**SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER EPISODE 5**
We’re down to the last two episodes, and I have to say: This show is so all over the place tonally that I feel like I’m watching it out of order.
Sandwiched between our resonant depiction of Falcon’s struggle to come to terms with race and identity in America, we got a wacky Euro heist interlaced with insurrectionist violence. This episode is a good example of what I’m talking about in terms of the overall series.
Picking up where we left off last week, Fake Captain America beat a man to death with his shield and the whole thing was captured on video. At the start of this episode, we see him panicked and running into that warehouse from Footloose where Kevin Bacon does a highly choreographed rage ballet. Here, Fake Captain America just stares at the blood-covered shield he used to carry out the extrajudicial killing of one of the Flag Smashers.
Falcon and Bucky arrive, and our heroes try to talk some sense into Fake Cap, asking that he turn himself in. Of course, a battle ensues.
Strengthened by his new Super Soldier powers, Fake Cap rips off Falcon’s mechanical wings, which is much more visceral than I would have expected. I really felt this one.
Luckily, it’s not enough, and our heroes defeat Fake Cap and regain possession of the shield.
This show overestimates how much I value who possesses the actual shield. Like, the Wakandans could whip up a new one easily.
Also, the show seems both completely aware and totally oblivious of what a metaphor is. I know the shield represents the legacy of the original Captain America in a symbolic sense, but at the same time the show depicts this in a way that is oddly literal.
It’s like in Man of Steel when Superman said the “S” on his costume was the Kryptonian symbol for “hope.” You don’t have to point at your symbol that fans of the character find hopeful and say, “It also literally means ‘hope’ … in a made-up language … of a fictional planet that exploded.”
It’s like if Magritte wrote “This is not a pipe” on his painting of a pipe and then rolled up the canvas and smoked it like a giant cigarette. It’s a “hat on a hat” symbolically is all I’m saying.
Fake Captain America returns to Real Country America, where he is relieved of his duties by a military tribunal. Suddenly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus walks up. What? Veep confirmed for the MCU.
She introduces herself as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, but we see you, President Selina Meyer. If the synergy gods are listening, give me a series of brief web episodes that show the Veep cast handling crisis management for the shitty new Captain America they tried to foist upon the public.
“Madam President, we have a bit of a PR nightmare coming. The press has learned that Cap’s shield was constructed using vibranium mined by an African forced-labor camp.”
“Dammit! Next thing you’ll tell me is Hawkeye’s arrows are tipped in blood diamonds. What?! We couldn’t find any baby seals for Thor to bludgeon with his hammer? The Hulk couldn’t burst out of his human-sized clothes during a middle school assembly? Idiots!”
Anyway, Louis-Dreyfus says very little, telling Fake Cap to await her call and setting up her future appearances in the MCU. I will continue to work on my spec script for the Veep/Marvel cinematic crossover, which we will call the Iannucciverse. I will never finish it, and the Word file will live in a folder on my laptop alongside an abandoned screenplay for an Australian Breaking Bad spinoff called Krokodil Dundee.
Meanwhile at the Sokovia monument, Bucky finds Zemo awaiting his arrival. An intense standoff ends with Bucky dry-firing his pistol in Zemo’s face. For some unnecessary reason, Bucky confirms to Zemo that he hasn’t shot him in the face by slowly and deliberately dropping all the bullets he emptied from the gun beforehand. This is like pretending to steal a child’s nose and then sending them to an ENT.
The Dora Milaje appear from out of nowhere. Seriously though, how are they getting around? What vehicle has enough headroom for everybody to carry their own spear? Anyway, they take custody of Zemo, and Bucky asks for a favor.
Back in the states, Falcon returns to Baltimore to meet again with Isaiah Bradley. Falcon has to walk around with the shield in its custom carrying case like a big nerd. This looks so much less cool than just carrying it around normally. It looks like he’s walking around with a giant dinner plate.
Bradley recalls the racist treatment of black soldiers during World War 2. He says he never would have been accepted as Captain America, even before he was imprisoned.
Then Bradley pulls out his memory box. That’s probably not what he calls it, but every old man has one. Always be cautious when an old, grizzle man approaches you with a small box and starts pulling out yellowed photos and lockets and shit. You are about to hear the most depressing story you’ve ever heard. It’ll sound like someone reciting the lyrics to a Depression-era murder ballad involving train tracks and being wronged.
To set the tone, Falcon suddenly finds himself in the music video for “Hurt,” but instead of Johnny Cash, he’s got Black Captain America telling him the realest, meanest truth. Bradley explains that the love of his life died while he was imprisoned, and they kept all the letters she wrote him locked away in that tiny sadness box. Yep. Even the box has a horrible origin story. The elderly are like that. You can be in someone’s house and pick up a nice porcelain doll or a parasol and ask what’s the deal with this nice thing.
“She was so pure. So innocent. That was the only belonging of hers that survived the fire.” Or “That potholder brings back a lot of memories. Memories I thought I buried along with him, oh, so many years ago after the valley flooded.”
Falcon insists that they go public with the truth about how Bradley and other black soldiers were experimented on as part of the Super Soldier Program. Bradley says nothing has changed.
“They will never let a black man be Captain America. And if they did, no self-respecting black man would ever want to be.”
Damn. I wish what was communicated in these lines is what went viral about this show and not the silly dancing Zemo gif. But I guess it’s tough to meme all that, so let’s just keep laughing at the silly dancing man.
Falcon returns home to New Orleans to continue the “fixing the family boat” saga that has been the undercurrent of this entire series. There was less talk about boat repair in The Odyssey.
What’s great about this is Bucky arrives with gifts for everybody: Falcon gets a new set of wings from Wakanda, and his sister gets a new love interest.
Seriously, as my mother would say, these two need to get some holdback pills.
Sarah, a single parent of two trying to make ends meet, sets those eyes on Bucky, a 100-year-old super soldier. This should be its own show. I need more shrimp-boat eroticism in my Marvel programming.
Then we get a completely unnecessary “fixing the boat” montage. This brings me to my original point: This show is sort of tethered to the whole globe-hopping, espionage thing, but the tonal shifts from one segment to the next are too drastic. One minute we are listening to a veteran detail how he was abused and abandoned by his country, the next we get Bucky and Falcon goofing around with a mizzenmast while the house music at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. plays overtop. It’s jarring.
After a heart-to-heart with Sarah, Falcon decides to upgrade from Légionnaire de New Orleans to Captain America. This pretty much just involves him doing calisthenics and throwing the shield at some tumbling mats. It’s another montage, but it at least communicates more than “We are preparing the boat for resale.”
Finally, we see the Flag Smashers meet with Batroc the Leaper (enlisted by Sharon Carter earlier in the episode). He agrees to help kill the Falcon, the second most cursed bird to murder, just behind an albatross.
The Flag Smashers begin a raid on the commission voting on refugee relocation. Learning of the pending attack, Falcon prepares to suit up in his new armor. As he takes a deep breath, he stares inside at the new uniform. Cut to credits.
But this being Marvel, the names of all the hard-working individuals who made this program possible are merely just padding between those sweet post-credits sequences. Closing out the penultimate episode, we see the recently fired Fake Captain America constructing his own shield, complete with his military medals.
Maybe in the finale, he will hold up his newly made shield and say, “This represents my service and dedication to America.”
Flips shield over showing actual medals.
“See these ACTUALLY do mean that.”