WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale, "One World, One People," now streaming on Disney+.
Season 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
is in the books
. At times, it felt like the Disney+ series was spinning more yarns than it could knit together in six episodes. But now that the finale has aired, it's clear the show knew what it was doing all along (despite some rumored pandemic-related retooling). By spending its debut run on the emotional stakes of the characters and leaving the higher-tier villains on the board, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
gave fans a perfectly calibrated first season and has them anticipating an even bigger and better second one.
Let's first look at how Episode 6, "One World, One People" resolved. The bulk of the story was about Sam and Bucky making peace with their self-doubt and their pasts so they could ascend to more prominent roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series' very first moments teased that Sam Wilson would eventually become the new Captain America. That it happened wasn't exactly a surprise, especially after last week's special delivery from Wakanda
, but it was satisfying nonetheless to see Sam get his hero's introduction. Bucky got his closure when, acting on Sam's advice, he pays a difficult visit to Yori and confesses that he, the Winter Soldier, murdered his son. The show's final title card fittingly reads "Captain America and the Winter Soldier,"
and audiences can expect the rapport these two have built will continue in future installments.
Despite the season's many twists and tangents, the Flag-Smashers plotline was the one that needed to be fully concluded. In the end, Karli Morgenthau and her followers just made too many enemies on too many fronts. Even a Super Soldier revolutionary can't fend off "the strongest governments in the world," plus the superheroes and the other villains. Karli may not have redeemed herself before she met her untimely end, but Sam did it for her with a rousing speech about the responsibility of power. He also began to set right the United States's tainted legacy regarding its treatment of Black soldiers (as much as one can in genre fiction) by restoring Isaiah Bradley
to his rightful place in history. As Sam, Bucky, their loved ones and an appreciative public celebrate on the docks, it certainly feels like a happy ending.
However, multiple threats still loom large all across the globe, and their allegiances and motivations are still largely a mystery. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine's role in the broader story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still unclear. When she appeared practically out of nowhere last week to recruit a vulnerable John Walker, she kept him and his wife purposefully in the dark and off-kilter, and she did the same this week when she joked about whether she was actually behind Barron Zemo's clever machinations. Val could be in the process of becoming a dark mirror of Nick Fury
by assembling a team like the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers, with Walker being the first of her recruits. On that same note, Walker took his first steps towards redemption in this episode, but it's far too early to assume that, in his new role as U.S. Agent, he'll reliably fight on the same side as Cap and Bucky. For a show that loves to tests the boundaries between heroes and villains, U.S. Agent will be an even more intriguing character come Season 2.
The finale also left open questions about Barron Zemo and Sharon Carter. Zemo remains imprisoned in the Raft, but his butler is still acting and assassinating on his behalf, in secret. He managed to rid the world of most of its Super Soldiers, as was his goal, all while working alongside one of them, which will only make his and Bucky's interactions that much more compelling going forward. The audience also now knows (as many viewers expected) that Sharon Carter is the Power Broker, but neither the world's governments nor its superheroes do. While it's clear it was Sharon who pulled the strings in Madripoor and set Karli up to fail, it's unclear exactly how villainous she's become. It's entirely plausible that Val, Zemo and/or Sharon Carter as the Power Broker could become Sam and Bucky's chief adversaries in future seasons, and it's just as likely their villain plots could extend to other films and series.
Now that all the character development and introductions are out of the way, Season 2 of Captain America and the Winter Soldier will get to show off the team that, just last week, Sam and Bucky insisted they weren't, with new flying colors.
Directed by Kari Skogland, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stars Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, Noah Mills, Carl Lumbly and Daniel Brühl. The entire first season is available to stream on Disney+.