Here we are. The big finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Time to wrap up all the loose ends.
Who will be the last Captain America standing? Who is the evil criminal mastermind controlling things behind the scenes? Will they fix the boat? I can’t wait to find out at least one of these three things.
(Pssst. It’s the boat.)
We pick back up from last week to find the mighty council of elders set to revert border control to how things operated prior to half the planet’s population being snapped from existence. I highly doubt that this council would only require a single round of voting to decide such a matter, but people generally don’t like when Robert’s Rules of Order interfere with their superhero shows.
The councilmembers are escorted out by security, but the Flag Smashers manage to apprehend the slow-moving parliamentarians. We then get the impressive reintroduction of our titular winged hero.
Smashing through the window of a skyscraper, the former Falcon appears in all his red, white, and blue glory. “I’m Captain America,” he informs a hapless bystander, who didn’t get the hint from the Old Glory costume and the giant shield with a star in the middle. It’s like if you caught Santa Claus in your living room and asked him for his papers.
Cap begins fighting Batroc the Leaper, who has been part of the MCU for years, but all we really know about him is he’s French. Or, moreso, he’s Guy Ritchie’s version of a Frenchman: a stylish criminal karate master whose character is overwhelmed by the rest of the famous ensemble cast.
There is one moment of this fight that is so bafflingly out of place yet entertaining that I had to watch it multiple times before I could comprehend. It was the cinematic equivalent of sounding out a word.
Cap (Falcon, also Sam Wilson) is tossing the old shield around, really hucking it at his foe, like one does. How does Batroc respond? Does he leap? Does he force his language on the English legal system for centuries? Does he let them eat cake?
Nope. He kicks a little chair. And it actually works!
Batroc hoofs this sad little chair and manages to successfully deflect Captain America’s shield. This whole show has been about who gets the shield and how important the shield is when it’s not even a match for office furniture.
I love it. It’s so dumbly entertaining that I want some MCU equivalent of those old sports blooper videotapes that they would sell on TV. Give me an hour of Thor drunkenly taking a mystical hammer to the groin and folks making fun of Hawkeye’s haircut.
Suddenly, in the midst of combat, Falcon remembers he can fly, so he stops fighting Batroc and just leaves. Yep. Just dips.
The hostages are split into two groups: one helicopter of VIPs commandeered by the Flag Smashers, and a convoy of armored vans that they have set ablaze with the hostages trapped inside. Bucky attempts to rescue them using his go-to maneuver—punching doors.
He loves to take that metal arm and just punch a door. Bless the sad little himbo.
Out of nowhere, Fake Captain America arrives, out for revenge on the Flag Smashers. And he is AMPED. He has been drinking green tea all god-dang day, and y’all have brought out the demons in this man. He has “drunk dad at a Little League game” energy, and I am loving it. He’s seconds away from shouting, “Wha’did you say to my boy?” and charging home plate.
Surprisingly, Fake Captain America’s homemade shield looks pretty good. This is disappointing. It seemed like a good opportunity to have a sort of marred, distorted-looking shield to represent his turn to the dark side of American idealism. Instead, he’s just really good with an arc welder. I wouldn’t expect a decorated career in the military to translate so well to metallurgy, but I’ve been wrong before.
In a really interesting action set piece, Cap learns that one of the hostages in the helicopter is a pilot. He texts her to put in her earbuds and shares his rescue plan. At the count of five, Cap snatches the evil pilot from the ‘copter, and the hostage grabs the controls.
(Confession: I originally typed “airbuds” in that previous sentence instead of earbuds. Airbuds are those basketball-playing dogs. Interestingly, the original Air Bud lost out to Salem the Cat for “Favorite Animal Star” in the 1998 Kids’ Choice Awards. Buddy had passed away earlier that year.)
With Cap saving the helicopter hostages, our focus turns not to the happy parts of our childhoods that we continue to outlive, but instead the hostages in the armored vans. Flag Smashers leader Karli attempts to force a van of hostages over a deep embankment to their deaths. Fake Captain America chooses heroism over revenge and attempts to prevent the hostages from toppling over.
That’s a bit of an unexpected turn. He’s not really a heel or a babyface. Just some sort of ‘tweener. My gut tells me this character is poorly conceived, but I’m going to consider it a bit more deeply.
We see Fake Captain America toss aside his fake Captain America shield and attempt to save lives. Let’s assume that was supposed to represent him shunning the often unhealthy characteristics about being a “real man” and a “good American” that are often ascribed to people. He’s flawed, but he’s not evil. He’s also not this unobtainable hero figure that he saw the original Captain America–and tried to hold himself–to be. And he’s OK with that.
Sure. Let’s go with that. It’s a better character for current times than an evil, ‘roided-up murder patriot.
