Marvel’s second Disney+ series has been a hell of a ride, as we get to see two of the lesser-used characters from the MCU, the titled Falcon and Winter Soldier, progress in their lives. Both went through a lot during the Infinity Saga, even dying along the way. Now they’re back, stepping out from the long shadow of their mutual friend Steve Rogers, as they find their way forward, clashing with a multi-national conspiracy, government maneuverings, and their own pasts. The first, but hopefully not last (rumors abound, but no confirmations) season of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier wraps up with “One World, One People,” the slogan of the Flag-Smashers. This is a season finale, so if you haven’t watched the episode yet, beware of spoilers below.
Last episode, we saw the Flag-Smashers getting ready to assault the Global Repatriation Council, both groups created in the wake of the Snap and then the Blip. Most of the major and minor players were focusing in on New York City, as the pieces are falling in to place for a major confrontation. As Karli urges her people to get ready for their major assault, Sam Wilson flies toward the New York skyline, where Bucky is already on the ground and once again asking, “What’s the plan?” Maybe Bucky needs to come up with some of his own plans.
Sam makes a spectacular entrance, as we get to see he has truly picked up the shield and the costume, and we get a damn-near perfect representation of his comic book Captain America costume. While he attacks from above, Bucky gets an unexpected phone call and tries to talk Karli out of what she’s doing, offering heartfelt advice. The Council gets attacked and evacuated, although they’re being herded just where the Flag-Smashers want them to go. The Council really needs to do a better job screening their employees. Cap meets up with an old foe, and he and Batroc get an impressive fight scene. It’s a better match than when Steve fought Batroc in Winter Soldier, but then, neither Sam nor Batroc has the Super-Soldier Serum. Sam has made some calls for help, and while we don’t get to see any of the other Avengers (and that’s never explained, although it would be nice), we do see Sharon Carter risking a lot to come back to the States to help out. I do wonder when Sam contacted her, because the trip from Asia to New York City isn’t a quick one, and Sharon doesn’t have the resources of SHIELD anymore.
The Flag-Smashers’ plan is well-thought out, and they’ve cut off most of the Council’s escape routes, including taking over a helicopter some are using to escape. Bucky points out this is Sam’s job, as the Winter Soldier doesn’t fly. Cap has to wrap things up with Batroc, although there are some great moves before Sam knocks him down. This leads to a great aerial chase that shows off some of the new tricks Sam’s new suit can do. I presume this is from Shuri, although we never hear precisely who in Wakanda is behind the redesign and upgrade. The new Cap comes up with a great rescue plan, and takes advantage of his restored and improved Redwing drone. Karli lectures her followers, and it sounds like most of them are wavering, or at least lacking her level of commitment. Cap pulls off a spectacular rescue and, while I don’t doubt he didn’t plan it, gets a lot of public approval right off the bat.
The Flag-Smashers capture more of the fleeing Council, and then get another surprise as John Walker, back in his Cap uniform with his new but not improved shield, shows up and calls out Karli. Their quick exchange shows just how cold Karli is, and how badly she understands the way to motivate people. Walker is badly outnumbered and not doing too well when Bucky shows up for a timely assist. Since everyone in that fight has the Serum, it comes down to skill and experience. Given Bucky and Walker’s pasts, that gives them something of an edge. Bucky saves some of the Council from a distraction that Karli started, but then gets knocked down into a deep construction site, followed eagerly by another Flag-Smasher. Sam does some more impressive aerial combat, makes another rescue, and sort of repeats a move from the first episode. He also gets in another great quip just before engaging with the Flag-Smasher pilot.
Walker and Karli have a major fight, and she once again uses the villain plot of “put innocents in danger.” In a sometimes gray and murky world, generally speaking, the ones to root for are the ones not trying to cause the deaths of helpless people. Just a hint, Karli. Walker has a moment of conflicting desires, but then shows that, while he’s a flawed man, he’s more hero than villain. Walker gets knocked down into the pit Bucky is in, taking some foes with him, and we see more of the new improvements the Wakandans made to Sam’s suit. He gets another high-profile moment, and his name is debated by the crowd. I’m glad they are already calling him Captain America, but really, what genius called him “Black Falcon”? He’s always been Black. That’s about the only part of him that’s not visually different in the uniform. The fight down below ebbs and flows, and then Batroc launches a gas attack to help the remaining Flag-Smashers retreat.
