CAST: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Desmond Chiam, Carl Lumbly, Danny Ramirez
RUNNING TIME: 60 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON THE FALCOLN AND THE WINTER SOLDIER (MILD SPOILERS): Sam Wilson (Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Stan) have been tracking the anti-authority group of super-soldiers known as the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau (Kellyman), with the uneasy assistance of Baron Zemo (Brühl). However, Captain American incumbent John Walker (Russell) has interfered with the investigation by injecting himself with some of the stolen super-soldier serum, and brutally murdering one of the Flag Smashers after his partner is killed in battle by Karli.
IN THIS EPISODE: John Walker faces consequences for his actions, while Sam and Bucky reach an understanding back in the US…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Even without Derek Kolstad returning as writer, the fifth – and penultimate – episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier shows that the series, after a slightly rocky start, has finally caught up with itself and become the impactful and unique Marvel Studios entry it was destined to be.
This episode – simply titled Truth – rounds up a lot of loose ends in addition to leaving some of the juicier stuff for next week’s action-packed finale, but it also gives viewers things that they’ve wanted to see with some of these characters since their formal (re)introductions, and even if it hold off on revealing its entire hand (though don’t mistake us, there’s quite a number of unexpected surprises here too; an unexpected cameo being among them), it’s a formidable and respectful culmination of the series’ themes and character arcs thus far.
Picking up almost immediately from last week’s disturbing cliffhanger, which saw new Captain America and all-around git John Walker (Wyatt Russell) straight-up murder someone with his shield in broad daylight, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) finally agree that enough is enough, and attempt to coax the shield away from Walker’s newly super-strengthened hands; this leads into a showdown that will no doubt be satisfying to anyone who first saw Walker’s grimacing face back in the first episode and wanted to punch the teeth off of him. It’s the first of many developments in this episode, including Walker’s ultimate penalty for betraying the legacy of Captain America, and whatever became of the ever-cool Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) who, during last week’s scuffle with Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, slipped away from the scene unnoticed. Central to the entire episode, though, is Sam finally starting to embrace his destiny as the new, true Captain America, which sees him confronting the dark legacy behind the super-soldier program that Steve Rogers once proudly became the face of, and also settling scores with his family and community back in his Louisiana hometown.
Sam, the Falcon of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, has proven beyond a doubt to be the beating heart of this series, having demonstrated a powerful sense of compassion and understanding as his old buddy Steve once did, which immediately makes him a far more worthy Captain America than John Walker ever could be. As he has done in each one of his prior appearances as the character, Anthony Mackie has the charm and charisma of a proper lead, and in this episode we see him take Sam to emotionally vulnerable new places where he expresses remorse and uncertainty surrounding the fact that the modern world still might not accept a black man as an international symbol. The episode confronts this issue head on, particularly during a heated conversation with former super-soldier test subject Isiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), who we learn was treated horrifically by the government for decades despite heroic services in combat, and serves as a reasonable argument for the incredibly sad fact that people’s skin colour will always determine their fate in the eyes of some, no matter how much of a hero they may be. The series has made some very strong steps towards discussing racial politics and profiling in a universe where thunder gods and talking raccoons work side by side, and it makes the MCU feel more grounded and realistic, albeit in an upsetting manner that puts one of our biggest shames on display even in a fantastical world such as this.
This is a much more chilled episode after the last couple of action-packed ones, with much of it dedicated not so much to the standard Marvel super-heroics but more just a bunch of good people working together to renovate a family boat. It is a good change of pace for those needing a break from one exciting action scene after another, though I can easily see those who have gotten sucked into all of the world-building and kinetic action of the previous Derek Kolstad-penned entries be a little caught off-guard by a return to basics. Like I mentioned, Kolstad didn’t write this episode – those honours go to Dalan Musson this time round – so it’s understandable that the series now feels different to how it had been for the last fortnight, but unlike earlier entries The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has now found its groove as a continent-spanning adventure with occasional downtime to reflect on character and story that’s been mixed with the traditional Marvel formula, and so what previously felt like it was sticking way too close to the script now feels a lot fresher and more palatable, because it now comes with its own unique voice in this ever-expanding universe.
Similar to how the first episode dedicated a lot of time to setting up the characters and their previously-unseen backstories, Truth expands upon them with the knowledge we’ve gained over the episodes since, and gives them a whole new meaning in light of events that have occurred over the last few weeks. It’s a penultimate entry that manages to ground itself in things beyond the traditional Marvel tropes, and even makes them feel new and heart-warming once more, before a finale that is bound to bring back the action spectacle for one last hour of superhero carnage – and I, for one, am anxious to see what happens next.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Episode 5 – Truth is a penultimate episode that pauses the traditional action for a return to character-based storytelling, which is a nice change of pace before next week’s busy finale, but allows itself enough time to wrap up loose ends and focus on what makes the heart of this story tick, in an admirable calm before the storm.