The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Finale Review

Hello, and welcome to your weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. These are meant to be read after watching, so they will go deep into spoiler territory. You have been warned!

Previously On…

In “Truth,” John F. Walker (Wyatt Russell) was stripped of his title and authority as Captain America after taking the last vial of Dr. Nagel’s Super Soldier Serum and killing an unarmed Flag Smasher (Noah Mills). Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) visited Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) to get the full story behind the world’s first Black Captain America while Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) traveled to Sokovia to retrieve Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and deliver him to Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and the Dora Milaje. The mysterious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) approached Walker about a job while Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag Smashers prepared for an attack on the Global Repatriation Council (GRC) conference in New York City. In a mid-credits scene, Walker builds a new shield from scrap metal and his war medals.

Tonight, We Go to Battle

Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers assemble to stop the GRC’s vote on global resettlement. Sam flies overhead while Bucky moves in on foot, joined by Sharon Carter. Karli is alerted to Falcon’s arrival and gives the go-ahead to start the attack. As Flag Smashers enter the GRC conference and begin rounding up global leaders, Falcon — or should I say, Captain America — smashes through a window and reveals his new red, white, and blue wingsuit. Cap and the gang quickly deduce that Karli’s not coming in; she’s trying to force everybody out. “It’s a misdirect,” says Sam, seconds before getting kicked in the chest by Batroc (Georges St-Pierre).

“You cost me a lot of money,” says the French pirate. “I wonder how much I can get for your new bird costume.” Sam, always quick with a comeback, responds, “Maybe a baguette and a few French fries.” The two begin to fight as Flag Smashers continue to evacuate the building. Bucky and Sharon, meanwhile, split up to keep everyone from leaving. One of Karli’s followers hands Bucky a cell phone, putting him in direct contact with the Flag Smashers’ leader.

“Aren’t you tired of fighting for the wrong side?” Karli asks. “I’ve done this before, kid. I know how it ends,” says Bucky. Karli says it doesn’t matter if she survives, she’s fighting for something bigger than herself. “You don’t think I ever fought for something bigger than myself?” Bucky replies. “That’s all I ever tried to do. And I failed twice.” Of course, Bucky is referring to his time as a soldier during World War II, which ended with him falling into the hands of HYDRA and becoming the Winter Soldier, and his failed attempt to stop Thanos during the events of Avengers: Infinity War.

Some of the GRC representatives are escorted to a helicopter on the roof while the rest are evacuated through the basement and packed into two armored trucks. The Flag Smashers’ plan runs so smoothly their targets don’t even realize they’re hostages. Bucky makes a final plea for Karli to stop the attack before she takes more lives. “Don’t do this. Don’t go down this path.” Karli, however, has no intention of stopping. “If that’s how you feel, you should sit this one out.”

Sharon Carter takes out a Flag Smasher using a nifty gadget that emits Mercury Vapor, while Sam, tired of dancing with Batroc, says au revoir and flies out a window to intercept the helicopter taking off. Using a new and improved Redwing (that the United States government doesn’t control), Falcon is able to scan the hostages in the chopper for anyone with flight training. Among them, he identifies a diplomat, Ayla Perez (Jane Rumbaua), as a former Air Force pilot. The character’s name is an easter egg for comic fans, combining Hector Ayala (White Tiger, Marvel’s first superhero of Latino descent) and one of the character’s creators, George Pérez. Using his greatest superpower, his ability to connect and communicate with others, Sam reaches out to Ayla through her phone’s earbuds and details a plan that will see her take control of the chopper after he takes care of the pilot.

Karli, meanwhile, is losing control of the situation. “Worst case scenario… we kill the hostages,” she tells her followers. “We’re supposed to use them to negotiate,” one Smasher counters. “Either way, our message gets out to the world,” Karli says firmly. “It doesn’t even matter if we die. The movement is strong enough to continue without us.” Karli has gone full dark, no stars. There’s no turning back for her now. Zemo’s words to Bucky at the Sokovian memorial in the last episode are ringing true: “The girl has been radicalized beyond salvation.”

