Why Falcon And Winter Soldier’s Happy Ending Worked
Warning: SPOILERS for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s Finale – “One World, One People”.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s finale delivered a fantastic happy ending that solidified the positive new direction in the lives of both Captain America Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). After saving the Global Repatriation Council’s members from the Flag-Smashers in New York City, Sam, Bucky, Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), and even John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) found themselves in better places than when the series began.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier not only serviced its lead characters, but also set up a compelling new world order for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase 4. It’s important to remember that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was meant to be the kickoff to Phase 4, but WandaVision was closer to completion and thus debuted first. While a credible argument can be made that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier introduced too many plot threads that it didn’t wrap up adequately in its 6-hour runtime, the series’s true aim was to lay sufficient groundwork for the rest of the MCU’s upcoming movies and TV shows to explore. Meanwhile, the primary focus of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was Sam Wilson asking the difficult questions of what Captain America means in the post–Avengers: Endgame MCU, coming face-to-face with the hidden sins tied to Captain America’s legacy, and Sam actively choosing – not be handed – the role of Captain America for himself, along with all of the good and bad it entails.
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Some fans understandably feel that not enough time was given to service Bucky’s atonement for his crimes as the Winter Soldier and many questions were left dangling about John Walker’s new sponsor, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss). But Marvel Studios’ strategic announcement of Captain America 4 immediately after The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s finale alleviates this as their stories are going to be continued, as will Sharon Carter’s in her new role as a shadowy villain infiltrating the U.S. Government and Intelligence services after Sharon was unmasked as the Power Broker.
While not a perfect series, what The Falcon and The Winter Soldier admirably accomplished was to elevate Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes – who were for years the supporting cast of Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – to leading man status in the MCU. Best of all, it solidified the fact that these two heroes who were only thrown together because they “had a mutual friend” now share their own bond. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s upbeat and inspiring ending finally unshackled both Sam and Bucky from their pasts, mistakes, traumas, and regrets, and set Captain America and The Winter Soldier up for a brighter MCU future.
Sam Wilson’s Tribute To Isaiah Bradley Was Perfect
Sam revealing to Isaiah Bradley the statue and memorial of Bradley’s forgotten service to the United States at the Captain America Smithsonian exhibit was one of the most heartwarming moments in MCU history. Bradley was introduced as an incredibly tragic figure, who was tortured and ignored for decades by his own government, and he existed in the shadows surrounded by his pain, bitterness, and fear. Isaiah was the true key to Sam accepting the role of Captain America; not so much because Wilson dreaded what happened to Bradley could happen to him, but because Captain America’s shield represents something darker to the people marginalized by what that symbol represents (which Karli Morgenthau also articulated). By restoring Isaiah’s place in history, it was a small step towards righting the wrong that was done to him. Sam becoming a shining beacon as Captain America would be the best way he can honor Isaiah as well as Steve Rogers.
The gift Sam gave to Isaiah also proved that Wilson walks the walk as well as talks the talk. When Bucky confessed that he was still haunted by his sins as the Winter Soldier, Sam, a trained counselor for veterans with PTSD, advised him to “do the work” and be in service to the people he wronged. Wilson took his own words to heart and chose to be in service to Isaiah Bradley, who the U.S. Government wronged for 60 years. More than any heroics Wilson performed as the Falcon or as Captain America, giving Isaiah back his rightful place in history was a tearjerker that showed the qualities which make Sam Wilson a true hero. If there was a worthiness test to be Captain America, Sam passed with flying colors.
Sam And Bucky Finally Became Real Friends
When the victorious Captain America and Winter Soldier left New York City together, Bucky patted Sam on the back by tapping the shield. Bucky had earlier told Sam that the shield was “all the family” he had left since it was the last remaining symbol of Steve Rogers. By tapping the shield, Sam was also paying tribute to Steve, who was with them in spirit. When The Falcon and The Winter Soldier began, Bucky was alone in a Brooklyn 100 years removed from the city he grew up in. He was trying to atone for the Winter Soldier’s sins, but was trapped reliving the nightmares of his past. Bucky and Sam didn’t even like each other at first, and Barnes resented Wilson for ‘retiring’ Cap’s shield, which made Bucky question Steve’s judgment about Sam and about himself.
