(+++ WARNING: this review contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier +++)
After the closing events of the last episode, this week’s edition of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings a swift retribution from Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam (Anthony Mackie). And with John Walker (brilliantly played by Wyatt Russell) taken out and their adventures in Eastern Europe wound down, we return our gaze once more to other issues and themes that have been put aside in recent episodes up until this point.
Sam revisits Isiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) who lays bare the inconvenient truth that many black people in America face every day. Only they weren’t experimented upon and then thrown into jail for thirty years. But, as he points out to Sam (and the viewers), America hasn’t changed all that much in the intervening years, as anyone with half an eye of the news can attain.
In many ways this week’s episode feels like a concluding episode with a lot seeming to come together. Sam returns home to a idealised neighbourhood where the theme of institutionalised racism is offered a solution. One many black communities have already bought into: the power of communities and the ‘black dollar’. And in this case, the black community that come together to help him and his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduyere) re-build their dilapidated fishing boat. It’s all very heart-warming stuff. And that’s never a good thing in a superhero show like this one with one episode left.
And so, the Flag-Smashers re-emerge. A group I’ve, frankly. grown bored with now. But this time they’re in New York City where they see to have taken a huge and unbelievable leap – even by the standards of the MCU – in their reach. Sleeper agents? Really? This is the only weakness in a story that has proven to be intelligent, witty and thought-provoking. Hell, even John Walker gets a moment of the viewers sympathy when he pointedly reminds the court marshal he must attend because of his murderous behaviour on foreign soil that they made hime. They moulded him, sent him off to fight for America and now want to bury him. Just like they did with Isiah Bradley so many years ago. The US military certainly do not come off as the good guys in a series that has played so much with the notions of good, bad, hero or villain? And still do, with the surprise introduction of Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a scene-stealing cameo that will wow Marvel fans in the know. And while she certainly seems to be more Hydra than S.H.E.I.L.D., only time will tell where her true allegiances lie. Will she be the new Power Broker. maybe? But, if she’s trying to recruit a down and out John Walker, I doubt she’s fighting on the side of the angels. But then, who is, other than Sam and Bucky?
With one episode left to go and a final showdown between Sam (the new Captain America?) and the Winter Soldier on the cards, there’s still the odd twist, turn and surprise to deal up, no doubt, and that’s part of the appeal to these Marvel shows. It’s as much about the drama and dynamics as it is about the surprise reveals. A fan-baiting formula that seems to be working very well for Marvel Studios and Disney Plus.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is steaming now on Disney +