The season finale is here – and there’s definitely the sense that I’d like to spend a lot more time in the company of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. Though the series has struggled to centre on a clearly defined villain – giving Karli Morgenthau and the Flag-Smashers relatable motivations (even if their methods are terrible), Zemo an image makeover and even in John Walker the tragic descent of a good man, unable to cope with the pressure of living up to the standards set by Steve Rogers as Captain America – it’s been an absolute joy to see the eponymous pair go from very reluctant allies with a BFF in common, to true friends who understand and respect each other.

The series has come with a surprising – but definitely not unwelcome – commentary on socio-political issues too, with race at the forefront. It’s incredibly timely and relevant – and demonstrates the strength of the episodic format over that of the big event movies, which don’t have the breathing space to satisfactorily cover this ground amidst the big explosions and action sequences. That’s not to say we haven’t had that kind of action in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier of course, with some excellent fight scenes that make great, inventive use of elements such as Falcon’s wings or Bucky’s arm (the Wakandan failsafe being a surprising highlight in that respect), but there’s scope for so much more across a six-hour-or-so series than there is in a blockbuster movie.

When the final episode begins, Karli Morgenthau’s planned attack on the post-Blip Global Repatriation Council organisation is underway – spurring Sam and Bucky into action, with Sam sporting a gift from the Wakandans that finally puts him in his rightful place. Meanwhile, John Walker and the Power Broker are still at large…

Episode six is mostly taken up by a big fight scene that feels a little too convenient at times in terms of how it manoeuvres certain pieces into place on the board; we’re also perhaps asked to give a little more sympathy to certain characters than they deserve, given their actions not just in previous episodes but also within the scenes that unfold here. Sam’s new look isn’t entirely successful either, I’m sorry to say – though it is extremely accurate to a more recent iteration of his costume in the comics (and perhaps that’s the problem – the MCU has always done well to reference the comics without too slavishly aping the designs, but with the tone of this series it perhaps feels a little too comic book in nature). There’s a botched twist too which, let’s face it, everyone saw coming – you’ll know it when you see it.

The post-fight wrapping up of loose ends is handled brilliantly for the most part though, with the same strong performances from all concerned that we’ve come to expect over the course of the series. It cannot be overstated just how good Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell and Carl Lumbly have been throughout the episodes, giving their all in some brilliantly written, often surprisingly emotional and affecting scenes.

Stick around for a very neat, satisfying and earned change to the end credits, as well as a post-credit scene that is setting us up for further intrigue and spy thriller-esque action, a world away from the magical antics of WandaVision. It’s amazing that the MCU has reached a point where there’s so many different corners of the universe that are equally valid and exciting places to visit – but that’s always been the beauty of the Marvel Comic Universe too; it’s wonderful to see that approach being so successfully applied on TV and in film since 2008’s Iron Man. With Loki’s time-altering shenanigans up next on Disney Plus, we’re back to the more fantastical end of the spectrum – but let’s hope that we haven’t seen the last of Sam and Bucky’s adventures.

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