Wow, wow, wow. Has it already been six weeks? Well, here we are people, it is the final episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. “One World, One People” collects the storylines that have been dropped along the way these past few weeks and brings it together to a conclusion. And did it satisfy? Ultimately, yes, it totally did. But it had a rough start, so let’s talk about that. (And yes, there will be a lot of transcribed quotes!)
I’m Captain America
The episode kicks off kind of chaotic. We jump right back into the action after Karli and her Flag Smashers broke into the GRC meeting to vote for The Patch Act. I’m sure if I was watching these episodes back to back, this might have been a smoother transition. But after a week, it was a little jarring to suddenly be thrown back into the middle of the action. Sam has put on the suit that the Wakandans have given him and is flying to Manhattan. Bucky, who is just let into random buildings despite being a civilian (the guards still call him Sergeant?), is on location at the building waiting for Sam. Behind him, Sharon shows up as backup, wearing one of those great SHIELD spy masks that we saw Natasha wearing in The Winter Soldier.
As Sam arrives in New York, Karli activates her plan. They start evacuating the council members, it’s a bit unclear what’s going on in this sequence. Why does Karli want the council members to be separated? She says later that she wants to negotiate with them or kill them, but this is the weakest part of the episode. Sam bursts in through the window of the high rise and announces himself as Captain America for the first time! And he looks fantastic in the new suit! But, he realizes that Karli is trying to force everyone out of the building and his new goal is to keep everyone there. Except, he is intercepted by Batroc.
This fight with Batroc. We gotta talk about it. It was weak. For the show, this was the least interesting fight of the season. At one point Batroc hurls a literal office chair at the vibranium shield, it’s ridiculous. Batroc as a villain, in general, is kind of a milquetoast one. I’m glad Sharon got rid of him because we don’t need that D-level villain popping up again.
I Know How It Ends
While searching the building, Bucky sees a Flag Smasher and he is offered to get on the phone with Karli.
Karli: “Aren’t you tired of fighting for the wrong side?”
Bucky: “I’ve done this before, kid. I know how it ends.”
Karli: “It doesn’t matter if I don’t survive this. I’m fighting for something bigger than myself. With all the bodies you’ve collected, have you ever been able to say the same?”
Bucky: “You don’t think I ever fought for something bigger than myself? That’s all I ever try to do. And I failed twice.”
Throughout this episode, Bucky and Sam are trying to talk down Karli, but in the end, she loses grasp on herself. She becomes the supremacist that Zemo predicted she would be. An extremist. Because this call is a distraction and as the council members are put into two trucks and a helicopter, Bucky is still trying to talk her down.
“You think your cause justifies all this death, but in the end, the nightmares won’t go away. You’re gonna remember all the ones you killed. Trust me. Don’t do this. Don’t go down this path.” Bucky does his best to try and redeem Karli, because he has walked this path before. He’s proof that you can come back. Even after being the Winter Soldier, he has recovered. He’s made it back. So can she, and she can do it with less red on her ledger.
But Karli rejects him and this forces Bucky to jump on a motorcycle and chase the two tanks driving out of the building, leaving Sharon to kill one of the Super Soldiers easily with a concoction of mercury vapor, “amongst other things.” Okay, Sharon.
The Movement is Strong Enough
At this point, it’s all about the chase. Sam takes off in the air to save a group of hostages in a helicopter while Bucky chases down the trucks. Karli decides that they will have to do what they have to do, which means that they will kill hostages if they need to. This doesn’t seem to sit well with her Flag Smashers. For Karli, who has nothing left, the movement is everything. “It doesn’t even matter if we die, the movement is strong enough to continue without us.” But the group isn’t as convinced, and when she calls out One World, she doesn’t get the same eager callback of One People.
Sam’s aerial heroics do a lot to bolster the weakness of his previous fight with Batroc. He saves an NYPD helicopter pilot, which garners the attention of the crowd. He saves the helicopter full of hostages by utilizing a new and improved Red Wing (!) and coordinating with one of the hostages who conveniently can fly a helicopter. He removes the Super Soldier and the hostage takes control of the helicopter before it crashes and everyone is saved!