That said, the Flag Smashers manage to force Fake Captain America into the ground below. It appears that all is lost as the van of hostages teeters on the edge. Then, Cap arrives to force the vehicle back to higher ground. The super soldiers look on as this man with no superhuman abilities accomplishes what they could not. They’ve successfully communicated a significant message visually with no exposition. It’s great. But it can also be great when the exact opposite happens.
In the crowd of onlookers, an elderly Black man sees Sam Wilson and exclaims, “That’s the Black Falcon there.” This represents the character’s past and how race was treated in the comics. Yes, it was good to see Black superheroes, but they were often labeled as “Black This” or “Black That.” You never saw someone named “White Captain America,” although doing so would have made writing about this show much easier.
Back in the scene, a young Black man responds to the comment about “the Black Falcon” saying, “No. That’s Captain America.”
Now, it’s been a long week for me. Even longer for most people, I’d expect. I’m tired, and the cultural and racial significance of this moment warrants more than just the snap assessment of a White guy who has been trying to think of helicopter puns and reading about Air Bud all evening. But I will say this:
Some people will say this moment is pandering. The same thing happened in Avengers: Infinity War when all the female superheroes posed together and said “girl boss.”
Some will say Marvel and Disney are gonna “get woke, go broke” or whatever other nonsense people tell themselves to manufacture outrage. A surprising few I’ve invented will even say, “As a very self-aware racist, I did not like that scene. Because of my racism.”
But my thoughts aren’t about those people. We all spend too much time thinking about those people. They are small, and they want to make the world smaller so it fits them better.
What I want to think about are the people who watched that scene and felt some bit of joy or excitement or pride. And I mean actual glee. Not just that sense of relief we pivot on when the world manages to avert absolute hopelessness for a moment.
Also, if you claim to be a Captain America fan and demand more subtle representation from your hero who dresses like the flag of the country that’s also his name… maybe just go to sleep. Go off, and go to sleep.
Returning to the action, our fight spills over into some underground tunnels—the type that are less expensive to film in. Fake Captain America is jogging alongside our heroes, and no one seems to mind. I guess the enemy of my enemy is my superfriend. It’s like a family reunion in here.
Karli encounters Sharon Carter in the tunnels. Sharon is unveiled to be the Power Broker, the criminal kingpin who originally controlled the remaining supply of Super Soldier Serum. I really thought we already knew this information, but I guess not.
Sharon, Batroc, and Karli stand with their guns trained on each other. They all open fire. And Sharon realizes she’s been shot in the stomach? What?
The insidious Power Broker didn’t plan for the possibility of being shot? She has been away from America for a long time.
Cap arrives and begins battling Karli. Meanwhile, the remaining Flag Smashers continue following the goofy little terrorist meetup app they use on their phones. As they turn the corner, they find Bucky and teams of police and military personnel prepared to arrest them.
“I can’t believe the app betrayed us!” says one of the Flag Smashers in his best Marlon Brando impersonation. Not really, but they should have.
Karli gains the upper hand. She manages to retrieve her gun and points it at Cap. We hear shots ring out, only to see Sharon has mortally wounded Karli.
Cap delivers Karli to the waiting ambulance. He is met by news crews and the surviving councilmembers tasked with resetting border control. He delivers a speech to a senator describing that now, for the first time ever, we are all united by a common struggle. He acknowledges Karli’s sacrifice for her cause. His inner conflict as a Black man accepting the role of Captain America. He tells those with the real power in society that it’s time to do better. It’s a real Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment.
This feels like a proper ending for the season, but instead the show realizes it has to set up about eight future movies, some TV series, and a roller coaster at Disneyland called The Thor-er or something. I don’t know; I’m not getting that Imagineer money.
In quick succession, we learn that Baron Zemo orchestrated the assassinations of the remaining Flag Smashers. Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns to unveil Fake Captain America’s new U.S. Agent uniform that is the same, but black.
Also, Bucky was so busy punching doors that he forgot to resolve his character arc. He visits his elderly friend Yori from earlier in the season. Bucky confesses to murdering Yori’s son back when he was a brainwashed assassin. AWK-WARD!
Since it’s Grandparents Day in the MCU, Cap returns to Isaiah Bradley’s house. He reiterates his commitment to fighting for what he believes in as a Black Captain America. He takes Bradley to the Captain America museum to reveal that a new section dedicated to Bradley has been constructed.
“Now they’ll never forget what you did for this country. Never,” Sam Wilson tells Bradley.
They embrace tearfully.
This is a moving scene. It would serve as a perfect thematic conclusion for the series.
But I forget about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s true focal point. The very most significant story it has to tell: Will they fix the boat?
They do. It gets a final montage.
Thanks for following along, everybody. I appreciate it. Please come back as I document the future of this stupid, broken boat that exists in a universe of literal gods.