The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was always going to be the story of how Sam Wilson becomes Captain America. In that regard, the sixth and final episode, “One World, One People,” delivers on its promise brilliantly.
Sam keeps his wings but with a snazzy new suit courtesy of the Wakandans and with the real Captain America shield in tow. Fans who have been waiting for this moment will have a reason to cheer when seeing him fly in as the new Cap.
Bucky says it best when he says, “Nice job, Cap.” This episode signals the official passing of the torch.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to the story than Sam simply suiting up and saving the day. The rest of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s story ends with mixed results on the finale.
Saving the Day
Although there are several antagonists in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, The Flag Smashers were the most prominent. It’s their decision to hold the GRC hostage in the final episode that drives most of the action in the first half.
And I do mean action. The episode is stuffed with action sequence after action sequence including but not limited to: Bucky vaulting himself over a barrier off of a motorcycle, a helicopter being heroically diverted from crashing, a van full of people almost falling off the edge of scaffolding, John Walker getting a major beatdown from the Flag Smashers and more.
I think you get the point.
While the action is a nice way to show off our new Cap, it also limits the episode’s emotional impact in the first half.
Karli’s death, at the hands of Sharon Carter AKA the Power Broker, seems less tragic or impactful since we know the motivation for shooting her wasn’t because the only way to stop her was to kill her. It’s because Sharon didn’t want Karli to survive and reveal her identity.
Her death leads to a heroic speech from Sam, who challenges the GRC about how they view the world and what they’re doing to millions of people. While it’s extremely noble, and very much a Captain America-worthy speech, it falls a little flat in the context of the show.
There’s no question Sam has the empathy and compassion needed to be Captain America. It’s why he tried to reason with Karli from the beginning. But him making a grand speech about the post-Blip world and what it feels like to be powerless feels forced to fit the moment compared to some of his more vulnerable and authentic moments elsewhere in the season.
The episode is a great debut for the new Captain America while being an underwhelming conclusion to the story of the Flag Smashers. We learn the GRC has decided to not go through with the bill, but a global issue of that scope requires more than just a nice speech to actually fix it.
In one of the most frustrating parts of the episode, the other “villain” of the series John Walker ends up walking away free to become his comic book counterpart U.S. Agent with the help of Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine.
The problem is that nothing John Walker does in this episode comes close to redeeming him or proving he’s no longer a danger to society. Sure he tries to save a bus full of GRC members instead of continuing to beat up Flag Smashers, but that’s doing the bare minimum. This is not some sort of selfless or noble act to tell us he’s changed.
I’m not sure what the right ending would be for Walker, but Sam and Bucky just letting him walk away isn’t it. It seems like he’s going to be sticking around the MCU, so there’s still time to redeem him I guess (or more likely just continue to hate him).
More than maybe any other episode of this season, the finale begs the question of why this story wasn’t just written as a film. The Power Broker, the Flag Smashers, John Walker… even by the somewhat low standards of Marvel villains none of them ended up adding up to much.
This could have been a much shorter and equally effective story about how Sam and Bucky move on in the wake of Steve’s legacy.
Captain America and The Winter Soldier
Fortunately, there are some scenes towards the end of the episode that provide some emotional punch, the thing this show has done the best when it’s bothered to do it at all.
Sam visits Bradley again, who saw his big speech to the GRC on the news. The two make peace about Sam’s decision, and it’s touching to see Bradley seem to approve of Sam in his own way.
More than that, Sam delivers on his promise to get Bradley some justice. Nothing can erase his pain or suffering, but Sam makes sure he’s remembered and acknowledged by having the Smithsonian add a statue and section about him at the Captain America exhibit.
Watching Mackie and Lumbly embrace in this scene will fill you with so much warmth you’ll think you were in the room with them. Sam made it clear he didn’t need anyone’s approval to be the new Captain America, but you get the sense he’s glad he’s earned Bradley’s.
Bucky finally revealing the truth to Yori about his son provides another chance for Sebastian Stan to prove how great he is at looking pained and sad. While the “Winter Soldier” part of this story didn’t always live up to expectations, it’s nice to see Bucky actually make amends and get to move on.
He doesn’t get a new title like Sam, but he’s still a different hero than the one we started this series with. By the end of the episode, when he’s back in Louisiana with Sam and his family, Bucky looks downright happy. It’s a good look for the character.
The episode ends with the title card, “Captain America and The Winter Soldier,” hinting that there are more stories to come for these characters. Despite some of the flaws in this season, it’s hard to not want to tune into whatever comes next for this duo.
- How much time has passed that Bucky checked off all the names in his book?
- I can’t believe we didn’t get Joaquin suiting up as the new Falcon in a post-credits scene. In fact, we barely saw him at all.
- I wanted so much more for Sharon. Making her a global crime boss is equally frustrating and head-scratching. When the MCU has the “Big 3,” what role will a villain like the Power Broker actually play moving forward? Glad Peggy didn’t live to see this…
- After seeing the picture of children hanging off of Bucky’s arm weeks ago, I’m so happy we actually got to see it on screen.
- I’m not looking forward to more John Walker, but I am looking forward to more Julia Louis-Dreyfus. You win some, you lose some.
- Zemo blowing up the rest of the Super Soldiers as they were being transported to prison seemed highly unnecessary but I will never say no to a Zemo scene.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is streaming now on Disney+.