Warning: this Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 review contains spoilers. If you have not watched the Disney Plus show yet, then bookmark this page and come back when you're all caught up...
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been a strange beast. Marvel’s second Disney Plus show started with a duo of episodes intent on asking surprisingly difficult questions and delivering huge action pieces. The mid-season brought aboard Zemo, the show losing the plot somewhere along the way as the central heroes tore through Madripoor all-too-quickly and Karli Morgenthau became a villain whose intentions and methods were perhaps too at-odds with one another.
“Truth” finally slows proceedings down and delivers perhaps the best Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode to date. By centering on Sam and Bucky’s journeys, and by bringing those deeper questions of race and America’s re-written history back to the forefront, the show finds its groove and carves out its own voice within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Things kick off moments after John Walker’s deadly, bloody, and public murder, with Bucky and Sam happy to beat down on the new Captain America. During the fight, when Walker raises that shield above his head, it’s hard not to fear for our heroes’ lives. However, he’s dealt with soon enough, and the two Avengers’ Euro-trip wraps with Zemo being taken off by the Wakandans, never to return (until another spin-off series needs him).
Sam heads back to America and visits Isaiah Bradley. The super-soldier was briefly introduced earlier this season, but has been underutilized since. Now, we fully understand why the showrunners wanted to spotlight the character: Isaiah delivers some hard truths – about America, systemic racism, and re-written history – verbalizing the thoughts of many viewers who have struggled with oppression. “They will never let a Black man be Captain America," Isaiah says, a stinging statement that’s difficult to disagree with considering everything that’s happened with Sam and Walker.
However, Sam, attentively listening to Isaiah, still has hope. "The world’s different now,” he says. There’s a reason Steve Rogers saw Sam as the next Captain America: after everything that’s happened, Sam still believes that righteousness and justice will persevere, as does Sam’s sister, Sarah, played by an understated Adepero Oduye. The two Wilsons talking about their family’s legacy, and how they can’t run from the situation, brings things full circle. There’s a renewed hope in Sam, and seeing his training montage moment is moving. Yes, there’s a slightly cliche look at his nephew – a not-so-subtle nod to the next generation ready to be inspired by Sam Wilson – but it’s completely deserved. Isaiah Bradley’s past cannot be forgotten, but Sam Wilson can build a better future.
Bucky arrives on the scene a little later, dropping off presumably a Wakandan-made Captain America suit for Sam. After some light flirting, the former Winter Soldier finally comes to understand why Sam gave up the shield, and Sam imparts some sage advice on how Bucky might find peace within himself. The two characters’ scenes together, whether working on the boat or flinging the shield back and forth, give the episode real heart. That’s partly thanks to great writing, also thanks to the two actors’ chemistry finally hitting the mark, the duo being both fun and endearing. Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie struggled earlier this season, with jokes about Gandalf and how Bucky stares too much both falling flat, but now the glue has set, and spending time in their company is an absolute joy.
Having finally given these two characters room to simply talk, “Truth” grounds Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a series that has previously rushed from fight to fight and set-piece to set-piece. The episode may not feature the same high-octane action, but the meditative pace works and makes Sam’s upcoming fight with the Flag-Smashers all the more exciting.
Speaking of Karli and her motley crew, they do make an appearance here, but again, there’s no getting around the fact that her murderous intentions feel wrong, while their fight for displaced immigrants feels right. Hopefully, when this is all over, Sam can stand up against this corrupt American government and represent what the country could be.
That brings us neatly to one particular villainous American official: Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. When she appeared on screen, did I yell at the television, “What the hell is Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes doing here?” Absolutely. Am I extremely excited to see the actor play the antithesis of her Veep character, Selina Meyer, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? One hundred percent. Her appearance would no doubt have been more impactful to the wider viewership if Louis-Dreyfus’ rumored cameo in Black Widow had already been shown on the big screen, as originally intended before Coronavirus-induced delays, but having comedy royalty join the MCU shows Kevin Feige’s intent on continuing to build a story long into the future.
Now that the big cameo’s out of the way, and Sam has accepted his place as Captain America, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s endgame is in sight. Should things hold together for one more episode, the show could end on a real high, making amends for some dodgy mid-season pacing. Let’s hope the Falcon can land his ending.