Previously on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier …
- In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the episode titles. If the Power Broker’s identity came as a surprise, you probably should have, too.
- I don’t want to miss giving a shout-out to cinematographer P.J. Dillon, whose work has been amazeballs. Seriously.
Warning: This article contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know the details of this episode, stop reading now.
So it turns out that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is ultimately a story about the use of might for right, and who gets to decide the meaning of either. Did they land the ending? I felt like they did, more or less. One thing is certain: Everyone got what they wanted. Bucky finally gives and gets the closure he needed. Sam totally becomes Captain America, down to the rousing motivational speeches. Like, even Zemo and Sharon get what they want, too, and they’re evil! Sadly, some characters don’t live to enjoy it. But such is the way of all things Disney/Marvel—not everyone makes it to Happily Ever After.
It’s a pretty straightforward finale. Karli’s big plan to kidnap/kill the GRC and stop the vote goes very well until Bucky, Sharon, Sam, and even Walker drop in and turn it all to crap. And for an episode that is stuffed with identity reveals, overdue exposition, new costumes, intense fights, and over-the-top action sequences, it moved along smoothly, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. There were far more confirmations than there were surprises.
Captain America and the Winter Soldier
Obviously, The most important arc in the series was Sam accepting the role of Captain America, and figuring out how to make it his own. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel, he uses what he already has—a playing-field leveling prosthesis like Tony Stark’s; Steve’s underdog perspective and integrity; and something both of them lacked—a knack for diplomacy. And it works. In his scene with the Council, he shows this amazing ability to make others recognize the bigger picture. He basically points out what Karil ultimately died for and why, and literally, legitimately gets them to change their course of action, is incredibly well-written. He is Captain America, and Walker, listening in, seems to accept it too, while Bucky grins with relief and pride.
Bucky’s journey is also about accepting himself, as someone capable of being a good person, and who actually is a good person. He proves that he’s a hero over and over in each episode, and this is the one where it sinks in. When Bucky tells Yori, “The person who killed your son was the Winter Soldier, and that was me,” he is saying something he truly believes, taking the opportunity not only to give Yori closure, but to forgive himself. It’s very powerful, and it opens up everything for him. Bucky learns that he can rely on Sam as a friend and partner, and that he has a home and family he can go to, and not feel so alone in this world anymore.
Poor Karli, Sort Of
This episode leans very heavily into establishing Karli Morganthau as a hurt child having a temper tantrum. No one is paying attention, so Karli’s going to make them, in the most dramatic fashion possible. Over six episodes she’s gone from stealing and distributing vaccines and food to blowing up buildings and straight-up killing people. She justifies it as all for the greater good—just “sending a message”—when it’s really revenge, pure and simple. She makes an attempt at an apology to Walker for killing his best friend, “I only want to hurt people that matter.” Nice. Walker did not take that well (you can’t really blame him, that was cold).
Karli yells at The Power Broker (we’ll get to that reveal later) for not freely sharing the serum (to which the Power Broker responds that Karli never asked, she just stole it, ALL of it). She yells at Sam and Bucky separately about buying into and supporting a system that’s betrayed them. She even yells at her friends for not being sufficiently ready to die (or kill) for their mission. She is the very definition of “misdirected,” and props to Sam and Bucky for trying to save her. Sadly, it doesn’t happen. Irony abounds in her story: She wanted to kill Walker, and she did, indirectly, by cutting short his stint as Captain America. She wanted Sam to join her side, not understanding that he was already there. The Power Broker set out to kill her, and ultimately succeeded. Karli was willing to die in service of her cause, and in the end, her death was what turned the tide in her cause’s favor.
Taking the serum only made things worse for Karli. She went for the quick fix, stealing power because she felt powerless. But what did she really accomplish? She made a lot of noise, but her message was drowned out by violence. She had a huge movement behind her—she could have chosen to grab a microphone, but she picked up a hammer every time. That ultimately got her and her friends killed.
Enter U.S. Agent
When Walker shows up at the GRC, you fully expect him to be another pain in the ass for Sam and Bucky. He’s seeking revenge, too, and to make the lie he’s told about avenging Lamar’s death into the truth. He gets his butt kicked by Karli again, of course. But he’s instrumental in stopping the Flag Smashers and saving the Council. And for one brief, glorious night, he gets what he wanted from the start, which is being a superhero and teaming up with Bucky and Sam. Walker comes off as more dorky than douchey in the finale, which is an improvement. I was just on the verge of giving him back his first name, and then he met up with Val. She gives him a black version of his suit, and tells him, “The World doesn’t need another Captain America, but it could use,” insert an imperceptible wink to the audience, “a U.S. Agent.” And Walker is just so excited, you guys! He’s back! Oh, lord.
Promises Kept, Somehow
A reporter at the GRC asks Sam if he’s officially working with the government. He doesn’t answer, and it’s not really clear. Either way, he’s able to call in two huge favors, for Sharon and Isaiah Bradley. We’ll get to Sharon’s pardon in a bit, but Sam goes back to Baltimore to deliver Isaiah’s personally. Isaiah is impressed by what Sam accomplished in New York, but doubtful that he’ll be able to pull off the gig long term. Sam agrees that he could fail or die, but no one gets to tell him he can’t fight for his country. And he’s got a surprise for Isaiah and Eli. He takes them to the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian, where there’s a new installation featuring a statue of Isaiah and the story of the Black super soldiers. Isaiah breaks into tears, and I did, too. Sam is the best, you know?
Double Agent Carter
In case you haven’t already figured it out, yup, Sharon is the Power Broker. Surprise! She’s definitely broken bad. I felt this was kinda genius, because she’s been playing everyone for five episodes—for five years, even—and no one had a clue! I have a sneaking suspicion Zemo figured it out, maybe. She’s behind the serum. She sent Batroc (R.I.P.) to Karli. Not to help, but to spy. It was Sharon all along, without the cute ditty. Sharon isn’t interested in justice or revenge, she wants power. Okay, maybe a little revenge (fitting, since Emily VanCamp starred in a show with that title). Pardon in pocket, Sharon walks away at the end, her secret identity safe, with a new security clearance and the keys to the kingdom.
The finale wasn’t perfect. Batroc’s appearance was a pointless callback. He shows up to repeat what he did in Winter Soldier and in the premiere, only he dies this time. It was so pointless that Sam splits mid-fight, because he has to go un-hijack another helicopter. I also felt that killing the remaining serum soldiers was an overly harsh way to close Zemo’s arc. All and all, though, it was a solid ending to an engaging and entertaining series, with a hint that there might be more to come. A second season, perhaps, if we’re good.
- Best line: “Isn’t Captain America on the moon?” Great callback to the first episode, and a fantastic diss of Walker. Did anyone buy him in that role, ever?
- Funniest scene: Bucky realizing that Karli was distracting him while she kidnapped the Council. He was totally feeling himself as the new good guy/voice of reason, and she got him. And for some reason, “You had ONE job!” is never not funny.
- When Bucky walks into the GRC building, the soldiers call him “Sgt. Barnes,” as they should, WALKER. No, I will never let that go.
- The episode ends with a new title card, Captain America and the Winter Soldier. That’s a YES from me.
And that’s it, folks. Thanks for sticking with these recaps for six episodes. It’s been a blast. I’ll leave you with this gorgeous shot of your new Captain America.