they still won’t even admit they’re partners, but the bond Steve created by bringing them together is unbreakable.
It’s also important that Bucky acknowledges that he and Steve never considered what the shield would actually mean for a Black man and apologizes to Sam for being so hard on him for giving it up. Steve may not be around to acknowledge it himself, but Bucky’s sincere apology means a lot in helping Sam also move forward.
And Sam pushes Bucky, telling him he actually needs to do the work and start amending instead of avenging. Bucky’s attempt at redemption has been about himself so far, but what he really needs to do is focus on what he can do to make others feel better. That includes giving victims closure (aka his friend from Episode 1).
This heart-to-heart shows off the great chemistry between the two actors and gives us the emotional payoff we’ve been waiting for since they were first reunited in Episode 2. For fans with an interest in these specific characters and not just the general MCU, this is the episode they’ve been waiting for.
After his visit with Bradley and conversations with Bucky and Sarah, Sam is finally ready.
Having Sam work through his feelings about taking up the shield, rather than just automatically doing so because Steve said he could, creates a much more interesting and rewarding journey for the character.
He becomes Captain America on his own terms. And just in time for an epic finale.
And The Bad Guys
Unfortunately, there’s only one episode left, so the show doesn’t have the luxury of forgetting about everything else entirely.
There are several scenes with John Walker as he continues to become more and more unhinged especially after the country he thinks he gave up everything for rejects him and strips him of his title. Russell puts in a fantastic performance although it’s still not entirely clear why we need to spend so much time with this character. Six episodes are not enough time to give a brand new supporting character a fully satisfying arc, though the show seems to be desperately trying.
The arrival of Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (played by the iconic Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her offer of employment means we haven’t seen the last of Walker. She also more or less encourages him to steal the shield back so you can expect that confrontation in the next episode.
We even get a chance to say goodbye to our (second-favorite) Sokovian, Baron Zemo. Bucky turns him in to the Dora Milaje, but not before he dramatically empties his gun rather than shooting Zemo to show him he’s changed.
(Side note: Shouldn’t they have put Zemo in the high-security Raft prison to begin with??? Seriously.)
Bucky disagrees with Zemo that the only way to stop Karli is to kill her, but to be honest he doesn’t actually seem all that convinced with himself.
Oh, and somehow Sharon Carter is teaming up with Batroc to sabotage the Flag Smashers, who want to stop the GRC from voting on a new bill that would return displaced people to their country of origin? I’m still holding out hope that Sharon isn’t actually evil, but it’s not looking good.
There’s a lot left to wrap up with only one more episode, but that doesn’t stop the show from slowing things down to focus on its heroes. Spending almost the entire penultimate episode on emotional character development when you have so many loose threads is a risk. Hopefully, it’s one that continues to pay off on the next episode.
Sam and Bucky are both supporting characters that deserve a chance to shine in the MCU and have fully developed stories. It became unclear towards the middle of the season whether The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was actually committed to telling those stories. “Truth” is an important return to the duo’s post-Endgame journeys.
- What’s in the package Bucky gave Sam? It’s probably a new shield or suit yet the suspense of finding out is still killing me.
- I still don’t understand why Sam can’t just call up Pepper Potts for some money. In Far From Home we saw Happy literally giving out checks… But the community coming together is nice too.
- Just give me a whole season of Bucky and Sam working on a boat together. I love it.
- Bucky flirting with Sarah after Sam told him not to…I also love that.
- The training montage could have been a smidge shorter while still keeping the emotional moments like Sam looking at this nephew.
- I’m glad Bucky confirmed he knew about Steve’s plan. With fandoms being driven by speculation and internet theories sometimes it’s nice to just have things spelled out.
- Carl Lumbly is definitely getting an Emmy nomination for this.
- As much as I’m worried the finale is going to be overstuffed as it is, I hope we get to see Joaquin suit up as the new Falcon. Him taking Sam’s discarded wings can’t be a coincidence…
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere on Fridays on Disney+.