The Falcon and The Winter Soldier – Season 1 Episode 6
“One World, One People”
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier concludes its first season with the Flag Smashers staging a major attack and Sam making a definitive decision about his future.
Every episode of this show has been building to the moment where Sam decides to take on the mantle of Captain America. It hasn’t been an easy journey for him as Steve Rogers defined that identity so completely that following in those footsteps seemed like an impossibility for Sam. In short he didn’t feel worthy of taking on that mantle but the circumstances that existed throughout with John Walker proving to be a far less than ideal candidate and the extensive soul searching he was encouraged to do brought him around to the idea over time.
This episode wastes no time in firmly stating that Sam Wilson is now identifying as Captain America. He enters the crisis situation proudly clad in his excellent Wakandan made Captain America costume and introduces himself as Captain America. He states once and for all that his intent is to be the new Captain America and that declaration is immensely satisfying because of the work that has been put in to get him to that point. He spends the entire episode proving how suitable he in that role in various ways. Much of what is depicted here is focused around the extended action sequence that details Karli and her followers attacking the GRC vote and it provides Sam the perfect opportunity to put his unique stamp on the mantle. The combination of the wings and the shield makes for some really creative action and his resourceful approach to making use of both immediately establishes his own style that has evolved since adding the shield to his arsenal.
There’s a lot of variety between aerial and hand to hand combat with Bucky weaving in and out in his own way. It’s unfortunate that they don’t fight together more but there is still a strong sense of teamwork in the way they operate as it’s clear their objective is the same even if they are separated in trying to achieve it. Their dynamic in the combat situation remains engaging and it’s a brilliantly executed extended action sequence that keeps changing as it progresses meaning that it never becomes stale or repetitive. As an introduction for Sam as Captain America it’s near perfect. It’s character development through action and it’s handled brilliantly which makes the action far more meaningful.
The most notable contribution where Bucky is concerned is that his heroism is recognised by the people he saves. He fights really hard to free the people trapped inside the armoured car and he is thanked for his efforts when he succeeds. It’s an obvious contrast to most of his prior heroics being in the background or from the shadows while others take the credit so seeing him actually given credit for helping people is something new and ties into his ongoing arc around not feeling like a part of the world he lives in. If he can help people and be recognised as someone who does that then it could start to give him purpose and go some way towards restoring a sense of identity for him. As with Sam it’s meaningful character development through action and done very well.
John’s addition to the ongoing sequence with his makeshift shield does clutter it a little though his inclusion does reinforce the complexity associated with the character. He goes after Karli because he wants revenge for the death of Lemar which makes sense as a motivation albeit a very simple one. The complexity comes after that when she expresses regret for killing him because she doesn’t feel good about taking lives that don’t matter. John has a strong reaction to this because Lemar was a very close friend so he very much mattered as far as he’s concerned. He’s fighting for his friend and wants to see Karli punished for what she did. The complexity of his character is reinforced through him naturally falling behind Sam and folding himself into the dynamic that Sam and Bucky have temporarily. One of his early desires was for them to be a team and in a way he achieves that by working with them.
He also tries to stop an armoured car from falling which reinforces his strong sense of morality and offers a reminder of his foundational desire to protect people. For all his faults there is decency within John and it’s good that the complexity is being leaned into rather than turning him into a villain that can plague Sam and Bucky. Given how much this episode has to cover it was the right decision and ending with his transition to U.S. Agent working for whatever organisation Valentina Allegra de Fontaine represents keeps him on the board to develop further in a future project. John’s contribution to the episode was in line with what the show had done with him previously and worked well within the context of the ongoing story.
As I mentioned the action sequence takes up a vast chunk of the episode but there is a lot more to offer once it concludes. Sam’s speech following Karli’s death about the state of the world and the need to do better is nothing short of excellent. He provides his perspective on the situation passionately and eloquently to a crowd waiting to hear what the new Captain America has to say. Difficult questions are asked of those in authority around their intentions and Sam makes it clear that he believes the current system to be unsustainable.
