In the wake of new Captain America John Walker taking a dark turn last week, episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier -- entitled Truth -- dropped on Disney Plus Friday. It's time to see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe reacts to the newly Super Soldier Serum-empowered Walker (Wyatt Russell) publicly slaying a beaten member of antinationalist Flag Smashers.
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka Falcon and Winter Soldier, witnessed the killing after losing track of Flag Smasher leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). Their morally dubious ally Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is also in the wind, as he flees Wakandan special forces seeking justice for killing their country's king.
The show is set six months after Avengers: Endgame. Let's fling a shield at some SPOILERS for the penultimate episode.
Walker's new path
After Sam and Bucky take the shield from an unhinged Walker (following a truly epic fight) and he formally gets booted out of the Captain America role by the US government, Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) swoops in to offer him a new role. She's one of those flamboyant, pushy Marvel characters this show hasn't had enough of.
"You did the right thing taking the serum," she says. "It has made you very, very valuable to certain people."
Val -- I'm gonna defy her wishes and call her Val -- also gives him a blank business card, which seems like a strong networking power play. Her comic book counterpart has a complex history; she's typically linked to Nick Fury and SHIELD, but was a Russian sleeper agent and once joined Hydra (where she became Madame Hydra) So her allegiance is spotty. It seems her MCU counterpart might be working for some clandestine extra-governmental group.
The episode ends with a mid-credits scene in which Walker puts a new shield together, implying that he's going to become US Agent. In the comics, this character is a darker, more intense version of Captain America. Which he pretty much was all along in the show.
His new shield probably won't work nearly as well as Sam's vibranium one though.
The real new Captain America
Sam spends much of the episode lugging the shield and all its symbolism around after taking it back from Walker. After training in montage (the most efficient way to train), he accepts that he's gotta take on the Captain America mantle to stop the Flag Smashers' New York City attack.
The final pre-credits shot sees him opening a mysterious case sent by the Wakandans. We don't see what's inside, but it's probably a new wing-suit, all fixed up and repainted for Sam to become Cap. This costume looked absolutely awesome in the comics, so hopefully they haven't strayed too far from that design.
Before accepting that he's the Captain America the world needs, Sam wrestles with the shield's legacy and returns to 1950s super soldier Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) in Baltimore. He tells Sam how he was part of a group used as guinea pigs as the US tried to recreate the Super Soldier Serum.
They were sent on missions even though Isaiah's fellow test subjects "weren't stable," sometimes to a fatal degree. When some were captured, the suits were going to bomb the POW camp to erase the evidence. Isaiah defied orders to rescue his comrades, but they died anyway and he got tossed in prison for 30 years as they tried to figure out why the serum worked on him.
It's pretty close to Isaiah's comic book origin, in which he was one of 300 Black soldiers dosed with experimental serum variations. The show doesn't outright state that his comrades were Black, but seems likely given his reference to 332nd Fighter Group, a World War II-era group of Black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen or Red Tails.
Sam tells Isaiah the world needs to hear his story, but the former soldier isn't convinced.
"They were worried my story might get out, so they erased me, my history. But they've been doing that for 500 years. Pledge allegiance to that, my brother," he says. "They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be."
The show hadn't tackled the issue of race directly since the second episode, but this scene hammers home the complex legacy Sam's been left with. Bucky later apologizes for his and Steve Rogers' failure to understand that.
New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and MoreSee all photos
Catching up with Zemo
Bucky finds charming dancer (and international terrorist) Zemo in his homeland Sokovia, at a rather CGI-looking memorial for the people killed during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. They have a pretty low-key encounter in which Zemo pushes Bucky to kill Karli, before Bucky opts out of killing the villain and the Wakandan Dora Milaje take him into custody.
It sorta mirrors Zemo's final scene in Captain America: Civil War, in which Black Panther stopped Zemo from taking his own life after his plan was complete and he ends up in prison instead.
Ayo (Florence Kasumba) says they'll take him to the Raft, an underwater prison designed to hold superhumans (Sam was briefly held there after siding with Cap in Civil War). Zemo doesn't have any powers, but the Wakandans probably deemed him too smart and slippery for traditional incarceration. It's a little odd that they didn't take him to Wakanda to face justice there.
A super-smart villain in a prison full of supervillains, what could go wrong?
Flag Smashers everywhere
Karli activates a bunch of Flag Smasher sleeper agents in Manhattan, and they prepare to attack the Global Repatriation Council as it gets ready to vote on forcing millions of Blip-displaced refugees to return to their home countries.
There's an additional wrinkle in the form of wildly suspicious former SHIELD agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who was apparently linked to the incident in Tunisia and got mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) out of prison.
She sends Batroc to help Karli and company, but her motivation remains unclear. She might be the mysterious Power Broker, who was pursuing Karli to get the stolen Super Soldier Serum back, or she could be in league with the Flag Smashers.
Observations and Easter eggs
- When Sam and Bucky are fighting Walker, Bucky's vibranium arm sparks and we hear a nasty cracking sound when Sam pulls the shield from Walker's arm. I was sure these would be long-term injuries -- like Bucky's limb malfunctioning or Walker losing a hand -- but the only consequence is Walker's arm being in a sling later in the episode. Presumably the serum helped him heal up quicker.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers mounts a solo rescue mission without government approval. He didn't get thrown in prison for it, unlike Isaiah. That's uncomfortable.
- Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine was originally meant to debut in Black Widow when it was scheduled to hit theaters last May, but her first appearance was shuffled into this show due to the movie's COVID-19 delay, according to Vanity Fair. It's unclear if she'll still show up in Black Widow -- we'll find out July 9 -- but it could suggest she's a future Thanos-style MCU Big Bad.
- Val reveals that the shield isn't really US government property. It was forged by Howard Stark (Tony's dad), using the small supply of vibranium the US Army had. Vibranium comes from Wakanda, so the shield probably belongs to the African country.
- In the comics, Joaquin Torres becomes the new Falcon while Sam is Captain America. Here, Sam tells Torres he can "keep" his broken wings. It's unclear if the ones the Wakandans sent were new or his originals, but it's possible Torres will fix up the originals and give them a try.
- Sam isn't wild about Bucky flirting with his sister, but he can't turn off that 1940s charm.
- We see the same senator at Walker's hearing and the Global Repatriation Council vote, and he previously took the shield back from Sam and sneakily gave it to Walker. This guy has his fingers in lots of political pies, but the show hasn't even given him a name -- he's credited as "Government Official." They should have just called him "Bureaucracy."
- What if some randomer was in Bryant Park when Karli sent her signal and joined the group with a cheerful "What's going on guys?!"
Join us for more Easter eggs and observations next Friday, when episode 6 -- the series finale -- of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hits Disney Plus. And here's a look at every 2021 Marvel movie and show we know about.