On the ground, Bucky arrives just in time to stop the trucks from being driven away. Trying to divert his attention, Karli orders one of the Flag Smashers to set one of the trucks on fire. Caught between fighting and catching the Flag Smashers and saving the hostages, Bucky rushes to free the people in the truck. This is a real hero moment for Bucky. Not because he’s doing what a hero would normally do, but because he’s getting the experience firsthand of saving people and getting their thanks. He’s not normally in this position.
Before Karli can take advantage of the distraction, guess who shows up? John Walker! Damn, I did not expect to end up liking this guy but Walker had a real quick mini redemption arc this episode. All is not forgiven, but he is here to get revenge for Lemar’s death. Karli apologizes in the worst way possible, saying, “I didn’t mean to kill your friend. I don’t wanna hurt people that don’t matter.” Karli… we should have worked on your communication skills.
No one likes to hear from their best friend’s murderer that their best friend’s life didn’t matter, so this sets him off. It’s a Super Soldier fight in the streets! They are fairly evenly matched. Bucky joins the fray as well. But when Karli manages to get the upper hand on Walker, she gets away and drives the hostages from the remaining truck to the edge of the building. Walker, caught between fighting Karli and getting his revenge or saving the truck also does the right thing and drops his battered shield to try and pull the truck off of the ledge.
I Have Bigger Dreams
But, John must also defend himself from Flag Smashers and as he fights them off, the truck is left in peril again. But don’t worry! Now we have Sam here. He lifts the truck up using his wings and the propulsion in the pack. He saves the hostages in front of a group of people, one of them calling him Captain America. Down below, it’s another Super Soldier fight! Some of the action in this episode was a little boring, I enjoy a good fight with Bucky, but I’m here for the dialogue more than anything.
When Karli sees Sam in his new suit, she is thoroughly surprised and perhaps even disgusted. “You of all people bought into that bullshit?” she says, surprised.”
“I’m trying something different maybe you should do the same,” Sam replies.
But before more can happen, Batroc shoots fog into the group and everyone scatters. Sam, Bucky, and John give chase as they are thrown into a labyrinthian construction site. John and Bucky go after one group as Sam goes after Karli. Karli, hearing her Flag Smasher’s signature whistle (words I never thought I’d type) is cautiously following the sound. But, who does she meet? It’s not the fabulous Desmond Chiam, nope, it’s Sharon Carter! That’s right people, she was Power Broker all along and the last episode was a fake-out and I feel vindicated.
Sharon offers Karli a way back to her service but Karli doesn’t want to go back. “You wanted to control a world that hurt you. But I wanted to change it. I’m not interested in power or an empire. I have bigger dreams,” Karli says. In this moment, Karli is addressing a realist. Sharon isn’t someone who is interested in dreams, she understands the way of the world. And when Karli tries say, “Without us Super Soldiers, how much power does the Power Broker really have?”
It’s easy for Sharon to reply back, “More than you.” She knows how the game is played. Made more obvious as Batroc appears and reveals that he was hired by Sharon to keep an eye on the Flag Smashers. But, Batroc makes the mistake of blackmailing Sharon about her Power Broker identity and she kills him. But not before Karli shoots her in the stomach. This alerts Sam and he catches up to them to try and stop her. But, Karli is beyond reasoning at this point. She starts fighting with Sam, who is completely on the defense, not wanting to engage.
At one point she knocks him down and yells at him to stay down, only for Sam to jump up and say no. It’s just another callback to Cap and “I could do this all day.” Sam holds his shield up as Karli slams her fist down on it, trying to force him to fight back and fight her. In the end, Sam’s shield is knocked out of his hand and Karli has her hand on the gun. Will she shoot Sam? It seems very likely she will. But Sharon shoots her and she falls into Sam’s arms. Apologizing one last time before she closes her eyes.
