The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: 1.05 Truth
A showdown between Sam, Bucky and the newly disgraced Captain America was always on the cards after the sharp, but entirely in-character, turn Walker took in the previous episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. No time is wasted this week, with said showdown coming directly after the recap and Marvel Studios logo, and the gritty warehouse fight scene proves an early highlight of the episode. Truth’s true magnificence, however, comes from what ensues in the subsequent fifty minutes: an honest and raw exploration of the legacy of race relations and what it means to be a Black superhero in America.
When Steve told me what he was planning, I don’t think either of us really understood what it felt like for a Black man to be handed the shield. How could we? I owe you an apology... I’m sorry. / Thank you.
Truth is the longest episode of the season so far, clocking in at just over an hour (including credits), and it’s certainly the most thematically involving: Sam, in a moment of reckoning, commits to taking up the shield he was given and attempting to restore the truth behind the mantle that was so drastically tarnished by the actions of John Walker.
Key to this decision is a return visit to the home of Isaiah Bradley, for it turns out what we learned of Isaiah’s backstory in episode two was just the tip of the racism iceberg: not only was he thrown in prison without justification, he was also experimented upon and denied contact with his wife, who herself then died while he was still behind bars. Carl Lumbly absolutely sells the tragedy and pain the man has endured in some truly heart-breaking and powerful scenes. Isaiah’s adamant belief that no Black man would be allowed to be Captain America – and that “no self-respecting Black man” should choose to be – provides that extra push Sam needs to conceptualise the symbolism inherent in the Captain America mantle, both good and bad.
From there, it’s back to Sarah’s house in Louisiana – there’s still a boat to fix after all. This sunny, Blues-sound tracked interlude offers Sam a well-deserved respite from hardship and bloodshed, as well as further screen time for Adepero Oduye as Sarah, setting what must be acknowledged as a superior example of a hard-working mother, sister and business owner who exerts a grounding influence on the (literally) high-flying Sam. The scenes they share relating to the acknowledging and remembering of history, and the embracing of legacy in all its complexity, are superb.
Sam practises with the shield he and Bucky confiscated from Walker – because every superhero needs an uplifting training montage set to heroic theme music – and his relationship with Bucky, which so far has ranged from playful banter to outright antagonism, at last becomes defined by mutual respect. Bucky himself is taking larger steps towards repairing psychological wounds and embracing a new life, one not defined by killing, vengeance or the actions of the past.
And speaking of Bucky – he comes face to face one final time with Zemo, whose story appears to come to an end (again) at a Sokovian memorial, escorted by the Dora Milaje off for incarceration at the Raft sea prison. I have to say it’s an interesting decision for this seemingly to be the end of Zemo in the series. From how heavily his involvement in the series was signposted prior to the premiere, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Zemo would be the big bad for Sam and Bucky to bring down in the finale. All the same, given the direction The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has progressed – a far weightier direction – the series loses little momentum, with much still in store for episode six.
Meanwhile, an embittered Walker desperately clings onto the notion that he is still Captain America in spite of being stripped of his military titles and government pension. A visit to Lamar Hoskins’ grieving family only reinforces this warped self-belief; he might have been benched by the government, but he’s not giving in without a fight.
One scene between him and his wife Olivia is interrupted by a new character, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who hands Walker her (blank) card and seemingly intends to recruit him to her (unknown) cause. I’ll leave speculation about her intentions to those more familiar with the character as she appears in the comics, but the delightfully villainous cameo is clearly intended to set up future MCU appearances – including, according to Vanity Fair, in the upcoming Black Widow film, which of course was filmed and originally slated for release prior to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The stage is now set for the final episode: the Flag Smashers prepare for a final and decisive strike, this time in the heart of New York and with added help in the form of (surprise, surprise) a vengeance-seeking Batroc; Walker isn’t going away quietly and is seen creating his own bootleg shield in the episode’s mid-credits scene; Bucky is healing; and Sam Wilson has now at last become, in essence if not yet in name, Captain America.