The writers of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have been teasing for a week or so that episode five, titled “Truth,” was going to be a big episode with a big cameo. They mostly delivered on those teases but fell short on delivering the best episode of the series; that honor still belongs to the previous episode.
The episode starts with an intense and satisfying fight scene between Sam, Bucky and John Walker but slows down significantly after the first half. That slow pacing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does feel odd to have two slow-paced episodes in a row that are ultimately leading into the finale.
John Walker loses the shield, suffers a broken arm and loses the title of Captain America, all things that should be music to any Marvel fan’s ears. Within fifteen minutes, Falcon loses his wings and regains the shield (you can see how starting off that fast can lead to pacing issues when the rest of the episode has little to nothing else in the action department).
As for that previously-mentioned cameo, Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes her Marvel debut as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, who recruits John Walker after his court martial. The scene teases a potential supervillain team, either the Dark Avengers or The Thunderbolts, both from the comic source material.
The chances of this are compounded by the Wakandans taking Zemo to The Raft, a prison in the middle of the ocean run by General “Thunderbolt” Ross (who’s had a noticeable absence in this series so far). The Thunderbolts team in the Marvel comics are named after him, and he has a sizable role on the team.
Isaiah Bradley makes his return in this episode; the scene contains a great conversation with Sam on the complicated and problematic legacy of the Captain America title and shield. Learning more about what Isaiah had to go through during his thirty years in prison and in the time since his release, it’s hard to watch. His experiences have real-world ties that make this scene’s commentary on America’s racial issues way more impactful and raw.
After all that, the majority of the second half of the episode is Sam and Bucky working on the Wilson family boat in Louisiana. There’s some good character work with Sam and Bucky in these scenes, Sam gets a package from Wakanda (that’s most likely his Captain America suit), and then Sam has a training montage with the shield that’s a lot of fun.
Other than that, Karli Morganthau starts to enact her master plan on the GRC in New York City, and John Walker makes his own shield, both things that’ll be dealt with in the finale. This is the half of the episode with pacing issues; though none of it is necessarily boring, it’s odd for the penultimate episode to grind the plot to a halt as it does here.
Episode five isn’t a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t an amazing episode, either. It has great moments, both in action and in character development, but the needlessly slow pace really hampers it in the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I think “Truth” is the second-best episode of the series so far, despite its shortcomings. It sets up the finale well and sets up characters like John Walker and Baron Zemo for returns later down the line in the MCU, even though it’s obvious that John will play a large part in the finale next week.