The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5 “Truth”
Director: Kari Skogland
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, Clé Bennett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Carl Lumbly, Danny Ramirez, Florence Kasumba, Erin Kellyman, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye
Runtime: 57 minutes
Despite being one of the titular characters, Sam Wilson has taken something of a backseat during large portions of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The premiere devoted a lot of attention to the beginning of his story arc but since then the show has spent significant amounts of time exploring supporting characters like Zemo and Walker, and out of the titular duo Bucky’s arc has been more thoroughly developed so far. But episode 5, “Truth” puts Sam back in the spotlight, presenting the compelling final steps in his journey to becoming Captain America.
Before it can zero in on Sam, though, the episode has to address the fallout of the last one’s shocking ending. We open up with Walker fleeing from the square where he murdered the Flag Smasher. He hides out at some kind of warehouse, but Sam and Bucky quickly catch up with him. Sam is as compassionate as he can be but when he tells Walker he needs to give up the shield he becomes paranoid and angry, clearly itching for a fight even though he tells the others, “You don’t want to do this.” Bucky had been quietly going along with Sam’s gentle approach but after this can’t help himself and replies “Yeah, we do,” before all hell breaks loose. The fight plays out almost like a deadly game of Keep Away, with Sam and Bucky razor-focused on getting the shield away from Walker. This is a bit of an odd choice narratively, as it’s not like Walker just stops fighting once it’s out of his grasp but it makes for a very well-designed sequence with lots of interesting angles for the camera and choreography, as Sam relies heavily on his jetpack and Bucky his vibranium arm while they attempt to pry the shield from Walker. It’s the series’ most relentlessly intense action scene yet and one of its best, with Henry Jackman’s choice to bring back the devastating score used in the Steve and Bucky vs. Tony Stark fight at the end of Civil War being especially effective at evoking a powerful dread. Walker has been portrayed as a mostly sympathetic (if not really likable) character but this scene highlighted how utterly terrifying he can be when he prepares to crush Sam, presumably to death, with the shield, while maniacally declaring “I am Captain America!” Bucky manages to stop him and get the shield off him in time and he and Sam then take Walker down with an awesome team-up maneuver in which Bucky throws Walker into Sam’s path as he rushes him with the shield. The shield winds up in Bucky’s hands but he drops it at Sam’s feet, clearly still mad at his decision not to take it up earlier. Sam’s wingsuit was destroyed in the fight and he leaves the pieces with Torres, telling him to keep an eye on the Flag Smashers before heading back to the states.
Walker is given an other than honorable discharge from the military which strips him of the Captain America mantle and, even more devastating (though maybe not in his mind) access to veteran’s services in retirement. It’s impressive that despite his brutal murder of the Flag Smasher, the show still manages to make Walker sympathetic, and a lot of credit for that goes to Wyatt Russell, whose passionate performance makes John’s outrage palpable. It also helps that Alphie Hyorth’s slimy senator character from the pilot is brought back as the presiding member of the committee in charge of the discharge. That character is already associated in the viewer’s mind with government corruption so while Walker’s punishment (or at least most of it) is unquestionably deserved the sequence effectively illustrates that the corrupt system is also to blame. The writers handle the morally complex issue of how to oversee the military excellently, conveying that both Walker and the officials he’s arguing with are right about some things but wrong about others. As Walker says it definitely feels emotionally unfair for civilians who don’t experience the combat-induced stresses soldiers do to judge them but it’s an intellectual, moral necessity.
After Walker storms out of the hearing, he and his wife are greeted by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a new character for the MCU. A mysterious intelligence operative of some sort she tells John that he did the right thing killing the Flag Smasher and that she knows he took the serum and that it makes him very valuable to certain groups. She informs him that the legality of who owns the shield is questionable, suggesting that he might be able to get it back, and tells him to answer when she calls before leaving. Other than her ties to Nick Fury and shifting moral alignment I don’t know much about the comic book version of the Contessa but the MCU’s is definitely a more comedic take, which is not surprising as Louis-Dreyfus is mostly known for her comedy work on shows like Seinfeld and Veep. She brings plenty of commanding authority to the role but colors the character with a quirky personality that’s emphasized when she tells John and his wife they can call her “Val” for short, only to immediately instruct them to never call her Val and when she gives John a blank business card. Presumably, she’ll play some part in the finale but being that she’s being introduced this late in the game it’s likely her Falcon and the Winter Soldier appearances are more so meant to set Walker up for whatever the next part of his MCU journey is, which is exciting.
