Major spoilers below for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's season finale, so be warned!
For their second official television offering, Disney+ and Marvel gave fans a more traditional MCU story with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, especially compared to the magically bonkers hijinks of WandaVision. With a sobering look at post-Blip life for Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes, the six-episode drama also took on a political edge with Erin Kellyman's Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers. By and large, the series delivered plenty of enjoyable and memorable moments, but when it came time to nail the landing with its reveal-oozing finale, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier flew far too close to the sun.
Even with the understanding that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's core storyline had to be changed up in the midst of production due to COVID-19 and the global pandemic, there were still quite a few moments in the finale that did not feel worthy of a mega-budget ending like this. So let's take a closer look at the biggest problems I had with "One World, One People."
John Walker Got Both Justice And A New Costume
While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can't fully be blamed for audiences already knowing that Wyatt Russell was cast as U.S. Agent, that eventuality certainly cheapened his downfall as Captain America. Rather than facing any kind of real punishment for brutally murdering someone with the Captain America shield, Walker instead remained free and clear, and viewers were apparently supposed to forget about him being a total fucking douchebag just because he saved a vehicle full of rich douchebags, and palled around with Bucky for a minute. And then he gets a NEW costume? Nah, Marvel, I'm not down with that one bit, and John Walker can go bite a curb.
Bucky Apparently Keeping The Winter Soldier Moniker
Some of the most emotionally powerful scenes in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier involved Bucky facing his past indiscretions, particularly his "trigger words" rehabilitation flashback in Episode 4, which featured another appearance from Florence Kasumba's Ayo. The finale features the lovely bit with Ken Takemoto's Yori, too, which capped off Bucky's long list of apologies for his Winter Soldier-related atrocities. So, in theory, Bucky has now shed himself of that Marvel mantle, and this series' altered title card should have featured both characters taking on new hero monikers. And yet, we got Captain America and the Winter Soldier. No evolution to White Wolf. No return to plain Bucky Barnes. Just the same tired Winter Soldier.
The Lack Of Daniel Brühl's Zemo
As much as I am firmly aware that Daniel Brühl's returning Zemo was more of a brilliantly played gimmick than a load-bearing character, the actor provided some much-needed levity and moral nuance to balance The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's sleeve-worn seriousness. So while I can easily acknowledge that he didn't NEED to have a major role in the finale, it was almost insulting that they actually brought him into the episode only for the actor to lie around a cell for a few seconds. If he's not making a grand, winking escape from imprisonment and/or the U.S., then what's the point in showing him again at all?
It Ignored Any And All Build-Up For Torres And Eli
While we're on the subject of those who should have received a lot more screentime throughout the season and in the finale, we have a pair of characters whose comic storylines provided much speculation about where their TV counterparts would go. Unfortunately, neither Danny Ramirez's Joaquin Torres and Elijah Richardson's Eli Bradley featured heavily in the finale, and fans didn't get to see any legitimate hints about Torres and Eli's possible futures as the new Falcon and Patriot, respectively. The scene with Sam showing off Elijah Bradley's memorial statue vaguely tips a hat in Patriot's direction, but not enough to count.
Everything About Karli's Death
While I was reluctantly understanding everything that happened during Karli's final scene in the Falcon and Winter Soldier finale, my inner voice just kept screaming "Why, though?!?" for the entire duration of it. Had it just been Sam and Karli in that moment, the scene becomes 100% more meaningful, considering those are the two characters who shared similar ideals, though by vastly different means. But no, viewers instead watch Emily VanCamp's Sharon take the lethal reins for Karli's suicide-by-cop. What's a more deflated superhero ending than watching a relatable antagonist being killed off by a hero-turned-villain who only appeared in 10 minutes of the entire project? And John Walker STILL got to live?
Sharon Carter's Power Broker Reveal
Similar to how Marvel fans nailed the big twist behind WandaVision's Agnes almost immediately, Sharon Carter was an instant entry into Power Broker speculation, and The Falcon and Winter Soldier's finale revealed that to be a reality. Although it did so in the least Tony Stark of ways, by having both Karli and Georges St-Pierre's Batroc refer to her as the Power Broker, but without Sharon verbally owning the title with authority. (As if I need to hyper-theorize about yet another instance of an absence of evidence in this universe. I mean, I will definitely keep doing that anyway.) Had the post-credits scene featured some kind of game-changing twist, it might have made up for the wishy-washiness, but it was sadly just as vague and generic.
Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Getting So Little Screen Time
Like just about every one else with a sense of humor, I was positively overjoyed to witness Seinfeld and Veep vet Julia Louis-Dreyfus joining the MCU as the immaculately named Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine via a highly secretive cameo. But she was yet another Falcon and Winter Soldier character whose time on the finale was too fleeting and not entirely impactful, relying more on Louis-Dreyfus' innate skills rather than giving her anything meaty. Okay, yes, she gave John Walker his U.S. Agent costume and set him up with a future, but if you think that won her any cool points in my book, I assume this is the first entry you're reading.
Sam Instantly Knowing How To Use The Captain America Suit
I won't argue that this is less of a glaring issue than other things, but still something that irked me. Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier featured Sam and Bucky having a fairly strenuous training session with the Captain America shield, which isn't the most complicated weapon. So you'd think it'd take Sam a little bit of time to learn how his new red, white and blue Cap suit works, right? Pffft. I'm guessing all the instructions were written right there inside the helmet, because Sam pulled off a ton of different and extremely precise moves that would likely kill any mere human being who tried performing them without proper instruction and training. Smart dude, that Sam.
No Payoff For Those "Steve Rogers On The Moon" Jokes
Look, I realize that the MCU is not an Anton Chekhov creation, so not every element introduced early on is going to lead to big moments down the line. But the creative team led by Malcolm Spellman had to be aware that fans would read way too hard into Torres' "Steve Rogers on the moon" bit. So the outcome should have been one of two things: either the show plainly reveals that yes, Steve Rogers is on the moon in some capacity, or it avoids any further mention of it. Instead, the Falcon and Winter Soldier finale gave viewers an unnecessary echo of the premiere's line without any further clarification or debunking. I'm sure Steve would be proud.
It's Setting Up A New MCU Movie Instead Of A New TV Season
Just as it went with WandaVision (presumably), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wrapped up its episodic run by setting the stage for the theatrical side of the MCU, rather than building up to more TV adventures. Part of me gets it, seeing as how this show in particular was expensive as all hell, and also knowing just how many more Marvel TV shows are already in the pipeline. Still, I'm going to start feeling cheated as a TV enthusiast if Marvel and Disney+ are solely developing TV shows in order to launch the next billion-dollar box office earner. Plus, I really, really wanted an Anthony Mackie-as-Captain America TV show. And am still hopeful that it could one day happen.
When viewing things from a surface level, I did think that the entirety of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was well-made, interesting and a much-needed embrace of Black culture within the MCU. Perhaps if I rewatch the finale again on Disney+ in a few weeks or months, I'll have a better opinion of how it worked as a conclusion, but for now, I'm still more than a little bummed out. Though if anyone wants to send me a roll of toilet paper with John Walker's face on each square, I would be forever in your debt.