Each Friday, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Just like the viewers, Sam and Bucky are still reeling from watching Captain America’s shield be used to bludgeon Lemar’s killer to death in this week’s episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, while the Flag Smashers prepare for their big play.
First off, thanks to Joe for covering for me last week! His recap was excellent, and I personally missed staying up till midnight pacific time to watch the latest episode, but I am back and have some big things to discuss this week.
As with the previous episodes of the series so far, the action is great and there are some fascinating discussions about race and the identity of superheroes. As Marvel promised, we got a big character reveal that no one saw coming that will have the big Marvel fans wondering what is coming next in Phase 4 of the MCU. While I could talk about the great performances from Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan or the fascinating character arc for John Walker once again, I’m going to jump right into the episode and get to what you have all come for.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in this week’s episode…
The episode opens on John Walker, running away after brutally murdering Lemar’s killer at the end of last week’s episode. Just like the audience still reacting from watching Captain America’s shield being used to bludgeon a man to death, Walker is in shock. Walker finds himself in an abandoned warehouse, and Sam and Bucky arrive. And the moment Marvel fans have been waiting for since the first episode of the series has arrived: Sam and Bucky are going to take on Walker to reclaim the shield. There was no question that this fight was going to happen given what happened last week, the only shock is how quickly it happened. The confrontation begins with Walker trying to convince Sam and Bucky that he had to kill the man, but Sam assures Walker that they do not want anyone else to get hurt. Sam asks Walker for the shield, but Walker gives an evil smile and just sees this as an attempt by Sam to reclaim the shield, not trying to prevent Walker from doing something even more horrific. Walker warns Sam and Bucky that they do not want to do this, and the fight begins.
As with the previous fight scenes in the show so far, this scene is high octane and just brutal. The show has been building to Sam and Bucky going head-to-head with Walker, and each character’s personal arc reaches a tipping point in this scene. Walker, filled with rage, gets into a hand-to-hand combat fight with Sam, claiming that he is the real Captain America and rips off the wings of Sam’s Falcon suit. As Walker is about to bash Sam’s head in with the shield, Bucky tackles Walker and removes the shield from Walker’s control by ripping it off his arm in a brutal moment, but one that Walker had coming. Bucky knocks Walker unconscious and drops the shield next to Sam before walking out of the warehouse.
After the fight at the GRC Camp, Sam and Bucky part ways. The GRC has not been able to find Karli, only successfully finding her follows. Torres tells Sam that Walker’s actions that were caught on film have elevated to an international incident, and that the government is deciding what to do now going forward with Karli and in the wind and Walker not meeting the standard of Captain America. Sam wants to find Karli, but is frustrated that he cannot do this as he is stuck in the camp. Sam decides it’s time to return home, leaving his broken wings behind with Torres.
Back in the United States, Walker is stripped of his title of Captain America. During the hearing, Walker is distraught, trying to argue that this was a slip in character given his service record. But the senator leading the hearing against Walker says that it is because of his record that he is not being court martialed and detained. Despite his pleas that the government molded him to be Captain America, the government no longer wants any association with Walker.
After the hearing, Walker is with his wife in the hallway. She urges Walker that the first thing he should do is go and visit Lemar’s family. But during this conversation, Walker gets a surprise visitor. Enter Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, portrayed by the wonderful Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I will talk about the importance of the Contessa after the recap, but we are in for a big shake up in the MCU given her appearance! It’s a brief scene, but the Contessa tells Walker that she would have “killed the bastard too” and that by taking the serum, Walker has made himself very valuable to “certain people” She goes on to say that this was Walker’s second best decision of his life, with the first being answering her phone call when she next contacts Walker. After this short exchange, the Contessa leaves, but not before handing Walker a business card with no name and number on it.
We next check in on Karli and her followers who are still on the run from the GRC. They have made their way back to the GRC Camp in Latvia, which has now been evacuated. Karli takes this time to reflect on all the people she has lost in her crusade, coming to the realization that now is not the time to back down, but to make the Flag Smasher’s big move.
