Ever since last week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier confirmed Sam’s status, we’ve all been waiting for one thing – the moment when the new Captain America finally gets his first hero pose. Luckily, it happens within the episode’s first five minutes, with Sam lobbing his shield through a skyscraper window, flying in on his newly painted wings, and rolling into shot as the classic Captain America theme plays. His new suit is half super-outfit, half stunt-biker jacket, and the red googles look slightly goofy, but there’s no denying that this is about as big a moment as the MCU has ever had on the small screen – the official crowning of Marvel’s new frontman.
“Hell yeah! That’s the Black Falcon there!” shouts one teary onlooker during a later fight scene. “No,” smiles another, “That’s Captain America!” It might be cheesy but at least the last episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier recognises just how momentous it is, spending almost all of its time justifying its decisions and fighting off the inevitable flak. Would Disney feel like they had to do this if they picked another white guy for the role? Absolutely not, and that’s sort of the whole point.
Most of the action for episode six takes place in and around the building where the GRC (Global Repatriation Council) vote was supposed to be happening. Karli (now with extra muscle from Batroc) has rounded up all the politicians and stuffed them into vans and helicopters headed for quick deaths, making most of the middle act feel like one of those slightly annoying video game missions where you have to save everyone in three different places before the clock runs out. Captain America takes the helicopter, Bucky heads for one of the vans, and Sharon shows up to pretend to help inside the building. Also back for more is John Walker with his new homemade shield – initially out for revenge on Karli but pretty quickly just acting as backup.
“Wonder what I can get for your new bird costume?” snarls Batroc in his thickest French accent. “A bag of a French fries and a baguette?” snaps back Sam, reminding us that this show started out being pretty funny before all the banter suddenly stopped. The new Cap might not be great at one-liners, but he is good at punching people. With Stark’s tech, Falcon’s wings and Cap’s righteous right hook, Sam is pitched here as the ultimate Avenger, getting to show off his new skills against a crowd of super-serum goons. Shout out to the show’s sound designer here who makes every punch feel like a freight-train – with Karli’s army using concrete blocks, rusty chains and parking meters to hit back – and to the stunt team who make Cap into a rolling, flying, shield-thumping marvel.
As ever, this is also a show that understands optics. Just as Walker was undone by a camera phone recording him kill an unarmed man, Sam is vindicated this week by a crowd that watches him shoulder a van full of hostages before it falls into a big pit. There’s other less-subtle politics going on too – Sam taking the time to save a couple of NYC cops just a few weeks after we saw him stopped and searched for walking in the wrong neighbourhood. More importantly, as soon as the shooting/thumping stops, Captain America steps up to his real platform. “I’m a Black man carrying the Stars and Stripes… Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people out there who are going to hate me for it,” he tells the politicians he’s just saved, seemingly also addressing the racist trolls who have inevitably been waiting for a Black Cap to arrive before flexing their fingers online.
“The only power I have is that I believe we can do better,” he says, getting the show’s best line. This week’s finale might be full of speech-ifying, but it also marks the first time an Avenger has actually tried to save the world – not by fighting big purple aliens, but by reminding the people who have real power how they ought to use it. It’s overkill, and it’s preachy, but it’s also important – and it’s nice to see the show finally landing with all the weight it needs.
Elsewhere, everyone else gets a bit short-changed during the show’s busy last act. Sharon is revealed as The Power Broker (of course), and an end-credit sting sets up her new role as a mole Agent Carter. Karli dies (shot by Sharon), and the last few surviving Flag Smashers get quickly blown up by Zemo from prison (via his creepy butler).
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) outfits Walker with a new uniform, giving him his new name as US Agent (“Things are about to get weird…”), Sam re-writes Isaiah’s erased history by giving him a statue in the Cap museum, and Bucky finally makes amends with Yori (Ken Takemoto). All that’s left to do then is for Sam to throw another shrimp on the barbie, have a weird little end-of-season dance, and wait to see what the MCU has in store for him. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season two? Hopefully. A stand-alone Captain America movie? Possibly. A leading role heading up the newly-shaped Avengers as we move deeper into phase four? Keep your wings crossed.
For frequent flyers
- Walker’s new black US Agent outfit matches the one seen in the comics since the ’80s (where he has, at times, been a fully-fledged member of the Avengers).
- Valentina’s stake in all this is still unclear (as is her allegiance, which historically changes in the comic runs), but we know that the character was originally supposed to debut in Black Widow, so expect more backstory unspooling when the film finally releases in July. Is she going to be revealed as Madame Hydra?
- A big gap still remains in Sharon’s story – we know she’s gone bad but we don’t know why. Last time we saw her she was risking her life for (old) Captain America, and now she’s trying to take down the government.