The penultimate episode of The Falcon and The Winter Solider is its best yet.
There are spoilers after this great piece of music about a boy with a heart of steel.
The episode starts with the fight we’ve been waiting for since the three met. It’s explosive and it shows the differences between the three men. Sam’s and Bucky’s attempts to talk Walker down with empathy and, in return Walker reacts with violence and blames them for his actions. It is very clear he’s lost it and is definitely not worthy of the shield.
Walker’s defeat moves to his tribunal. He displays yet again that he’s not cut out for the shield by losing his temper at the stand. He’s stripped of the title and given a less than honorable discharge. The more interesting part of this scene is the appearance of Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Who? Val has a really turbulent history in the comics. She first appeared in the mid-1960s and trained as a SHIELD agent under Nick Fury (they had a romantic thing for a hot minute) until it was discovered that she was a Russian sleeper agent (the character was supposed to make an appearance in Black Widow). At one point she was Madame Hydra and worked within Leviathan. She’s known for doublecrossing and doing what she has to rise in the ranks of organizations to get what she wants.
She’s an interesting addition here and I hope they don’t make her the Power Broker, as well. Val can be so much more than that.
We lose Zemo in this episode – not sure what he managed to do between jumping down a sewer line and arriving at the memorial. After an internal stand-off of morals on Bucky’s part – he proves to himself and Zemo that he’s in control of his own actions, that he has not fallen to the super-soldier curse. Ayo and the Dora Milaje take him to the Raft, a SHIELD prison made to hold prisoners with superpowers. We last saw it at the end of Civil War. His time in this series is done, but we’ll see him again – possibly leading the Thunderbolts.
The show shifts to Sam and his journey to the mantle. He visits Elijah Bradley to understand what happened, why it happened, and why he’s decided to live a simple life with his grandson. Elijah recounts his experiences with a sense of anger, hurt, and resignation. His parting words are powerful to Sam, and hold a great deal of weight outside of the series – “They will never let a Black man be Captain America. Even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever want to be.”
With a greater understanding of Black super-soldier history, Sam goes home to help his sister prep the family fishing boat for sale (which is where The Meters come in). He and Bucky end up a journey of rediscovery through conversation while working on the boat – Sam learning what type of Captain America he wants to be and Bucky accepting the life set out before him after deprogramming. The two really become trusting friends by the end of it.
It’s one of the better, deeper partnerships we’ve seen in the MCU and I’m glad they took the time. Head writer Malcolm Spellman’s creation of Sam and Bucky’s underlying road to friendship is some of the best writing I’ve seen in the MCU.
In this episode, we really see Sam’s superpower, which Steve also had. Empathy. We saw it in his talk with Karli, his desire to talk her down instead of fight. It’s what separates him from Walker. He cares about people and about doing the right thing. It’s not about power, it’s not about honor – it’s about being one of the helpers. It makes Sam particularly suited to take up the mantle, which he does with enthusiasm.
On the other side – Karli hooks up with Batroc to obtain weapons to take out the GRC council in New York City (they’ve become a UN of sorts) before they vote on an act that would move refugees in mass to their countries of origin. She shows off her ability to call people up to help at any time with an app on her phone – the movement is huge and their numbers are filled with all kinds of people.
The episode ends with a power outage in the middle of that meeting. And Sam suiting up in his new gear from Wakanda.
We get a post credit on this one – Walker is well on his way to becoming U.S. Patriot with a personal mission and the start of his own gear – including a new shield. There are a few directions his story could go, and that’s anywhere from rejected super-soldier to outright villain. As I’ve mentioned in past recaps, this is not going to end well. Captain American and U.S. Agent (as well as his former alias of Super-Patriot) have not really been anywhere near friendly over the years. He does have some connections to Zemo that tie in nicely to the knowledge that they sent the super-villian to the Raft. Might see something pan out there later – Thunderbolts vs The Jury could be fun. So could the Dark Avengers.
We have one episode left. Quick takes…
- Val – is she the Power Broker or does she work with him/her?
- Are we getting more Sharon Carter – is she the Power Broker?
- Will Bucky go back and admit his crime to Mr. Nakajima?
- What movies on the Marvel slate is this series going to tie into?