Sam Wilson is Captain America. I’ve been waiting since Avengers: Endgame to say that. Other than that, “One World, One People” doesn’t have a lot to offer. Sure, there’s fun action from start to finish in the episode, and it’s great to see Sam in his new, sleek, comic-accurate suit, but everything else just falls apart when you think about it.
For example, how and why is Sharon Carter in New York City? The only reason she’s there is to service her reveal as the Power Broker, but her being there makes no sense when you consider that any of the Avengers are a call away for Sam, so why would he call her? Why wouldn’t the Netflix Marvel characters like Daredevil and Luke Cage show up to help fight super terrorists in their city? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Sam’s Captain America is the best thing about this episode, and it’s not even close. The way he fights is so different from Steve and from himself as Falcon, and it’s really interesting to watch how he incorporates the shield and wings together. His speech to the GRC members is fantastic, moving, with just a tad of cheesiness. Anthony Mackie shines in this moment.
The fact that he’s willing to acknowledge that many people will hate him and not want him to be Captain America just because of his race is surprising, not because of his character but because of Disney usually wanting to stay out of politics. This overt politicism of the Captain America character is needed; he’s always been political since his debut in 1941. Steve’s Captain America represented the American ideal, and Sam’s Cap represents what America needs to be: willing to acknowledge our past faults and moving to rectify them.
Bucky doesn’t have much to do in this episode. He’s just kind of there for the ride. He and John Walker team up to capture the Flag Smashers, but it feels strange and unearned, especially for John. Bucky finally comes clean to Yori, telling him he killed his son when he was the Winter Soldier. He crosses off all the names in his book, freeing him to move on.
Despite that, he doesn’t seem like he’s progressed in the same way Sam has. This show was meant to progress both of them equally. They’re both the title characters, but Sam progresses much more. All you have to look to for proof is the final title card that reads “Captain America and the Winter Soldier.” Bucky still hasn’t progressed to whatever is next for his character, whether it’s embracing the White Wolf persona or something else entirely.
The Flag Smashers and Karli really seem to have been thrown away completely this episode. Every single one of them die unceremoniously. It’s a strange choice, considering they’re the main villains of the show. It just feels like they didn’t know what else to do with them. It’s really odd.
John’s presence in the episode is strange, too. I already mentioned the awkward and unexplained team-up between him and Bucky, but there’s much more than that. Why does he suddenly become a vigilante once he arrives in the episode? It seems like his character just shifts for the sake of what needs to happen later.
He also gets a completely unearned happy ending with him becoming the U.S. Agent. While I know that him taking that title will lead to nothing but misery for him, he’s essentially signing himself up to be the leader of a black ops style squad, which is everything he was trying to avoid in becoming Captain America. It’s truly a misguided choice that the show portrays this as a happy thing for him.
Isaiah Bradley gets a fitting sendoff, with Sam showing him and his grandson a revised Captain America exhibit with a full room dedicated to his service and sacrifice. It’s an emotionally resonant scene and my favorite scene of the entire episode.
Marvel has had a tough time sticking the landing with its Disney+ series, first with Wandavision and now with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While I feel this is a better finale than Wandavision’s, it shows that Marvel still has a lot to learn and grow from moving forward. I feel that the series could’ve used another episode to properly set up and pay off the character moments with Bucky, John and, especially, the Flag Smashers. It may seem like I’m bashing this episode, but it’s still really fun to watch and massively enjoyable. You may just have to turn your brain off for a bit to get everything out of it that the showrunners want you to.