This recap contains spoilers for episode 5 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. If you haven’t yet seen it, bookmark this post and come back to it once you have.
“What’s in the boooooox?!”
We’re getting closer to the finale now and episode 5 proved to be probably the best yet, certainly my favourite. It used all of the best story elements of the series so far and brought many of them neatly to an end. There was even a cameo which, if we delve a bit more deeply into could set up a great MCU villain going forward.
The cameo, of course came in the form of Julia Louis-Dreyfus who, if you aren’t familiar with is a pretty big deal. She’s known for roles in Veep and Seinfeld and has won more Emmys and Screen Actors Guild Awards than any other performer. Her appearance in this weeks episode may have been small but you can bet that Marvel have big plans for her going forward.
Dreyfus arrives seemingly out of nowhere and introduces herself to a dejected John Walker as Countessa Valentina Allegra de Fountaine. She wants him on her team, in a kind of evil Nick Fury recruiting the Avengers kind of way. In the comics de Fountaine is a shield agent turned Hydra spy who goes by the name ‘Madame Hydra’ and the fact she’s trying to recruit Walker, its probably safe to assume she’s not here as a force for good.
Rewind a few minutes and we see the events leading up to de Fountaine’s appearance, and why it hasn’t been the best of weeks for John Walker. After fleeing the scene from the climax of episode 4 that saw Captain-Angry brutally murder Nico, we catch up with him, on the run and hiding out in an abandoned warehouse. Sam and Bucky soon catch up with Walker, ready to take him down and into custody. Obviously the most angry man in America isn’t going to come quietly, and a drawn-out fight scene follows, that is one of the best action sequences of the show so far.
The scene is full of symbolism and subtle throw backs to previous MCU battle scenes, with Sam shooting some kind of wire to capture Walker’s shield a la Peter Parker in Civil War. Sam has his wings ripped off, and Bucky ends up knocked out. Eventually the pair manage to wrestle the shield from Captain A-hole in a similar way to the Avengers trying to rip the gauntlet off Thanos in Infinity War. They succeed of course, breaking walkers arm in the process, and ending Cap’s reign of terror before it really began.
We then check in with Sam’s sidekick Torres, fans of the comics will know that after Sam Wilson becomes Captain America, its Torres who takes on the role of Falcon, so Sam letting him keep his broken wings is a nice hint at the MCU future of this character. It’s soon back to Walker, up against a military panel who inform him that he’s on his way out. Stripped of his Captain America title, and dishonourably discharged for his actions, he manages to escape court-martial. He’s not done in the MCU just yet though, he still needs a showdown with Karli, where he’ll want to avenge Lamar’s death, and of course not forgetting that he’s been head-hunted by Countessa Valentina Allegra de Fountaine. Expect to see more of John Walker in the season finale and the MCU going forward.
Meanwhile Bucky slips away and tracks down Zemo, who’s traveled back to the Sokovia memorial. Bucky proves that he’s well and truly changed when, given the chance to kill Zemo, he chooses not to. Instead he hands him over to the Dora Milajae who take him back to the Raft. Bucky seems to have made amends with Ayo, who refers to him as White Wolf again although warns him its probs best he stays away from Wakanda for a while. He does ask them one more favour though, which we’ll get back to later.
While this is going on Sam goes back to visit Isaiah Bradley, played brilliantly by Carl Lumbly, in an effort to understand his history with the super-soldier programme. If you’re not a comics reader and you plan to start reading, based on this show my advice would be to start with Robert Morales “Truth: Red, White and Black.
We here from Isaiah the full story of his experience as the first Black Captain America, it’s a heartbreaking scene that Lumbly shines in. Isaiah and a group of other black soldiers were used as guinea pigs, injected with different versions of a recreated super-soldier serum, after the original serum was lost in WW2. The group were told that they were being given a tetanus vaccination. What followed was a horrific series of inhuman tests that ended up with the group of soldiers sent into battle and almost murdered to prevent the truth from coming to light. Isaiah rescued his fellow soldiers, in exactly the same way Steve Rogers did his. Rogers of course, was held aloft as a hero for his brave actions, Isaiah was not. Instead he was thrown in jail for 30 years, experimented on, dead to the world while his wife lived, had a child and died without him. He was eventually set free by a nurse who returned to him all of the letters he’d written to his wife from prison. It’s heartbreaking, truly and really gives an insight into the internal struggle Sam has with whether or not he should accept the shield and title given to him by Steve Rogers.
“Those stars and stripes don’t mean nothing good to me,” Isaiah tells Sam when the latter tries to show him the shield. Isaiah ends the conversation by telling Sam that no self respecting Black man would ever become Captain America.
Sam heads back home to help out his sister fix the family boat, a story arc from the early part of the series is tied up here. Episode 4 saw Karli questioning why Sam was fighting her when she was fighting the people who were making his and him sisters life hard. Bucky shows up just to drop off a package to Sam, but ends up sticking around to help, which includes flirting with Sarah, much to Sam’s dismay.
Bucky and Sam have a great moment together which sees the pair tossing around the shield, Bucky accepts that he was perhaps too harsh on Sam, blaming him for giving the shield up and enabling Walker’s tenure as Captain America.
“The lacy of that shield is complicated to say the least” Sam says, while Bucky admits that Steve probably hadn’t considered what it meant for Sam, a Black man to take on the Captain America mantle. Sam offers Bucky some advice, that he needs to be of service to people and properly make amends for his past. Bucky heads off, with a promise to answer Sam’s call whenever he needs him. We’re given a montage of Sam training with the shield, which ends with Sam opening up the magical Wakandan case that Bucky gifted him, no prizes for guessing what’s contained inside.
Finally we catch up with Karli, who’s rounding up as many Flag Smashers as she can, and plans to attack the Global Repatriation Council as they vote to return refugees to their home countries. Sharon appears briefly, on the phone to someone she happened to have freed from an Algerian prison, she’s got another job for him and this time she’s paying double. It turns out (thanks to the subtitles) that she’s talking to Batroc, who then shows up to help Karli. So does this confirm Sharon as a villain? I don’t know but she seems a bit dodgy to me.
Finally, after the main credits roll, we get the first mid-credits scene of the series so far. It begins with the sound of hammer-on metal, a subtle throwback to Tony Stark? We then see John Walker inside his garage building his very own Captain America shield, Blue Peter style. He’s not going to win any prizes for his spot-welding but he does a pretty good job on the spray paint.
Overall, episode 5 is one of the best so far, in a lot of ways it felt very much live a season finale, leaning in on the best elements of the series – Isaiah Bradley, the action, John Walker – and actually taking forward the ‘next Captain America’ plot line. Tune in next week where we’re sure to see an incredible showdown between Sam, Bucky, John and Karli. We may also find out the identity of the Powerbroker, and whether or not Sharon is a villain.