After disappearing last episode, we find Zemo has made his way to the Sokovia memorial that he had previously mentioned. Bucky has tracked him down, and the two have a long overdue conservatorship that addresses their turbulent history. Zemo begins the conversation by telling Bucky that he has decided not to kill him anymore. Zemo then continues by telling Bucky that Karli has been radicalized beyond the point of saving, and that the only way to stop her is to kill her despite Sam not wanting to admit this fact. In doing so, he relates Sam’s stubbornness to see what Karli has become to the same stubbornness that Steve had, clearly trying to get a reaction out of Bucky. After doing so, Zemo asks Bucky to kill Karli, but Bucky tells him that he and Sam will handle Karli in their own way, trying to leave behind his murderous past as the Winter Soldier. But being the master thinker that Zemo is, he had foreseen this answer. Bucky then raises his gun to Zemo’s head and pulls the trigger. However, Bucky had emptied the chamber and drops the bullets to the ground, allowing the Dora Milaje to come in and capture Zemo. In his final goodbye, Zemo tells Bucky that he has crossed his name off Bucky’s list, telling Bucky that he holds no grudge against him for what Bucky thought he had to do. With this conversation, it seems that Bucky has found some peace and put behind him the trauma that Zemo has caused him the past few years. Ayo tells Bucky that they will be taking Zemo to The Raft (the prison we last saw in Captain America: Civil War), and that he will spend his remaining days there. However, given what Bucky has done, Ayo tells Bucky that he might want to stay away from Wakanda for the time being. Before parting, Bucky asks Ayo for one last favour…
Sam has now returned back to the States, and his first stop is to visit Isaiah Bradley now that he has reclaimed Captain America’s shield. After learning about Isaiah’s history with the super soldier program, Sam has come looking for answers as he deals with his own internal struggle of whether to become the next Captain America. However, the conversation does not go as Sam had thought it would. Isaiah is not happy to see the shield, asking Sam to keep it covered. Sam tells Isaiah that he needs to understand why Isaiah wants to remain a secret, to which Isaiah says it’s a struggle that every black man knows. Isaiah recounts his time spent fighting for his country in the Korean War, treated as an expendable human being, only to come back home and be subjected to racism despite everything he had done for his country, as many black Americans did. Isaiah then reveals the scars he still bears from the government testing, telling Sam that he was tested on for thirty years, only escaping because one of the nurses took pity on him and had him declared dead. This same nurse gave Isaiah the letters his wife had been writing him for all these years that the government kept from him. Sam, visibly distraught over what Isaiah has been through, wants to tell the world, to let them know what Isaiah went through despite being a hero. But Isaiah wants to remain a secret, and continue living the life he has built for himself after his release as he does not think the world has changed much in the past seventy years. Isaiah does not see the world as a better place now because Sam, a black man, has Captain America’s shield. He still sees it as the same place as it was when he was tested upon, and that the world will continue erasing black men’s history as they have done for the past 500 years, with no self-respecting black man becoming the next Captain America.
The show so far has had some incredibly deep conversation about being black in America and how that affects the status of the superheroes within the MCU. But this discussion was in my opinion the most moving and deep yet. Again, we have the common themes of the series breaking through of what it means to be a hero and how a black man is viewed in the United States, but we get this generational discussion going on. On one hand, we have Sam, representing a younger generation fighting for change, taking note that the world is changing and this is now their time to make their mark on history. On the other hand, we have Isaiah, representing the view that nothing has changed, wanting to remove himself from the world as he sees that the cycle will keep repeating itself. I never would have guessed that Marvel would have such great representation or discussion in one of their projects, because it is such an important yet complex discussion that does not naturally come to mind when you think of superheroes. But each week, the writers of this series continue to astound me and it is truly something special that they have created in this story.
Sam then returns back home to Louisiana to Sarah and his nephews. Sarah has decided not to sell the family boat, and Sam begins calling up all their neighbours who owe their parents favours. In doing so, Sam bands the community together to repair the family boat, and Bucky stops by to lend a helping hand. With him, Bucky has brought a briefcase with something for Sam from the Wakandans. But Sam, still sorting through his internal struggle of becoming the next Captain America, is not ready to open the briefcase.
We then cut to Walker visiting Lemar’s family. Lemar’s family is happy for what Walker has done, knowing that Walker’s actions have allowed Lemar to rest easy knowing that he has been avenged. His mother tells Walker that she knows her son believed in Walker being Captain America, and that it was the honour of his life being Walker’s partner. Walker, struggling to find the words to express himself to Lemar’s family, tells them that he is always there for them before leaving.
We then get our brief Sharon Carter appearance of the episode. I’m honestly a little upset with the lack of screen time she has gotten so far, but I love the direction her character is going. We see Sharon in Madripoor on a phone call, offering a new job to one of her contacts. We do not know who her contact is, but given we hear him speaking French to Sharon, it’s not hard to guess that this is most likely Batroc who we have not seen since the first episode. Sharon promises her contact this is one job her contact won’t want to pass on.
Back in Louisiana, Sam and Bucky have almost finished fixing up the boat. While practicing throwing the shield in the backyard, the two of them have a conversation about where they both are personally. Bucky tells Sam that neither him nor Steve when they planned on giving Sam the shield, what it would mean to give it to a black man, because how could they. Bucky tells Sam that he is sorry, and offers Sam the shield. He further tells Sam that Walker was not his fault, and that his initial anger towards Sam giving up the shield was because it was the last piece of family Bucky had left. So when Sam gave it up, Bucky began to question everything. But Bucky has worked through his feelings, fully coming to terms with Steve being gone, and tells Sam that he has to decide who he is, and not to be influenced by Steve’s or anyone’s expectations of him.
