Our Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 review explores Captain America’s legacy, no matter how bloody and broken.
At the end of last week’s episode, we saw John Walker’s Captain America kill one of Karli’s super soldiers while the whole world was watching.
It wasn’t hard to guess there would be some fallout over Walker’s reaction to Hoskins’ death, but would that be a private or public affair? Would the government try to cover it up, or would they strip Walker of his title?
More importantly, what would our heroes do to protect the legacy of Steve’s shield, and would they be in agreement? They haven’t totally seen eye-to-eye thus far.
‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ episode 5 review
The end of Captain America
At the top of the episode, Sam walks right up to Walker and asks him to hand over the shield. Whatever John is feeling in that moment—over the death of his friend, the adrenaline from having murdered someone, the fear that he made the wrong call—flies out the window when he hears those words. Now he must defend himself.
My favorite part about this fight is that it’s realistic. As skilled as Sam is, he can’t realistically go toe-to-toe with a super soldier on his own. Bucky pulls most of the weight here, but Falcon is creative. He always uses his suit to get the upper hand.
Sam goes down a lot, but he keeps getting back up (Steve would be proud). But there’s one point where Walker has him pinned, and it’s not looking good. “I am Captain America,” Walker growls—right before ripping off Sam’s wings.
The imagery is not subtle, but the weight of what’s happening becomes clearer by the end of the episode. Right now, however, the bird has been grounded. He’s been stripped of his identity. It’s not just the fact that his suit is broken; it’s the fact that Captain America did it to him.
Luckily, Bucky is there to save his life. There’s no doubt in my mind Walker would’ve given Sam the same end as the super soldier in the square outside, but together, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier take the shield from Walker and knock him down one last time.
The shield looks good on Bucky. But as strained as their relationship has been in the past, Bucky believes Steve made the right call when he offered the shield to Sam. He tosses it to him and walks away.
Sam wipes the blood from the metal. He’s begrudgingly inherited a bloody America. Even later, when he and Torres are talking about the wings, Sam says to keep them. He doesn’t necessarily want the shield, but what other choice does he have? He won’t let Walker have it again.
And neither will the government.
Walker now has an “other than honorable” discharge to his name. He is no longer a representative of the United States or its military; he is not Captain America; he holds no rank and will receive no benefits.
This does not sit well with Walker. “You built me,” he screams, and he’s not wrong. I don’t have much sympathy for Walker—he’s an arrogant fool who felt entitled to a legacy he’d never understand—but it’s true that the government created him. They’ll be responsible for whatever comes next.
Whatever it is, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine will be there. (As will Walker’s wife? Did we know he was married? They really buried the lead on that one. She hasn’t had any significant standing in his story since the beginning.) Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the role perfectly, leaving Walker with a blank card and knowledge that ownership of the shield is a legal gray area.
The Winter Soldier and the White Wolf
Zemo visits the Sokovia monument. Better late than never, Bucky pays him a visit. Zemo tests the Winter Soldier’s mettle, poking and prodding at that metal arm and goading him into doing what he does best.
According to Zemo, Karli has been radicalized beyond salvation. The only solution is to kill her. He still believes Sam was a fool to think he could have talked her down off the ledge. I disagree, and so, it seems, does Bucky.
Whatever James had been struggling with throughout the series is not gone, but he’s got a firm grasp on it. He raises a gun to Zemo’s head, but when he pulls the trigger, the gun is empty. Zemo understands the significance, and offers Bucky one last piece of hope—he’s crossed his name off of the list in Bucky’s book. Zemo has gifted Bucky with his forgiveness, for whatever that’s worth.
All things considered, Zemo is quite calm when the Dora Milaje take him away. He will spend the rest of his days on the Raft (remember that place?). It’s not an ideal vacation spot, but part of me is glad we haven’t seen the end of Zemo just yet. His complicated history with Sam and Bucky could be an interesting point to revisit down the line.
As for Bucky, he’s been warned away from Wakanda for a while. He did release the man responsible for King T’Chaka’s death, after all. Ayo once again calls him the White Wolf, and it hits home harder than it ever has before. She has always believed the Winter Soldier had been defeated, to be replaced with this new persona. Maybe now he’ll believe it, too. It’s a fresh start for Bucky, and I’m excited to see where it takes him.
