*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for episode six of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier*
Surprise, surprise [but not really]! We finally have our [official] Captain America in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)! After the last episode, in which Isiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) told him that “there will never be a Black Captain America,” Sam wants to not only prove to Bradley that it isn’t only possible but is one of the necessary steps to undo what the government has done to him. This is why the final scene involving Bradley is particularly heartbreaking to watch, as Sam finally fulfills his promise to show the world that Isiah existed and to make sure they’ll never forget what he did for the country.
This episode is essentially the big “climax” of the series and finally shows us Sam Wilson as Captain America in action. While the comic accurate costume feels a tad bit kitsch, seeing him in action with the full-fledged hybrid Cap/Falcon suit was a total thrill. In this particular situation, in which he has to rescue a helicopter carrying members of the GRC from the Flag-Smashers, the action is as good as some of Falcon’s best moments in the movies. It’s when the film does 1-on-1 fights where the episode slightly fizzles. One of the most significant flaws of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a whole was its action fluidity—there are many sequences in which it’s tough to see what’s going on due to its excessive reliance on fast jump-cuts and shaky cam.
While, in one case (the shield fight in episode five), it works, since this extreme style of editing complements the brutal movements, many of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s action sequences felt terribly choreographed and edited. It’s incredibly apparent in this episode—with its climactic fight between Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), Sam, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), and Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) feeling underwhelming. Batroc gets killed—but we can’t correctly see how he dies. The cuts are way too quick and don’t allow any form of fluidity with the fight moves. It’s also terribly underwhelming to see Batroc getting killed this way. Georges St-Pierre is a remarkable force of nature (in the UFC) and could’ve been used further in the MCU, most notably in the Thunderbolts! Oh well…
After spending a bit more time with the Flag-Smashers in episode four to understand their motivations, it’s a bit disappointing to see showrunner Malcolm Spellman and director Kari Skogland taking the easy way out for the group, entirely painting them as terrorists, without ever a single moment of redemption for Karli or any of her members. Their justification is that she’s too far gone and cannot be saved. She wants to do everything in her power to stop the GRC vote, but it’s never really explained why she wants to stop it. The GRC is bad because all governments are bad? Is that it? If so, it doesn’t feel inherently compelling to have a group of antagonists that operate in a fine line between good and evil, only for them to be painted as criminals in the last episode and have all of their mini-arcs shattered with Karli going so far as wanting to kill members of the GRC by throwing a car in a construction site for her cause. Karli gets killed at the end by Sharon (who is…shocker…[but not really]…revealed to be the Power Broker! But who does she work for?), which makes her entire arc feel entirely unrewarding.
John Walker does have a bit of a redemption arc, as he tries to save the GRC members by preventing their car from falling in the site before Captain America shows up, which showcased that Sam and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) didn’t have any ill will towards Walker. We finally see him in the classic U.S. Agent suit, which only prompts us to ask the question: when will we see him next? Probably in a Thunderbolts-related project, but…who knows.
The best part of the episode comes with Sam’s monologue, as he explains why we should stop branding the Flag-Smashers as “terrorists.” It’s a poignant moment and is probably Anthony Mackie’s very best piece of acting in the MCU as a whole, as it raises many of the series’ themes on inequality in a serious manner. Most of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s best moments came from its exploration of heavy themes, dealt with extreme care, not only from a screenwriting perspective but from the actors as well.While the “spectacle” aspect of it all felt a tad underwhelming, with a terribly underdeveloped group of antagonists, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was still an enjoyable entry in the MCU, through and through, with a story that felt more confident and better told than WandaVision’s. Its deep exploration of serious themes on social issues in the United States makes it feel very timely. Spellman and Skogland handle the individual problems of Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes are dealt with complete care and emotion. Both characters have their time to shine, and Sam’s transition into Captain America only makes us more excited for…Captain America 4 (which was just announced as we speak with Malcolm Spellman and Dalan Musson coming back to write the script!) and other film/TV projects from Marvel Studios—opening us with even more endless possibilities for its transmédial universe to expand even more. Bring on Loki!