The conversation then switches to Sam giving Bucky advice. Pulling on his training as a counsellor for veterans, Sam tells Bucky that he needs to pull himself out of his personal hell. To do so, he tells Bucky that he cannot keep going around and avenging the names on his list. Instead he tells Bucky that he needs to make amends for what he has done, Bucky has to help the people whose lives he has affected find closure, instead of saying sorry to make himself feel better. Sam tells Bucky just to start with one person, and move forward from there. This is clearly indicating that Bucky will tell his Asian friend the truth about his son’s death to help him find closure in the finale. Bucky, seeming to take what Sam has said to heart, tells Sam that it is time for him to leave but to let him know when Sam finds Karli, because he will be there to help. But not as a partner, because we could not let this conversation play out without a buddy moment between our two heroes.
Back at the boat, Sarah and Sam have a long awaited talk. Sarah talks about not being able to sell the boat, and tells Sam that she never really believed that he was running away from the fight, as she had previously accused him of. She says that she always saw Sam as taking on two fights, the one for their family’s history and the other for the world with the Avengers, and that she is incredibly proud of the man he is. Knowing that his conversation with Isaiah is weighing on him, she tells Sam not to let Isaiah’s views get in his head and to decide what he does next. Sarah is sure that Sam will make the right decision for himself, because otherwise what would be the point of the pain and sacrifice he has made if he is not willing to keep fighting the good fight. This scene leads into Sam’s training montage with the shield, clearly showing that Sam is ready to become the next Captain America.
Karli and her followers have now made it to New York City. They are in a park meeting their new ally: Batroc. Yes, it looks like Sharon has set up Batroc with the Flag Smashers, giving Batroc the one thing he wants most: a chance to kill Sam. Like Sharon, I get you are hurting over what has happened to you since the events of Captain America: Civil War, but is helping kill Sam really the answer?!? While Batroc does not seem as bought into Karli’s agenda and is just here to kill Sam, Karli sends out a message to her network, revealing a concerning number of individuals in the park that side with her ideology. Karli then announces that their battle begins tonight.
Sam receives a call from Torres while watching a news report about an upcoming GRC Vote taking place in New York City. Torres has discovered a pattern in the Flag Smasher’s activity from their previous attacks, suggesting that they are now in New York City, about to make their next move. Sam thanks Torres for this information, telling him that he will take it from here.
We then cut to the GRC Council vote, and before the vote takes place, the power cuts out. The Flag Smashers have begun their master plan. Before we see what the Flag Smashers do, we cut back to Sam who has just opened the case that Bucky brought him. While we don’t see what is in the briefcase, we see Sam smile as the episode ends.
Much like WandaVision which waited to the final episodes to have it’s first post credit scene, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has finally given Marvel fans their first post credit scene in the penultimate episode. The scene shows Walker, making his own shield reminiscent of Captain America’s shield but adding his medal of honour for a personal touch. U.S. Agent has arrived in the MCU…
Once again, Marvel has delivered another excellent episode with one shocking appearance no one saw coming: Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The Contessa has had many names in the comics, having been an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury’s lover, while also being a Russian spy for Leviathan. But most commonly, fans associate her with the name Madame Hydra. Without getting to far into the character, Madame Hydra is essentially the anti-version of Nick Fury, responsible for assembling such villain groups as the Thunderbolts or the Femme Force. Given her giving Walker her card and telling him to answer her call, she is clearly becoming the anti-Nick Fury, but the question is what team is she assembling? With the unrevealed identity of the Power Broker, it could be that the Contessa is the Power Broker and also running Sharon Carter, which would fit the comics as Sharon does join the Femme Force. Further fueling the theories, Vanity Fair revealed that Dreyfus was supposed to make her MCU debut in Black Widow, indicating that Marvel has big plans for her. Also, the Contessa does feature prominently in the Secret Invasion comic line, and with that series now in development, she could appear there as well. So stay tuned to see what the Contessa is up to, but I think we have just met one of the next big bads of the MCU.
The other big development is Torres getting Sam’s wings. As I predicted back in the premiere episode, the MCU is gearing up for its next Falcon. While I do not think we will have much of Torres journey to becoming Falcon in the finale, I think this will be explored in future MCU projects. But it is clear that the MCU is about to meet its first Latinx superhero.
What’s in the briefcase? Is it merely new wings for Sam, or is it his Captain America suit made by the Wakandans? Make sure to check back in next Friday for this answer and my recap of the finale, and until then, keep theorizing about what is coming next in the MCU.