Disclaimer: This articles contains spoilers from ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ episode 5.
After last week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended on a spine-chilling note – John Walker’s Captain America holding a blood-stained shield from killing an unarmed Flag-smasher while a horrified crowd looks on, it was clear that the only way the show is going from here is up. Starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, the Disney Plus series has quite the track record for consistency and it will only get better as we inch closer to the finale. And episode 5 “Truth”, described as the strongest part of the series in the words of the head writer Malcolm Spellman, is proof of that.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 opens with the fight sequence we’ve all been yearning for. Sam and Bucky go up against John Walker in an all-out battle for the shield. By the end of the fight, Bucky reclaims the shield and tosses it near a fatigued Sam who attempts to wipe some of the blood off it. The Falcon inheriting a sullied, blood-stained shield that belonged to his best friend. His expression says it all, it’s heartbreaking. This is only the first of many emotional scenes from the second last episode of the show.
The fifth instalment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the culmination of all the action we’ve seen on the show so far. We already know that the series is a nuanced exploration of Cap’s legacy, it introduced the Flag-smashers, brought back Zemo and focused on the ideological confrontations. Now what? For starters, John Walker has been stripped of his Captain America duties and dishonourably discharged from service. So the shield is back with its original recipient, Sam (finally!). But before we get a satisfying montage of the Falcon training with the shield after leaving his wings behind, there’s a lot to process, like what does it really mean for a Black man to take on the mantle of Captain America? As a central theme, the show has laid down the U.S.A’s socio-economic landscape – racism, the migrant crisis and American essentialism. Now, Sam is confronting the meaning of taking ownership of the shield and everything it stands for, something he didn’t want to do initially. But since the alternative is terrible, he’s willing to reconsider. It takes another sit-down with Isiah Bradley to make him realise that while Steve Rogers was an exceptionally good Cap, he was still a blonde boy with blue eyes who everyone accepted as the country’s superhero mascot while the Black man before him who survived a shot of the super soldier serum was subjected to imprisonment and years of experimentation. He only gets to be free now because he had been declared dead. “They will never let a Black man be Captain America,” he says. And when Sam tried to tell Bradley the world is different, he’s swiftly reminded that it’s not. This lays bare the bad and the ugly of the shield’s history, leaving him with some very complicated feelings about it. How can he represent a country that doesn’t represent him and his people?
Sam reflects on the pieces of information as he goes back home to his family. Even after a heartwarming sequence of the Wilsons’ friends coming together as a community to help fix their boat and not to mention, Sam and Bucky being best buddies working as DIY mechanics, his thoughts hinge on holding on to the history of his family and his people by keeping the boat he inherited. Clearly, he has Isiah’s words about the erasure of Black history in mind. In the meantime, the shield is also on what I think is an emotional journey of its own as Sam carries it back home in a bag. In one instance, his nephews pick it up and play at being superheroes, in another Sam and Bucky train together taking turns with the shield. A truly enjoyable sight. The subject of what it means to be Captain America comes up again. And while it’s still a grey area, Sam finally declares that he’s well on his way to being his own superhero. “This might be a surprise but, it doesn’t matter what Steve thought. You gotta stop looking to other people to tell you who you are” he says. That in a nutshell is what his journey is all about. And it’s what I’ve been waiting for. Going into TFATWS I was hoping everyone moves on from Rogers although we’ll always miss him and allow Sam and Bucky to shine in their own adventure.
Episode 5 neatly ties up the loose ends introduced since the beginning of the show. What I really love about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that it doesn’t just give us the next steps after Steve Rogers’ exit. The whole premise has been about questioning the core idea of Captain America. Who was this figure, this set of ideas that represents the country? Once the shield gets sullied, the true nature of what those in power really want to use it for is unveiled for the very first time in the MCU. And as the rightful owner of the weapon, Sam Wilson has been forging his own path to carrying forward its loaded legacy. With all this ground-work and the finale ahead of us, it will be interesting to see what will happen next. Hopefully, it lives up to the hype.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.
Cover artwork: Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India