Marvel Studios continues to deliver excellence. The series finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier thoughtfully addresses social, political, and racial issues while still being action-packed, must-see television. Sam (Anthony Mackie) accepts the mantle of Captain America while shouldering the historical burden of the black soldiers that paved his way. Bucky (Sebastian Stan) makes peace with his dark past and forges a new partnership with heroic purpose. Their friendship starts an epic new chapter in the MCU that is more inclusive and not afraid to tackle heady themes.
"One World, One People" begins with Karli (Erin Kellyman) addressing the Flag Smashers outside of the GRC meeting in New York City, "The movement is ready. They're not going to stop...not unless we make them." Her followers are seen as security guards in the meeting room, a helicopter pilot, and a SWAT officer. A news voiceover talks about the "lockdown" at the GRC headquarters. The building is surrounded by the NYPD. The GRC members mill about nervously.
"I'm almost there," says Falcon as a brief image of his wings are seen flying toward the city. Bucky walks through a line of officers as he surveys the scene. A man approaches him, then takes off an electronic mask. It's Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). She joins the radio channel with Bucky and Sam, "I thought I'd get the band back together." Karli looks up and sees Sam overhead, "He's here...do it now."
A GRC security guard puts on his Flag Smasher mask and throws a gas grenade. The GRC members run screaming out of the room before he confronts them. Suddenly, Sam throws the shield through the building's glass facade. It knocks out the Flag Smasher before bouncing back through the hole. Sam comes crashing through the window as the new Captain America. His wings collapse as he dons the shield. His suit, exactly from the comics, is a sterling red, white, and blue with a partial face mask and flight goggles.
"Who are you?" another guard asks. "I am Captain America," Sam responds with authority. Sharon notices that no one is "coming in." Sam realizes that Karli wants "to force everyone out of the building." He tries to warn the guard to "keep everyone inside." But is kicked down by Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), "You cost me a lot of money. I wonder how much I can get for your new bird costume. The robes don't make the monk."
Batroc and Sam fight in the meeting room. On the ground floor, Bucky points out the Flag Smasher disguised as a SWAT officer to Sharon. Meanwhile, security ignores Sam's orders and evacuates the GRC council. They seperate the members. Some head for the roof to a helicopter, while the others go downstairs to the garage. The SWAT officer follows the stairwell group with Sharon close behind him.
Karli calls one of her followers, who then hands the phone to Bucky. "Aren't you tired of fighting for the wrong side Mr. Barnes?" Karli implores. Bucky warns her, he knows "how this will end." Karli doesn't care if she dies. She accuses Bucky of "not fighting for something bigger." "That's all I've ever tried to do...and I've failed twice," says Bucky.
The GRC members reach the garage. They are herded into two armored transports. The fake SWAT officer guides them in, and then affixes a device to both doors that lock them. Sharon sees this. Meanwhile in the meeting room, Batroc and Sam are in a vicious brawl. Batroc unleashes a flurry of powerful kicks.
The transports leave the building garage. Bucky warns Karli, "The nightmares won't go away. You will remember the ones you killed." Karli recommends he "sit this one out" and "thanks him for taking her call." Bucky realizes it was a diversion. He races to the garage and jumps on a motorcycle. "Seriously, you only had one job," Sharon chastises. "Worry about your guy," replies Bucky as he takes off.
Sharon "accidentally" bumps into the SWAT officer. She places a device inside his vest, then walks away. He gets in a van to leave, but crashes as the inside explodes with green smoke. "That's one down," smirks Sharon as the Flag Smasher's face is melted by "mercury vapor". Sam and Batroc are still dueling as the remaining GRC members reach the roof. They are led into the chopper with the Flag Smasher pilot. "You better speed things up Sam," radios Sharon as she watches the chopper fly away.
Sam has had enough of Batroc. He knocks him down with a wicked combo. Then throws the shield, which Batroc deflects. He throws it again, but Batroc kicks a chair into the air to stop it. As they fight, Sam kicks up the shield into Batroc's face. He then activates his jetpack and slams Batroc tumbling back. "Au Revoir!" Sams sails the shield through the window. Then leaps outside to catch it, before turning on his jetpack to pursue the GRC chopper.