One World, One People

Karli and her crew set up a roadblock and hijack the armored trucks. Before they can get away with their hostages, however, Bucky shows up and engages them. “We need a diversion. Give him someone to rescue,” orders Karli. One of her Super Soldiers, Gigi (Dani Deetté), pours gas on one of the armored trucks and sets it ablaze. As Bucky rips the doos off to free the hostages, John F. Walker enters the fray.

“Morgenthau!” he screams, “Let’s finish this.” Karli replies, “I didn’t mean to kill your friend. I don’t wanna hurt people that don’t matter.” This, of course, sends the enhanced and imbalanced Walker over the edge. “You don’t think Lemar’s life mattered?” he asks before throwing his homemade Captain America shield at her. Walker takes on the Flag Smashers while Bucky frees the hostages. That is until Dovich (Desmond Chiam) rips a parking meter out of the ground and tries to whack-a-mole Bucky into the pavement with it. Bucky and the Flag Smashers fight their way down into a construction site while Captain America and Ayla put their plan into motion and secure the chopper.

Walker and Karli exchange super-powered strikes, with Karli steering the battle toward the other armored truck full of hostages. Bucky swings a steel beam at Dovich as Karli, having broken free from Walker, attempts to push the remaining truck off the ledge above. Just as it looks like the truck will crash down on Bucky, it’s pulled back by none other than Walker, who shows that, while he isn’t Steve Rogers, he isn’t exactly a villain either. At least, he doesn’t see himself as a bad guy. Karli and the remaining Flag Smashers descend upon him, sending the truck back over the edge, but this time it’s caught by Cap, who uses his jet-powered wingsuit to push it back up to safety. Redwing frees the remaining hostages using a laser cutter, but Karli isn’t giving up the fight just yet.

Before Cap and his crew can bring Karli in, Batroc shows up with a smoke grenade launcher to help the Flag Smashers escape. The team splits up, with Bucky and Walker chasing after the Flag Smashers while Falcon closes in on Karli. In an interesting twist, however, Sharon Carter gets there first.

“You know, when you came to Madripoor,” Sharon begins, “you reminded me of a young me. I took you in, gave you an opportunity, and you betrayed me.”

“Because you wanted to control a world that hurt you,” replies Karli. “But I wanted to change it. I’m not interested in power or an empire. I  have bigger dreams.”

“What, like this?” Sharon condescends. “Come back and work for me again. All of you. We can make a difference together.”

“You just want me because you need your muscle back. Without us Super Soldiers, how much power does the Power Broker really have?”

And there we have it. Sharon Carter, the great-niece of legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. founder and Director Peggy Carter, is the Power Broker. And as it turns out, Batroc has been listening in on their conversation. Now two people know her secret. When the pirate attempts to blackmail Sharon for four times the amount he’s owed, she shoots him dead. Cap shows up and attempts to talk Karli down, but she decides to throw a cinderblock at him instead. Cap doesn’t want to fight Karli and does everything he can to evade her attacks.

We Can Do Better

The remaining Flash Smashers are apprehended by Bucky and Walker, who turn them over to the authorities. As they’re taken into custody, Walker quotes Abraham Lincoln. “Mercy bears richer fruit than strict justice.”

Karli knocks the shield out of Cap’s hand and picks up a gun. Before she can shoot, she’s capped — pun intended — by Carter, who isn’t concerned with Sam’s life as much she is her own secret identity. Cap holds a dying Karli in his arms, squeezing her hand tight. Karli says, “I’m sorry,” before fading away. Sam carries the young girl out in his arms and places her on a stretcher. He’s thanked by the GRC representatives, with the Senator (Alphie Hyorth) offering, “You did your part in dealing with those terrorists, now we’ll do ours.” But Cap isn’t having it.

“Stop calling them terrorists,” he says. “Your peacekeeping troops carrying weapons are forcing millions of people into settlements around the world. What do you think these people are gonna call you? These labels, ‘terrorists,’ ‘refugee,’ ‘thug,’ they’re often used to get around the question, why?

One of the GRC leaders responds, “Those settlements that happened five years ago, do you think it is fair for governments to have to support them?” to which Sam replies, “Yes.” The Senator continues their argument, “And the people who reappeared only to find someone else living in their family home, they just end up homeless? Look, I get it. But you have no idea how complicated this situation is.”

