‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ Episode 6 Review – ‘One World, One People’
The finale of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier had a lot to live up to. The previous episode set everything up for a high stakes final fight, but it also needed to answer a few of the philosophical questions it had asked earlier in the season. It did all of these things in a strong final episode.
I was afraid that this episode would turn into little more than an extended punching sequence, but thankfully I was wrong. Granted, there was still plenty of punching (with two Captain Americas on the board, plus Bucky with his vibranium arm, a bunch of super soldiers, and Batroc), but it ended up being more than that, answering one of the series’ main philosophical questions.
There are a couple of minor things that didn’t gel quite as well as the writers clearly hoped they would, but it’s clear they were important to the story they were trying to tell. Thankfully, these moments never overshadowed what is a strong ending for the series. This episode feels like the final act of a Marvel movie, and it looks like one too with gorgeous action and stylish fight sequences.
Every character ends up getting a satisfying and often emotional conclusion to their arc, particularly Sam and John, and the series is wrapped up pretty nicely with a couple of intriguing teases for what lies ahead in the future. It should be noted that there are no surprising cameos here, just as there were none in the WandaVision finale, and that’s okay. Despite teases for the future, the finale kept itself firmly rooted in the story it was telling and didn’t get distracted by teasing future projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warning – spoilers to follow
The episode wastes no time in throwing you straight into the action. There’s a short opening scene with the Flag Smashers getting ready to launch their attack on the Global Repatriation Council (GRC), chanting their “One world, one people” tagline, which is also the episode’s title. Interestingly, the Flag Smashers all start to get more hesitant about following Karli’s orders throughout the episode, a sign that despite their good intentions, they have lost their way by the end of the season.
After quick confirmations that both Sam and Bucky are on the scene, we get straight into the action. Sam smashes his way into the building, giving us our first look at his vibranium Captain America suit, courtesy of Wakanda. His fight scene with Batroc is arguably the least exciting part of the episode. Perhaps this is because Batroc has never been a big villain in the MCU. He loses every fight he’s in, and we know he’s going to lose this one too, as it’s more important to see the new Captain America’s first victory in battle.
What was arguably more interesting was the conversation between Bucky and Karli over the phone. It seemed a bit contrived at first; the Flag Smashers are Bucky’s enemies too, but the two characters have never actually spoken to each other before. It seemed that the purpose of this phone call was to make sure the other hero in the show had an interaction with the villain as well, before the coming conflict. Thankfully, it became far more relevant when it was revealed that Karli had actually phoned Bucky to stall him so that her Flag Smasher buddies could escape the building with the GRC hostages. It was a smart move to turn what seemed like a peek behind the curtain into a development that actually had significance to the story.
It was also interesting to see Sharon arrive in New York City (bringing back the digital face mask tech that debuted in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and used frequently in Agents of SHIELD) and watch her pretend to be an ally.
The episode starts to get a lot more exciting when the chasing starts. Sam blasts off into the sky to follow the Flag Smasher’s helicopter, while Bucky chases after their armored vans on a motorcycle. It was great to see the return of Redwing as Sam chased the chopper in a mirror of the series’ opening action sequence, and the special effects looked gorgeous. It was particularly cool to watch Sam work with one of the hostages to help her take control of the helicopter.
Meanwhile, on the ground we see Karli Morgenthau taking even more pages from the villain playbook; when Bucky catches up to her, she sacrifices the hostages in one of the armored vans. She instructs one of her friends to “light it up,” intending to distract Bucky by giving him innocent people to rescue while they get away. It’s something that we’ve seen supervillains do time and again, and despite her frequent claims that the ends justify the means, this is the clearest example yet that she’s lost her way (if the bombing in episode 3 hadn’t already convinced you).
But before they can get away, another big player enters the fight as John Walker screams Karli’s surname from behind. It makes for an incredibly badass entrance as Walker struts towards her. Fighting one on one, Walker is winning; now that they are both enhanced by the super soldier serum, Walker seems to have the upper hand on account of his extensive military training. Karli only just manages to escape with a blow to the head.
John actually gets some heroic moments in this episode that gives viewers more of an insight into why the government felt he would make a good Captain America. Just when you think that the armored van teetering over the edge above the construction site is about to fall, John Walker enters and does his absolute best to keep it from falling, despite multiple Flag Smashers attempting to pull him away.
It is an act worthy of Captain America and is particularly reminiscent of the scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron in which Steve Rogers tries his best to prevent a car falling off the edge of Sokovia with the driver still inside. Of course, Steve fails in Ultron, and Walker also fails here as the Flag Smashers knock him to the ground.
But then we get one of the biggest crowd-pleasing moments in the episode. Just as the van is about to plummet to the ground, Sam arrives on the scene and pushes it back to safety. He even gets the superhero’s classic round of applause from the crowd of civilians, admiring him as he hovers above them. In a great callback to episode 2, we hear an exchange between two adoring fans. One calls him “Black Falcon,” before the other retorts “Nah, that’s Captain America!” It might be a bit on the nose, but it’s a lovely payoff as we see Sam as a hero that is meant to transcend both background and race.
