Spoiler alert: This blog is for people watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to six.
After a quick recap, we opened with the Flag Smashers’ attack on the GRC HQ in New York. “These people will never stop, not unless we make them,” said Karli. “They’re not going to stop, not unless we make them. It’s time.” She’s definitely become more desperate as the series has gone on (a side-effect of the serum?), leading to this all-out assault. Yet despite her immediate followers questioning her actions since she started killing people, they’ve gone along with her every command. In for a penny …
The attack started well, and it soon became clear they wanted the GRC staff to evacuate in order to make kidnapping much easier. Sam in his new Wakandan wingsuit and Bucky – sorry, Sgt Barnes – arrived and quickly saw through the plan, although while Sam got busy fighting Batroc, Bucky was distracted by a phone call, talking about his nightmares. Still, at least he’s handy on a motorbike and managed to catch up to the hostages in no time.
And finally, we got what we wanted all along, Sam as Captain America. Not up there with the best superhero entry ever – that’s Thor arriving in Wakanda at the end of Infinity War, obviously – but it wasn’t bad, hovering outside before hurling the shield through a window and rolling to his feet. A solid 8/10, well done Anthony Mackie.
The aerial scenes were spectacular, Redwing making a reappearance. Do you think Shuri designed the little fella to annoy Bucky, knowing how much he hates it? We even got some extra, tiny Redwings later on.
Sam’s greatest moment, however, was nothing to do with action, but the speech he delivered to the GRC heads, admonishing them for using loaded terms like “terrorist” while patrolling refugee camps with guns, for failing to help those in need and for failing to remember what it was like to feel helpless when attacked by an unstoppable force. Isaiah teased him later that he’s “no Malcolm, Martin or Mandela”, and that may be true, but he did manage to give world leaders a dressing down, win over John Walker, make Bucky go misty eyed and namecheck Thanos in one speech, while dressed in a bird costume. And to think people thought he wasn’t up to the task …
We left him in the post-credits scene of episode five, crafting his own shield from a bin lid, with a manic look in his eye. I was expecting more chaos from the soldier formerly known as Captain America in this finale, but a few rage-induced moments aside, Walker remembered what he was supposed to do. He was definitely less fun than Zemo as Sam and Bucky’s third wheel, but given that he could have easily become the series villain, a Bullseye to Sam’s Daredevil, where he ended was relatively heroic. The moment he hid beneath his shield and stared at his Medal of Honor while being attacked by the Flag Smashers was chilling. Wyatt Russell was excellent throughout.
Credit where it’s due, many commenters said Sharon was the Power Broker the second she appeared in Madripoor. The Guardian’s TV editor was convinced, too. But I wasn’t having it. Even as the evidence mounted, I still refused to entertain the idea – a likely mixture of digging my heels in, hoping for the return of William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross and thinking Sharon is such a boring character that the twist was far too exciting. Her phonecall, probably to the assistant we saw in episode three, seemed ill-advised, at best. If you’re going to loudly boast you’ve got US government secrets for sale, maybe don’t do it from the steps of the supreme court seconds after you’ve been granted a full pardon.
As you might be able to tell by these recaps, I really enjoyed this series – even all the stuff in Louisiana, which seemed to come in for most of the criticism. I felt it added necessary emotional depth and helped further explain the day-to-day consequences of the snap and the subsequent reappearance. It can’t all be flying around blowing up helicopters. Sometimes you’ve got to fix an engine, argue with your sister and eat some gumbo. Anthony Mackie has stepped up from sidekick to leading man and Sebastian Stan has delivered – I hope Marvel rethinks its plan to leave TFATWS as a one-season series, as there are plenty of miles left in this partnership. That said, I want to see Mackie and Stan in Captain America 4 and slotting in to whichever Avengers story arc comes next.
The series deserves particularly high praise for Isaiah’s storyline, and while I’m not qualified to discuss in detail the importance of on-screen representation, I know two black characters in a Disney title having a conversation about structural racism and their relationship with the stars and stripes is a landmark moment. It was superbly acted, and the moment Sam and Isaiah embraced at the Captain America museum was deeply moving. (It also made me really, really want to see an Isaiah Bradley spin-off series set during the Korean war. At least give us an extended flashback, Marvel, come on.)
While there were plenty of heroes, if I had any criticisms of the series, it would be the absence of an out-and-out villain. Zemo, Walker, Karli, even Sharon … they all have/had valid motivations, and despite their terrible actions and skewed perspectives, it’s not difficult to sympathise with their various points of view. I would be interested to find out more about the original storyline for the series, how it was changed and why it was deemed necessary. Would a plot revolving around a plague being unleashed across the world have been distasteful and too on-the-nose, or timely? I don’t have an opinion either way, except for wondering if the Flag Smasher storyline was harder hitting in the original draft.
Have you enjoyed the series? Who was your favourite character and why was it Baron Zemo? Will Anthony Mackie get a film in which to star as Captain America? And are you looking forward to Loki? Have your say below the line.