“You know what? You’re right,” says Sam. “And that’s a good thing. We finally have a common struggle now. Think about that. For once, all the people who’ve been begging, and I mean, literally begging for you to feel how hard any given day is… Now you know. How did it feel to be helpless? Now if you could remember what it was like to be helpless, and face a force so powerful it could erase half the planet, you would know that you’re about to have the same exact impact. This isn’t about easy decisions, Senator.”

“You just don’t understand,” interjects the Senator. But Sam makes it clear that he does. “I’m a Black man carrying the stars the stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are gonna hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it. The stares, the judgment. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet I’m still here. No super serum, no blond hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.”

Captain America and the Winter Soldier

The remaining Flag Smashers are to be transported to the Raft, but the armored vehicle carrying them is blown up by Zemo’s butler, Oeznik (Nicholas Pryor). Speaking of Zemo, we see him on the Raft, quite pleased with himself for taking out the remaining Super Soldiers. Well, almost all of them. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is in Washington D.C. with John F. Walker, who emerges in his new red, white, and black suit as U.S. Agent.

“Things are about to get weird,” says Val. “So, when they do, we’re not gonna need a Captain America. We’re gonna need a U.S. Agent. Keep your phone on.”

So, how are things going to get weird? Is Val alluding to joining The Thunderbolts, or perhaps the upcoming Secret Invasion series in which we discover that the shape-shifting Skrulls have been infiltrating Earth for years? Only time will tell.

Bucky visits Mr. Yori Nakajima (Ken Takemoto) and tells him the truth about his son’s tragic death. Meanwhile, his therapist, Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino), receives a gift — his notebook with every name crossed off. Bucky has made his amends. He may, finally, have a chance for peace.

In Baltimore, Cap visits Isaiah Bradley. Later, he surprises Isaiah and his grandson Eli  (Elijah Richardson) when they visit the Smithsonian’s Captain America exhibit to find a statue of Isaiah, recognizing his service to the country as the first Black Captain America. “Now, they’ll never forget what you did for this country,” says Sam as a tearful Isaiah embraces him. It’s a powerful, cathartic moment that brings Isaiah and Sam together and, symbolically, allows old wounds to start to heal.

We get a montage of a party back in Delacroix, Louisiana with Sam and Bucky hanging out with family and friends. Together, they stare out at the setting sun and the title card fades in. Captain America and the Winter Soldier. In an after-credits scene, Sharon Carter is offered a full pardon by the United States government. As she leaves the hearing, she makes a phone call to an unknown recipient.

“Start lining up our buyers. Super Soldiers might be off the menu, but we’re about to have full access to government secrets, prototype weapons, you name it. Should be something for everyone.”

Final Thoughts

Created by Malcolm Spellman and directed by Kari Skogland, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier limited series surpassed my lofty expectations. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, and Emily VanCamp further develop their characters and build upon their established chemistry while newcomers like Erin Kellyman, Wyatt Russell, and Carl Lumbly make the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel bigger and more complicated post-Endgame.

This has been a series that’s been as much about what’s being said and what’s being done, hence my heavy usage of quotes in these spoiler-heavy recaps. Mackie and Stan’s performances, coupled with some strong, emotionally charged writing, have pushed the characters of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to new heights while peeling back layers of subtlety. Seeing Madripoor, a key location from the X-Men universe, was exciting, as was the introduction of Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. There are so many storytelling possibilities in the MCU’s future, and I’m very excited to see how this series (and future Disney+ series like Loki, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Secret Invasion) reshapes the way we think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I’m intrigued to see what happens with Sharon Carter from here. Is she actually a villain, or could she be a Skrull? Will we see U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez) suit up as the new Falcon at some point? Who is Val working for? Is she recruiting U.S. Agent for the Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers, or is she allied with HYDRA or the Skrulls? Will Zemo escape the Raft, or will he, too, join the Thunderbolts as a reformed villain seeking freedom? Only the true Power Broker, Marvel President Kevin Feige, knows for certain.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: