'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' finale review: No surprise, it's Captain America

·6 min read

Spoiler alert! The following contains details from the series finale of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," "One World, One People."

That was it?

At the end of Marvel's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" miniseries, it's hard not to ask that question. Six episodes of meandering, slow paced stories that led fans to the conclusion they already knew by the very end of "Avengers: Endgame": The Falcon is now Captain America.

Wearing fancy new garb provided by Wakanda and wielding Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) famous shield, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) flies into the finale of "Falcon" as a new Captain America, who easily defeats the trouble-making Flag Smashers and even inspires evil government bureaucrats to reassess their values with a single inspirational speech.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) inherited Captain America's shield but doesn't accept the heroic mantle at the beginning of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) inherited Captain America's shield but doesn't accept the heroic mantle at the beginning of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

While Mackie wears his new costume and mantle well, the finale underlined the biggest problem with "Falcon" as a series: it ended up being a six-episode commercial for the new Captain America rather than a story in its own right. Everything about the series, from its lackluster villains, halfhearted attempts at Big Ideas and its messy morals, felt half-formed. Nothing seemed to matter to the writers other than the image of Falcon majestically landing with his red, white and blue wings. And while it may prepare us for exciting movies to come, it makes for a pretty disappointing TV show.

"One World, One People" kicks off with a showdown in New York as Karli (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag Smashers attack the headquarters of the Global Repatriation Council who are about to vote on resettling millions. Sam, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sharon (Emily VanCamp) are all on hand to save the day.

Sam gets distracted fighting with Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), our Frenchman from the first episode, while Bucky falls for a ploy by Karli, who calls to distract him while her minions herd the diplomats into vans and a helicopter. Sam secures the helicopter while Bucky takes off after the vans.

Anthony Mackie (left) and Sebastian Stan star as the respective title superheroes of Marvel's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" on Disney+.
Anthony Mackie (left) and Sebastian Stan star as the respective title superheroes of Marvel's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" on Disney+.

While attacking Bucky, Karli loses it entirely and orders her guys to light one of the vans on fire so Bucky will have something to rescue and stop fighting them. Bucky pulls off a miraculous save, but not before John Walker (Wyatt Russell) shows up in his Captain America uniform with a knockoff shield. John is seeking revenge for Lemar's (Clé Bennett) death. He's pounding on the super soldiers left and right, but when Karli puts the other van of hostages in danger, Walker makes the split-second decision to try to save them instead of pursuing her. He fails, but it's OK, because Captain America flies in and lifts the van out of danger, with the help of his wings and drones.

A crowd has gathered and is cheering and whooping for Sam. One bystander says "It's the Black Falcon!" and another helpfully intones, "No, it's Captain America," a near-groanworthy moment in an episode that reveled in predictability and cheese.

Karli manages to get away one last time, but she's eventually cornered by Sharon, who reveals herself to be the mysterious Power Broker of Madripoor that's been looming over the season like a villainous MacGuffin, an empty mystery with no value other than driving the plot forward. Batroc shows up and threatens to expose Sharon's identity if she doesn't pay up. Sharon shoots him, but then Karli shoots her. Sam shows up (learning nothing about Sharon's real identity) and has his final standoff with Karli, but refuses to fight her. She gets increasingly angry and is about to shoot him when Sharon comes from behind and shoots Karli first. Karli dies in Sam's arms.

More: Review: Marvel's 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' is no 'Captain America,' but it's trying to be

Sam flies back to the street with cops and paramedics carrying Karli and gracefully places her body on a waiting stretcher. When the diplomats rush over to thank him for saving their lives, he gives them a stern talking-to about resettling 20 million people and making decisions without listening to the people whose lives they are changing, and what it means to be a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. It's broadcast on TV and Isaiah (Carl Lumbly), Sarah (Adepero Oduye) and Joaquin (Danny Ramirez) are all conveniently watching.

Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) share a meal in Sam's hometown at the end of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) share a meal in Sam's hometown at the end of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

As the episode wraps up, a few loose ends are tied. Zemo's (Daniel Brühl) loyal butler kills the remaining Flag Smasher super soldiers as they're being transported to prison. John Walker gets a fancy new black suit, and new "U.S. Agent" title, courtesy of Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Bucky finally makes amends. Sam brings Isaiah to the Smithsonian Museum, where the forgotten super soldier is now a part of the Captain America exhibit. The series ends with a big family shrimp boil back in Louisiana, as Bucky plays with the kids and Sam's the hit of the party.

What does this mean for the future Marvel movies? Well, first and foremost, Sam is your new Cap. He's not quite super-powered the way Steve was, but still pretty effective with some wings and the shield. The point is underlined when the title at the end of the episode changes to "Captain America and the Winter Soldier" (not to be confused with the 2014 film, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier").

But perhaps the more significant and surprising development for future Marvel films is Sharon's big reveal. In the post-credits scene, we see the formerly dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. and CIA agent – and brief love interest for Steve Rogers – win a pardon and her old job back. But the Power Broker immediately leverages her new position for profit.

Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter on "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter on "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

The other major villain to come out of the series is Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina, who in the comics is a villain sometimes called Madame Hydra. Considering she's grooming John Walker to do her bidding, she's probably going to pop up again, with more baddies at her side.

So that's where we're left at the end of "Falcon": One new hero and a few new villains. A lot of new costumes and monikers. "Falcon" was far more about style and flash than substance. But a few good fight scenes and some bromance jokes don't add up to six hours of satisfying television. A far better introduction to Sam as Captain America would have been a series that bothered to investigate who Sam is as a person, rather than feint at what it means for a Black man – and really, the series makes it clear it could be any Black man – to be a symbol of America.

Like Marvel's first Disney+ series, "WandaVision," "Falcon" simply doesn't meet its huge potential. Here's hoping for something better from "Loki" (due June 19). But I'm not holding my breath.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Falcon and the Winter Soldier' finale recap: Woo it's Captain America