Sam steps up and decides who he wants to be in yet another fantastic episode which starts wrapping things up in a satisfactory way
Last week’s episode of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier was the best yet. After weeks of build up, episode 4 brought all the main characters together for a showdown in Latvia which was not only action packed but also reflective. In one fell swoop, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier solved its villain problem by using the showdown not to further the divide but to blur the lines between good and evil. Not a single character was presented as a simple hero or villain but the episode presented all of them as flawed characters. Mid way through the season, the Falcon and Winter Soldier arguably surpassed Wandavision as at a crucial point in the story, the show hit all the right beats in a fantastic episode of television that would prove hard to match. However, episode 5 does just that once again nailing the action, storytelling, and emotional beats. Exploring the fallout of episode 4’s shocking ending, “Truth” starts to wrap things up taking these characters to where they are meant to be by the end of the show with Sam especially having to decide who he ultimately wants to be.
The importance of the shield
It is quite poignant that the show starts with a literal fight for the shield with Sam and Bucky on one side and Walker on the other side. That is after all what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is all about: What happens post Steve Rogers as Captain America, how his legacy lives on, and who Sam and Bucky decide to be. The show has reached a climactic point where Sam and Bucky must stand united and take the shield back which represents them taking ownership of the legacy Steve left behind. Sam’s earlier decision to give up the shield made a lot of sense then and still makes sense. Sam’s conversation with Isaiah cements that as there are legitimate reasons why Sam might not want to be the next Captain America and Bucky now understands that. However, even though Sam is going against his earlier decision and what Isaiah said, Sam has now reached a point in the story where he is at peace with the burden of responsibility that the shield brings as he can now forge his own course as Captain America with no one to tell him what to do. This storyline has been developed really well over the course of the season and episode 5 rounds it perfectly. From the big things like the conversation with Isaiah to the little things like Sam’s nephew being inspired by the shield, episode 5 nails both sides of the inner conflict and why Sam ultimately decides to take on the mantle. The legacy that Steve Rogers left behind as Captain America looms over this episode but Sam is through and through the star of the episode and he is forging his own course as a hero inspired by but not held back by the past.
The stage is set for where the series and the mcu goes from here
On the other side of the fight for the shield is John Walker, the person the US government chose to be Captain America. Now in light of his highly publicised murder of a Flag Smasher in Latvia, Walker is stripped of the mantle. Walker is Sam’s opposite in many respects but episode 5 once again does not depict Walker as a villain through and through. The episode even evokes sympathy for him when he visits Hoskins’s family. However, whilst Sam is on the road to becoming an inspirational figure, Walker is set down a completely opposite path when he is visited by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine who is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This is not only a fun cameo but one that serves the story well, setting Walker down a darker path when he decides to operate without government approval. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine will also likely play a role in other MCU projects such as Black Widow and it will be exciting to see what happens after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier involving her character. This is a great way to set up future stuff in the MCU and it does not feel forced at all since the character’s meeting with Walker happens at the exact right time and leads naturally on from what is currently happening in the show.
Another set up for future MCU projects is Bucky handing Zemo over to the Wakandans. This scene also shows that Bucky is finally at peace with himself, freed from his Hydra programming, and in charge of his own future. There is a certain level of respect between Bucky and Zemo as they part ways off on separate paths henceforth. One more set up worth mentioning is Sam leaving the wingsuit with Torres, who is likely to become the next Falcon. Just as Sam is taking up the Captain America mantle, another will step up as Falcon showing that just as Steve inspired Sam, Sam has gone on to and continues to inspire others.
In many ways, episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the perfect send off for the show and a great look to the future. However, there is still at least one story thread to wrap up which is the Flag Smashers. Episode 5 teases a big showdown between our heroes and the Flag Smashers for the finale as Karli hires the terrorist seen in episode 1 to kill Sam. It will be interesting to see how the finale can resolve the conflict established over the course of the show especially since Karli and the Flag Smashers have so far not been portrayed as clear villains but instead as flawed people trying to do some good. Hopefully, the show will address these issues in the finale and not just end with a big fight scene which resolves nothing.
Overall, episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier not only matches the previous fantastic episode but is also one of the best pieces of Marvel live action content. Putting the spotlight on Sam, episode 5 examines his internal conflict about taking up the shield but ultimately gets him to a place where Sam decides to forge his own path as Captain America. Over the course of the show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has had clear arcs in mind for each character and never wavered. Episode 5 is the brilliant culmination of those arcs for not only Sam but also Bucky and Walker. The show deeply respects these characters and has proven that it can make a lasting mark on its own whilst setting up other MCU projects. Episode 5 serves as a great conclusion to the show in many ways but the show still needs to wrap up the Flag Smashers story. Hopefully this will be handled with care as the show needs to find a way to address the concerns raised by the Flag Smashers and a big fight scene alone will not do that. If nothing else (but hopefully more given how great the show has been so far), the upcoming finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will finally see Sam and Bucky at their full potential at peace with who they now are and ready to do some good and inspire others as well.