For the past five weeks fans of the MCU have been treated to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a series that hasn’t shied away from weaving uncomfortable topics into their episodes. While the MCU has tackled topics like genocide and mental illness in previous entries race, the treatment of military veterans and the repatriation of people have been thrust into the spotlight in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The series, for the most part has been a success in addressing these issues while delivering the MCU’s winning combination of action set pieces, drama and solid characterization. Finales usually have a hard time sticking the landing, see WandaVision’s as an example, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, with so many plot threads to resolve in just 52 minutes has a tough task ahead of it.
New York is in lockdown. Karli and the Flag Smashers have infiltrated and taken control of the GRC’s headquarters. The repatriation vote has been sabotaged and when the Falcon is spotted flying over the city, Karli executes her plan. Sam’s entrance, with his new Captain America suit and Wakandan issue wings is an early highlight of One World, One People. Another is Sharon’s appearance as she joins Bucky and Sam to take down the Flag Smashers.
With chaos inside the building Batroc, still stinging from Sam ruining his operation in Tunisia, confronts the new Captain America to settle their score. Meanwhile Sharon and Bucky unsuccessfully try to keep the building from being evacuated and Karli rounds up the leaders of the GRC as hostages. There is a lot of mayhem in One World, One People with street fights, aerial chases and John Walker’s return to action.
Walker, driven to believe that he is Cap, with or without government approval, confronts Karli and the Flag Smashers in a final showdown. Karli apologizes for Lemar’s death but it’s of little solace to Walker. Revenge and some PTSD fuels Walker and he more than holds his own against Karli and her crew.
One World, One People follows last episode’s fight first, exposition second formula. The results this week are less successful, but it has more to do with the series’ lofty ambitions than anything else. There are several themes running through The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that could have been the basis for the series itself, and their resolutions in some cases come off a bit rushed.
Karli’s desire to destroy the new old-world order has merit but the simplicity of her thinking ignores the consequences of her actions. The GRC is another bulldozer trying to reset things and it takes Sam to put things into perspective. His pleas for everyone to do better and make choices that consider the fallout on all sides is one that has been informed by his race, meeting Isaiah Bradley and battling the mad Titan Thanos.
Although Karli’s storyline is handled well, and the episode revolves around Sam, Bucky and Sharon get left out a bit. In fact, One World, One People could have used more Bucky. His arc needed more and although the parallels between he and Karli were given some time the potential for more interaction between the two was missed. Both fought for causes they believed in and in the end were wrong more than once. Bucky coming clean to Yori about murdering his son is a powerful moment that either through editing or writing needed to be longer.
Sharon’s dual role as the Power Broker doesn’t come as a surprise but there are way more questions than answers where she is concerned. She’s been moving the chess pieces all along, using Karli and her people to do her bidding in Madripoor. Batroc’s also on her payroll which calls into question just how willing she is to put Sam and Bucky in harm’s way to achieve her goals. Her pardon sets her up for increased power and influence behind the scenes and it will be interesting to find out who she’s aligned with.
One person she may be in league with is Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Her tentacles reach far and wide including out to the RAFT where Zemo is doing time. Zemo’s trusty butler wiped out the remaining Flag Smashers and de Fontaine is now John Walker’s biggest booster. Walker redeemed himself during the showdown in New York, but he’ll continue to be a pawn as U.S. Agent, this time under de Fontaine’s control.
Perhaps the most poignant moment in One World, One People occurs between Sam and Isaiah. When Bradley’s place in history is recognized in the Captain America exhibit it not only vindicated the character but also celebrated the efforts of real African American members of the military who’ve fought without recognition for a country, they loved but didn’t always love them back.
This points to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s triumph and its failure. The series was a victim of its ambition and lofty subject matter. Its format allowed the creative team to really dig deep into several sensitive topics but by exploring all that they did a few more episodes were required to expand on things. Ambition however is a good thing and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier deserves a lot of credit for going where few shows, particularly ones with super soldiers and flying superheroes, dare to tread.