Black-tain America and the Winning Soldier: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier “One World, One People”
Previously: John Walker used the world’s last dose of super-serum to juice himself up to fight bad guys, but then lost his Captain America status for aggravated lack of chill. A shadowy unelected transnational council with its own military and police arms is about to vote to forcibly resettle untold millions of refugees around the world, and the Flag-Smashers are about to stop that because they’re the bad guys. Meanwhile, Sam spent enough time at the disc golf course to become the new Captain America.
Immediately after the events of the last episode, the GRC building is in lockdown and running on emergency power. Sam’s flying to Manhattan. Bucky’s already there, walking effortlessly through the security cordon. Sharon Carter is also here, disguised in a scramble suit.
Upon seeing Sam’s arrival, Karli gives the go-ahead to tear-gas the assembled dignitaries. They all get herded out into the hallway. Sam, in his new Wakandan-built red-white-and-blue wingsuit, throws the vibranium shield through the window and enters. Luckily for his first time out as Captain America, he runs into the only non-superpowered guy in a Flag-Smasher mask, Georges Batroc. They commence to fighting.
The dignitaries get herded into armored transports, and the camera lingers on their armed escorts in such a way as to make it clear to us that they’re undercover Flag-Smashers. The escorts trap the dignitaries on the trucks with some sort of high-tech spider lock. Bucky gets a phone call from Karli, which he can’t resist taking so he can try the whole don’t-go-down-this-path spiel on her. But the phone call was a distraction so the Smashers could escape with the hostages.
Sam finally beats up Batroc enough, apparently, because he flies out a window to catch up with a departing helicopter full of hostages. The pilots shoot at him. He ducks behind his Captain America shield while flying, which seems like an aerodynamic nightmare. He then uses his new Red Wing to ID-scan the hostages and check their government records to see if any of them can fly a helicopter.
Karli gives the order to kill the hostages if things go south. This elicits some unease from her fellow Flag-Smashers. Bucky attacks a motorcade, and they light a truck full of hostages on fire to distract him. Bucky pulls off the spider-lock with his mechanical arm while Karli makes her getaway, but before she can escape, she gets confronted by John Walker.
“I didn’t mean to kill your friend,” she says. “I don’t want to hurt people who don’t matter.” This seems like a poor choice of words, because Walker replies, “You don’t think Lamar’s life mattered?” That’s called subtext, kids! Walker chucks his homemade shield at her, but she can tell by its lack of bounce that it’s not real vibranium. The Flag-Smashers converge on him. Bucky rescues the people out of the burning truck, and then stops Karli from reshaping Walker’s head with a parking meter, thus proving to John that All Lives Matter. That subtext may have gotten confused a little bit.
Up in the helicopter, the hostage who knows how to fly gets a text to put her earbud in. Sam tells her over the earbud that she should grab the controls on his count. He breaks open the chopper window with the shield, flies through the cabin and snatches the pilot lickety-split, and the hostage safely guides the helicopter away.
Walker wails on Karli some more, but his elite hand-to-hand training is evenly matched with her parkour. She escapes, steals a truck full of hostages, and drives it straight through a barrier. It ends up on the scaffolding of a construction site where Bucky and Karli’s Australian friends are fighting stories below. The truck hangs suspended in the air, barely supported. Instead of pursing Karli, Walker decides to drop his symbolically battered Captain America knockoff shield into the dirt below and haul the truck to safety. That’s called a character arc, kids! But the Flag-Smashers swarm him and he loses his grip.
Just when it looks like the truck is going to tumble over and kill everyone inside, Sam shows up and stops it with the help of his rocket-powered drones. The grateful crowd below proclaims him the new Captain America. And there are both black people and NYPD officers in the crowd, so Disney’s got all their bases covered. But then Batroc disperses everyone with tear gas, while Sharon confronts Karli in a back room for an exposition dump.
Sharon apparently tutored Karli in the arts of life on the lam, criminality, and general skulduggery when Karli first came to Madripoor. But Karli’s idealism became a wedge between them. “You wanted to control a world that had hurt you; I wanted to change it,” says Karli. Sharon wants Karli to work for her again, but Karli smells her game: “Without super-soldiers, how much power does the Power Broker really have?” Ah! Twist! Sharon is the Power Broker!
But Batroc comes down the stairs and says he heard all of that, and now is going to hold Sharon to four times her agreed-upon payment, or else he’ll reveal to the world that she’s the Power Broker. “I don’t do blackmail,” says Sharon, and she shoots Batroc. Karli then shoots her. Sam hears the gunshots and comes running to find Batroc dead and Sharon shot in the gut.
Walker and Bucky team up to lure the remaining Flag-Smashers into an alley, where they’re rounded up by regular cops who they don’t even attempting to fight off with their super-strength. Walker quotes Lincoln: “Mercy bears richer fruit than strict justice.” Yeah, sure; just look what happened to that guy.
Cut to Karli pounding on Sam viciously, and shouting at him to fight back, but he merely holds his ground against her relentless assault. She finally knocks his shield away and goes to shoot him, but is shot herself by Sharon.
Sam carries Karli to an ambulance, and addresses the GRC members he just rescued, who are still planning to go ahead with their resettlement plans. Sam begs them not to. He says that the real reason the global leaders are so desperate to resettle the refugees is because back when the Snap happened, they felt just as powerless as billions of people of the Earth do every single day. He says they should embrace their new common struggle, not hurry to shuffle it off again and go back to the status quo. Thanks to a strangley quiet crowd around Sam, TV cameras catch his words and send them out around the world, wherein he urges the world’s elites to understand why people want to knock them out of power, and that they need to step up to prove they shouldn’t. “You have just as much power as an insane god, or a misguided teenager,” he says. “The question is, how are you going to use it?”
With that TV op accomplished, Falcon flies off. The Flag-Smashers are all boarded onto a transport designed to take them to the Raft, a maximum security prison, but an undercover operative locks them in with a Flag-Smasher codeword. It looks like they’re about to get sprung, but the truck gets barely ten feet before it blows up. An old man who looks suspiciously like Sharon under her scramble suit watches from a limo.
At the Raft, a newly-imprisoned Helmut Zemo hears all about this attack while listening to NPR. (Wait, wasn’t he going to serve his time in Wakanda?) Elsewhere, Contessa Valentina de Fontaine also sees it pop up as a news alert on her phone, winkingly denying any responsibility for it. Walker emerges and shows the Contessa and his wife his new suit, which looks the same as his old suit, only it’s black instead of blue. “Things are about to get weird,” says Val, “We’re not gonna need a Captain America… we’re gonna need a U.S. Agent.” (insert Rick Dalton Pointing Meme)
There’s some more wrapping-up to do. The GRC decides not to expel all those refugees, because all they needed was some perspective or something like that. The show remembers about Bucky’s old Japanese friend, and he shows up at the guy’s house and reveals that he killed the old man’s son while in character as the Winter Soldier. Bucky then leaves a gift basket with his therapist containing his notebook with all the names crossed out, and a thank-you card.
Meanwhile, Sam shows up at Isaiah Bradley’s house to say, “Go to hell, old man, you told me not to be Black-tain America and I did it anyway!” Actually, he brings Isaiah and his grandson to the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian (how many times is the MCU gonna show us this place, anyway?) which has a new item: a bronze statue of Isaiah Bradley along with a plaque telling his story. Despite this being the one thing he explicitly said he didn’t want to happen, Isaiah tears up and hugs Sam.
Now everybody’s happy, and they all have a big seafood boil down at the seaside with funky music and Bucky and Sam glancing at each other in a way that communicates mutual respect and stuff.
Final mid-credits scene: It looks like Sam came through on his pardon for Sharon Carter after all, and the One Government Official who does anything and everything on this show is now in the same room as where he un-Captain America-ed John Walker, and is now talking proudly about how Former Agent Sharon Carter is now Former-Former Agent Sharon Carter. She barely gets out of the building before calling an underling, saying that she’s back in business, and any number of American state secrets are now officially for sale. Evil music blares.
And that’s the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but surely this cliffhanger will get resolved in the upcoming fourth Captain America movie, coming to a theater near you, assuming any theaters are still open by then.