The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finally did something it hasn't done since the first episode; it slowed down and let the characters take in everything that has happened in the last five episodes. This seems like it would be an odd choice considering that this is the penultimate episode of the series but it's something that the show has needed to do for a while. It starts off with a bang and one hell of a brutal action scene but, after that, we get to see all of our main players take the time to figure out where they stand in all of this. It was a much-needed thing but it's also coming much too late to save the pacing of this series.
If The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has a fatal flaw it's that there aren't more moments like the ones in this episode. There just wasn't enough time for the two leads to really grow and react to the world around them and the show keeps throwing all of these interesting tidbits that never really go anywhere. While this episode is better that it does give our heroes some time to look at the world they are trying to save and have them both figure out what kind of place they want to have within it, there is still a lot here that feels like a setup for future projects. There was a cameo this week from someone that is going to turn the heads of Marvel fans but it is just more setup and something that feels like it would be in place for an after-credits scene and not something that happens toward the beginning of the second to the last episode of a series. It's another odd choice in a series that seems to be making a lot of odds choices.
Where this episode shines are the quiet moments. We finally get to see Sam take center stage for pretty much the entire episode and we really dig into why he didn't take up the shield when Steve gave it to him. We also get a little more information about Isaiah but he still feels like a setup for another series that is really going to explore that story. Isaiah and his place in the Marvel Universe very much feels like a footnote which is on-theme since Isaiah feels like a man who was just erased from history. The conversation he has with Sam plays life service to the concept of white people and America erasing the history of black people but it's such a deep subject that feels like it deserves so much more attention than it has gotten. An entire episode should have been dedicated to Isaiah and seeing Sam grapple with the idea that the country he serves did so much damage to a man that did nothing wrong. Hell a flashback to young Isaiah beating the absolute crap out of Bucky would have been spectacular and why they decided not to show that is sort of baffling.
The rest of the episode is Sam and Bucky both coming to terms with what they need to do next as the other plot points all start to come together. We have an idea where the final battle is going to take place but it's still a little hard to see how they are going to frame it. At the end of the day, Karli might be going off the deep end but the show seems sympathetic to her ideals but not her actions. It's going to be a final punchy-punchy fight feel a bit awkward. The best parts of the episode, however, are the moments between Sam and Bucky. This friendship is a ton of fun and their dynamic is engaging to watch. They don't do much this episode aside from talk, after that first scene, and it's great. This series should have slowed down and given us more of this. This is the first time Sam has turned his PTSD coaching on Bucky and the fact that it took this long for that to happen feels like a massive waste.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was compared to Iron Man 2 last week and that comparison holds firm. The series features some truly great and standout moments, but it still feels like small teasers for other shows and movies down the line. People are watching a show called The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for those two characters and their development feels so secondary compared to worldbuilding. Even if this final episode hits it out of the park, this series just hasn't been able to elevate itself from good to great.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10