Already at the penultimate episode, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier slows down in anticipation of the finale.
Titled “Truth”, episode five begins with a stand-off between Sam, Bucky and John Walker as the two avengers take back the bloodied shield. The rest of the episode follows the three men in the aftermath. Bucky finds Zemo and hands him over to the Wakandans before joining Sam at his sister’s place to help fix up their family boat. Sam meanwhile, now in ownership of the shield, is trying to work through what it would mean to be Captain America.
He revisits Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), the black super-soldier who was imprisoned and experimented on for decades, where he’s told “they will never let a black man be Captain America; and no self-respecting black man would want to be Captain America”. Meanwhile, the previous Captain America, John Walker, is dismissed from duty and struggles to come to terms with the events that have occurred. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine approaches him with a proposition and the post-credit scene of Walker constructing a new shield means we can be sure that he will be not give up the Captain America title easy.
But now he has competition for the title. The episode ends with a training montage of Sam learning to use the shield and we’re left on another cliff-hanger as Sam opens the box that Bucky brought him, a favour from Wakanda, which presumably contain his own Captain America suit – but we don’t get to see it yet.
This episode is slower than previous episode, more in the vein of episode one, however it provides quite a welcome break – a moment to reflect. I, for one, have loved getting to know these characters better, especially Sam. His place and position has been so expertly explored, with such nuance and attention to detail, I don’t think there’s been anything close to this level of subtle character exploration in the whole of the MCU. The discussion around what it would mean for a black man to be Captain America is so excellent – because it works in a meta sense as well, Isaiah Bradley’s statement isn’t just referring to the world of the show but is anticipating reactions to a black Captain America in the real world.
Again, the strong character work is evident even in the villains. John Walker’s psychology and mental processes are so clear and the way he has become unhinged through feelings of grief and inferiority makes so much sense. You can really see that he believes he’s doing the right thing.
While dealing with this heavy material, there are still moments of light – Bucky flirting with Sam’s sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) being a particular comic highlight. Also it was great to see Zemo again and I’m really glad he wasn’t killed because now we can be sure he will return, which is brilliant because Daniel Brühl is such a delight.
An action-lite episode yet still as excellent as all the previous. This series has completely exceeded all my expectations, hopefully it can continue to do that with next week’s finale.
Episode 5 | Disney+ | 16th April 2021