It gets better from there. When the fighting’s done, we get treated to an absolutely incredible speech from Sam, as he acknowledges in front of the TV cameras that he knows millions of people will probably hate that he’s become the new Captain America, but he’s going to pick up the mantle anyway and fight for the values of all Americans. It’s a rousing and emotional speech. Before that, he also gets into a debate with the GRC board members. He makes a wonderful argument that the GRC need to do better, encouraging them to see the other side of the argument and to build bridges with the regular people they’re meant to be helping, while admitting that it’s a tough scenario to navigate.
His point that they all have more in common than they realise is particularly prescient. It feels like a particular nod to our real world, and how divided our society has become in recent years. It provides a lesson on how we should also do better at understanding each other. The exchange isn’t perfect; after Sam makes a few well-reasoned points, one of the GRC board members simply waves him off claiming “You just don’t understand!” This felt jarring and poorly written, almost as if it was only meant to show how stubborn each side could be.
All in all, it was the perfect introduction to Sam Wilson’s Captain America. Karli Morgenthau’s journey doesn’t end so happily, however. After an exchange with Sharon, in where it is confirmed that she is the Power Broker after all and shoots Batroc (proving once more he is more brawn than brains, being stupid enough to threaten to reveal Sharon’s identity to the world), Sam arrives and the two fight. Karli is disgusted that the man she thought she could relate to has decided to take on the symbol she hates and attacks him, fuelled by her anger.
Sam constantly pleads with her to stop fighting, claiming he doesn’t want to hurt her. He only ever blocks and dodges her attacks. It’s something that once again proves how better suited he is to the title than John Walker, who would’ve only seen an enemy to be eliminated even if he wasn’t out for revenge.
It’s only then in her final moments that she realises she was wrong, after Sharon shoots her and Sam holds her in his arms. We never got to see what Karli was like before the super soldier serum changed her, but her final words – “I’m sorry” – hint at the good person she once was.
As for John Walker, he gets to act like Captain America one more time as he and Bucky arrest the remaining Flag Smashers. Bucky rightly mocks him for quoting Abraham Lincoln, as it feels a bit cheesy but nevertheless fits the Captain America brand. I expected him to try and kill all of them, but he proved me wrong, and his final act in the suit was one worthy of the man he was always trying to emulate.
I should also praise Marvel for not doing another Cap vs. Cap fight, which is what I was expecting. Sam and John only briefly cross paths in the finale, and he never tries to take the shield away from Sam. Despite his obvious intention to continue being Captain America last week, he seems to recognise that Sam is also worthy of the title after saving the people in the armored van.
We later get our first look at him in his new suit courtesy of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Val, who brands him US Agent, completing his origin from the comics. Val also hints that things “are about to get weird,” hinting at her future plans for Walker and how that will affect the MCU. This is clearly setting up the Thunderbolts. John is left in a surprisingly good place after their exchange. Earlier in the series I was certain he would end up in prison, but instead he’s a free man and elated that he can continue being a superhero without having to live up to Steve Rogers’ legacy.
Bucky’s arc was mostly dealt with last episode, but we do see him finally come clean to his neighbor Yori Nakajima about his son’s murder. It was a sad moment, but not as impactful as I thought it would be. This is likely due to the difficulty in showing more of what must have been a very emotional conversation; I don’t know how you can do that without showing Bucky explain the convoluted history of the Winter Soldier. It’s probably for the best that it cuts away, as it would have slowed the episode’s momentum.
The important thing is that we see Bucky finally overcome his demons and move on with his life, no longer afraid to hide his past from people. The closing montage of the party on the dock is great fun as we see Sam hanging out with his friends and family, plus Bucky hilariously continuing to flirt with his sister while lifting up her son and another child with his metal arm. By the end of the episode, Sam and Bucky’s friendship has finally been solidified, and it’s great to see them together.
The finale also tied up a couple of other loose threads. We don’t have to worry about the Flag Smashers showing up in future Marvel projects, as they were all blown up while being transported to The Raft. We then get a brief appearance from Zemo, who knowingly smiles at the news from inside his cell. It’s a great reminder that Zemo is still dangerous and influential even in captivity, and we’ll definitely see more of him in the future. Sharon gets a full pardon from the American government and her old job back at the CIA. Once again, this sets up her future as an MCU villain now that she has access to American state secrets, in addition to her existing assets as the Power Broker.
We also get to say goodbye to Isaiah Bradley, who has a heartwarming conversation with Sam in his back garden. But his reaction upon seeing a statue of himself in the Smithsonian’s Captain America exhibition is extremely touching, as history finally recognises the good he did in service of his country.
The actors’ performances are exemplary throughout the finale, and it all comes together to make this a strong finish for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. There’s definitely enough here to lead into a second season if they wanted, but for now I’m just happy with what we have.
One of the show’s initial questions was how a black man could take on the mantle of Captain America given the historical complications, and showrunner Malcolm Spellman answered with aplomb. Combine that with exciting action scenes and compelling character drama, and that makes for a strong first (and maybe only) season of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.