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The final episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has arrived and…
…and it starts with Karli rallying her troops after previously locking down the GRC. She comments that “They’re not going to stop, not unless we make them.” Karli puts her plan in motion and she says “It’s time” as the title card rolls.
NYPD is locking down the building as Falcon speeds towards lower Manhattan. Bucky is also on scene conversing with Falcon via earpiece. Sam let’s Bucky know he’s called in backup as a mysterious watch-capped figure approaches from behind. We quickly find out it is Sharon Carter in disguise. She is using the same tech as Black Widow in a call back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As we’ve seen over the course of the season, easter eggs such as this are the glue that hold the MCU so tightly together.
Karli spots Sam as he arrives and gives her insiders the command to “Do it now.” Using what appears to be some of the equipment that Batroc brought with him, the GRC committee is gassed. They file out of the chamber, terrified as they are confronted by a Flag Smasher. Just then Sam in his new suit, shield in hand shows up to disable the villain. He crashes through a window and we are given our first glimpse of the “Star Spangled Black Man with a Plan.” Sam looks awesome, he is clad in the new suit and wings provided to him by the Wakandans. He is definitely embracing his new identity as when someone asks, “Who are you”, he retorts with “I’m Captain America.”
However, Sam, Bucky, and Sharon quickly realize Karli’s plan isn’t to take the building, but to get the committee out of the building. Before Sam can react, Batroc enters the room looking for a little retaliation for the money he lost earlier in the first episode of the season. Realizing he’s got a fight on his hands; Sam instructs Sharon, who seems to be on her own mission, and Bucky to try and keep the GRC committee in the building.
Meanwhile Karli, anticipating the move, distracts Bucky with a phone call. From the conversation, it is obvious that Karli believes what she is doing is bigger than her and she is willing to do whatever to get what she wants or die trying. She believes that even in death, her cause has grown and there are people who will carry it on. She’s not wrong.
In the basement, some of the GRC members are being whisked into NYPD armored cars. Little do they know, this is part of Karli’s plan, and one of the cops is on her team. He closes the doors and puts some sort of magnetic locking device to keep the members locked in. They drive off as Bucky jacks a motorcycle in pursuit. Sharon after exclaiming that Bucky only had one job, intercepts, and puts some sort of device on The Flag Smasher cop. She walks away and we see the truck crash in the background. Turns out she’s used a weaponized vapor derived from mercury, Sharon has such wonderful toys. At the same time, on the roof, GRC members are piling into a chopper which is also under Flag Smasher Diego’s control.
In the GRC meeting chambers, Sam and Batroc are still going at it. Batroc really isn’t making much headway against Sam as he uses his patented Jonny Cage/Jean Claude Van Dam kicking attacks. Looks like last episode’s training montage really got Sam into shape for this fight. The chopper is beginning to lift off as Sharon radios to Sam that he needs to hurry it up. Sam calls out to Bucky who replies that flying isn’t his thing, realizing Bucky is right, Sam puts the brakes on his fight with Batroc. He yells “Au Revoir” in a not very New Orleans accent, hurls the shield through a window and flies out in the direction of the helicopter.
Diego begins evasive maneuvers when he sees Sam giving chase. Sam is unable to gain access to the chopper as he is repelled by gunfire. That’s when, guess who, new and improved Wakandan Redwing, makes a guest appearance. New Redwing is able to determine, using retina scan, which of the hostages has had flight training. We’re left to wonder what Sam has up his sleeve as Diego opens fire in an attempt to bring Redwing down.
Karli and the remaining Flag Smashers are on the ground. They are attempting to offer Karli contingencies as they realize her plan is not going to form. Karli declares that even if things don’t go to plan, they can kill the hostages. Her crew looks on uncomfortably as one of them reminds Karli that they were supposed to be using the hostages as collateral for negotiations. It is apparent that not only have things gotten out of hand, but Karli is willing to lay hers and the lives of her comrades down if necessary, to complete her mission.