The GRC members scream as the chopper dives towards the water. Sam catches up, his wings piercing the river. He latches unto the chopper, but the pilot hits him with a barrage from a submachine gun. Sam is clipped by the blades, but recovers quickly. "Redwing, see if anyone in there has flight training," the drone launches and scans the faces of the GRC captives. It identifies a woman, and then latches back on to Sam's back. The pilot continues to shoot at Sam.
Karli meets the remaining Flag Smashers at an excavated construction site. She refuses to give up, "Worst case scenario...we kill the hostages." The others are stunned. The plan was to kidnap them and "stop that vote." "Either way our message gets out to the world...it doesn't matter if we die," states Karli. Her followers are disturbed, but resolved to go down fighting. "One world," screams Karli. "One people," they quietly respond.
Sam chases the chopper between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. It clips an NYPD chopper that spins out of control. Sam launches Redwing. The drone uses a grapple to pull out a pilot. Sam grabs the other. He lands with him on the Manhattan bridge as the NYPD chopper crashes towards them. Sam envelopes the pilot with the Vibranium wings and shield in a cocoon. The armor deflects the debris into the water. The watching crowd cheers as Sam soars back to the chase.
On the ground, the Flag Smashers block the road at the construction site. They yank the drivers from the transports. Karli gets in to drive, but sees Bucky charging towards them. Bucky stands on the motorcycle and hits the barricade at full speed. He's sent hurtling into a Flag Smasher. Karli dons her mask and gets out to help, "We need a diversion. Give him someone to rescue." They rip the gas tank off the bike, pour its fuel over a transport, and set it on fire. Bucky kicks away his adversary and races to help. He pounds away at the device locking the back door.
"Morgenthau!" Karli turns around to see John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and his homemade shield advancing towards them. "I didn't mean to kill your friend. I don't want to hurt people who don't matter," she says. Walker is enraged, "You don't think Lamar's life mattered?" He throws his shield, but she kicks it away easily. Walker takes on all of the remaining Flag Smashers.
Bucky smashes the locking device, and then with all of his strength, uses his robotic arm to force open the door. The GRC members thank him for rescuing them. Meanwhile, Walker is down and being stomped by the Flag Smashers. He sees his Medals of Honor on the back of his shield. Bucky joins the fray to even the odds. Karli pulls a parking meter out of the ground to attack him. Bucky swings a chain to knock her down, but is kicked off the road and falls into the construction site.
Bucky nails the classic superhero landing. But he's followed by a Flag Smasher who comes crashing down with a metal beam. Bucky blocks it with his Vibranium arm. Over the river, Sam dodges bullets and sends a text message to the GRC woman, "Put on your earbuds. A little birdie told me you know how to fly a helicopter." Suddenly, the pilot banks sharply and clips Sam again. He goes smashing into a freighter that sends concrete pipes tumbling into the water. Sam's initially pulled under. But comes rocketing out of the river, "Boy...you just earned this ass whooping!"
Sam radios the GRC woman. He instructs her to "count down from five, and grab the controls." She counts down. At "two", Sam takes the shield, flips it spectacularly towards the chopper. It smashes the door opposite the pilot. Sam then catches it back, before hitting the opening like a missile. He tears through the cockpit and yanks out the pilot, dropping him in the river. The GRC woman climbs to the front and takes control of the chopper.
At the construction site, Walker targets Karli. He brutally attacks her. She grabs the scaffolding and swivel kicks him in the face. Karli races back to the remaining transport. She drives it off the road's edge into the construction pit, but the vehicle gets caught on the metal framework. Bucky knocks out the beam swinging Flag Smasher, then looks up to see the transport teetering.
A crowd has gathered, along with Sharon to watch the action. The transport is about to fall. John Walker sees Karli, but does the right thing in his moment of truth. He tosses the crumpled shield away and tries to pull the transport back. Karli and the remaining Flag Smashers drag him down. They all fall into the pit beside Bucky.
The transport careens precariously. The shield is then seen as Sam comes to the rescue. Using his jetpack and two mini-drones, he pushes the transport back to safety. The crowd cheers at Sam's heroics. "That's the Black Falcon," says an older gentleman. "Naw...that's Captain America," another bystander corrects him. Redwing's laser cuts off the locking device. The last GRC members are freed.