Bucky and John have a far less dramatic capture as they use the Flag Smashers app to basically lure the rest of them to a location where the cops can arrest them. John weirdly walks in with an absurd Abraham Lincoln joke, which is kind of hilarious because of how stupid it is?
You’ve Gotta Step Up
With the action behind them, Sam arrives on the streets of Manhattan with Karli in his arms. There he meets with the members of the GRC, who thank him but also continuously call the Flag Smashers terrorists. Sam defends them, championing Karli’s cause to prevent the Patch Act from passing. (Buckle in for some transcription!) He says, “Your peacekeeping troops carrying weapons are forcing millions of people into settlements around the world, right? What do you think those people are going to call you? These lables, ‘terrorist,’ ‘refugee,’ ‘thug,’ they’re often used to get around the question, why?”
Does Sam think it’s fair that the government should support people in their settlements? Yes. That’s what a government does. It supports the people. And when the senator tells Sam he has no idea how complicated the situation is, Sam agrees. “You know what? You’re right. And that’s a good thing. We finally have a common struggle now. Think about that. For once, all the people who’ve been begging, and I mean, literally begging for you to feel how hard any given day is, now you know. How did it feel to be helpless? Now if you could remember what it was like to be helpless and face a force so powerful it could erase half the planet, you would know that you’re about to have the exact same impact. This isn’t about easy decisions, Senator.”
But the senator shoots back again, “You just don’t understand.”
“I’m a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are gonna 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 blonde hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better. We can’t demand that people step up if we don’t meet them halfway. Look, you control the banks. Shit, you can move borders! You can knock down a forest with an email, you can feed a million people with a phone call.”
“But the question is, who’s in the room with you when you’re making those decisions? Hmm? Is it the people you’re going to impact? Or is it just more people like you? I mean, this girl died trying to stop you, and no on has stopped for one second to ask why. You’ve gotta do better, Senator. You’ve gotta step up. Because if you don’t, the next Karli will. And you don’t wanna see 2.0. People believed in her cause so much that they helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. Why do you think that is? Look, you people have just as much power as an insane god, or a misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is, how are you going to use it?”
It’s impossible not to just type out that speech word for word because this is where Sam’s strength lies. It’s not necessarily in his hand-to-hand combat or how he fights with the shield or how he flies in the skies. It’s about his words and his innate ability to understand people and have the courage and hope to speak up and push for something better. As he gives his speech, there’s a distinct vibe of “The Whole World is Watching” but this time it’s not for a brutal mistake but an uplifting message, one that empowers people and forces responsibility into the hands of these people who are in power. We see shots of Sarah and Torres watching from home. We also see Isaiah and Eli watching, and Isaiah is incredibly affected by the speech, crying as he watches.
Isaiah had said in “Truth” that “They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.” But Sam is here proving him wrong, he’s here giving the world hope and the belief that they can all do better.
As Sam walks off, Bucky teases him before calling him Cap. It’s a very casual moment, but it means the world. Through this speech, Sam has proved himself to be just as much Cap as Steve was. Walker gives him a nod and leaves as well. And before Sam goes to do more Captain America work, he tells Sharon that he didn’t forget his promise. More on that in the post-credits.
Also, did you think we’d get more Super Soldier stories? Well, Zemo made sure to nip that in the bud. As the Flag Smashers get carted off to the Rack you might think for a second that they’re going to make it out as one of the guards repeats One World, One People. But within minutes of the truck driving off, it explodes.
Who is at fault? Well, it’s Zemo, of course! Even from prison, he has his butler Oeznik (Nicholas Pryor) executing his final plan. I’m calling him Sokovian Alfred from now on. From his cell, Zemo hears of the news and delivers a smirk before lying back down on his bunk and reading his next book. I’m going to choose to believe Desmond Chiam survived, because that’s what I want to be true.