We are reminded of something Peter Parker said to Steve Rogers during the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War: “…you’re wrong. You think you’re right. That makes you dangerous.” Claiming that no matter what happens, their message will get out to the world, Karli tells her people to “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.” They seemingly don’t agree as Karli says, “One world”, and no one replies “One people” as they have all season. DeeDee finally does as we cut back to the aerial action in the skies above Manhattan.
Diego is putting on an excellent display of piloting while evading Sam. He spots an NYPD helicopter and turns head on for a deadly game of chicken. The NYPD are not equipped for this type of fight as their rotor flames out and they fall towards the Earth. Redwing using some of his new Wakandan moves, is able to save one of the pilots, while Sam grabs the other. However, they are not out of danger yet as Sam looks up to see the helicopter spinning towards them. Using the shield and his new (we’re assuming vibranium) wings, Sam deflects the chopper away from the bridge and the onlookers who cheer in support.
Down on the streets, Karli and team stop the convoy and attempt to take control of the vehicles holding the GRC council members. Before they can pull off, Bucky shows up and does something he could have only learned by watching the Ruff Ryders. Karli gives the order to set one of the vehicles on fire as a distraction to get Bucky off their trail. That’s when none other than John Walker shows up, aluminum shield in hand, looking to settle his vendetta with Karli. She makes it worse by giving a “non-apology” apology while making it seem as if Lemar’s life wasn’t important. The enraged Walker throws his hubcap shield at Karli who kicks it away like the plastic piece of crap it is. Dejected, the man child attacks, while Bucky furiously attempts to save the committee members in the truck. Bucky manages to free the hostages, while Walker is catching a beatdown nearby. Someone grabs a parking meter and prepares to deliver a death blow to Walker when Bucky jumps to his rescue. The melee continues until Bucky is knocked off the street and down into a construction site.
In the sky, Sam prepares to make his move. He informs GRC member Ayla that she is to take control of the chopper when he does his thing. Shortly after, using the shield a battering ram, Sam takes off the chopper door and knocks Diego from the cockpit. Ayla springs into action and gains control of the helicopter, saving herself and the other committee members.
Using his Reynolds Wrap shield, Walker gets the upper hand over Karli in the melee. Gaining confidence, Walker manages to beat Karli back. Being the smarter fighter, Karli is able to distract Walker with a kick, just long enough to get into the last truck of hostages. She starts the truck and steers it towards the construction site where Bucky is fighting and jumps out. Bucky looks up helplessly as the truck begins to teeter. Walker, finally realizing he should be a hero and not an agent of vengeance abandons his fight with Karli and attempts to stop the truck from falling. Karli and her team pile onto Walker who falls to the construction site below. The truck begins to fall but is caught by Sam who pushes it up to safety. A crowd of onlookers cheers as one of them calls Sam “Black Falcon.” He is quickly corrected by another onlooker who says, “Nah, that’s Captain America.” This is one of the most pivotal moments of the season as we collectively realize, the country has been more than ready for a Black Captain America.
Below, Karli javelin throws a rebar towards Walker which is promptly caught by Bucky. Shortly after they are dispatched by the shield as Sam lands in the construction site. A disappointed Karli can’t believe that Sam has bought into the Stars and Stripes schtick. He retorts that he is trying something different and maybe she should do the same. Batroc shows up and provides a distraction using gas. The Flag Smashers escape into some tunnels that run under the city.
Sharon gets the drop on Karli and in the ensuing conversation we confirm our suspicions are true. Sharon has been the Power Broker this entire time. After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Sharon, disenchanted with her treatment, relocated to Madripoor. That’s where she met Karli who she thought was a younger version of herself. Eventually they realized they both had very different ideals and goals which led to Karli “betraying” Sharon in favor of the Flag Smasher mission. Sharon tries one last time to bring Karli back into the fold which Karli isn’t having.