In the pit, Karli hurls a metal pole at Bucky. He catches it effortlessly. As the four Flag Smashers advance, they are all knocked over by the ricocheting shield. Sam lands and confronts Karli. She's stunned by the new uniform, "You of all people bought into that bullsh*t!" "I'm trying something different. Maybe you should do the same," Sam claps back. Suddenly, the entire pit is shrouded in smoke grenades. Launched by Batroc from above.
Sam, Bucky, and Walker regroup. Sam can see the Flag Smashers fleeing with his FLIR goggles. Karli separates from the others. Bucky radios Sharon their position in the tunnels. Sam can see they've split up. He sends Bucky and Walker after the others, then pursues Karli.
Karli hears a whistling call. She runs toward it with her gun drawn. Karli is confronted by Sharon and her gun. The pair face off. "I'm disappointed in you," says Karli. "That's what I was going to say," Sharon puts her gun away. "When you came to Madripoor, you reminded me of a young me. I took you in, gave you an opportunity, and you betrayed me."
Sharon begs Karli to come back and work for her. "You just want your muscle back. Without super soldiers...how much power does the Power Broker have?" reasons Karli. Batroc enters the scene and looks at Sharon, "So you are the Power Broker?" He demands "four times the payment" Sharon promised, or he'll give up her secret. Karli is livid, "You hired Batroc to spy on me?" Batroc pulls his gun and points it at Karli. "I don't do blackmail," Sharon says before killing Batroc.
Karli shoots Sharon in the side. She stands over the injured Power Broker, but Sam arrives. Karli warns Sam to "stay back." She's about to shoot Sharon when Sam rockets into her. Karli throws a cinder block at Sam, who smashes it with the shield. He refuses to fight Karli. She charges him screaming. "I'm not going to fight you," says Sam as he continues to deflect her blows. His wings jam into the ground as traction against Karli's assault.
Sam flips backwards as Karli hits him with a pipe. "Stay down!" yells Karli, but Sam will not fight back. Outside on the street, the last three Flag Smashers are following instructions on their app to escape. "Mercy bears richer fruit than swift justice," Walker quotes Abraham Lincoln as he and Bucky intercept them. The Flag Smashers are then surrounded by heavily armed cops. "It's a great app," says Bucky as they are taken into custody.
Karli continues to pummel away at Sam, "Fight back. Fight me!" She's finally able to knock the shield away. Sam stumbles up. Karli points her gun at him. She resolves to shoot, but is then shot three times by Sharon. Sam cradles the dying Karli. "I'm sorry," she whispers as her body goes limp in Sam's arms. Sam looks at the wounded Sharon questioningly.
Sam flies Karli's corpse back to the street. His wings look angelic as he lands. The crowd, police, GRC, Bucky, and Walker watch as he puts her body on a gurney. "What will happen to the Flag Smashers", "when did the government make you Captain America", "are you Captain Falcon?" reporters yell from the sidelines. The GRC thanks Sam for "dealing with those terrorists."
Sam asks the GRC if they still plan to resettle the borders. The GRC members confirm they will. Sam launches into an impassioned speech. "You have to stop calling them terrorists. Your peacekeeping troops, carrying weapons, are forcing millions of people out of settlements around the world. What do you think they call you?" "You just don't understand," a condescending senator responds. Sam's had enough, "Know you understand how it feels to be helpless."
"I am a black man carrying the stars and stripes. Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are going to hate me for it," preaches Sam. As he's broadcast around the world on television, Isaiah Bradley and his grandson watch. "There's nothing I can do to change that, no super serum, no blonde hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is the belief that we can do better." Sam confronts the GRC, "You control banks, can move borders, knock down a forest with an email, you can feed a million people with a phone call." Torres (Danny Ramirez) watches Sam with admiration from his computer, Sarah (Adepero Oduye) from her living room. Walker and Bucky are also entranced on the scene.
"The question is, who are the people in the room with you when you make those decisions? Is it the people you are going to impact? Or just more like you? This girl died trying to stop you. And no one asked for one second why. You've got to do better. You have to step up. Because if you don't, the next Karli will. And you don't want to see 2.0. People believed in her cause so much. They helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. You people have just as much power as an insane god or misguided teenager. How are you going to use it?"
Sam walks away from the GRC. He gets a nod of approval from John Walker. "Sorry...I was texting...all I heard was black guy and stars and stripes," jokes Bucky. Sam laughs as they check in on Sharon. She refuses to go to a hospital, then apologizes "for how things ended down there." Sam did not forget "his promise" of her pardon. An officer approaches Sam, they need help retrieving the injured Flag Smasher from the river. Sam soars into the air as Captain America to the rescue.
The Flag Smashers are rounded up and put into a transport vehicle by the police. A cop whispers, "One world, one people." The Flag Smashers smirk as they're loaded on. The smiles are short-lived as the vehicle explodes in a huge fireball. Zemo's butler, Oeznik (Nicholas Pryor) watches from his car after triggering the bomb. At the Raft Maximum Security prison, Zemo (Daniel Brühl) hears a radio news update of the Flag Smashers demise. He lays down in his cell with satisfaction.
Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) listens to the same news broadcast from the senate hearing room. It ends with an update that the GRC has voted down the Patch Act and its resettlement effort. "Walker...check your phone...looks like our friend Zemo got the last laugh." Val casually implies to Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss) she may have been involved. Walker emerges in a new black, white, and red suit. Val taps his shoulder, "Things are about to get weird. When they do...we're not going to need a Captain America. We're going to need a US Agent."
Bucky walks down the hall to Yori's (Ken Takemoto) apartment. He sits the old man down and sadly tells him the truth about his son, "He was murdered by the Winter Soldier. That was me. I didn't have a choice." Yori breaks down at this revelation. The next day, Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino) finds a gift bag from Bucky in her office. It contains Steve's notebook and Bucky's list of amends with the names crossed off. A note thanks her for her help. Bucky watches Yori eat with Leah (Miki Ishikawa) at the Japanese restaurant. He walks away with his Winter Soldier burdens lifted.
Sam stops by the house of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). As he gardens, Isaiah congratulates Sam on getting the GRC to stand down, "I ain't gonna lie. You're special, but you ain't no Malcolm, Martin, or Mandela. Sam laughs, "I know what I have to do." He acknowledges that he is now Captain America, "I might fail. Sh*t, I might die. We built this country. Bled for it. I'm not going to let anyone tell me I can't fight for it." Sam takes Isaiah and his grandson to the Smithsonian. At the Captain America exhibit, a new statue honors Isaiah Bradley and his sacrifice for America. Bradley weeps and embraces Sam.
Curtis Harding's "On and On" plays to a joyous montage. Back in Louisiana at the docks, a huge party celebrates Sam. Friends, neighbors, and fans line up to take selfies with Captain America. Bucky comes dancing in with a cake. He talks to Sarah as her sons and their friends all hang off Bucky's metal arm. Sam looks wistfully at the water. Bucky joins him. Sam puts his hand over his friend's shoulder as they walk back to the party.
A new title is revealed...Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
In a mid-credits scene. A senate committee grants a full pardon to Sharon Carter. She tears up thankfully as she's reinstated as Agent 13. Sharon walks out of the room with a devilish smile. Outside with the flag waving in the background, the Power Broker makes a phone call, "Start lining up our buyers. Super soldiers are off the menu. We're about to have full access to government secrets, prototype weapons, you name it. Should be something for everyone."
No one saw Sharon Carter's turn as the Power Broker coming. She's going to be a great sleeper villain. Val is definitely setting up John Walker and Baron Zemo for the Thunderbolts. They'll be an MCU version of The Suicide Squad. It's kind of obvious that the GRC's virus storyline was cut from the series. All of the scenes with the Flag Smashers stealing vaccines and Moma Donya's storyline became sort of pointless. Chalk another casualty to the coronavirus.
Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Wyatt Russell were brilliant here. Their character arcs were given a lot of depth over the six episode run. The new Captain America suit looks fantastic. The showrunners were wise to take it directly from the comics. I also enjoyed seeing Sam use the shield, his drones, and wings. The action scenes were innovative and had incredible visual effects. These characters are bankable for a bright future, whether its Captain America Four or a continuation of this storyline. We're just getting started with Captain America and the Winter Soldier.