THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
S1:E6 One World, One People
Review by Stacey Jones
EDITOR’S ALERT: This is the sixth and final part of Stacey Jones’ discussion of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Like it says in the title of this post, a world of SPOILERS awaits below the thin red line. Oh and also an assumption that you’re familiar with the MCU!
The impact and overall value of the series rides on this climactic final episode, ‘One World, One People.’ No pressure, right?
In the hands of series creator/head writer Malcolm Spellman, exec. producer/director Kari Skogland, and episode writers Spellman and Josef Sawyer, the surety of vision is present from the opening moments and continues throughout the entire episode as our heroes, villains, and everyone in-between race towards The Big Enchilada… that moment of resolution that has been the point of the whole story all along.
Karli commits to a ‘by any means necessary’ course of action, testing her last followers and setting up dangerous stakes for the heroes, who must respond. She’s willing to kill the hostages to stop the vote without regard to what happens to her or her soldiers, and that means the heroes have to meet her acts with equal and opposite force. Doesn’t it?
Walker arrives on scene as an agent of chaos. He’s ego driven, there to save face and prove he can be Captain America, but is soon triggered past the point of controlled response. There’s a glimmer of hope as he focuses on the medals he welded to the inside of his shield; what they mean, how he earned them. This shows us John Walker’s true heart. He knows he’s broken, so he’s given himself tools to use in those moments to try and do better.
Remembering that Walker is not a villain so much as a Walking Wounded soldier, with untreated PTSD and a host of related issues, I want that chance of redemption for him… so when he drops the tin shield and tries to save the GRC hostages, I actually cheered.
After Sam saves the van of hostages, two generations of Black men stand side by side, smiling with pride. The older man gushes “That’s the Black Falcon there, I tell you.” The younger man gently corrects his elder with the truth, one that neither can actually believe they are seeing. “Nah, that’s Captain America.” It’s such a wonderful moment, energized with hope and possibility; the acceptance of one of their own bearing the Stars and Stripes. A hero that looks like them.
Isaiah, while completely deserving of his jaded state of mind, is also blinded by it. It emphasizes one of the big messages of the series, which is about the dangers and traps of living in the past and picking up old grievances from past generations, no matter what color your skin is.
When Karli expresses disbelief that Sam, a Black man, is wearing the Stars and Stripes, he hammers it home for the people in the back. “I’m trying something different. Maybe you should do the same.” The past is a shackle. Being shackled to the past makes one a slave to it.
Right to the end, Sam works to save Karli from herself but it’s impossible. Sharon needs to keep her secrets, and being able to disguise her solution by making it look like she was saving Sam was just handy.
Karli’s death is the final catalyst for Sam, determined to give it some meaning by confronting the GRC on the street, with the live cameras rolling. When he lands on the street, with Karli in his arms, his resemblance to an angel is not accidental, and so, here is the delivery of The Big Enchilada.
Captain America is no longer the tool of a system with a misguided philosophy but its conscience, demanding that the system do better and find a new way into the future without being shackled to the past, and the way things were before The Blip.
I think my favorite moment in the whole finale is the moment Sam says “The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.” It’s a line that can empower any viewer watching. Certainly, as a kid, I would have taken that as permission to do just that. I’m taking it like that right now.
I’m convinced the line is a direct response to Batfleck’s “I’m rich” punchline in Justice League, and it really illustrates the night and day difference to the approach to the material and the themes being explored. Certainly, it makes the flavors so distinct that it’s easy to decide which one tastes better to me.
Amazingly, Sam seems to accomplish the single greatest heroic act so far in the MCU, and he does it with words, not a punch. And that’s really been one of the major points of this whole series. Using force to maintain old paradigms that do not work in the Now is a pointless, futile act. It’s a lesson we can take into our real world today.
Sam and Isaiah at the museum is a wonderful wrap of the elder soldier’s arc. The hug the two men share is familial and true, and had me in tears. We want to see Isaiah let his anger go for his own sake as much as anything else, and here, embracing the future Sam represents, we know he’s on the way to healing.
Seeing Sam and Buck back in Louisiana, with family and community, feels like being immersed in a hot tub of good vibes. Friends. Soldiers. Brothers. Two men that can share their feelings with each other, and put their arms around each other in support, camaraderie and brotherhood are healthy, healed men.
It’s interesting that even in 2021, this kind of relationship between two men highlights the strange rules that “real men” adhere to, and perhaps why our own real-world system is so broken. Men that do not feel, men that can’t touch each other without explaining that they aren’t gay, are broken men than need healing. A society that continues to reinforce the idea that a man shouldn’t feel, or can’t support a friend with a hug is in the same leaky boat.
Overall, I’d say that as a viewer, I had a great time watching this series and facing down some of my own assumptions and ideas in the process. I’d actually decided at one point that it looked like Marvel was going to play it safe and make Bucky the next Captain America, but that was me straight up selling the MCU creative overseers short.
Their willingness to draw a line in the sand regarding their social responsibilities as storytellers is commendable, and welcome in this time when so many artists are trying to walk a fine line to not offend a potential sales market and end up pissing off everybody.
Taking a stand is what heroes do, after all.
Stacey Jones is an award winning writer, composer, musician, and rebel philosopher who was, in fact, the overall winner of the 2nd running of TVWriter™’s now gone but not forgotten contest, The People’s Pilot. TVWriter™ is happy to welcome him back to the fold