Batroc, who had been off in the wings listening, comes out of the shadows to confront Sharon. He demands four times his payment which is when Karli realizes Batroc had been hired to spy on her. Sharon, who says she’s not down with blackmail, shoots and kills Batroc, but is shot in turn by Karli. Hearing the shots, Sam shows up. Karli attacks, but Sam clearly doesn’t want to fight; in true Captain America fashion he believes there’s another way. But Karli is unhinged.
Elsewhere, the remainder of the Flag Smashers are attempting to escape. They believe they are following instructions that will help them make a getaway. Truth is, they have been duped by Bucky and Walker who are using the Flag Smasher mobile application as a ruse to trick them into capture.
The fight between Karli and Sam comes to a head when Karli finally gets Sam at gunpoint. The conflicted look on Karli’s face says she doesn’t want to shoot Sam, but in her heart of hearts, she knows she has to. Before she gets the chance to pull the trigger, she is shot by Sharon. Realizing that she has been somewhat misguided, Karli apologizes to Sam before dying in his arms. Knowing that she wasn’t entirely wrong, Sam carries Karli out of the tunnels to the paramedics above. As he lands on the street with Karli’s limp body, we can’t help but sympathize. While we may not agree with how she went about it, Karli’s struggle against the establishment was righteous. After all, this is our Earth, and no matter what color we are, we are one people.
In the aftermath, Sam breaks it down to the GRC members. Explaining that Karli and her team weren’t thugs or terrorists so much as people just trying to find their place in the world. He explains to the committee members that in what they are doing, they are no different than Thanos. More importantly he explains that even though people may not agree with his decision to be Captain America, he is America, a part of America, and no one can change that or stop him from fighting for the country he loves. Even if it doesn’t always love him. A sentiment all too common to the Black diaspora. The entire world looks on in agreement, including Isaiah Bradley. Sam’s message is simple, do better with the power that you wield.
The captured Flag Smashers are led into a transport to be taken to The Raft. Before the door is closed, one of the guards let’s them know he is on their side. None of that matters, as the truck is blown up in transit and the rest of Karli’s crew is killed. We shortly find out that the bombing is the handy work of Zemo’s butler.
Fast forward a few days to the Contessa and Walker’s wife sitting in an empty room. They are waiting on Walker who is changing in the next room. An impatient Contessa tells Walker to hurry it up. He finally emerges dressed in a uniform similar to his Faux Cap suit, except instead of blue it’s black. Valentina tells him that things are about to get weird, and when they do, we won’t need a Captain America. For what’s coming, we will need a US Agent and like that, something new is born.
Bucky, on the advice of Sam, goes to his friend to explain what happened to his son. The scene is painful, but necessary, especially if Bucky is to shed the pain he caused as the Winter Soldier. It appears that he repeats this off-screen to other the names in his book. In a supreme act of closure, Bucky delivers the book to his therapist, letting her know that he has done his part to close the Winter Soldier chapter of his life.
Sam shows up in Baltimore at Isaiah Bradley’s house. Isaiah, in true Isaiah form is curt with Sam, but even he has to admit that Sam is special. Sam has a treat for Isaiah and tells him to get cleaned up as he has something to show him. They take a trip to the Captain America museum where Sam has arranged for the memory of Isaiah’s Captain America to be resurrected and remembered. Isaiah is moved, as Sam vows that they will never forget what Isaiah has done for this country.
In the final few minutes of the season, the people in Sam’s parish come together to celebrate the new Captain America. Bucky is on hand as well to celebrate; he is clearly much lighter as the burden of guilt has been lifted from his heavy shoulders. A cut scene during the credits reveal that Sharon is being reinstated as a citizen and given her post back as an agent. We also learn that she plans to sell the secrets and weaponry that she is about to have access to. One can only wonder where she’ll pop up next as the show wraps.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has been a master class in some of the themes that impact regular people on a daily basis. From racism to immigration, we learn that no matter what, if we don’t come together as one people to overcome these challenges, we will fail individually looking out for ourselves. It has been a pleasure to join Sam and Bucky on this journey. We eagerly look forward to the more diverse future of the MCU whether streaming or on the big screen.