Much more so than WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has felt less like a TV show and more like a full-length film chopped into parts. With the former MCU television outing lending itself to episodic storytelling, due to its roots and influences in sitcoms of a bygone era, the past month or so of seeing Cap’s best friends take on racism and radicalization in the world have felt less satisfactory on a weekly basis.
It was always going to take longer to gel, but with the violent and shocking ending of last week’s episode, things can only begin to go forward. Walker, facing punishment for his actions, and growing increasingly worrisome as the United States’ choice of Captain America, comes into conflict yet again with the leading heroes; starting with an incredibly impressive fight scene between the three, the sequence utilizes a newly-serumed Walker, a used-to-fighting-like-this Bucky and the Falcon’s strengths in strategy and wings (finally) with effective results, a kinetic start to what is otherwise a character-based and heartfelt episode.
It is to the show’s benefit, not detriment, that it takes a breather in its penultimate outing. Whilst some is clearly set up, such as the Flag-Smasher’s last phase in their plan, and Walker’s retaliation at being dismissed by his government, it finally sets about to acknowledge and explore themes neglected in recent weeks due to globe-trotting and prison breakouts. A scene in which Sam and Bucky exchange tough love, and, in Bucky’s case, an apology, does wonders for the development of the titular heroes, enabling them to come to terms with the murky legacy of what it means to hold the shield and the guilt of past wrongdoings respectively.
Much of the duration of the episode takes place with Sam and his sister Sarah, calling in favours to fix their family’s boat (and business in the process). Sarah, minimally seen in recent episodes, is a welcome respite from the atrocities of the show’s villainous goings-on, and her brief interactions with Bucky serve up some of the episode’s funnier moments, a relief sorely lacking in the show thus far – it’s a shame this over-packed show has less room for her.
“Truth” also packs a punch in its exploration of the government’s treatment of the Black community, not only in their recent past but their present. A visit to Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), who we encountered in episode two, brings to light that the stars and stripes of the shield are not as clear-cut as one might think, but drenched in the blood of the African-American men and women that their country has treated with disdain. It is a stark reminder of the too-little changed reality we live in, and further complexifies Sam’s decision on whether or not to take up the mantle.
There are few things more powerful in today’s landscape than the image of a Black Captain America. Whilst this episode tackles Isaiah’s idea that “no self-respecting Black man” would don the red, white and blue, it takes care to present the other side of the coin; small moments in which Sam’s nephews both play with the shield and later explore the star at the center of it, make it abundantly clear what it would mean for a younger generation to see Sam in the suit. A tantalizing prospect teased right at the end of its hour-long runtime, the show, up-and-down in its execution, is finally coming together in all the right ways.