While delivering no massive surprises the final episode of ‘The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’ was like a large superhero comfort blanket that delivered everything that had been promised.
Apart from a brief glimpse of him flying there was no teasing, hiding, or last minute reveal that Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is the new Captain America. Two and a half minutes after the Marvel Studios title card he and the shield come crashing through a window and declares himself as such, in a Wakandan Star-Spangled uniform, when questioned. And refreshingly the response isn’t “but you’re black” or something along those lines it’s “I thought he’s on the moon” a nice call back to the first episode. Straight away Sam is accepted as the hero that he has proven himself to be.
Karli (Erin Kellyman) and her team of super-soldiers known as the Flag Smashers are out to stop the Global Repatriation Council vote to to reset national boards to how they were before the blip and repatriate everyone who has moved in the last five years. They are survivors and believe the have a right to live where they want and have been living. Over those five years it has been one world, one people and in their eyes and those of many others they are not wrong. With the aid of Batroc they take the council members hostage and flee the scene by helicopter and police van. This splits up Sam and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and also Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) who is on site to help.
Sam goes after the helicopter and what follows is an action scene to rival anything from the films. The Falcon dodges bullets while using his robotic assistant Redwing to slow the it down. At one point he has to break off to rescue pilots from an out of control police helicopter, snatching them from their seats and then using his new wings as a shield which the falling vehicle just bounces off. He finally get control of the helicopter by communicating with one of the hostages, who can fly, and using the shield to break the pilot’s door off and fly him away. People look on and cheer and applaud.
While this is going on Bucky and Sharon are trying to handle things on the ground as Karli becomes more obsessed with making a statement. Sharon starts to show her true colours (?) by melting one of the Flag Smashers and Bucky pursues the vans with the hostages locked inside. At this point John Walker joins the fight looking for revenge on Karli as he as already promised Battlestar’s parents that he has killed his killer. Walker is put in the position where he has to chose catching Karli and saving the hostages and finally he makes the right decision. When the hostage’s van is about to fall of the the road and into a construction site Walker drops his home made shield and grabs onto the van. He is then attacked by the Flag Smashers but has proven he can choose between right and wrong. Sam flies in and completes the save on the van and is again applauded by onlookers. One says “That’s Black Falcon” but is corrected by another who says “No, that’s Captain America”. Again, Sam’s actions are what matters.
Everything sets up a showdown between Sam and Karli but Sharon gets to her first and reveals herself to be the Power Broker (surprise, surprise). Sam tries to talk Karli down but she is too far gone and Sharon shoots her as she tries to kill Sam. As she dies she apologise to Sam as he understood her and tried to help but she failed him. Sam flies her body back to freed GRC members and this is where he has his big moment. One of the GRC refers to Karli as a terrorist and launches into a speech about the state of America and what it is like to be a black man that wears the Stars and Stripes. Everything is said in front of cameras with the whole world watching. Where Walker represented fear when filmed Sam is all about peace, unity, and change.
It took six episodes to get to this point but it makes it perfectly. You just can’t simply name someone Captain America and everyone accept it, it has to be earnt. The government now see Sam as Cap, Bucky calls him Cap, but most importantly the people applaud him as Cap and the whole speech is broadcast to the world. We see nothing but positive reactions. He convinces Isaiah Bradley that he has done the right thing, he inspires Torres (possible the next Falcon), even Walker accepts him as the right man for the job. Sam is Captain America.
But the episode doesn’t end there. The remaining Flag Smashers are rounded up but quickly dispatch. Zemo’s butler blows them up while they are in custody. We cut to Zemo celebrating in his cell in The Raft. Once again he has won, he set out to eliminate super soldiers and he has.
We then get a wrap up with Walker. He is with the Contessa, who is taking credit for bombing the super soldiers (or is she?), and he is wearing a new costume. The Contessa has now recruited him to whatever she is up to and he will now be the U.S.Agent.
It’s now getting a bit Return Of The Kingsy as Bucky now gets his ending. He gifts his notebook to his therapist and it has all the names crossed off in it. He has made amends for the crimes of his past and he goes to confess to the old man from the first episode that he was the one that killed his son. Finally he can move on with his life.
Sam goes to visit Isaiah Bradley and says he has something to show him. He takes Isaiah and is grandson to the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian and there is now a statue acknowledging everything that Bradley did for his country. America isn’t redeemed but they have started to make amends. We close, finally, on Bucky enjoying life with the Wilson family and their neighbours and it is all smiles.
But in true Marvel style we are still not done and we get a end credit scene with Sharon Carter. She is pardoned by the Government and made an agent again. As she walks out she makes a phone call revealing that she is still the Power Broker and now has access to more tech and secrets.
The episode cements that Sam is the right choice to be the new Cap but also lays the foundation for the new look MCU. Where as ‘WandaVision’ was just setting up one film (‘Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness’, this show, in classic comic book style, gives us a conclusion but plays as an ongoing story. All the characters are set on the path to their next adventures. Sam is now the face of America, Bucky is free of his guilt, Zemo is still pulling string is the background, and Walker now has a new purpose. It will be interesting how a TV audience reacts to this as, like in comic books, some of these plot threads might not be picked up for years to come if ever.
The most interesting bits that we are left with are the Contessa and Sharon. Both may be viewed as villains but there is a lot more story to be told here. The Contessa is obviously putting a team together, that may or may not included Zemo, and whether this will be the Dark Avengers, The Thunderbolts or something else is unclear. She may well be a villain but there is also a good chance she is on the heroes’ side. Samuel L. Jackson might not want to play Nick Fury forever and the Contessa character could fill that void. The same can be said for Sharon. Her allegiances and end goal are unclear. Her actions is this series conflict and contradict with themselves and complete change the character from pervious appearances. It is highly unlikely that this is sloppy storytelling from the usually tight Marvel Studios. The most popular theory at the moment is that she is a Skrull and this will pay off down the line. Hopefully the audience has the patience to let everything playout before ripping it apart.
Although the series didn’t rewrite the rules of superhero storytelling it was a very satisfying whole that relied as much on the characters as the pyrotechnics and was the right story told at the right time. Roll on Captain America and the Winter Soldier.