I’ve been talking about the lack of true watercooler moments in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in my reviews – especially in comparison to MCU/Disney Plus stablemate WandaVision, which seemed purpose built to take advantage of social media chatter and fan theories. It’s not a criticism – Sam and Bucky’s series has been excellent so far – more an observation that it’s a far more traditionally structured show with great action, great characters and some superb performances from its leads, but there hadn’t been any huge shocks that had everyone talking.

At least until last week’s climax, with a confrontation that turned fatal for one of the ‘official’ Government heroes, leading nu-Cap John Walker – who’d taken things a step too far with a dose of the refined Super Soldier serum – to gruesomely execute a Flag Smasher in a very public, very busy place. The ‘how America sees itself’ vs ‘how America is’ parallels demonstrated across social media, with Steve Rogers/John Walker memes, were both telling and very pertinent.

Following the fallout from that shocking sequence, episode five picks up immediately, with a rapidly-unravelling John Walker fleeing the scene, pursued by Sam and Bucky. Soon enough, it’s not just The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that he’s having to answer to. Meanwhile, Karli Morgenthau is in hiding – and Zemo’s still at large. With the shield now literally and metaphorically tarnished, does anyone even want it?

After the dramatic action over the last few episodes and a big, characteristically well-choreographed, brilliantly shot fight scene here (and I have to say, I’m always seriously impressed with the inventive uses found for Sam’s wings), episode five has a far more measured pace, with a lot of dramatic ground covered for many of our characters. There’s some pretty startling revelations and more than one scene with incredible emotional impact – as one example, Carl Lumbly’s portrayal of Isaiah Bradley is perfect – and though it may be a slight spoiler even to mention that he appears again (despite this episode’s title being a direct reference to his first comic book appearance) I couldn’t go without mentioning just how good he is. And that’s even in the company of Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan and Wyatt Russell, all of whom have been absolutely fantastic in their respective roles, with Russell being so damn good as the tortured John Walker that he’s still being hit with online abuse and death threats – seriously people, do you not realise that he’s eliciting these feelings because of the superb job he’s doing? Let alone the fact that he’s not actually John Walker of course.

I do also have to mention neat visual cue during a training montage: the usage of red, blue and black crash mats. Subtle, but very clever.

Though one character seems to be disposed of too soon and too neatly quite early on, I have no doubt we’ll see them again – even if it isn’t in this particular series. Another predicted twist may well come to fruition in this episode too, though it’s still perhaps intentionally vague at this point, the evidence is mounting. In any case, this episode is all about setting us up nicely for a big finale, with plenty of pieces being moved into position – and a seriously compelling final shot that has me dying to time travel to next Friday already. Stick around for a short post-credits sequence too – I’ve a feeling it’s going to be very important.

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