At a memorial in Sokovia, Bucky confronts Zemo who reiterates his belief that Karli has been radicalized beyond saving and must be killed, urging Bucky to do it because he knows Sam won’t but Bucky refuses. Zemo says that he has decided not to kill Bucky, to which Bucky quips “Imagine my relief.” He then points a gun at Zemo and pulls the trigger, only to reveal that it is empty, after which he drops the bullets out of his other hand. A faint smile touches his face as he proves Zemo wrong about him being a killer. Ayo and her Dora Milaje arrive to take Zemo to the Raft. As they leave he says goodbye to Bucky, telling him that he crossed out his name in his notebook and that “I hold no grudges for what you thought you had to do,” after which Bucky nods. Ayo tells Bucky to stay out of Wakanda for a time which he agrees is fair but as she leaves he asks for one more favor. This is a nice scene, beautifully played by Stan, Brühl, and Kasumba but there are elements of it that are a bit forced for the sake of fan service and world-building. As much as Stan and Brühl sell the evolved dynamic between the characters I still think there needed to be another scene or two of Zemo’s respect and or affection for Bucky growing before him deciding he’s a super-soldier worthy of being kept alive felt truly earned. Also, while I can buy T’Challa not wanting Zemo executed despite his crimes (especially since it was T’Challa who stopped him from killing himself) but the Dora taking him to the Raft feels out of character. It would be much more natural for them to take him to a Wakandan prison where he is less likely to escape again, especially since the Raft’s most high-profile prisoners, Team Cap, all got out fairly easily. Putting Zemo there is a transparent way to ensure that he can either escape or be recruited by another group so that we can see him again given how this show has made him into a fan-favorite and while I’m definitely in favor of that it could have been set up in different ways to better accommodate this series’ emotional logic.
Sam returns to Baltimore to discuss what he’s learned about the history of the super-soldier program with Isaiah Bradley. Isaiah explains how he was one of many black soldiers who were given an experimental version of the serum without their knowledge and sent on missions despite the government not knowing what it would really do to them. Many died from the serum’s side effects while others were captured. When he discovered that high-ranking officers were going to have the prison camp where the others were being held destroyed to eliminate evidence of the program he went out on his own to free them, leading to his imprisonment. Thirty years later (after his wife had died) he was freed when a nurse helped him fake his death. Sam believes the world should be told this story so justice can be achieved but Isaiah is adamant about remaining in hiding, believing that if the government knew he was alive it would come after him again. He tells Sam that people in power will never allow a black man to be embraced as Captain America and that no self-respecting black man would want the mantle anyway. Lumbly’s performance is still perfectly haunting and although he’s harsher towards Sam than is necessary it’s hard not to understand Isaiah’s pain.
Sam heads back home to Louisiana and continues struggling to attempt to get the boat ready to be sold. He convinces Sarah that they need to call on their neighbors, many of whom were helped by their parents in the past, to help them repair it, and soon enough most of the community has gathered to pitch in. Bucky arrives with a case holding something from the Wakandans for Sam and also helps out, using his enhanced strength to do a lot of heavy lifting. There’s maybe a couple of minutes too many of boat maintenance but its metaphorical purpose in the story is strong. Sam seeks to preserve his parents’ positive legacy by maintaining the boat, which is why he’s so relieved when Sarah decides they can’t sell it, even though he recognizes that they have to make some changes so their family can have a better future, hence why they had to ask for help when they maybe wouldn’t have in the past. The same notions illustrate why he’s the ideal Captain America. His respect and love for Steve mean he’ll work to maintain his positive legacy but his progressive ideals will let him push the mantle to mean new things as well so it better represents all people and protect it from Walker and the government’s corrupting influences.
