Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) make a drastic move in the intense penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. “Truth” begins with John Walker (Wyatt Russell) running into an abandoned warehouse. He rages out loud, and then falls to his knees in grief remembering Lamar Hoskins (Clé Bennett). Walker steels himself and stands up, “Time to go to work.”
He’s confronted by the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. “I killed him because I had to…he killed Lamar!” Walker screams. Bucky corrects his lie, “Don’t go down this road…it doesn’t end well.” Sam “doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Blood drips down the side of the shield. “You got to give me the shield,” Sam asks gently. Walker looks at them sternly, “So that’s what this is…you don’t want to do this.” Bucky meets his fierce gaze, “Yes, we do.”
Both men rush John Walker. He deflects them with the shield, and throws Bucky down. Sam activates his rocket and pushes Walker back. Walker kicks Sam away. Bucky brutally pounds the shield with his metal arm. He punches through an iron beam like tin foil. Walker deflects, sweep kicks Sam, and hurls the shield into Bucky; who goes flying back. Walker charges Bucky, “Why are you making me do this!”
John Walker throws Bucky against a pillar. Bucky is knocked out with his metal arm pulsating electricity. Sam swoops unto Walker, “This isn’t you John!” “We could have been a team,” Walker quietly responds. Sam flies toward Walker and hooks him with a cable. He pulls Walker along the ground until yanked down. The shield falls. Sam and Walker race towards it.
John Walker holds Sam down with his super strength. He tears off his helmet, “I am Captain America!” Sam tries to jetpack blast away, but Walker tears the Falcon wings off. Walker grabs the shield to hit Sam, but is knocked off his feet by Bucky. They punch each other viciously. Sam rushes to Walker and grabs his arm holding the shield. Bucky plants himself, then holds Walker steady. Sam activates the jetpack, the force SNAPS Walker’s arm like a twig. Sam pulls the shield off.
“It’s mine!” screams Walker as he struggles with his arm. Bucky punches him repeatedly in the face. Then lifts Walker in the air. Sam fires the jetpack and smashes Walker with the shield. All three men fall to the ground. Walker lays unconscious. Bucky picks up the bloody shield. He drops it beside Sam, then walks away. Sam struggles to stand. He tries to wipe the blood off the shield.
At the Latvian GRC refugee center, cops arrest the civilian supporters of the Flag Smashers. Karli (Erin Kellyman) and her team have vanished. Torres (Danny Ramirez) enters and Bucky leaves. “Are you off to take care of Zemo?” asks Sam. Bucky exits without a word. Torres tells Sam that “Captain America killing a foreign national in public” has caused an “international incident.” The US government “has taken jurisdiction.”
Torres looks at the broken pieces of the Falcon’s wings. There is “nothing they can do” with “Karli a ghost” and the police “cordoning off the camp.” Sam is desperate to find her, but Torres reminds him she’s deep underground, “All we can do is just chill. Sometimes there’s nothing to do until there’s something to do.” Sam takes the shield. “You forgot the wings,” says Torres. “Keep them,” Sam replies as he walks away.
In Washington DC, John Walker is booed as he enters a congressional hearing with his wife, Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss). He stands before a senate committee in military dress with his arm in a sling. “John Walker, it is the order of this council that you will no longer act in any capacity as a representative of the United States government or its military. You are stripped of the title of Captain America, effective immediately.”
John Walker tries to plead his case, but is not heard. This “is not a negotiation.” Walker bangs his fist on the podium in anger. He lived his life by “your mandates” and has been betrayed. The committee gives him “an other than honorable discharge”, strips his rank, and cancels his benefits. “You built me…I am Captain America,” whispers Walker. “Not anymore,” a senator replies coldly. Walker turns around and walks out of the hearing in disgust. The committee demands he return the shield “with expedience.”
John Walker and Olivia sit outside the hearing. “They don’t know what it takes to be Captain America,” Walker mutters. Olivia reminds him that he must speak to Lamar’s parents first. They hear heels clicking towards them. A black-haired with a purple tinge woman takes off her sunglasses, “Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine…I don’t like to repeat myself…you can just call me Val…but don’t call me Val. Just keep that in your head.”
Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) nudges herself between Walker and his wife. She commends him for killing the Flag Smasher, “You did the right thing taking the serum.” “Who are you?” asks Olivia. Val flippantly hands her a card and continues, “You have become very valuable to certain people. It’s the second best choice you ever made.” The “first best choice”, apart from marrying your wife, “picking up the phone when I call.” Val knows he doesn’t have the shield. She tells him, “It doesn’t belong to the government. It’s a legal grey area. I’ll be in touch.” Val leaves as smoothly as she entered the scene. John and Olivia look at her business card. It’s blank.
In Latvia, Karli and the Flag Smashers return to the closed camp. “How many times do we have to pay with our lives to be citizens of this goddamn planet? The movement is ready. They’re not going to stop unless we make them…it’s time,” Karli announces menacingly.
In Sokovia, Zemo (Daniel Brühl) stands before the memorial for the dead. “I thought you’d be here sooner,” he says as Bucky approaches. Zemo has “decided not to kill” Bucky. “Imagine my relief,” Bucky says as he takes out a gun. Zemo warns Bucky that Karli has become too radical. He wants Bucky to do what Sam will not, “There’s only one way to make sure she cannot continue her mission.”
Bucky holds the gun to Zemo’s head. He pulls the trigger. The chamber is empty. Bucky drops the bullets on the ground. Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and the Dora Milaje enter the scene. “I took the liberty of crossing off my name in your book. I hold no grudges. Goodbye James,” says Zemo as he’s led away. “We will take him to the Raft,” Ayo tells Bucky. He has “another favor” to ask of her.
At night in Baltimore, Sam returns to the house of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). He brings the shield to Bradley’s backyard as he waters his plants. Bradley has no interest, “Leave it covered. Those stars and stripes don’t mean nothing good to me.” He tells Sam his story. He saw black men “fight for this country”, only “to come home with flags burning in their yards.” Inside, Bradley shows Sam a box with pictures of his wife.
“She died while I was in jail,” Bradley recounts sadly. She never got his letters. They “told her I was dead.” Bradley and other black soldiers were experimented on. They told them the super soldier serum was a “tetanus” shot. They were sent on missions, “even though the others weren’t stable.” A “couple of the boys got captured on a mission.” Bradley found out “the brass” were going to destroy the POW camp to stop the “evidence.”
He escaped from the facility and freed his men. But Bradley was soon the only survivor of the serum. “What did I get for saving their lives?” Bradley lifts up his shirt to show Sam surgical scars. He was experimented on for “thirty years to figure out why the serum worked.” A “nurse took pity on me”, she faked his death and gave him his wife’s letters. Sam wants justice for Bradley, but he wants to “be left dead.” Sam begs him, “The world is different.” Bradley disagrees, “You think times are different? They erased me…my history…but they been doing that for five hundred years. Pledge allegiance to that. They will never let a black man be Captain America. Even if they did…no self respecting black man would want to be.”
Sam takes the shield and returns home to Louisiana. He mends nets with his nephews, “It will be great to take the boat out one last time before we sell it.” The boys tell him the boat is too “messed up to sell.” All of the buyers dropped out. Sarah (Adepero Oduye) makes food to help the poor in the neighborhood. Sam decides it’s “time to call in the favors” from all the people his parents helped.
Their neighbors show up at the boat dock with supplies and equipment. An old friend brings an engine. As everyone wonders “how to get it off the truck”, Bucky lifts it up and carries it to the boat. “Just dropping this off,” he gives Sam a high-tech metal suitcase. “I called in a favor from the Wakandans.” A pipe bursts on the boat. When Sam struggles to close it with a wrench, Bucky steps in. He looks over the boat, and offers to help. Sarah flirts with Bucky.
A montage plays of Sam and Bucky working together on the boat. Bucky’s strength continues to come in handy. They both worry that Karli is “going to double down.” They look at the suitcase after a long day. Sam offers Bucky a place to stay the night, “but don’t flirt with my sister.”
