Great action, emotional character development, excellent reveals, and a Rocky-style training montage. Yup, the penultimate episode of Disney+ and Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was basically everything we’ve ever wanted from this show, all rolled into one. But it’s not over yet.
Episode five was called “Truth,” and almost immediately, it jumped into the fight we’ve been waiting to see for weeks: John Walker’s Captain America (Wyatt Russell) versus Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan). John shared a little regret over what he’d done — killing a dude with the shield with the whole world watching — but eventually anger took over. The fight was gritty and intense. John actually tore Sam’s Falcon wings off and almost killed both him and Bucky a few times. Eventually, the pair team up in a very “Thank God Star-Lord isn’t around to mess this up” Infinity War moment, where Bucky holds him down and Sam rips the shield away from Walker. He’s been defeated but not without a cost, to the shield and all three men.
Once that piece of business is taken care of, we learn that Karli (Erin Kellyman) has gone into even deeper hiding after she killed Lemar (Clé Bennett) and saw what Walker did. Torres (Danny Ramirez) tells Sam and Bucky it’s best if everyone just waits until something happens before they act again. Bucky heads off to find Zemo and as Sam is leaving, Torres reminds him he forgot his broken Falcon wings. “Keep ‘em,” Sam says which feels like he’s declaring the Falcon dead.
Back in the States, Walker is forced to pay consequences for what he’s done. He’s stripped of all his military ranks and benefits and is livid because he believes he was just doing what he was told — which he always has — and is being punished for following orders. Eventually, he gives up and walks out on the hearing. Distraught and confused, Walker and his wife Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss) encounter someone new. She calls herself Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and she’s played by none other than Seinfeld and Veep mega-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. De Fontaine tells the Walkers she somehow knows John took the serum and that he lost the shield to Sam, and lets them know that technically, the tool doesn’t belong to the government. She knows a lot more than she should and basically tells him, “You’re valuable. I can use you, and I’ll be in touch.”
Next, we catch up with Karli, who finds that the GDC outpost where her beloved Donya Madani died has been cleared out because they were harbouring fugitives, aka the Flag-Smashers. She’s had it. Everything she’s doing that she believes is for good is being turned against her, and she says it’s time for the Flag-Smashers to finally act. We find Bucky has easily located Zemo — at the memorial for the destruction of Sokovia, which happened in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Zemo tells Bucky the only way to stop Karli will be to kill her and, for a second, it seems Bucky might think that’s the only way to stop Zemo too. But it’s not. He turns him over to the Dora Milaje and Zemo tells him he holds no grudges, he’s crossed his name out of Bucky’s book. Ayo (Florence Kasumba) tells Bucky she’ll be taking Zemo to the Raft (the ocean prison seen in Captain America: Civil War) but he should probably not come to Wakanda for a while considering. The White Wolf, which she calls him, agrees but asks for one more favour, which we don’t see until later.
Finally, we get back to Sam in Baltimore where he’s looking to talk further with Isaiah (Carl Lumbly). A little more trusting of Sam now, Isaiah tells him his story; how he was one of several soldiers injected with the serum, though they weren’t told what it was, and while on a mission, many of those men were captured. When Isaiah heard the higher-ups wanted to blow up the POW camp his fellow soldiers were being held at to cover up evidence, he went there himself and broke them all out.
It sounds very similar to the mission Steve Rogers goes on in Captain America: The First Avenger, albeit it with a radically different aftermath. When Steve got home from saving his fellow soldiers, he was applauded. When Isaiah got home, he was imprisoned, tortured, and erased from history. He suggests America was scared of what would happen if people knew a Black man had that power. And that’s why they locked him away for 30 years and did experiments on him. Later, Isaiah found out his wife had been told he died, she died herself, and he purposefully hadn’t been given her letters to him. Which, on top of the already awful racism, is a whole other level of cruelty. Luckily a nurse took pity on him, helped him fake his own death, and eventually gave him the letters his wife had sent. Unfortunately, by that time, she was already gone.
This harrowing story, plus the entirety of the Black experience over the course of American history, is why Isaiah tells Sam “They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.” There’s no mincing words there. Isiah has been hurt too much to see the world as Sam does. And so Sam goes back to Louisiana to see his family, obviously shaken by everything he’s learned.
Back home, Sam finds out the buyer for the family boat dropped out and now his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) has even fewer options. He decides to start calling in favours from across the community and it turns into a Wilson family love fest, with people from all over lending a hand. One of those people happens to be Bucky who flirts with Sarah a bit, much to Sam’s dismay. He’s also got some kind of high-tech box from the Wakandans, that aforementioned favour. But Sam holds off on opening it (…for now).
So much happens in “Truth” that by this point, there’s a chance maybe you forgot the Elaine from Seinfeld came and talked to Kurt Russell’s son about 20 minutes earlier. But she did, and while she doesn’t come back, we do get more of John Walker. He visits Lemar’s family to pay his respects and straight up lies to them about the man he killed, telling them the person he murdered was who killed Lemar. We the audience know it was Karli, as does Walker deep down, and he leaves Lemar’s family in their grief a little more broken than he already was. Not a good sign for the newly super-powered, super-disgraced former soldier.