Sam and Bucky spent the length of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier bickering and claiming they were anything other than friends, which had been their dynamic since Captain America: Civil War, But by the end, Bucky and Sam genuinely became friends at long last – not because of Steve Rogers but because they truly liked and respected each other. Even better, Bucky was welcomed into the Wilson family in Louisiana. He could finally relax, laugh, flirt with Sam’s sister, play with the Wilson nephews, and be comfortable as the person he hasn’t been since the Second World War. Friendship and camaraderie between the superheroes have always been the MCU’s secret weapon as to why their characters are so beloved worldwide. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier solidified another ideal MCU friendship with Sam and Bucky.
Bucky Finally Left The Winter Soldier Behind
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s ending finally let Bucky leave his Hydra-created alter ego behind. It’s true that the series could have spent more time showing Bucky atoning, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier prioritized comic book action-adventure. Instead, the two different sides of Bucky’s list were represented by his victims like Yori Nakajima (Ken Takemoto), who was mourning the death of his son at the Winter Soldier’s hands, and the villains who Bucky enabled when he was under Hydra’s thrall, like Senator Atwood (Rebecca Lines) and Helmut Zemo.
A time jump showed that Bucky completed his atonement, but the point of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s ending is that Bucky’s list and all it represents no longer matter, and thus may not have needed further coverage. Bucky Barnes will always be the Winter Soldier, and his cybernetic left arm is a permanent reminder of this. But what was crucial is that Bucky Barnes is finally ready to move on to whatever his future holds and leave the robotic assassin he once was in his past. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier freed Bucky to see the best of himself and who he can be, and it will be exciting to see him live up to that promise in his future MCU appearances.
Falcon And Winter Soldier Was A Rare MCU Happy Ending
Remarkably, the MCU doesn’t do a purely happy ending every often, which makes The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s ending set to Curtis Harding’s “On and On” stand out even more. The MCU movies tend to prefer shock endings like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) declaring “I am Iron Man!”, Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) secret identity publicly outed in Spider-Man: Far From Home, or Thanos’ ship preparing to attack the Asgardian refugees in Thor: Ragnarok, conclusions that set up more to come like all three Captain America movies, and the darkest ending of all, Avengers: Infinity War where the heroes failed and half of the universe died. Bittersweet endings are more common in the MCU and even The Avengers in 2012 saw the heroes going their own ways even though they were triumphant against an alien invasion.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier did its own set up for the future by establishing John Walker as the U.S. Agent, and Sharon Carter’s happy ending of getting her long-awaited pardon immediately shifted to Agent Carter establishing herself as a future threat. But when it came to Sam and Bucky, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier gave both leading heroes time to breathe and reflect on the wins that capped off their journey. Best of all, the show’s ending brought them together and cemented Sam and Bucky’s brotherhood. Instead of seeing Wilson and Barnes in costume ready for more action, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier gave Sam and Bucky a feel-good ending, signaling that Captain America and The Winter Soldier, the MCU, and the fans, all have a bright future to look forward to.
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumaniaRelease date: Apr 27, 2021
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3Release date: Apr 27, 2021
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About The Author
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John Orquiola is a Features staff writer who has been with Screen Rant for four years. He began as a director’s assistant on various independent films. As a lover of film and film theory, John wrote humorous movie reviews on his blog, Back of the Head, which got him noticed by Screen Rant. John happily became the Star Trek guy at Screen Rant and he leads Feature coverage of the various Star Trek series, but he also writes about a wide range of subjects from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Cobra Kai. His other great nerdy love is British TV series like The Crown, Downton Abbey, and Killing Eve. John can be found on Twitter @BackoftheHead if you want to see photos of the food he eats.
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April 27, 2021 at 05:33PM