The uneasy alliance of Sam, Bucky, and Walker go after them and end up splitting up. Sharon calls in some intel support from above, Sam and Karli argue philosophies almost as much as they fight while Walker and Bucky take down the other Smashers. During some of the ebb and flow of the battle, Sharon catches up with Karli and we learn a few things that are disappointing and disturbing. Karli and Sam end up fighting more when he catches up, and there’s the perfect setup for him to use one of Steve’s classic lines, but it doesn’t happen. Walker and Bucky fight smart and pull off a great tactical move, then argue about Walker’s quoting a great man during the capture.
Sam is going to heroic measures to reach Karli, but she just isn’t going to listen. Finally, it looks like she’s going to kill the new Cap on his first mission when a badly wounded Sharon manages to bring an end to Karli’s campaign of political upheaval and violence. Sam makes another very public appearance, giving Karli to some medics before turning on the Council. While Walker ended his time as Cap with a moment captured by a crowd of people with phones, Sam cements his claim to the title with a magnificent speech in similar circumstances. Captain America isn’t so much an agent of the government as a symbol of hope, and Sam clearly shows how much better suited for the role he is than Walker. His speech gets shown all over the world, and among the ones who see it are his sister Sarah and his ally Torres, both of whom clearly approve.
Even as things seem to be winding down, there are surprises still ahead. Sam gets approached and asked for help with one of the remaining Flag-Smashers, and flies off to save the day. Most of the rest are taken into custody and what looks like a just-starting escape attempt gets thwarted spectacularly by a familiar retainer. From his cell on the Raft, Zemo looks amused as the news covers the story before going on to talk about a major policy change from the Global Repatriation Council. Val approves of this news as she helps Walker debut his new look and identity, one that comes as no surprise to most comic book fans and anyone who did some Googling when he first popped up. Bucky finally does something very, very hard he’s been avoiding for a while now, then leaves a gift for his therapist. If he’s ending the sessions, he’s violating his pardon conditions, as seen earlier in the series, but I guess that’s going to get ignored.
Sam attends to something long overdue, and goes to Baltimore to visit Isiah Bradley. After some snark from grandson Eli, Sam has a long talk with Isiah and then shows he’s been pulling some strings. Sam brings Isiah to Washington, and we see a welcome addition to the big Captain America exhibit. Even the caustic and bitter Isiah is overwhelmed by the moment. Isiah was played by Carl Lumbly, who hero fans might recognize as J’Onn J’Onn’s father on Supergirl, and before that, the voice of J’Onn himself on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.
There are some great family scenes with Sam, Sarah, the kids, and the community in general. Bucky even turns up, looking he happiest I think we’ve ever seen him. As Sam and Bucky share a nice moment of calm and happiness, the credits roll, and there’s a title change for the series, which hints that it will be back. I hope it will. Then again, they’ve also announced a fourth Captain America film, and I suspect Sam and Bucky’s adventures will continue there. In a mid-credit scene, Sharon gets her reward from the same Senator that accepted the shield from Sam and then gave it to Walker. The man does NOT have a good track record, and her phone call after she leaves shows that’s continuing. Oddly, he mentions an opening in her “old division.” I don’t know if this is a reference to SHIELD, where she used to work and we saw largely restored at the end of the Agents of SHIELD series, or the CIA, where she went after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m looking forward to seeing all these characters again.
What I liked: Sam is absolutely perfect for the new Captain America, and he shows that over and over in this episode. The new suit helps, but it’s a lot more the man inside it. Hopefully, the suit can help him with the disadvantage of not having the serum. Walker showed some growth as a character and managed to do the right thing. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was great as Val in the few scenes she got. I’m glad we at least got a brief look at Torres again, and wonder if he’s heading where many of us comic fans think he is. The fight scenes were fantastic, and Sam showed he is great at what he does. I didn’t see that final scene with Sharon coming, or the big reveal about who she is, and the ramifications of that should be interesting to see play out. It was good to see Bucky actually happy. The scene at the Smithsonian was great. It was interesting to see Zemo’s influence, even from behind bars.
What I didn’t: All things considered, Walker got off really light. I’m glad Sam got the upgrade in costume and title, but I feel like Bucky got left out on that front. I mentioned the issue with his apparently stopping his sessions. I’m a bit disappointed in Sharon, but I get where she’s coming from to a point.
I thought this was a great ending to really well-done series. I’m giving this a rare 5 out of 5, and the series as a whole a 4.5 out of 5. I’m really looking forward to these characters coming back, however and wherever that is.
The next Marvel/Disney+ series will be Loki, but that’s not coming until June.