After the harrowing events of last week’s episode, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier takes a break from international espionage to shine a light on our titular characters, and ask the question ‘what does it mean to be Captain America?’
It makes sense then that ‘Truth’ splits its focus onto the three potential successors to Cap’s mantle as they return to the US; Sam (Anthony Mackie), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and Walker (Wyatt Russell). All three of these characters have spent the series skirting around this question but it’s only now in the penultimate episode that we finally grapple with it.
To Walker, it’s clear being Cap feels like something he’s earned, it’s not a duty, it’s his by right, a reward for being the ‘perfect soldier’. For Bucky, it’s an ideal, the alternate identity of his best friend and the best man he ever knew. While Sam has the most complicated feelings about potentially picking up the shield.
Those feelings are all tied to his experience as an African American and the harrowing testimony of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), who returns in this episode to warn Sam that ‘they will never let a Black man be Captain America, and share what the government did to him.
It’s an incredible performance from Carl Lumbly. The tremble in his voice as he tells Sam how he was treated and erased as a person is heartbreaking, and it’s made worse when you consider that while the horrors he went through are fictional they’re not a million miles away from the experience of non-fictional African Americans during racist studies like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
I’ve criticised The Falcon And The Winter Soldier for not having the courage of its convictions when it comes to portraying the injustices the African American community face every day, so I was thrilled to see them finally get to the heart of it and have Isaiah finally say Sam’s fears aloud. That America will reject him as Cap.
It’s been the subtext of the whole show, and clearly what drove him to give away the shield. Mackie is tremendous in that moment, you can see on his face that Isaiah has told him what he’s been thinking this whole time.
What’s even better though is that while this clearly knocks Sam, he doesn’t let it take him out of the fight. By rebuilding his broken family boat (clearly a metaphor for America, thanks A Level English literature) with the help of his friends and family, Sam realises that things may be bad now but that doesn’t mean they can’t be better tomorrow.
Mackie and Stan have always had explosive chemistry and I’ve enjoyed their boisterous jibes and brotherly rivalry, but it was nice to see them finally become proper friends in this episode (technically… co-workers with a mutual friend). I’m sure we’ve not seen the end of their bickering, but they share a genuine moment of connection in this episode which will melt even the iciest of hearts.
If I had any real problems with this episode it was, strangely enough, at the end when the real plot interjected on the strange indie film that this episode became (seriously Marvel I would watch Falcon and Winter Soldier Bought A Boat) it just felt a bit jarring to go back to the Flagsmashers after such a character-driven chapter.
Obviously, I knew we’d have to get back to them eventually but if I’m honest I’ve started to find them a bit one-note and I’m not really sure what they think their plan will achieve. Still, Erin Kellyman’s been compelling enough so far as their leader and I’m confident Marvel will stick the landing next week.
Unfortunately, as well this episode saw us say goodbye to one of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s best characters, Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Outside of Sam and Bucky, no character has benefited more from this show than Zemo, who’s gone from a tragic – if slightly one-note villain – to a one-man meme factory.
This is almost entirely down to Brühl’s incredibly charismatic performance, you have to constantly remind yourself he’s a deplorable killer because he’s just so likeable even if he is slightly murderous.
As one character leaves though another joins, and while we won’t spoil anything here it’s always interesting to see Marvel tease the future of the MCU… did anyone else think ‘Justice like Lightning’?
As penultimate episodes go I thought ‘Truth’ was an interesting way to take things, I was expecting bombast and spectacle, but I got deft character work and surprising nuance. Roll on the finale next week!
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stream exclusively on Disney+ every Friday.
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