We’re running a weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Let’s break down the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, shall we?
Sam Wilson is officially the MCU’s new Captain America, and ding dang it feels good to finally say that. From a bird’s-eye view (er, Falcon’s-eye view) the six-episode arc of this show has been the story of how Sam became the tried and true, albeit reluctant, heir to America’s star-spangled mantle. But as we’ve learned, the idea of Captain America, and the nation for which he stands, is not a particularly neutral concept. We know America should be, and in many ways strives to be, a beacon for equality, liberty, and justice for the world. That’s good! But we also know reality can be a different story altogether.
In much the same way an abusive husband’s words of affection can be worse than his words of wrath, the festering wound of America’s unmet promises is made that much worse for the generations who’ve been told they live in mankind’s greatest and freest nation. As a Black man, Sam Wilson carries the lineage of America’s broken promise, by both heritage and by lived experience. In hindsight, it should be obvious why Sam would need to deconstruct his idea of America before adopting the Captain’s namesake as his own.
In a way, a number of us have gone through a similar process of deconstruction, not just of America, but of our relationship to Christianity and the Church. Ask any five Christians on Twitter what they mean by “deconstructing,” and you’ll probably get five different answers. But what they share in common, however, is this idea that the Christianity with which they’ve associated does not always align with the Christianity they see in the Scriptures and feel in their bones.As a Black man, Sam Wilson carries the lineage of America’s broken promise, by both heritage and by lived experience.
Speaking for myself, I love Jesus, and Hallelujah, I rest in the promise of his Resurrection. But man, I can tell I’ve got some baggage from the patriarchy that I need to sort through. Because of the prevailing tides with which I’ve floated for years, I’m not at all confident that I’ve treated the women in my life with the respect, honor, and agency due to fellow Image Bearers.
Major eye roll, I know. Men being bad to women is a tale as old as time. But we’re a Kingdom people, aren’t we? How do I make sense of a Gospel message that speaks both freedom to women and a muzzle in the same breath? I can’t make these pieces fit.
This is part of my deconstruction. So what’s a guy to do?
Well, some have taken what I’ll call the Isaiah Bradley approach. The pain Isaiah has experienced is too deep, the scars too fresh. He’d rather burn it down and be done with it. To hell with all that. Take a wrecking ball and slam the whole damned thing to smithereens.
But others take what I’ll call the Sam Wilson approach. Our faith is a complicated, yet central part of who we are. And ugly as the baggage may seem, we sense there’s a thing of beauty within, so we hold an abiding indebtedness to the saints who came before us and prayed us into being today.
So, rather than destroy, we deconstruct. Piece by piece, brick by brick, we take it down and build it back up. We blow the chaff away until only the wheat is left.
It’s hard. Too hard.
Sam Wilson is sorting through the bricks too. How can you possibly ask him to carry the shield? You can’t.
But here’s the thing. Now that you know this about Sam, it should mean something when you see him donning the red, white, and blue. Likewise, I’m no Captain America, but when you see me in the pew next Sunday, you’ll know I had to wrestle some demons to get there.
Back to the show.
Sergeant Barnes made himself of service, made his amends, and brought some closure to the people he’d harmed as the Winter Soldier. Over this series, contrasted with Sam, Bucky’s arc was the lesser of the two, for good reason. And while it would have been nice to get some more Bucky screen time, we saw this character grow, and even flourish, in ways the films never let him before.
Bucky now has the pleasure of serving alongside two Captain Americas, both of whom believed in him when he’d given up believing in himself. It’s a bond of brotherhood that isn’t easily severed, and I’m excited to see the newly recovered Winter Soldier fighting along his new Captain’s side.
Speaking of, it should come as no surprise that a Captain America 4 film is in development, with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s showrunner Malcolm Spellman taking the lead to kickstart a new Cap series with Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson as the lead. This is good news! The Marvel Cinematic Universe is made of franchises within franchises. In my opinion, Captain America has been the best of them all. Of course they’re making another one.
Another lifetime ago, back when I was recapping WandaVision every week, I mentioned that it wasn’t at all apparent that this idea of Disney+ series centered on secondary MCU characters was going to work. There was no guarantee that Marvel could mess with the storytelling formula of history’s most successful film franchise and come up with something that lived up to its calibur, hype, and ethos.
Well, now we’ve officially wrapped two of these new series, and by jove, I think they’ve done it. That’s not to say it’s been perfect. Good as it is, my chief complaint for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been the way it’s tried to cram too much story into too few episodes. The last couple weeks, it felt like this series had finally hit its stride, then Blam! Credits roll. It’s over.
But it hasn’t felt like a waste to me. Rather, I’ve been left wanting more, and I gladly welcome more screen time for these characters.
But that will have to wait. The MCU’s next series, Loki, premiers in early June for its own six-episode run, at which point I’m 99% certain I’ll be itching for another round of recaps.
See you then.