There have been a few memes and theories and one delightful hour-long cut of Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) dancing at the club, but there was also a bit of a struggle to connect with the overstuffed action extravaganza. It was simply not an easy task to give us a delightful buddy comedy and an exploration of the Captain America legacy and a real look at the aftermath of the Blip and commentary on racism in America and the MCU and a set up for whatever is coming next, all in just six Marvel-quality episodes.
The two titular guys (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) didn't even speak in episode one, and then episode two was a bromance-filled delight, but then episode three was a travel show with a mass murderer. Meanwhile, all along, we were forced to stomach a new, much worse version of Captain America while we sympathized with a sort of villainous, sort of heroic group of rebels.
It was just a lot, and it didn't really all come together until the very end of episode four, when budget Cap really lost it. His partner was killed, and he couldn't keep it together, using the iconic shield to bludgeon a man to death in public.
It was brutal, and it was also the moment we'd all been waiting for, not just because budget Cap sucked, but because it finally pushed Sam to do the thing he was always supposed to do: Pick up the shield!
That paved the way for what turned out to be a perfect episode five, beginning with a great fight and the permanent benching of John Walker as Captain America. It's unfortunate that we didn't get this episode until the season was almost over, but oh well! We will take what we can get, and what we got was a series of excellent scenes from the show we wanted all along.
Sam and Bucky vs. John Walker
After Walker brutally murdered a man with the shield, Sam and Bucky confronted him, ready for a fight. Walker broke Sam's wings, but Sam got the bloody shield, and Walker was taken down and taken into custody. Sam was then left to clean off the blood while Walker was publicly punished.
And while we're not here to be on the side of fake Captain America, his story suddenly became fascinating. He was a government-made super soldier defending his dead best friend and partner, which is a mission that has gotten Steve Rogers in trouble a few times, too. Steve Rogers would just never use the shield to murder a man, especially not in front of a bunch of people in broad daylight.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
As Walker was contemplating his future without any sort of rank or benefits, Julia Louis-Dreyfus suddenly appeared. She introduced herself as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine but said to call her Val (but you also don't call her Val), and made it clear that she thought Walker had made all the right choices. She whispered to him that he better answer when she calls, and informed him that the government didn't actually own the shield.
Val is actually a major character from the comics, a triple agent who sometimes goes by the name of Madam Hydra. And while it had never occurred to us to want Louis-Dreyfus in the MCU, how could anyone not be thrilled it's happening?
Bucky was about to shoot Zemo in the face for all that man has done (which, we cannot forget, is a whole lot of non-brainwashed murdering), but he actually let the bullets fall to the ground as the Dora Milaje arrived to take him to Wakanda, where he can rot in jail. Bye, you weirdo!
Sam and Bucky on a Boat
After an upsetting visit with Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), Sam headed home to help his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) save their fishing business. Bucky then showed up out of nowhere to lift some heavy things off of a truck, and it turns out a really strong guy with a metal left arm can be really helpful on a boat. It also turns out that these boys can work together when they really need to, even if neither of them actually knows a lot about boats.
Bucky Flirting With Sarah
All we want for any of the Avengers is peace and happiness, and Bucky's at the top of that list. He's 106 and he's been through a lot and he deserves love! Or at least flirting! We may really be reading into his very, very brief interactions with Sarah, but we're shipping it hard. Sorry not sorry.
Sam and Bucky played a little frisbee with the shield and some (well-protected) trees, all while giving each other some tough love, so to speak. Bucky apologized to Sam for berating him about giving up the shield in the first place, and Sam told him he needed to stop trying to "avenge" for his time as the Winter Soldier and start trying to actually help people.
By the end, the boys agreed that they aren't partners or exactly friends, but they're just a couple of guys who once had the same best friend.
Turns out one of the major things we were missing this whole time was a training montage peppered with gratuitous muscle shots. Sam provided us with that this week as he turned himself into the new, much preferred Captain America. He did some running, some punching, some pushups, some flipping, and some occasional dodging as he got used to catching the shield. Super soldier who?
Meanwhile, the Flag Smashers are up to some tricks with the big vote on what to do about all the refugees, and Walker's busy making himself a new shield, which cannot be good.
It may have taken a few too many of the precious few episodes to get us to this point, but we're very happy to be here and very excited to see what goes down in next week's finale.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.