The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 6, “One World, One People,” is a fine season finale. It does conclude many season-long, lingering questions. Some of those stories are resolved in far less than satisfactory ways, but more on that later. The moments that do stick the landing in this finale are so great that it’s a bit easier to move on from the ones that don’t.
“One World, One People,” introduces quite a few cliffhangers that will likely be further complicated or resolved in the recently announced fourth Captain America film. The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported that this project is in the works, with head writer Malcolm Spellman already attached.
Overall, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has its bumpier moments that make it hard to love sometimes. TFATWS could have executed some things better, but those things don’t ruin my entire perception of the show. The other moments, the ones that made me fall even more in love with Sam and Bucky, are the ones that will stay with me most. I’m so glad we got to spend the time we did with them over the last six weeks.
The Power Broker
This episode reveals what pretty much we saw coming but didn’t want to admit to ourselves: Sharon Carter is the Power Broker. Does this reveal make sense? Kind of, I guess. Sharon is angry and vengeful, and rightfully so after everything that happened in Civil War. She’s making do, albeit through terrible methods, after both the MCU and the government within it sidelined her. Did the series do enough set-up to lead me to believe that Sharon is willing to kill a teenager to keep the power she’s gained as the Power Broker? No way.
Sharon is so scarcely used throughout TFATWS that it’s hard to cobble together any reason for her murdering Karli. The plot makes sense because it allows Sharon to get the pardon she needs to obtain her leverage in government property. For the character, it falls majorly short because there’s no thoughtful insight into Sharon’s mind in the series. We know that the last five years have hardened her, but we only get vignettes into that life. They don’t add any clarity to the irreversible damage she creates by killing Karli.
Instead of positioning herself in a grey area that TFATWS likes to explore, Sharon leans heavily towards a villain rather than a jaded hero. Sharon lets Karli die as a terrorist to further her own agenda. It’s difficult to see any heroism in that when Karli’s fight, though sometimes misguided in its motives, is noble. This distinction does leave the door open for Sam and Bucky to come face to face with Sharon Carter in a very different way than they do in this finale in the future. Perhaps this will take place in the fourth Captain America film. Because where else would it make sense for Sharon to appear in the confirmed slate?
The Flag Smashers
“One World, One People,” seemingly wraps up the Flag Smashers storyline. Karli makes it very apparent throughout the series that there are people worldwide who believe in her cause. It’s hard to believe that all of them will go quietly about their day-to-day lives again. It’s plausible that TFATWS wants us to think that all is well now that the government is making changes that the Flag Smashers can agree on.
Regardless, it’s unfortunate that Karli won’t be able to see any of this come to fruition. Again, her methods aren’t acceptable, but it’s Karli’s leadership that gets them here. Erin Kellyman did such a great job in this role that it’s saddening to know she won’t have a role in the MCU moving forward. Karli’s death will sting even more if TFATWS gets a second season at some point. That could have been an opportunity to explore redemption routes for Karli after Episode 6’s events being a rock bottom, per se. Instead, she’s robbed of that opportunity, whereas John Walker gets not one but two chances in that regard.
Even when Sam and Bucky haven’t had clear arcs from episode to episode, John Walker has. There’s a clear beginning, middle, and end to his story in the context of TFATWS. It ends with him in a new suit with a new alias — US Agent. There are no spoilers here, but that name has a lot connected to it in the comics, so there is plenty for the MCU to explore. It also engrains that Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be a significant player in the universe moving forward. Episode 6 sets up Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine as the latest puppet master to pull John Walker’s strings.
Unfortunately, the excitement surrounding Walker, which has more to do with de Fontaine than him, ends there. That excitement tastes bitter because of how the show gets to that moment. Walker not only attempts to save the truck packed full of government officials, but he’s also the one who helps Bucky lead the Flag Smashers into custody. This attempt to at least partially redeem Walker is unnecessary after his unforgivable actions in the past. It is out of place in a finale that doubles down on what people will do with their power. We’ve seen what Walker will do with it, and these two slightly good deeds in this episode don’t erase the damage done.
His relationship with power is reflected, once again, in his alliance with de Fontaine. Instead of realizing that immense power shouldn’t belong to him, Walker takes the route that instills him with a similar power he thrived off as Captain America. This isn’t entirely out of character for Walker, but it is frustrating coming after what appears to be at least a hint of a breakthrough for him. He doesn’t fight with Sam and Bucky and instead fights with them. What is the point of that if not to show some sizable change in a character? All of that falls away when he becomes US Agent.
As far as this season goes, Walker finds himself exactly where he does at the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1, “New World Order.” He’s a man with too much power who has still not earned it and cannot wield it with empathy, honor, or truth. Walker’s nothing, if not consistent, I guess.
The Winter Soldier
One of my biggest complaints about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that there aren’t enough of its titular characters. Bucky’s scene with Yori is heartbreaking because we see him take Sam’s advice and turn it into action. His phone call with Karli is moving because we see Bucky find the commonalities between him and her, where he wouldn’t even think of doing so a few episodes ago. We see how Sam has influenced Bucky in just a short amount of time, encouraging Bucky to choose de-escalation and empathy.
All of that is great and wonderful, but this final episode leaves me to believe that most of Bucky’s growth happens in the silent moments and off-camera. His gift to Dr. Raynor leads us to think that Bucky has done the work and crossed off all the names in his book. Does this mean that Yori was the last name, or is there a more logical explanation? Did we not get to see Bucky go on this journey of accountability and amends like the first episode suggests we will? TFATWS is supposed to explore Bucky’s trauma as the Winter Soldier, and it does to an extent, but not nearly enough for a show partially named after him.
This isn’t to say that we should have seen Bucky visit each person and cross their name off the list. That would have grown tedious and repetitive in a six-episode season with its focus already pulled in so many directions. Though, I would watch a spin-off of Bucky doing just that. I’d also take kindly to a spin-off of Sam and Bucky fixing up boats. Nevertheless, I wish we could have gotten more time with Bucky — more introspective moments that let us see what he’s going through in real-time. Sebastian Stan is an incredible actor and does excellent work with what he’s given. Imagine what he could’ve done with more. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
On a completely different note, I wish that Bucky could have gotten a new superhero name, like White Wolf, alongside Sam picking up Captain America. The Winter Soldier has so much tied to it. The show gives us glimpses of Bucky trying to clean some of the red off of that ledger, but it makes me wonder if there’s ever going to be a time when people will think of “The Winter Soldier” and not hear “Hail Hydra.”
The show suggests that this is coming, though it may take time. There’s the moment when the officer calls him “Sergeant Barnes,” which is small yet impactful. He also gets to do the superhero landing at one point. When the Senators thank Bucky for rescuing them, it’s one of the first times that Bucky is seen as a hero by someone, and that’s meaningful. It’s just as lovely to see him in Louisiana with Sam and his family — the kids holding on to the Vibranium arm. There is levity to that name and that arm that didn’t exist before TFATWS. I wish the show spent more time exploring that.
Most importantly, it’s moving to see Bucky and Sam finally come together. Bucky has literal heart eyes when he sees Sam fly above them in his new suit. He congratulates Sam and calls him “Cap” with so much pride and love. It’s fantastic to see these two make it to this point after everything. Steve would be proud of them. Maybe, just maybe, he’s watching from the moon and smiling.
It’s official; Sam Wilson is Captain America! He has an incredible new suit that is eerily similar to his one in the comics to prove it. That suit comes with a new and improved Red Wing, which makes me very, very happy, even though it’ll likely bother Bucky. It’s pretty epic to see him fight with both the wings and the shield. He’s not an offensive fighter but defensive, at least in the showdowns with Batroc and Karli. This fighting style feels in line with Sam as a character since he spends at least the last two episodes trying to get to people rather than punch his way out of problems. That’s not how Sam Wilson works, and we see that in these confrontations.
Sam’s speech, his first influential one as Captain America, to the Senators is effective. I can’t imagine that they’d hear him out, in the same way, had he shown up as Falcon. The speech becomes even more effective since it’s broadcasted on national TV. I may be a bit pessimistic to believe that the latter was a significant factor in the Senators finally wanting to change their ways. Regardless, I know it’s a moment I’ll keep coming back to, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Anthony Mackie’s delivery of that monologue is as unforgettable as seeing him in that new suit for the first time.
Just because I love it so much, here’s that monologue so we can all revisit it:
“I’m a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this up, I know there are millions of people out there who are gonna hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it: the stares, the judgment. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet I’m still here. No super serum, no blond hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better. We can’t demand that people step up if we don’t meet them halfway. Look, you control the banks. Shit, you can move borders! You can knock down a forest with an email; you can feed a million people with a phone call. But the question is, who’s in the room when you’re making those decisions? Hmmm? Is it the people you’re gonna impact? Or is it just more people like you? I mean, this girl died trying to stop you, and no one has stopped for one second to ask why. You’ve gotta do better, Senator. You’ve gotta step up. Because if you don’t, the next Karli will. And you don’t wanna see 2.0. People believed in her cause so much that they helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. Why do you think that is? Look, you people have just as much power as an insane god… or a misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘How are you going to use it?”
Sam’s final moments with Isaiah and Elijah Bradley are also really great. Carl Lumbly is legendary. The emotions that wash over Isaiah’s face when Sam shows him the addendum to the Captain America exhibit in the Smithsonian are palpable. It makes me teary-eyed to think about it. However, it would have made more sense for Isaiah’s portion to go before Steve’s because, well, time, it’s effective, nonetheless. People won’t be able to walk through that exhibit without seeing Isaiah’s mark on history. Just like we now know and will remember Isaiah Bradley as we head into whatever’s next, the general public within the MCU can start to do the same.
We knew going into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that it all led to this — to Sam Wilson becoming Captain America. There’s no way to properly prepare for the overwhelming feelings that come with seeing him in action and owning that title. Sam Wilson, a Black man, is Captain America, and the world will hopefully be better because of it. It’s not a revolutionary statement, but it’s significant to remember that representation matters.
Sam Wilson is the perfect hero for the times we’re in, and his future in the MCU is bright. I can only hope that we continue to be affected by and learn from his enduring empathy, generosity, and kindness. Sam believes that America and the world can be better, and that’s what Captain America is supposed to represent and strive to achieve — something better. That contagious hope follows Sam throughout TFATWS, and that likely won’t change in Captain America 4 and wherever Sam goes after that.
It’s taken a while to get to this point, but the endgame is worth it for me. I’m hopeful for the future — Sam’s, Bucky’s, the MCU’s — because I know the shield is Sam Wilson’s hands and that Sam has the best right-hand man around. Captain America and the Winter Soldier until the end of the line.
What did you think of the season finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know in the comments below!
All episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 are now streaming on Disney+!