The Captain America and the Winter Soldier finale threw some haymakers! Did all of them land? What were the best moments? How does the episode grade out?

SPOILER WARNING!!! This Falcon and Winter Soldier review contains HEAVY SPOILERS AND THEORIES about the direction of the series and the next phase of the MCU. Click below for my series premiere review.

What worked:

Wow. There is so much to unpack from the finale so I’ll try to do my best to condense my thoughts. From Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Sharon Carter and Isaiah Bradley, each character had so many epic moments. For Marvel, this was a show that asked some really difficult questions and opened the door for a ton of new stories and possibilities down the road. Let’s get into the standouts and most important moments from the episode.

Bringing hope back into a broken society

The highlight of the finale easily goes to Sam Wilson becoming cemented as the new Captain America. Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson finally got the recognition and spotlight he deserved. Even in the 5-minutes he spent with the Senators during his final speech, you could tell they respected Sam an infinite amount more than they did with John Walker. And what a speech that was. Whether he wanted to believe it or not, Sam was always the right man for the job. Not because he was a good soldier, but because he was a good man.

This was represented best when Sam stood up for the people he fought against just a few minutes prior. With the Senators continuing to call the Flag Smashers terrorists, Sam made quick work to dispel that notion. “No super-serum, no blonde hair, no blue eyes’,” says Sam Wilson. He’s 100% correct, because what makes Sam Wilson “Captain America” is his untiring compassion and empathy to understand others perspectives. Sam’s moral instincts is what separates him the most, which we saw in the finale when he took down a helicopter with intelligence then brute force and costing lives.

“The only power I have is that we can do better,” says Sam Wilson. What an epic statement for a character that struggled to take on the mantle while also managing the loss of his best friend and the financial hardships of his family. I think the finale did an excellent job at providing social commentary on our society, but also focusing on the choices and actions of the future rather than harping on all the wrong-doings from the past.

Isaiah Bradley gets his moment

My favorite moment from the finale goes to Isaiah Bradley, who has stolen every single scene this series. “Now they’ll never forget what you did for this country,” says Sam Wilson to Isaiah Bradley as the camera pans to a statue built in his honor and duty for his country. I’m not going to lie, this scene absolutely broke me. Sam re-adding Isaiah Bradley back into the history books was an extremely emotional moment and the perfect cap (pun intended) to his character. Isaiah Bradley was, by far, one of the most intriguing characters developed in this series. Just like Bucky, Isaiah was torn to pieces from everything that a larger power had done to him. Watching Sam give Isaiah hope with that final, tear inducing hug was terrific and a salute to what Sam Wilson’s Captain America is all about.

As much as I loved seeing Sam get the recognition from the government, it was way more rewarding to see him get Isaiah’s respect at the end. I truly hope this isn’t the end for Isaiah Bradley’s character because most of the heavy lifting of this show came from those character moments between him and Sam. “We built this country, bled for it. I’m not going to let anyone tell me I can’t fight for it.” That’s as heroic of a statement as it gets and Sam getting Isaiah’s nod as the next Captain America was really handled well. There will be a lot of titles handed off in the MCU for the foreseeable future. The moment Isaiah hugs Sam at the end with the “Captain America and The Winter Soldier” title reveal was a beautiful nod to Isaiah’s struggles but also a hopeful look to the future.

Female villains getting established

Could you imagine Peggy Carter’s realization that Sharon has turned into nothing more than an arms dealer? I have so many thoughts about Sharon Carter being revealed as the Power Broker. For one, every bone in my body feels like Sharon Carter is actually a Skrull, which will lead us directly into the Secret Invasion series that is quickly coming together for Disney+. It appears that Emilia Clarke is also in final negotiations to join the show, which centers on a group of shape-shifting aliens infiltrating Earth. Who was Sharon Carter speaking to on the phone during the post credit scene? I would double down on a Skrull being on the other line.

For Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, we see her continuing to manipulate others and recommissions John to the role of US Agent (as expected). Val’s role will also lead us towards the creation of the Thunderbolts, who are not dissimilar to DC Comics version of the Suicide Squad. They are a government-controlled team of villains, some new and some that have already been established in the MCU. Some other major names to look out for moving forward include Thaddeus Ross, Baron Zemo, Yolena Belova and possibly even Abomination.

What didn’t:

There are plenty of negatives in the finale and I can’t help but feel that it was a bit rushed. If you’ve been reading my reviews, then you would know that I had Sharon Carter pegged as the Power Broker weeks ago. For the majority of the show, the writing and story telling has been terrific. However, I have to say this was the most predictable and poorly written episode of the season. I also thought that action scenes were a bit of a let down. Batroc vs Sam Wilson was underwhelming to say the least. Sam had a fancy move with his jetpack but then opted to leave mid-fight.

This series needed more than 6 episodes.

I couldn’t help but think of The Dark Knight Rises during the final battle. Everything about it felt off, like it was trying to wrap up too many plot points all at once. The emotional rush of Sam vs Karli just didn’t click for me as I had hoped. It also didn’t make sense. How in the world was Karli able to go one on one with John Walker? When did Karli obtain elite fighting skills? Other than Batroc dying (please no, talk about rushed), this was the first time in this series where I felt like I was watching a TV show rather than film.

If you’ve been reading my reviews, then you know how much I have appreciated this series. However, we were given 5 episodes of build up and character development. Similar to Sharon Carter’s reveal as the Power Broker, the way the final battle had unfolded just wasn’t good enough. In summary, 6 episodes simply was not enough to further flesh out some of the side characters and their motivations. Case in point, mixing the Flag Smashers with the Power Broker storyline and the US Agent reveal. While I enjoy these characters a great deal, there was just too much going on and too many characters felt unnecessary.

Final Thoughts & Grade

Despite the finale feeling uneven, I really enjoyed this series. If WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier are the appetizer for what Marvel fans are getting moving forward, then we’re in for a heck of a main course. Tackling adult themes and real-world issues is absolutely the path Marvel needs to stay on. Overall, we got introduced to US Agent, saw deep character progression for Bucky, Sam and Zemo and got more world building within the Captain America legacy. Fingers crossed that this is only part one of the journey for Sam and Bucky because in many ways their friendship has truly only just begun.

As great as Sam and Bucky were in this series, I have to get this off my chest. The best moments of this series didn’t even include either of them. From Isaiah Bradley to John Walker’s fall into madness, many my favorite moments from this series came from side characters instead of Sam Wilson or Bucky Barnes. This show still has me hopeful for the future, especially John Walker mixing it up with Val. When side characters have more memorable moments than your title characters, then I don’t know if that’s a positive.

I can’t help but feel that the finale served as more of a teaser than giving us closure on some of these characters. WandaVision gave us a beginning, middle and end as well as cementing Scarlet Witch as one of the mightiest Avengers. On one end, I’m hopeful that we indeed get a second season and see more of Bucky and Sam moving forward. If this is the end, then my emotional state following the finale is, well, bittersweet.

Grade: 6.5/10