by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 5
The high octane, action-packed, spy thriller that was last week’s episode takes a step back in this week’s installment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with an intimate and engaging episode that largely hits pause on the central plot. Episode 5, titled Truth, follows the aftermath of John Walker’s brutal murder of a Flag Smasher in public as Sam and Bucky reclaim the shield and step away from the conflict.
Truth feels, in many ways, like a brief interruption to our regularly scheduled programming that will conclude in next week’s finale. Whereas the last several episodes took significant leaps in propelling the plot forward – offering insight into Karli’s plans, developing John Walker as a character, and following Sam, Bucky, and Zemo as they try to stop the Flag Smashers – episode 5 slows things down significantly. The downside of this change in pace is that it feels a little jarring to largely halt our primary conflict in favor of a slower, more introspective episode. This isn’t to say the episode’s slower and more introspective moments don’t work – in fact, they’re fantastic and some of the most gripping moments in the series so far. But, this jarring narrative refocus seems indicative of a broader issue The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has had in pinning down a pace and cohesive narrative thread.
That being said, this latest episode excels scene-after-scene in providing some of the best character development we’ve seen in the series yet. The financial conflict plaguing the Wilson family feels more organic and less forced than it did in the premiere episode, providing some great moments between Sam and Bucky. We really get to see their relationship build in a way we haven’t seen in previous films and episodes as the bitter back-and-forth banter is slowly replaced by a brotherly bond. In this sense, the episode’s change of focus allowed for this sort of character and relationship development in a way that more action-packed, plot-heavy episodes simply could not execute. Finally seeing Sam reclaim the shield and discuss difficult matters, including Bucky’s psychological trauma from his tenure as the Winter Soldier, was touching and intimate.
Speaking of intimate, perhaps the highlight of episode 5 was the conversation between San and Isaiah. Their exchange not only provides important plot context for Isaiah’s place in history as a Super Soldier, but it also offers a profoundly emotional and disturbing insight into the struggles of government manipulation, torture, injustice, the corrupted meaning of beloved symbols, and, perhaps most poignantly, what it means for a black man to be Captain America. So far, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has only skimmed the surface of certain sociopolitical matters that seem ripe for exploration in a series like this, but episode 5 capitalizes on this potential wholeheartedly. Isaiah’s tale is heartbreaking and, for a character we’ve only seen once before, it’s hard not to feel a deep, guttural sense of empathy for what the man went through. Carl Lumbly’s performance is outstanding, as is Anthony Mackie’s largely understated role in the scene.
Beyond some of its poignant emotional touches, Truth also offers a few unexpected and interesting teases heading into the finale of the series and the future of the MCU more broadly. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss shows up out of nowhere as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. This poses a lot of interesting questions about her role in the MCU, but it’s clear she’s up to no good following her conversation with Walker. Speaking of the ex-Captain America, Wyatt Russell puts in another incredible performance as the complex, troubled, and increasingly villainous U.S. Soldier, As the MCU has done with some of its best villains, whether it be Killmonger or Thanos, it puts us in a strange place to understand the rationalization of Walker’s actions and somewhat sympathize with the emotions he feels.
On a final note, Daniel Brühl’s Zemo very much felt short changed in this episode. I hope this isn’t the last we see of him, because there’s clearly so much more that could be done with this character, especially with an actor of Brühl’s caliber in the role. Regardless, we’re sure to see Zemo again at some point, whether it be in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or another series, and his imprisonment on The Raft by the Wakandans is definitely an interesting turn for this character to take.
The Flag Smasher narrative takes an unexpected backseat in favor of a more intimate, slow paced installment. Sam and Bucky’s relationship is expanded more than ever and the episode touches on issues of race and patriotism with profoundly emotional effects, making Truth a satisfying penultimate episode ahead of next week’s finale.
Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios