SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the first season finale of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” streaming now on Disney Plus.
The six-episode run of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has in many ways centered not on the Falcon or the Winter Soldier individually but on the legacy of Captain America and what it would mean for a Black man to take ownership of the shield and all it symbolizes. Like “WandaVision” before it, the series grappled with loss: where the former focused on individual grief following a traumatic world event, “Falcon” envisions a world in which those losses are restored en masse and subsequently explores what it means to be erased from history, in more ways than one.
The finale goes full Marvel, spending the bulk of its run time in battle mode as Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) attempt to stop Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag Smashers from capturing and possibly killing the hostages they’d taken from the Global Repatriation Council. Sam is decked out in a new winged super suit, courtesy of the Wakandans — remember that favor Bucky called in last episode? — and wields the shield with ease, now that he has finally leaned into his choice to become Captain America, complicated legacy and all.
There are the requisite tanks and helicopters and hand-to-hand combat sequences as Sam and Bucky save civilians. Explosions happen. Downtown office properties are destroyed. John Walker (Wyatt Russell) shows up with a homemade Captain America shield, looking like a cosplayer who took a wrong turn on his way to Comic-Con. Needless to say, the non-vibranium shield ultimately isn’t much good in a fight against folks infused with Super Soldier serum.
But Bucky’s bionic arm and Walker’s knockoff shield are second to Sam’s integrity as a notably non-super superhero. He may not have their super strength, but he saves the day, in full view of an eager American public.
“That’s the Black Falcon there, I tell you,” says one onlooker, an elderly Black man.
“Nah, that’s Captain America,” replies a fellow bystander.
The identity of Madripoor’s mysterious Power Broker is also revealed, and — suspicions confirmed — it’s Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). She hired Batroc the Leaper and gave Karli the serum in the hopes of asserting more power while a fugitive. How Super Soldier Karli does not survive being shot while Sharon does is unclear, but the lead Flag Smasher’s death results in Sam encouraging the world to unite in its common struggle to recover from Thanos’ Blip.
“I’m a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand?” Sam asks a GRC senator, in a speech that is broadcast across the world. “Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are going to hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it. The stares, the judgment. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet, I’m still here. No super serum, no blond hair, no blue eyes. The only I power I have is that I believe we can do better.” (That may also serve as a nod to the Marvel fans in the real world who have a hard time accepting any Cap but Chris Evans.)
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Marvel property without loose ends and open doors that lead us to the next portal of the MCU. Here are the biggest questions we have after watching the finale…
What does Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine want to do with U.S. Agent, aka John Walker? Who is she working for?
“Things are about to weird,” says Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), bestowing upon the world U.S. Agent John Walker. Last we see Walker, he is not being institutionalized for going rogue or in therapy for his anger management issues, but trying on a new suit that looks kind of like his old Captain America outfit, just in black. Val tells him to keep his phone nearby: He’s on call now.
In the comics, the Contessa is romantically linked to SHIELD director Nick Fury and has ties to Leviathan (the same group of Russian baddies introduced on screen in “Agent Carter”) as well as Sharon Carter. Also known as Madame Hydra, her espionage lineage places her in the same vein as Black Widow. Where JLD’s version of the villainess will go is likely to diverge from the comics, but will we see her pop up in “Black Widow” next?
What will happen to Zemo on The Raft? Will he remain in prison forever?
Highly unlikely, right? He’s escaped prison once before already, and given that his butler Oeznik was the one who blew up the last of the Flag Smashers who had taken the Super Soldier serum — leaving Bucky Barnes, John Walker and Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) as the last known Super Soldiers in existence — the rich Baron Zemo still has plenty of influence on the outside world, even from The Raft.
How long will it take for Val to engineer a jailbreak, and were they already working in concert? Like she said, it couldn’t have gone better for her than if she had planned it herself. Did she?
Will there be a Season 2 of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” or rather, “Captain America and the Winter Soldier”?
Certainly, there are enough questions left unanswered here to warrant a whole new season — and the series was submitted to the Emmys not in the limited series category but in regular old drama. The thrilling title card at the end of the finale that declared the show “Captain America and the Winter Soldier” points to, well, some kind of follow-up. You can’t just christen a new Cap and then not give him a new installment of the MCU, right? (UPDATE: There will indeed be a new “Captain America” movie! “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” head writer Malcolm Spellman and staff writer Dalan Musson will pen the screenplay.)
“We built this country. Bled for it,” Sam tells forgotten Super Soldier Isaiah Bradley. “I’m not gonna let anybody tell me I can’t fight for it. Not after what everybody before me went through, including you.”
In any case, Wilson will presumably have to be recognized by the U.S. government as the official new Captain America, having won the hearts and minds of the world with his caught-on-camera speech. And following a touching scene in which Sam restores Isaiah’s place in history with a statue at the Smithsonian’s Captain America exhibit, the door is now open for Isaiah’s grandson, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson) to rev up the Young Avengers storyline. (In Marvel’s Young Avengers franchise, Eli is known as Patriot.)
What will the newly reappointed Agent Carter do next, now that it’s been revealed that Sharon Carter is the Power Broker?
In the end credits, Sharon receives that pardon she was promised and is welcomed back by the U.S. government. Surprisingly, she is not giving up the hustler life, and strolls out of her hearing only to start setting up calls to sell state secrets and weapon prototypes.
What is it that she wanted to accomplish anyway, as the Power Broker? We know that she turned to the dark side and went on the run after stealing Cap’s shield back from government officials in “Captain America: Civil War.” Before shooting Karli, she offered to bring the misguided teen back into the fold, because “We can make a difference together.” Did she want to use Super Soldiers to… steal more Monets for her Hard Rock Hotel of scum and villainy? Unclear.
So, where will we see Sharon Carter again? So far, nothing in the near-term Marvel TV or film pipeline seems like quite the right fit. Not “Loki,” or the sequels to “Captain Marvel,” “Black Panther,” or “Dr. Strange.” There’s a fight sequence in the “Shang Chi” trailer that looks a little Madripoor-ish, but who’s to say? All we know is: she’s drifted a long ways from the legacy of her upstanding aunt and S.H.I.E.L.D. founder, Peggy Carter. For shame.