Speaking of characters you may have forgotten about, short-changed as always Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) finally gets another 30 seconds of screen time. She’s on the phone with someone French about some kind of job and, if you’re reading this far, we’ll later realise is Batroc (Georges St. Pierre) who teams up with Karli because he wants to kill the Falcon. The revelation here is that Sharon broke Batroc out of prison in the first place and is now, for some reason, is working against her former Avenger friends. Which is a curious wrinkle. Unless she’s the Power Broker. Which seems more and more likely.
After a day of boat repairs, Bucky wakes up on Sam’s couch to see Sam’s nephews playing with Cap’s shield. It’s a quick moment but a strong counter argument against Isaiah’s beliefs about Captain America. These young Black kids don’t know much about the context and hurt the history behind the shield brings. What they know is they love the heroism it symbolises and — well, it could mean a lot to them to see someone like their uncle Sam take it up. And so Sam and Bucky go throw the shield around in the back yard, just to get the hang of it. Bucky apologies to Sam for not understanding what it meant for a Black man to consider taking the mantle, nothing that Steve didn’t understand either. Neither could not just because of their whiteness but because of their own complex, personal relationships to what the Captain America mantle and the shield that comes with it means.
For Bucky, the shield represents basically the only family he’s had for decades and, when Sam turned it in, it hurt him. This whole scene between Sam and Bucky is excellent and frank, but it’s as important for Bucky’s growth as it is Sam. Sam challenges his partner to see his list as more than just penance — that making the lives of the people on it better rather than simply avenging on their behalf will be how he leaves the Winter Soldier behind.
Sam’s not done with frank conversations yet, however, as he and Sarah have a heart-to-heart on the Wilson family fishing boat. Neither she nor Sam want to sell the boat now, but it’s beyond just family history on Sam’s mind. He tells his sister that though he understands Isaiah’s sentiments, he doesn’t necessarily agree with them. And that’s the moment. The moment all of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been building to over nearly five long hours. Sam has decided to be his version of Captain America. And you know what that means in this episode: “We’re gonna need a montage! Montage!”
We get a great montage of Sam training with the shield and more, preparing for whatever is to come. And even though you can tell it’s a stunt person for many of the shots, it doesn’t matter. It’s cheesy, but cathartic: Sam has worked through his fears and doubts and decided to be the man Steve Rogers, and Bucky Barnes, thought he could be.
As the episode draws to a close though, we find out where Sam might be needed first. It turns out that Karli is New York City where she’s greeted by the aforementioned Batroc with some new weapons and a new purpose: stop an impending GRC vote which would displace more refugees. Even though it seems little time has passed, the Flag-Smashers, once a small group, are now much larger, as every single person in the park answers Karli’s tandem phone alert/whistle calling sign. Sam and Torres figure out their location but not before the Flag-Smashers take over the GRC vote, leaving us on a bit of a cliffhanger.
The episode ends with Sam finally opening that Wakandan package and revealing… something, left unseen. But, we can venture to guess it’s a new Captain America suit. And speaking of new Captain America apparel, a quick mid-credit scene reveals a determined John Walker constructing his own shield. He still thinks he’s the true Captain America and, it seems like, he’s gonna get a chance to show down with another one.
“Truth” was not the most action packed episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier yet, but it was the most satisfying. There was humour, complex emotion, crucial backstory and most importantly, forward momentum, both for this series, and the MCU in general. It set up what, we hope, will be an exciting season finale next week.
- Julia Louis Dreyfuss as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. There’s so much to discuss here — keep an eye out, we’ll explain soon — but, for now, yes she’s a well-known Marvel Comics character. No, there’s no 100% guarantee of her allegiance (though the scene sure make it seem like she’s evil and/or perhaps conntected to, if not the, Power Broker) but she does have connections to SHIELD, Nick Fury, and others. Her appearance could be setting up something in Black Widow, it could be setting up something in Secret Invasion, and it’s definitely setting up something for the finale. Basically, an insanely successful actress like Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t take a role that’s one scene: she will be back and certainly be very important.
- Also, the fact that director Kari Skogland revealed Contessa with a tilt-up that started with the character’s heels, I thought for a moment it was going to be Wanda or Agnes. Which would’ve been pretty awesome, if completely out there for this show.
- Huge props to Wyatt Russell for this episode. His broken, scary, but almost sympathetic performance as Walker, who is in for an epic fall from grace, was really moving. There’s a good chance the character never makes it out of this series but, if not, he’ll definitely be remembered as a top-tier MCU villain.
- So who is the Power Broker? Contessa? Sharon? Someone else? It seemed less important this week since the super-soldier serum is now gone, but it’ll be interesting to see how that reveal plays into the end of this story. Or if it does.
- Did anyone else feel like Brad Pitt in Seven this whole episode, screaming “What’s in the box?” over and over again? Just me? OK.
- Lastly, Bucky seemed to suggest he and Steve planned to give Sam the shield together, right? Also, they keep saying Steve is gone but, is he? He seemed pretty alive the last time we saw him. Old, but alive. I guess “gone” is shorter than “off ‘dancing’ with Peggy Carter.”