The speech contains a lot to unpack and brings in some of the scope of the changes that came about as a result of half of the population disappearing. Sam flatly states that he believes it’s the responsibility of government to support the settlements that came into being during that time while acknowledging that the answer that is fairest for all concerned isn’t an easy one. He is asked what all of this means for those who came back to find their family home occupied by someone else and whether those people should be made homeless because of circumstances beyond their control. As extreme as the event that caused it may be there are many examples of people losing their homes due to circumstances outwith their control and the common factor is that those people need help. They don’t need powerful people making assumptions as to what is best for people and using their power to maintain their own perception of the status quo. Sam actively challenges them to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them and build something better out of them. The GRC members are so hung up on labels and perceived threats that they never ask why things are happening but Sam encourages that exploration and the associated reality check is very powerful.
He says the words “do better” and lists various ways they can wield the power that they have before encouraging them to actually consider the people their decisions will be impacting rather than making assumptions. The attack on the vote is highlighted as something that shows them how helpless people can feel because they were caught up in a dangerous situation they had no control over. People feel this way every day in every corner of the globe so Sam’s belief is that they should learn empathy from this experience and use that empathy to help people feel less helpless. Sam came in as a symbol of heroism and protected them which is exactly what they could do in their positions of influence.
All of this comes from Sam’s perspective of witnessing the impact that preserving the status quo is having on people. His family were directly affected by it and he was recently made painfully aware of how badly Isaiah was treated by the government in pursuit of their own agenda but instead of approaching it with bitterness and cynicism he chooses to embrace hope. Taking on the mantle of Captain America is his way of standing for that better world and not accepting the current one. His words are very public and he never backs down even when challenged. Sam has been casually presenting the values that Steve held in every episode of the show so far but this shows he has realised that he embodies them and is making sure he proudly represents them. It’s a powerful and thought provoking speech that would make Steve Rogers proud.
His Captain America is obviously different in that he’s a black man rather than the blonde haired and blue eyed image that has been previously associated with the mantle. He talks about being aware of the hatred and judgement being cast on him as he speaks so it’s something he acknowledges but he isn’t doing to let that deter him from doing what he thinks to be the right thing. Regardless of who might disapprove he is going to stand up for what he believes him and work to hold people in authority accountable for their decisions. Sam also has hope that one day he will be fully accepted because he has faith in people. The episode doesn’t actually show any resistance to him in that role from the general public which might have illustrated that point better but racism has been a consistent thread in this show so it still carries wait that he makes that observation. He knows it isn’t going to be easy but that won’t stop him and ultimately that’s what makes him a hero. On a personal note, my preference when it comes to superheroes is virtuous characters inspiring people to be the best versions of themselves and I found Sam’s first words to the public as Captain America to be incredibly inspiring.
Another inspirational and heroic thing Sam does is right a wrong by ensuring that Isaiah Bradley gains recognition for all he has done. He has his own exhibit in the Smithsonian that details his accomplishments and undoes his erasure from historical record. It doesn’t make up for what was done to him but it’s a step in the right direction and a further showcase of how suitable Sam is to be Captain America. It’s another representation of how he works to build a better world rather than accepting the current one. Isaiah’s reaction is powerfully delivered by Carl Lumbly and the moment itself is dripping in emotion. Isaiah’s slight shift in attitude after seeing what Sam did works really well because it’s not a complete abandonment of the harsh lessons his difficult life has taught him but still indicates there he has managed to find a measure of hope. Sam’s alternate perspective on black history being that those that came before them helped build the country, flawed as it is and Sam seeing that as a motivation to honour them by fighting to protect it is vastly different to how Isaiah sees it while still being aware of the historical significance. It’s in line with Sam’s hopeful attitude.
Sharon is revealed to be the Power Broker which isn’t much of a surprise but the episode does a poor job of doing anything with it. Her association with Karli is revealed and Batroc finds out but there is no explanation of her overall plan or what motivates her to be in that role beyond feeling betrayed by the government she once protected. She presents a compliant front when accepting her pardon because it comes with access to state secrets that she can now exploit but it’s treated as a detail to be picked up at some undisclosed time in the future rather than anything specifically meaningful to this show. Given how many times the Power Broker was mentioned and the constant reminders that she is a major player in global events demanded a more significant presence within the story being told here.
Once the crisis has been averted Bucky takes Sam’s advice from the previous episode and goes to make proper amends for what he’s done in a way that offers them closure. Yori is the case study for this and Bucky confesses to him that the Winter Solider killed his son while using the past tense in admitting that it was him. The tense is important because he has accepted that he no longer that person and is looking to define who he is in the future. Stepping away from Yori following that confession is somewhat confusing and there’s a rushed quality to him gifting the book to Dr. Raynor with every name crossed off the list but the meaning behind it was nonetheless clear. That part of his life is over and he is now focused on moving to whatever the next stage is. He is last seen happily spending time with Sam’s family and neighbours therefore indicating that he is at least beginning to find a place to belong. There is a general imbalance in the show between Sam and Bucky’s development that remains reflected in this final episode.
One consistent problem the show has that this final episode fails to solve is that of the Flag Smashers and Karli herself. The main issue is that there hasn’t been enough time to fully develop her or the organisation. Some attempt has been made to give Karli depth and is usually worked well but it wasn’t quite enough to provide full context. It’s understood that she once had modest aspirations and was radicalised after feeling betrayed by the systems that are in place. Her reasons for doing what she is doing are abundantly clear but there remains a failure to fully characterise her. Bucky’s conversation with her where he follows Sam’s example and tries to find common ground with her is great because it highlights how similar they are and allows Bucky to give her advice from the perspective of being further down the same road she’s going down. Her reaction is to point out she doesn’t care about her own survival as long as the movement persists. In her own mind she’s fighting for a noble cause far bigger than herself so in that way she fully believes in what she’s doing.
Spending more time on the organisation beyond what they’re fighting for might have helped Karli achieve more depth. There are hints that other members of the Flag Smashers aren’t as radicalised as she is and don’t see the actions as entirely necessary but there’s no real dissension between them so the opportunity to interrogate their cause, their values and Karil’s interpretation of them doesn’t exist. The ideals are known and what they’re trying to achieve is clear but the detail is lacking and the final episode isn’t able to fix that because the time wasn’t spent earlier. Her death makes her a martyr in a way though it’s Sam who makes use of that as an example of innocence corrupted by a badly broken system that is in need of repair so she is used in meaningful ways but the impact isn’t what it needs to be.
There’s a lot the show in general doesn’t resolve which does make sense as the overriding message is that everyone needs to do their part to build a better world. The problems set up in this show are far too complicated to be solved by two people taking action in a comparatively limited capacity. This conclusion is all about taking the first steps and continuing to take further steps that keep making improvements. A new Captain America can’t make the problems go away overnight but if everyone works to do better then improvement is possible. In a way it comes across as a lack of resolution in the context of the show though that’s to be expected to an extent as the MCU is a continuity driven universe that persists. To my mind the character resolutions were satisfying enough and the suggestion that a better world might come out of this is the right kind of hopeful.
An inspiring and hopeful finale that offers satisfying payoff for the ongoing character arcs and doesn’t shy away from the tough questions that need to be asked. Sam definitively taking on the role of Captain America is an immensely satisfying payoff to his arc over the course of the season. He immediately puts his own stamp on the mantle through his creative use of the shield and wings. It’s an exciting and near perfect introduction to Sam’s version of Captain America. Bucky’s contribution to the extended action sequence has him acting heroically and being recognised for that which marks a major shift for him and provides character development through action similar to what is delivered with Sam. John’s addition to the sequence adds to his complexity while avoiding the obvious development possibility of making him a villain. He starts of avenging Lemar, transitions to supporting Sam and Bucky before finally saving an armoured car which serves as a reminder of his foundational desire to help people. Following the action sequence Sam’s speech is powerful and thought provoking in a way that would make Steve Rogers proud. It highlights the complex issues that have been explored throughout the season, asks difficult questions and directly encourages those in power to do better. Everyone has a responsibility to help build a better world and Sam makes it clear that nothing less than everyone doing their part is acceptable. He embodies that hope for a better world as his version of Captain America and makes his intent to forge ahead in spite of those who don’t accept him. It’s incredibly inspiring and speaks to my personal preference for virtuous heroes.
Sam righting a wrong and having Isaiah recognised through his own exhibit in the Smithsonian is an emotionally impactful moment. It doesn’t make up for all that was done to Isaiah but it is a step in the right direction and offers him hope that he didn’t have before. Sam’s acknowledgement of the troubled black history in America and his desire to honour it by fighting for his country offers an alternate perspective to that of Isaiah without dismissing the truth of the history. Sharon being revealed as the Power Broker isn’t a surprise but it also isn’t handled all that well as there is no explanation of her overall plan or motivation beyond feeling betrayed by the system she once fought for. Having her pardoned and given access to secrets enhances her position but it’s more of a setup for a future project than being important for this show. Considering the frequent references to the Power Broker and the importance she supposedly had to what this show was exploring her presence should have been more significant. Bucky crossing all the names off his list and gifting the book to Dr. Raynor is somewhat rushed though a clear indicator that he is ready for the next phase of his life. Confessing to Yori and immediately stepping away from him is somewhat confusing but seeing him happily spending time with Sam’s family and neighbours indicates that he’s starting to find a place to belong. The problems with Karli and the Flag Smashers still exist because the time hasn’t been taken to develop them as fully as they needed to be. Karli had some depth but the organisation and her association with it was never fully explored so it ends up being less developed than it should have been. Her death making her a martyr in an unexpected way by Sam using her as a symbol of corrupted innocence by a broken system was a nice touch. There’s a lot this show doesn’t resolve which may frustrate some but the character arcs were completed in satisfying ways and the message around systemic problems being impossible to solve overnight is always clear and the hopeful finish with work to be done feels appropriate.
- Sam’s definitive declaration that he is the new Captain America
- the creative use of the wings and shield combination to put his own stamp on the mantle
- character development through action for Sam and Bucky
- John retaining his complexity in how he is used in the actions sequence
- Sam’s inspirational and powerful speech
- difficult questions being asked
- the overriding message around everyone having a part to play in building a better world
- the emotional moment where Isaiah is finally recognised
- Sam’s differing perspective on the troubled black history and his pledge to honour it
- Bucky casting off the book and moving on with his life
- Bucky beginning to find a place to belong
- Karli being a martyr but in an unexpected way
- the general imbalance between Sam and Bucky’s development
- the rushed and occasionally confusing quality to Bucky’s conclusion
- Sharon being revealed as the Power Broker having little impact despite the importance suggested over the course of the show
- Karli and the Flag Smashers still lacking the necessary depth
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User Review( vote)
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Marvel continues to excel in their streaming content. Taking two secondary characters that didn’t have a great deal of screen time or development before now is a great idea for so many reasons. For one thing the characters made an impact in the films they appeared in and the actors played them well so seeing more of them was always something I was interested in. Taking two characters closely connected to Steve Rogers and fleshing them out in their own ways while also making use of that friendship worked really well as a starting point and developed along interesting lines.
Sam and Bucky were used incredibly well with their individual arcs leading towards definitive conclusions for each of them. The balance was more in the direction of Sam than Bucky but both were covered extensively and their dynamic was always engaging. There was less of the bickering buddy cop back and forth than expected. Instead there was a far deeper partner relationship where they supported each other in important ways throughout while being brought closer together by their connection to Steve.
Characters like Zemo and Sharon were used well though Sharon’s conclusion was less than impressive but both characters are still good to have on the board for future projects at this point. They both played a given role and Zemo in particular was redefined from his last appearance in a really compelling way that fit in perfectly with what this show was trying to accomplish.
John Walker was another strong fixture of the show. He was a complicated character who was positioned as an antagonist of sorts but never fully descended into it. He was characterised with a streak of arrogance and a strong semblance of entitlement to the respect he felt being Captain America should command. Going too far and murdering someone in full view of the whole world had personal consequences for him but his strong sense of morality was never forgotten however tainted it might be.
Outside of the characterisation this show tackled some really big issues such as racism, privilege, corrupt systems that fail to benefit those who really need help and many other complex ideas. Answers were rarely provided but the show never failed to address that there are no easy answers or quick fixes while ending on a hopeful message that a better world is possible provided everyone works together to build it. It’s what Sam chose to stand for and fight for which is ultimately a very inspiring message for the show to end on.
There is definite scope for a second season of this show as there are so many ways these characters could continue together. Seeing how they combat the issues that will arise with a black man now acting as Captain America is a fascinating prospect so hopefully it won’t be long before they are seen again.
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