Bucky helps Sam out with shield practice, during which he apologizes for being so hard on him about giving it up. He admits that when Steve made his plan and told him about it neither of them really understood what it would mean for a black man to wield the shield and says he was wrong to blame Sam for what’s happened with Walker. Bucky continues on to say how he feels the shield is the closest thing to family he has left so seeing it retired by its rightful owner caused him to question everything about himself and whether he’s changed since being the Winter Soldier. Sam gives him some “tough love”, emphasizing that Steve is gone and that in order to move forward Bucky has to stop prioritizing what he would have wanted or felt. He also encourages him to change how he goes about making amends, suggesting that he help the people the Winter Soldier hurt find closure rather than punishing the ones who benefitted from his actions. It’s great to see the show continue to emphasize Sam’s counseling skills and I also really liked how this scene highlighted how crucial his and Bucky’s dynamic has become for both of them. He’d never admit it but Sam is essentially the most important person in Bucky’s life now and that’s why he’s able to get through to him better than Raynor has. While Raynor also has military experience Sam has that and superhero experience, in addition to having been close with Steve. This makes Bucky feel a kinship and trust towards him that he can’t with anyone else and it’s because of that he seems to take Sam’s advice more to heart. Sam reminds Bucky that Karli won’t stop and Bucky promises to fight by his side when he finds out what her plan is.
When Sarah decides not to sell the boat she also encourages Sam not to let Isaiah’s bitterness affect his mindset or choices and clarifies that she has always been proud of how he’s fought for the country and the world while also fighting for social justice for the African American community. Sam says that he understands where Isaiah is coming from and that if he had experienced what he had he would probably feel the same way but as it is he believes he needs to continue fighting in order to make all the “pain and sacrifice,” mean something positive. We next see him in a Rocky-like training montage of exercise and more shield practice, signifying that he’s finally ready to take on the Captain America mantle. Anthony Mackie’s performance throughout the episode is subtle but extremely powerful. It’s clear how every decision he makes is weighing on Sam but his resilience and optimism are inspiring reminders of why he’s such a great hero.
Karli gathers her forces for their final plan, an attack on a GRC vote that would authorize the Patch Act, forcibly relocating millions of refugees. The Flag Smashers are joined by Batroc, who wants revenge on Sam and who was released from prison thanks to Sharon’s manipulations, lending more support to the idea of Sharon being the Power Broker. I’m not thrilled about that but I’m willing to see what the finale holds for her before passing judgment. As the Flag Smashers begin their attack on the conference by hacking it Torres contacts Sam with intel about what they’re up to. The final image is of Sam opening the case, looking at what is presumably a new costume. The new Captain America’s first mission looks to be a trial by fire but after all the moving development he’s undergone there’s no one better suited to handle the plethora of threats he faces.
- Sam leaving the wings with Torres is a nod to the latter being the second Falcon in the comics but it feels kind of random here.
- Walker also goes to visit Lemar’s family who he is close with and remind him of how much love Lemar had for him. He tells them that he killed Lemar’s killer. This was pretty heartbreaking and it’s quite impressive how much emotion the show managed to get out of Lemar’s death despite how smart his role was.
- In the series’ first mid-credits scene Walker melts his medals down and attaching them to a homemade shield. While this is chilling I’m not really sure it’s going to really help him in his upcoming fights with superpowered opponents, some of whom are armed with vibranium.
- The banter is pretty minimal in this one but there are some amusing moments where Bucky flirts with Sarah, much to Sam’s chagrin.
- This is the closest any post-Endgame Marvel product has come to confirming Steve’s fate and while they don’t outright say that he’s dead it certainly sounds like that’s the case.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5
The penultimate episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a powerful hour of character exploration elevated by an incredible fight scene and moving performances from Anthony Mackie and Wyatt Russell.