It’s a nice sentiment, but can Karli’s dream ever truly be realized? Also, new, new Cap!
What a fine ending to a mini-series. The “bad guys” get taken down, Sam Wilson soars as the new Captain America, and Bucky crosses the last name off his list of amends. Fair warning, this will be less of a recap and more of a reflection on what this series has done in its final hour.
The biggest accomplishment of this finale is handled rather quickly: Sam Wilson becomes Captain America. For those of you familiar with the comic books, his new costume will not surprise, but for anyone who isn’t, it’s an interesting design. Unlike most Captain Americas, Sam’s head isn’t covered. Rather, he seems to incorporate many of his Falcon costume elements into this new Captain look. I like it. I am fairly amazed by how well it works in reality – a lot of superhero costumes get redesigned for the screen but this one stays true to the comics and doesn’t suffer for it.
Now, Sam’s journey to this point has been covered heavily by the show. He and Bucky are the title characters after all, but some of the side characters who emerge don’t get nearly enough coverage, which I think is a detriment. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is the first episode where I actually understood the Flag Smashers name and motto.
“One World, One People” is a hugely ambitious goal. And, while the name “Flag Smashers” might seem silly upon first utterance, the more you understand their mission the more their name makes sense. They literally want to rid the world of borders, of nations, of flags. Flags allow us to identify ourselves by our home countries. Hell, how much has been made of the Stars and Stripes in this series? Zemo’s rage comes out of what happened to his home country of Sokovia, the Dora Milaje proudly serve the nation of Wakanda, but pride in the lands we love also comes at a cost. Jingoism allows us to justify horrific acts against other peoples because we believe our country is the best, our way of life is the only way.
Unfortunately, trying to get rid of countries and borders requires rewriting the human brain, if we’re being honest. Human beings are natural herd animals, and, as nature has shown, herd animals can be quite territorial. Karli is, in a way, embodying the ideals of Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan, even Adolf Hitler by extension. Any person who has sought to homogenize the human race into a single, large, “nation”, under one unifying body is, like it or not, a dictator. Granted, Hitler gets a few nods in this series because he represents the most extreme expression of this dream: to make people into one type. His vision of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed super race is the darkest version of the unification of the human race. But, Karli wouldn’t see herself in this way, and that’s the most dangerous aspect of her and her movement.
While it is admirable to want us to “all just get along”, it speaks to Karli’s age that she genuinely believes it is an achievable goal. She is young, full of hope, and determined to improve the world. Her experience during “The Blip” seemed to convince her that borders, and nations, and flags, are erasable. The problem is that, even if some nations did invite new people into their countries for the sake of helping them rebuild, there’s no reason to believe there weren’t groups of people who hated this. Groups of people, who, like Karli, believed their nations’ purity was besmirched or defiled. It’s strange to think that in the five years of “The Blip” there weren’t groups that emerged trying to drive foreigners out of their lands. I mean, it’s the human race, come on. Marvel really is operating on wish fulfillment here – unless, we get another series that takes place during “The Blip” that addresses this.
As it stands, Karli’s words aren’t wrong. Her movement has grown larger than herself; this is evidenced when a cop who is loading the remaining Flag Smashers into a police truck whispers their motto to them as he closes the door. I don’t think it’s a mistake that this moment is reminiscent of the many moments in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where secret Hydra agents whisper the words “Hail Hydra” to their fellow spies. Maybe Zemo was on to something eh?
My suspicion about Sharon Carter was proved correct: She is the Power Broker. This is one of those characters I mentioned earlier, where it would have been nice to have maybe another episode to really flesh her out. Consider that this is the grand-niece of Peggy Carter. What has her life been like since Captain America: Civil War? When did she get found out for her involvement, how did she wind up in Madripoor? How did she manage to become the Power Broker? They couldn’t give us one more episode to focus on these things? Unless they plan on giving her her own show or movie…
Either way, her emergence as a big player in the underworld of Madripoor is largely confirmed in the previous episode where you can hear her on the phone with Betroc, but I’m most surprised that Karli doesn’t rat her out to Sam. Granted, it might be that Karli doesn’t know Sharon’s relationship to Sam, or, the fact that she’s dying. But, Sharon gets a lot of luck in this episode – the justifiable killing of the only two people who knew the truth. The post-credit scene of her being pardoned will probably come back to haunt Sam, as I imagine she will feature prominently in the new Captain America movie, but he’s nothing if not a man of his word. One nice thing? She’s a bad guy that’s not Hydra-based! Speaking of…
There’s also John Walker, who returns in hopes of getting revenge for Lamar’s death but instead manages to redeem himself a little before ultimately winding up a tool of the enemy (assuming Valentina does turn out to be Madame Hydra). It’s a funny moment when he quotes Lincoln only to get shot down by Bucky for it. Very much makes me believe my comparison of him to the radical right faction isn’t far off. Also, why does he have so much trouble putting the helmet on? Isn’t his U.S. Agent costume the same as his Captain America one? Hell, Walker even says it is!
Finally, Bucky confronts Yori about his son. He confesses to having killed the young man while employed as the Winter Soldier, and we’re not entirely sure if Yori ends their relationship or not. He passes the window of the bar where Yori’s daughter works, but he doesn’t go in, so I guess it was? My only other hang-up about the Bucky storyline is the small number of names on his list. I mean…wasn’t he the Winter Soldier for about 50 years. Shouldn’t there be more names on his list!? Yeah, he wasn’t working consecutively that whole time, but still…
Anyway, overall, this is a fantastic finale. Lots of action, numerous instances of how capable Sam is to be Captain America (even without being white or having super-soldier serum running through his veins), and the conclusion of our main storyline. Are there some hokey parts? Sure. A lot of people have given Sam’s speech flak, but I think it is mostly meant to show us that, like Steve, he’s capable of making the “big speech” off the cuff. One of the more moving scenes is when Sam brings Isaiah Bradley to the National History museum to see his induction in the Captain America wing – he will finally be remembered as the hero he is. It’s one of the few things Sam can actually do to right a historical wrong, and it’s beautiful.
We end with Sam back in Louisiana, having fun with friends and family (yes, Bucky and he are friends, even if they won’t admit it!). Closing the show is a new title: Captain America and the Winter Soldier!