The penultimate episode delivers with an amount of finality that appears more likes a season finale. With one episode to go, I wonder where we go from here. Diving into spoilers, it’s time to absorb what I can.
John Walker (Wyatt Russell) has snapped. He’s not calming down, nor is he ready to display any more obedience towards the very system that broke his spirit. Appearing outwardly as a villain, the “not my Captain” crowd got what they wanted. In their validation, Mr. Walker is a sympathetic villain constructing his antagonistic suite. During that process, we are met with a head-scratching cameo from Julia Louis Dreyfus, where fans of the comics might know more about her insidious words than I do. I couldn’t help but shake the idea that this was Selina Meyers’ pathway toward the White House.
After the explosive fallout from John Walker’s gruesome murder of a Flag-Smasher, the story comes to a screeching halt, returning to the boat story. The boring subplot from the pilot episode takes center stage with exciting results. As television is a writer’s medium, a plot point like this would never come into the middle of a story that’s so deep into its climactic phase. This is television, however. And in television, the writer can trust the audience to take their time with the characters on screen before losing their patience.
Trying to re-adjust to everyday life after a failed mission, the relationship between Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) naturally develops without feeling like the two are suddenly friends because the plot requires them to be. During this intermittent period of reflection, the story returns to Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). Here’s where Marvel shines above the competition. Dalan Musson’s screenplay doesn’t tiptoe around its political issues. Isaiah is the embodiment of the forgotten veteran. A man who served in the war but was mistreated due to his appearance. The experiments performed on him, the prison time he served so he could be Shield’s petri dish, isn’t uncommon towards the racial mistreatment of vets America has done to this day.
In his fatalistic words, Mr. Bradley proclaims, “America will never accept a black Captain America.” In reality, he’s stating that some of the audience will never accept a Black Captain America. Sam’s sympathetic rebuttal of the changing times is another portion of the audience saying, “that’s not true; we’ve accepted a black President.” Did America accept him, though?
It’s easy to say you don’t want politics involved in your entertainment, but the truth is people don’t want politics that don’t agree with their viewpoint involved in their form of escapism. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a damning commentary on America’s propagation of war and the flaws our heroes expose with Cap’s damaging defense of Bucky. Black Panther is all about the black man being accepted as an equal within a society outside Wakanda that doesn’t see equals. Discussions can be had in any medium, whether it’s from Disney or an independent film. Marvel’s confidence in tackling such issues publicly is commendable. Whether you agree with how Marvel handled it is an entirely different discussion to be had.
Bucky’s redemptive arc from being the man he is once more fleshes itself out in full. For now, at least until he snaps again. Which, please make no mistake somewhere in some future season he will. When given every opportunity to return to his Winter Soldier form Bucky exemplifies extraordinary resilience. After much time, Sam and Bucky seem to help one another with sincerity. They won’t accept that they’re friends, but we know they are now.
A fundamental flaw in the show I’ve noticed is Sam’s lack of a discernible flaw. Aside from his reluctance to take Steve’s place, I don’t see what’s wrong with him. Maybe intentionally stoic like Steve, Sam’s dry persona sticks out like a sore thumb amongst a cast of characters with intriguing personalities.
Bucky Barnes is a man who’s one bad day away from regressing to his former self. Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is a suave bad guy with philosophies as understandable as Heath Ledger’s Joker’s viewpoints. Karli Mogernthau’s (Erin Kellyman) hatred creates a relatable picture of grief. John Walker is the sympathetic villain used by the U.S. government. In the middle of all of it is Sam Wilson whose the calm guy trying to break up a fight. He’s not fascinating to watch amongst a cast of unpredictable characters. In all honesty, I’m not sure how you could make Sam’s psychological state above average unless you present a problem like his version of Steve’s Bucky. Or kill his sister.
When the time finally comes to don what is presumably Cap’s new suit made by the Wakandons, an original story is set into place with one episode to go. One part of the story ends, another continues, and a new one begins. It’s obvious to tell there are more seasons to come unless everything is covered in a calming or psychologically explosive finale that covers all bases. The season could have ended with Sam opening up the case revealing a future to be seen. Cut to black; wait for season two.
The structure is pretty fascinating when you think about it. It ends like the third act of a film with a bang followed by a falling point, then lastly to a cliffhanger. Where the show goes with its finale doesn’t rest in reveals as much as it does in tone. The filmmakers are letting the audience participate in the characters more than the mysteries inside the box. At least I’m hoping it doesn’t end in a Wandavision VFX fireworks display. Seeing The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s story doesn’t rely on mysteries; I doubt it would. That’s not to entirely criticize Wandavision as it works fine as a singular piece. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is more of a standard overarching of the critical character’s story arcs. The more I see of the show, the more I respect what it’s doing.
Do you agree with me? Let me know.