An epic battle, a history lesson, a passing of the shield in Falcon and Winter Soldier Ep5

This is a spoiler-free review, with Spoilers & Theories for those who wish to scroll down far enough. Episode 5 (of 6) focuses on two characters, and they aren’t the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Other than a very satisfying fight scene with the disgraced John Walker, our title guys are pretty much relegated to being observers/listeners this time around. The showdown with the remaining FlagSmasher super soldiers will have to wait, while the full “Truth” comes out about Isaiah Bradley, and we watch the downfall of the new Captain America.

The fight we've all been waiting for

As first told in the Marvel Comics mini-series TRUTH in 2003, Isaiah Bradley was a black U.S. soldier that was experimented on with early versions of the Super Soldier serum, before it was given to Steve Rogers. The story was inspired by the real-life, infamous Tuskeegee Study (1932-1972), where poor black men were experimented on with syphilis strains and left untreated to study the effects.

Bradley was depicted on TRUTH covers as being the Black Captain America. His story on F&WS is similar, but told in an even more tragic way, if that’s even possible. We get to learn more when Sam decides to give Cap’s shield to Bradley. What Sam gets from Bradley is a blunt refusal, more details about his abuse, torture, and imprisonment by the government. He also gets a warning about how the world will never accept a black man carrying that shield, and how no black man should ever feel right carrying it anyway. Is it really a warning? Or is it a dare?

Meanwhile, John Walker is immediately punished for his brutal murder of a FlagSmasher Super Soldier in Europe. He is stripped of his Captain America title, and dishonorably discharged with no benefits. He is angry, bitter, and unstable, much like his character in the comics. His situation and attitude attracts the attention of the leader of a criminal organization who tempts him to come to the dark side. See more in Spoilers & Theories.

Baron Zemo’s storyline comes to an end, as the Dora Milaje swoop in to collect him. It seems he will not be going back to prison, but to the Raft, a prison built to hold superhumans and super-dangerous criminals.

Sam and Bucky spend lots of time helping his sister crowdfund and repair the family fishing boat, while spending their downtime playing catch with the shield. With Bucky’s help, Sam and the shield become one pretty quickly, leading us to think he wouldn’t be honing his skills if he weren’t intending to keep it, even though the government wants it back. A surprise gift from Bucky (via the Wakanda tech labs, no doubt, since he asked the Dora Milaje for a favor) is teased in the final scene only makes us think Sam is closer to taking up the shield for real, as he did in the comics.

A credits scene echoes Tony Stark, striking hammer to anvil, bending steel. But in this scene, it’s John Walker making something for his next career move.

One episode remains in this first season of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Watch the season finale of Falcon & Winter Soldier, airing next Friday, April 23 on Disney+

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Is Sharon Carter the Power Broker? It’s still looking this way, since she broke Batroc out of prison to do something for her. In this episode, we see him delivering tech to the FlagSmashers. What the hell? It makes no sense, so I am assuming Sharon-as-Power-Broker is a red herring.

“Call me Val.”

Madame Hydra is in the house. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was scheduled to first appear as a Marvel villain in the Black Widow movie, but since that movie has been much-delayed, her character is appearing first in F&WS. She introduces herself as Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The character has deep comics origins, first appearing in S.H.I.E.L.D. comics with Nick Fury in 1967. Initially, Val was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Fury's GF, but much later she killed Madame Hydra and assumed her evil role along with her green wardrobe and hairstyle. On tv, a version of Madame Hydra appeared in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but was not the Countess.

So, it appears that the Countess is recruiting powered individuals like John Walker to either rebuild Hydra, or perhaps another criminal org in the MCU known as Leviathan.

John Walker building his own shield. The credits scene leads us to believe that Walker is seriously considering taking Madame Hydra up on her offer.

What’s in the case Sam opens at the end of the episode? Since Sam’s wings were destroyed in his battle with John Walker, Bucky asks the Dora Milaje for a favor. Bets are that a new, patriotic Falcon suit is in that case, to match Cap’s shield.

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