And regardless of his current poor standing with Wakanda, he’s able to call in one more favor.
The new Captain America
Bucky isn’t the only one getting a fresh start in this episode. Series such as this tend to leave the big reveal to the last second, and while next week is our finale, I’m excited that Sam officially took up the mantle at the end of this episode.
But it wasn’t an easy road to get there, and this Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 review would be remiss to not mention Sam’s long deliberation on the matter. After he takes the shield, he visits Isaiah, who wants nothing to do with the stars and stripes. It doesn’t mean anything to him, and when Sam calls him out for being a bitter old man, Isaiah responds, “If you ain’t bitter, you’re blind.”
Of course, he has plenty of reason to feel that way. Everyone got different serums, and he has no idea why he survived. They didn’t even tell him he was getting it—just said it was a tetanus shot. This is not as far removed from reality as you’d like to believe.
While Isaiah was enlisted, some men from his unit were captured. They were a lost cause, but Isaiah decided to go against orders and rescue them. Unlike Steve Rogers, he did not come back a hero. Instead, he was mutilated, jailed, and experimented on for thirty years.
It is heartbreaking to look at Isaiah and realize he could’ve been Captain America if the United States government had given him the chance. Imagine the world Sam would’ve grown up in if he had Isaiah Bradley to look up to.
“You think times are different?” Isaiah asks. White people have been erasing black history for 500 years; Isaiah is just one man in an endless list of tragedies. He warns Sam they’ll never let a Black man be Captain America, and no self-respecting Black man would want to be.
It’s hard to argue with Isaiah’s logic, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier faces the same problem as Sam: Is it realistic to have a Black man fight for America’s freedom and morality when the country treats him as expendable?
Sam struggles with this question while he, Bucky, Sarah, and the entire community fix up their boat. By the end of it, however, Sam knows what he has to do. He can’t deny Isaiah has a point, but he also can’t sit on the bench while the world goes to hell. Maybe the government won’t back him, and maybe people won’t accept him, but Sam knows donning the shield is the right thing to do.
Seeing those little boys pretending to be Captain America is why this is worth it. Sam may not find it as easy as Steve did, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be as great. The montage of him throwing the shield with Bucky by his side at once shows his struggles and his dogged determination. He’s finally accepted Steve’s legacy, and he’s going to take good care of it.
Bucky and Sam part ways at the end of the episode. They’re friends, of sorts. Sam gives Bucky some tough love and tells him apologizing to the people he’s wronged only makes himself feel better. Instead, he’s got to do something to make them feel better, even if it’s admitting to his past sins. It may just be the last step before putting the Winter Soldier to bed for good.
Bucky tells Sam to call on him when he hears anything about Karli, and that time has come sooner rather than later. Sam figures she’s going to interrupt the GRC’s vote on the Patch Act, and when he opens that box from Wakanda—the favor from Bucky—we know it’s go-time.
I’m most excited to see Sam’s version of Captain America, whatever it may be. He’s no Steve Rogers, and in this case (unlike John Walker), that’s a good thing. He’ll bring something new to the table, and I hope a pair of awesome new wings is part of the deal.
Final bits and bobs
I’m left with a random array of thoughts by the end of the episode. For one, I hope Sarah and Bucky strike up a romance at some point, if for no other reason than it would drive Sam crazy.
For another, Walker was convinced he killed the person who murdered Lamar, but now he’s not so sure. That person is Karli, which means the next episode will bring all the big players together.
If you stuck around for the Falcon and the Winter Soldier after credits scene, then you’ll know Walker is making his own shield. I’m not surprised in the least, but I am shocked he thinks that shield can compete with vibranium. Perhaps that’s the point—he’s just a cheap knockoff.
What is most interesting is hearing Sharon talk with Batroc, the man from Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1. She sends him to Karli, who agrees to let him come along for the ride so he can kill Sam.
I have a hard time believing Sharon is the enemy, but she does have some explaining to do. Is she playing the long-game here? Is this some roundabout way of getting her citizenship back? Is she willing to risk Falcon’s life in order to complete her own mission?
Either way, it’s getting harder to deny she and the Power Broker may be one in the same.