The most surprising thing about the ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ finale

The final episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is finally available on Disney+, bringing us to the conclusion we’ve been expecting even before the first episode hit the streaming service in mid-March. Spoiler alert, but not really since everyone knew it was coming: Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is the new Captain America. The show explored Sam’s doubts about accepting the iconic role and showed us the kind of damage that the wrong kind of Captain America can do to the US and to the world. That itself was one of the factors that convinced Sam to accept the role and take on the responsibility that Steve gave him, without actually stopping to ask whether or not his friend wanted it.

In other words, Sam becoming Captain America in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale isn’t really a spoiler. It’s something we all expected from the TV series. But now that I’ve seen the finale, I’ll have to contradict Kevin Feige, Marvel’s driving force behind the MCU’s massive success. As Feige said, Disney+ shows might not be mandatory watching to understand the bigger storyline that is unfolding. We could see the Falcon with Captain America’s shield in one of his hands, flying to save the day, and we know it’s the new Captain America coming to the rescue. But I think Feige is wrong — this show is mandatory. You absolutely must watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier before you see the new Captain America in any other Marvel adventure.

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Some Marvel fans were disappointed that much of the speculation and theories about WandaVision’s final episodes did not pan out. That’s when I reminded you of this Feige quote explaining that Marvel is making the TV shows with the idea in mind that anyone can enjoy the movies without seeing any of the Disney+ series:

So there were lots of conversations with Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron, and the entire Doctor Strange team. That this movie needs to work for people who watched WandaVision, but more importantly, needs to work for people who didn’t, who maybe Endgame was the last time they saw Wanda, or one of the earlier movies. Or maybe she’s a character they’re meeting for the first time.

What that means is nothing major can happen in the TV series. We won’t get any significant superhero or villain reveals, nor will we see significant storyline developments. Falcon falls into that category. As I said before, you’ll be able to watch any future Avengers crossover that involves the new Captain America without knowing how Sam ended up wielding the shield.

Now that I have seen the Falcon and the Winter Soldier finale, however, I’m firmly convinced that you should see this Captain America story before any other Marvel movie starring Mackie.

Anthony Mackie as Falcon in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Image source: Disney

We already had a great Captain America origin story in The First Avenger, where we got to meet the man Steve was before and after he became Captain America. Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the new Captain America origin story and an origin story that Mackie’s Falcon never really got in any of the movies. And episode 6 is the culmination of that origin story.

If there’s just one episode in the TV show to watch, it’s the finale: One World, One People — although you really should see all six episodes to understand how Sam came to accept the role of Captain America, realizing that he is the one who should continue the job Steve started.

The finale delivers the kind of fantastic action sequences you expect from Marvel, especially in flicks that feature Captain America. Without spoiling any of it, I can tell you the episode also brings us an awesome new Captain America costume that includes the new Falcon wingsuit from Wakanda. If you thought Steve’s handling of the shield was terrific, then wait and see what Sam does with a combination of sophisticated wings and a vibranium shield. He might not have the super serum running through his veins, but Sam more than makes up for it with his tenacity and wit. It’s an entirely new style of fighting to go with that uniform, yet it still feels familiar.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Image source: Disney

It’s not just the action scenes that make episode 6 mandatory viewing. It’s also the way Sam conducts himself during those conflicts and afterward. It’s the speech he gives at the end of the fight that will remind us of who Captain America is supposed to be. It’s that speech that convinces everyone that Rogers was right; Sam is indeed the right guy for the job. He is the Avenger best suited to take on the Cap role. And if Rogers was right about Sam, he was right about Bucky (Sebastian Stan) — that will make sense if you see the whole show.

Finally, but just as important, are the race and social issues that come to light in this TV series. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t just about the amazing battle scenes, the clever cameos, and the great anti-heroes/villains we got to meet. The show addresses topical social and racial issues that will also feel familiar. That speech Sam gives at the end of this episode’s main battle makes it clear, yet again, why Sam didn’t want to be the new Cap at first. But he did it nonetheless, despite knowing that people will have a hard time accepting a black Captain America.

With all of that in mind, I think that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is mandatory viewing, even though Feige & Co. created these first-gen MCU TV shows as complementary stories. It’s a remarkable, action-packed Captain America origin story that also touches on the social issues we’re dealing with in real life. Experiencing Sam’s Captain America in future Avengers team-ups without seeing the TV show would do the character’s arc a great disservice.

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