Obviously, we are going to spend some time talking about THAT ending. I think most of us watching The Falcon and The Winter Soldier expected something of the sort to eventually happen. Chekov’s super soldier serum was just dangling on that wall, waiting for disaster to happen. Now here we are. John Walker took some and, predictably, it pushed him beyond whatever sense of self-control he might have had, and that the man wearing the moniker of Captain America needs.
He was not the only one pushed to a limit in this episode, though, and Falcon and The Winter Soldier flirted with a few boundaries narratively and from a meta perspective. How effective were they? Let us discuss!
Look, I have been saying since my first review here that John Walker was going to get his hands on super soldier serum and end up more Red Skull than Steve Rogers. There may have been a point where he could have been a better hero for the world, but those days ended well before he took that vial from Karli. Now there is dozens of videos to spread around the world of Captain America brutally murdering someone with his shield.
There was likely a point where John Walker would have been a good Captain America. I doubt that he or anyone else could have been another Steve Rogers, but he was at one point a better man who would not have succumbed to the inner demons which led him to this current breaking point. He and Hoskins both acknowledge that they have done bad things in their time in the military, and those bad things changed them. They would have changed anyone, Steve Rogers included.
However, I do have issues with framing Walker’s final breaking point around Hoskins’s death. For one, the death itself was quite dumb. How many normal people have we seen super soldiers batter around and punch into various walls and barriers? Having Hoskins die that way was plainly silly. You cannot have it both ways, where the heroes never kill the people they smack around in every episode and yet in this instance suddenly they do. It breaks the fantasy in some unpleasant ways and pushes the limits of the audience’s ability suspend our disbelief.
It is also really unfortunate that Hoskins was fridged in service of John Walker, because it now has me worried about Karli. I find it especially unfortunate when the show has greatly improved my optimism about its politics.
Ever since I questioned the coming politics of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in my initial review, I have to admit that it has continuously moved in a slightly different direction than I expected. The show has been less supportive of the GRC and America and more supportive of Karli and her Flag Smashers. This fourth episode was the clearest step towards at least sympathizing with those fighting against the “reunification” process responsible for displacing millions by having Sam himself explicitly sympathize with and admit support for Karli’s fight.
Their scene together at Mama Donya’s funeral was one of my favorites of the season, and the dynamic born from it is one I hope Falcon and The Winter Soldier keeps exploring. They do not quite explicitly point out the exploitation and suffering they have in common on a larger scale, but the implication is clear. Sam is a black man from America. He would fully understand what it means to be oppressed by the powers that be. He literally just saw America go back on their word to him and give Cap’s shield to another white blonde man.
And said white blonde man just permanently stained the name of Captain America by murdering someone in the middle of 5th street.
Sam Wilson may fight for America, but as his sister said, America has never cared for his world. Of course he would understand why Karli fights and find common ground. It is interesting how the show is almost working towards the conclusion that no one should be Captain America anymore. Not Sam, not Walker, not Bucky, no one.
The time where a Captain America represented the best of us all is gone, because you cannot be Captain America without being intrinsically tied to how everyone outside America views America. I hope they see this conclusion through, rather than pretending the problem is solved if a better man like Sam takes up the shield instead.
While I still do not expect the Flag Smashers to be painted as a particularly righteous organization, I am glad The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has at least made clear that the GRC is wrong on some level. I doubt the plot will paint their efforts to reestablish normalcy as a bad thing, but I am glad they are at least criticizing the harm their efforts have caused.
Though I do need to be clear that it is also pretty ridiculous for Sam to criticize collateral damage considering he was blasting helicopters and everyone inside them alongside the American military this season.
Because of this newfound connection between Sam and Karli, it seems as if the final two episodes of Falcon and The Winter Soldier may focus on protecting Karli and her group from John Walker and the Power Broker, who also made threats to kill Karli if she did not return the now destroyed super soldier serum vials. I am anxious to see how things will develop and resolve. Though I am also very worried about whether the show’s various plots can be resolved in just two episodes.
Just to recap, we now have dangling plotlines regarding the GRC, Karli, the Power Broker, Sam, his sister, Bucky, Zemo, Wakanda, maybe Sharon Carter, and probably other plots I am forgetting. We have already seen Bucky, whose character is in the title of the show, take a backseat over the past two episodes because there simply isn’t enough room alongside everything else. When you cannot even keep one of your title characters as a priority, maybe you took on too much.
Then you have situations like what happened with Wakanda and Zemo in this episode. For all the hype I felt over Ayo showing up last week, the Dora Milaje just show up for a terribly contrived fight that allows Zemo to shuffle out of the room unseen and flush himself down the toilet. Then you have the hunt for Donya’s funeral. Sam and Bucky, two expert operatives with literally decades apiece in espionage operations, just walk up to everyone blabbing a name with no tact whatsoever. And it’s all just so Zemo looks smart by making everyone else share one brain cell.
We will likely run into the WandaVision problem where they simply cannot handle all these plotlines in a satisfying way. And WandaVision had far less to deal with than what The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has set up. They have very much pushed the limit of what they can handle within six episodes. I worry we will end up with more contrivances to move the plot where it needs to go in such a short time.
But hey, I have been somewhat wrong about the show up to this point. I hope they keep proving me wrong over the next two episodes and find some way to handle all these characters and plotlines.
Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!