John Walker meets with the parents and sister of Lamar Hoskins. Walker lies again and says the man that he killed was responsible. Hoskins’ parents believe justice was served. Walker looks overcome with guilt. As he walks down the street with his broken arm still in a sling, Walker sees a “Cap Is Back” poster on a wall.
In Madripoor, Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp) makes a call, “I have a job for you. If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be rotting away in an Algerian prison.” Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) curses in French on the phone. Sharon “promises him double this time.” At the Wilson house, Bucky wakes up on the couch to Sam’s nephews playing with the shield. He returns to the boat to continue helping. Bucky and Sam work on the engine. As they muddle with the water pump on the dock, Sarah shows up and takes over.
In the backyard, Sam and Bucky take turns throwing the shield. “Feels weird, picking it up again,” Sam comments as he sails it towards a tree. The shield bounces back to Bucky. Sam admits to being torn about “its legacy.” Bucky acknowledges that Steve never thought “what it would feel like for a black man to be handed the shield.” He offers Sam an apology, “What happened to Walker was not your fault.” The shield was “the closest thing he had to a family.”
Bucky holds up Steve’s book with his list. He hoped “it would work for him.” Sam tells him that “Steve is gone, and it may surprise you, but it doesn’t matter what Steve thought.” Sam throws the shield, “You have to stop looking at other people to tell you who you are.” Bucky catches it. He acknowledges still having nightmares. He worries that “a part of the Winter Soldier” is still inside him.
Sam catches the shield, “You want some tough love? It’s time to climb out of that hell you are in.” Sam advises Bucky “to do the work.” He’s not been “amending”, but “avenging” for his past. Sam counsels Bucky to find peace in a different way, “Go to them, be of service, I’m sure there’s one person in that book that needs closure. You’re the only person who can give it to them.” They shake hands. Bucky tells Sam to “call him when he has a lead on Karli.” They laugh at their status as “partners” and “coworkers.”
At the boat, Sam prepares to paint over their parents’ name. Sarah can’t go through with it. Sam is “so happy to hear her say that.” They have to preserve their history. Sam laments about “his struggle to save the world.” He always felt Sarah thought he was “running away.” Sarah sets him straight, “At no point did I ever think you were running away from anything. There’s a fight out there. You really going to let Isaiah Bradley get in your head?” Sam understands Isaiah’s pain, “But what would be the point of all that sacrifice if I didn’t stand up and keep on fighting.”
A montage plays of Sam training vigorously with the shield. He throws it over and over again. He runs, does push ups, and practices flipping. Sweat glistens as he slowly, but surely becomes more skilled. He catches the shield as it bounces from tree to tree. He hurls it at full strength, flips over, and snatches it out of the air flawlessly on its return.
In New York City, Karl and the Flag Smashers are in a park. Batroc joins her on a bench. He opens a case to reveal explosives and weapons. She presses a button on her phone. All around her, phones start pinging with her call to action. “We’re going to make sure the GRC vote doesn’t happen,” Karli exclaims. Batroc doesn’t care. He’s there “to kill the Falcon.” “You’ll get your chance,” Karli starts to whistle. A crowd surrounds her, “Tonight we go to battle…all of us.”
Sam watches on TV as the GRC is about to vote on the Patch Act. It would resettle twenty million refugees in their original countries. He gets a call from Torres, who has been monitoring the Flag Smashers communications. All of their “pings” preceded an attack. Now the cell phone signals are coming from New York City. Sam realizes the GRC is their target.
At the GRC meeting, the politicians argue around a huge circular table. The different countries represented are “worried about optics”, but truthfully “have troops in place.” They don’t even “have to vote.” Several of the security guards are people from Karli’s rally in the park. The GRC monitors start to crash and the lights turn blood red. The GRC members panic.
At home, Sam uses his thumbprint to unlock the Wakandan suitcase. It lights up blue. He opens it. The inside is unseen. He steps back in disbelief. Sam swallows, and then breathes deeply, as he takes in the epic magnitude of his new uniform.
During the credits, John Walker is seen pounding metal into a circle. A photo of Walker and Hoskins hangs on the wall. He takes his Medals of Honor and welds them to his self-made shield. Then spray paints it red, white, and blue. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier returns next Friday for the season finale on Disney+.
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