The finale is indicative of the show as a whole: Uneven but full of beautiful, paradigm-shifting moments. I can’t say that the show is one I’ll go back to, but certain scenes stand out as some of the most important in Marvel history.
We start with Karli and her super soldier pals holding the GRC meeting hostage. Bucky arrives to save the day (Bucky is called “Sergeant Barnes”??), and Sharon also shows up. Sam bursts through a window in the new Captain America suit, and he looks great! I love this new iteration of Cap that is a combination of shield and wings. The extra tech makes his ability to hero without the serum believable, and I got serious feelings when the subtitles called Sam “Captain America.”
Baltroc shows up to fight, and Karli calls Bucky to convince him to join her side as a diversion so that the GRC people can be loaded into police vans as obvious hostages. Karli admits that she is willing to kill the hostages if negotiating doesn’t work out, and her super soldier pals are not so bloodthirsty. In the midst of OH MY GOODNESS SO MUCH ACTION, Sam shows off his wings as a shield, and we see people reacting to him as Captain America for the first time.
It’s a super soldier stand off, and Karli lights a van on fire to distract Bucky. John Walker shows up in his homemade Cap suit and shield, and Karli says, “I don’t want to hurt people who don’t matter” in reference to Lamar. Oh man, that is some LOADED language in this Black Lives Matter time, and John attacks her for it before deciding he would rather save people than kill her. I really love the ambiguity that the show has allowed John to live in. He’s not a hero OR a villain. He’s just a dude who has white privilege and power but wants to do good. It’s a mess, and that’s a story worth telling (as a B plot to a black man’s story of ascension).
“Thats the Black Falcon, I tell you.”
“Nah, that’s Captain America.”
Just when things settle down, Baltroc gasses the place, forcing everyone underground. Sharon shows up to confront Karli and reveals that she is the Power Broker. It is not a surprise after the last episode, and I’m so glad they went in this direction! Being a villain will be the most interesting thing Sharon ever does.
Baltroc shows up to blackmail Sharon, but she’s having none of it. She kills him, getting show by Karli in the process. There were seriously a lot of bad guys in this show, huh? Sam appears to “fight” Karli, and he’s still trying to save her. She tells him to “Stay down,” and in an excellently succinct version of Steve’s “I can do this all day,” Sam just says, “No.” Karli aims to shoot, but Sharon gets there first, and Sam cradles her as Karli dies. She says, “I’m sorry,” with her last breath, but…I don’t believe her. She has never once seemed sorry for her actions.
The police arrest Super Soldier B Team with Bucky and John’s assistance, and they share a pat on the back as they walk away. It’s really nice to see Bucky moving on past his hatred of someone else in Steve’s suit.
We’re only halfway through the episode, and all of the bad guys are either dead or arrested! (Except Sharon, who no one realizes is bad.) In a beautifully evocative scene, a Madonna/Sam descends from on high carrying Karli like a Pieta Messiah. He gives an inspiring speech to the GRC leaders, insisting that they should stop calling people terrorists and instead ask why they’re doing what they are doing. This is such a nice change from the old American ideal of “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
He continues by pointing out that the Blip has enabled everyone to understand what it feels like to be helpless. He urges the leaders to lean into that experience and use it to connect with the needs of people worldwide. I was positively ready to stand with my hand to my heart when he says, “The question is, who’s going to be in the room with you when you’re making those decisions? People who are going to be impacted, or more people just like you.” I love Sam!
Loose ends are tied up when the police van bearing four super soldiers is blown up by Zemo’s butler. Valentina’s chaos energy is high when she waffles on whether she’s responsible for it before fawning over John Walker’s new outfit. She says, “Things are about to get weird. We won’t need a Captain America. We’re going to need a U.S. Agent.”
Bucky finally makes amends by telling his elderly friend from episode one what really happened to his son. It’s heartbreaking, and while I wish there were a little more resolution to that scene, any more would have felt out of place. He also leaves a gift for his therapist – the notebook with all amends crossed off and a thank you card!
Sam visits Isaiah and gives another inspiring speech, insisting that black people built America, and he’s not going to let anyone stop him from fighting for it after everything his people have done for it. AND THEN! Sam takes Isaiah and his grandson to the Smithsonian, where a new exhibit has been added to the Captain America hall. A statue of Isaiah and a plinth describing his story. They share an emotional hug, and my entire heart explodes.
The show ends with a party in Louisiana, and I hope we will see this setting again in future movies! When the title card comes up, it says Captain America and the Winter Soldier, which is VERY satisfying albeit a little weird, since there is already a movie with that name.
In the post-credits scene, Sharon is pardoned and welcomed back into the CIA. She gleefully informs someone on the phone that they’re about to come into a lot of government secrets. I can’t wait to see where her story goes!
And that’s it! The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is over. As I said up top, the series felt pretty uneven, but this was a story that very much needed to be told and deserved to be told. It makes me very excited for Phase 4 of Marvel. I think we’re actually going to get more diverse stories. I mean, man, we’re STILL waiting for that Black Widow movie so many of us were begging for nine years ago. They failed then, but they’re working on changing things with WandaVision‘s focus on female grief and power and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier addressing race relations in America. I am all in!
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