Back in the states, Val (Julis Louis-Dreyfus) delivers a new suit for John Walker. “It’s the same, but black!” he remarks, after walking out in the classic comics U.S. Agent suit. Val informs him, “Things are about to get weird. So, when they do, we’re not gonna need a Captain America. We’re gonna need a U.S. Agent.” I have to say, I wanted no part of John Walker’s Captain America, but John Walker as U.S. Agent for Val? I am as excited as he is to see how that plays out.
In Brooklyn, Bucky arrives at Yori’s door to finally make amends. He reveals the truth, that he was the one who murdered Yori’s son and when Yori asks why, Bucky admits, “I didn’t have a choice.” With his list completed, he delivers the book to Dr. Raynor and thanks her for her help. Damn, she’s holding on to a collector’s item. That book was owned by Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. It belongs in a museum not in one of Raynor’s drawers! He gives one last nod to Leah as he watches her talking to Yori at their go-to sushi place before departing.
In Baltimore, Sam arrives to see a much lighter Isaiah. I loved this scene, it was also one of the first scenes between these two that wasn’t shrouded in shadow. They’re surrounded by greenery and life and potential as Isaiah admits, “I ain’t gonna lie. You’re special.” It’s a moment of healing for these two, especially for Isaiah. He tells Sam, “The fight you taking on, ain’t gonna be easy, Sam.”
To which, Sam admits, “I might fail. Shit, I might die. But, we built this country. Bled for it. I’m not gonna let anybody tell me I can’t fight for it. Not after what everybody before me went through. Including you.”
Hats off to Carl Lumbly in this episode. He’s been fantastic in every single episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but he really blew me away in “One World, One People”. From his silent reaction to Sam’s speech on TV, to this moment talking with Sam in person, he’s able to convey so much emotion in just his silent looks. Give this man more roles, Marvel! I want to see Isaiah again!
And Sam has one more surprise for Isaiah. He takes him and Eli to the museum where the Captain America exhibit is and shows him that he has restored Isaiah’s legacy, complete with a statue of young Isaiah.
Here’s a bit from the plaque behind him: “Isaiah Bradley is an American hero whose story went unknown for too long. Isaiah was one of a dozen African-American soldiers who were recruited against their will and without their consent for participation in human testing in pursuit of the Super Soldier serum. Most did not survive. The few who lived through testing were sent on secret missions during The Korean War. During the conflict, against all odds, Isaiah Bradley rescued his fellow soldiers and 28 other POWs from behind enemy lines. However, fearful of the ramifications of a Black Super Soldier, some individuals within the government tried to erase Isaiah’s story from history…”
Isaiah and Sam embrace as Sam tells him, “Now they’ll never forget what you did for this country.” I. Was. Sobbing. This scene was so cathartic after “Truth”. It’s just the beginning, but damn it feels good to see Isaiah’s statue and see him recognized.We need
Back in Louisiana, the Wilsons are celebrating. As “On and On” by Curtis Harding plays, the whole family is there to celebrate. Cap takes pictures with his fans, Bucky brings cake and lets kids hang off of his bionic arm, maybe he flirts with Sarah a bit. It’s all good times. What an amazing journey to see Bucky and Sam go from begrudging mutual friends to partners like this. The episode ends with the two of them, a little less weary, looking at a bit of a brighter future, and the end title screen of Captain America and The Winter Soldier.
Of course, there’s also that little post-credits scene where we do see Sharon finally get her full pardon from the government. Sam kept his promise and she is ready to step back into her old job. But, she’s not the Sharon she once was and the Power Broker is ready to do business now that she has all that top-secret access. Can’t wait to see where this takes her!
And that’s the end. What a wild ride. As a whole, the season had its ups and downs, with its most powerful moments being when it addressed race and privilege and how systems can fail people and how supremacy can arise. It’s amazing that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier can be so different from Wandavision and yet land with nearly equal impact. Were there as many red string theories? No. But TFATWS continues the new tradition of Marvel shows exploring deeper themes and spending more time on them to let them sink in. It’s not just about big action set pieces, there’s a priority given to the human element, and I am 100% okay with that.
Also, a Black Captain America? Damn right.