The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 6 – One World, One People Review
And so, with ONE WORLD, ONE PEOPLE, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER reaches its own endgame. And while it’s a suitably action-packed one, it’s also an almost entirely predictable one. There’s satisfaction and entertainment in its denouement, of course, but there’s also a lingering sense of anti-climax as it makes much of the preceding five episodes superfluous to the story it wanted to tell and the beats it needed to hit.
The plot of the episode itself isn’t particularly complicated: with the Flag Smashers’ plans in full swing, Bucky and Sam head to New York to intervene although they’re not the only ones being drawn towards this final showdown. Unfortunately, it’s the weight of the baggage the series has picked up along the way that weighs things down not all of which it manages to stow safely in the overhead lockers before bringing the series in for its landing.
At its core, the series has been about Sam’s personal journey to come to terms with being handed the shield by Steve Rogers. Along the way, he’s had to learn some difficult lessons about its history and legacy as well as having to defend and redefine what it stands for and what it could stand for. THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, in a way, sought to deconstruct the psyche of Steve Rogers into its component parts and Sam emerged as the Ego, to Bucky’s Superego and John Walker’s Id. It’s a shame, in a way, that there wasn’t more animus between Walker and Wilson especially as one succeeded the other to the title of Captain America but it would have introduced another distraction into Sam’s already packed itinerary. It’s through Sam, too, that the series addresses its principle theme which is what it means to be a black man in modern-day America and, furthermore, what it means for that black man to take on the mantle of embodying a divided country which simultaneously reveres and reviles him. It’s a stronger through-line for the series to not make this about Walker vs Wilson but instead about Wilson vs the shameful history of the super-soldier programme and, in particular, its treatment of Isaiah Bradley.
Alongside this, Bucky Barnes has had to be satisfied to play somewhat second fiddle, needling and cajoling Sam where necessary towards his destiny and, when time allowed, working on his own imperative of reconciliation and reparations for his past misdeeds. In that, there’s a thematic echo of Sam’s contemplation of the Super Soldier programme but the two arcs never manage to feel aligned or even parallel because there’s so much else going on.
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER would have worked perfectly well if it told the story of the super-soldier programme and the shield, keeping the drama to the trinity of Wilson, Walker and Barnes and in some ways the ongoing storyline of the Flag Smashers and the Global Repatriation Council is the series’ biggest missteps. Neither side of that particular conflict has been particularly well articulated by the series, to the point where even in the final moments of the storyline playing out, both sides are still trying to explain what the actual problem is. The issue is brought to a glaring point during Sam’s affecting (and subtle-as-a-vibranium-shield-to-the-face) speech just after the middle of ONE WORLD, ONE PEOPLE.
While Sam eloquently makes some salient points, Alphie Hyorth’s Senator bluntly interrupts, reminding him that “it’s a complex issue”. And therein lies the problem for the series. The Blip and the events which followed pose monumental social, political and economic implications and, so far, MCU properties tend to have sidestepped that whole affair altogether or nodded to it in a mostly humorous or small-scale personal way. THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER jumped into it with both feet but then never took the time to properly explore or express what it was like when half the world’s population returned five years after disappearing during which the rest of the world had inevitably moved on with their lives. It’s too much for one six-episode series to do justice to if it was its sole focus, and certainly too meaty a theme to tackle alongside the already in-play issue of systemic racial prejudice as a part of the American identity. The post-Blip chaos might have given the series a second layer of topicality due to the events driven by the global pandemic. After all, what has COVID-19 underlined if not for the fact we’re all ONE WORLD, ONE PEOPLE and how very far away we are from acknowledging and embracing that fact? The Flag Smashers/ GRC conflict ends up asking way more questions than it answered and while the plan might be to pick up on these threads in later Disney+ series, I’m not sure that can of worms is ever going to be worth opening, let alone be closed satisfactorily.
It’s emblematic of a series that took the most circuitous route to tell the most straightforward linear story imaginable, breaking the MCU’s habit of subverting expectations by avoiding directly adapting comic stories. There’s not a single character at the end of ONE WORLD, ONE PEOPLE that isn’t in the place you would have expected them to be by the end. Sam Wilson is Captain America, John Walker is USAgent, and Bucky Barnes is not The Winter Soldier anymore. The reveal of Sharon Carter as The Power Broker was somehow the most surprising and least surprising twist of the entire show. Unsurprising because of course she was given there was nobody else it could be by the end but surprising nonetheless because not a single story beat on screen supports the idea and, indeed, a few directly contradict it. One can only imagine Peggy Carter is spinning like a gyroscope in her grave at her niece taking a heel turn after helping to bring down Hydra.
Perhaps – like IRON MAN 2, THOR: THE DARK WORLD and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER will be retrospectively enhanced by what follows as it becomes clearer how it set the stage for the rest of Phase 4, which would be fitting as it’s in the company of those that the series most comfortably resides.