Contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5, "Truth"
Marvel’s latest Disney+ original series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has taken viewers on an action-packed thrill ride full of twists and turns. Episode 4, "The Whole World is Watching," started out slow but rose to a wild crescendo in the final few moments. As a result of his use of Super Soldier Serum, John Walker (Wyatt Russell) went absolutely berserk in front of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and the entire world, using the Captain America shield to kill a Flag Smasher in broad daylight.
Naturally, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have waited patiently to see how this development will play out. Would the United States government punish Walker for harming the Captain America legacy? How would Sam and Bucky respond? Plus, where had both the Flag Smashers’ leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and Baron Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) wound up after the events of episode 4?
Thankfully, episode 5, titled "Truth," covers all of these points and more. Here’s the ending of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s penultimate episode explained.
John Walker, the former Captain America
In response to the brutal, public murder he committed last week, John Walker is stripped of his shield and the Captain America title. In the opening sequence of "Truth," he engages Sam and Bucky in a brutal fistfight, from which the two Avengers narrowly walk away. While Walker rips Sam’s Falcon wings off, Sam still walks away from the battle with the bloody Captain America shield in hand.
After facing that humiliating loss, the now-injured Walker then has to stand before the U.S. government and learn he’s no longer Captain America and has lost all of his military honors and privileges. Understandably crushed by this verdict, Walker takes some time to reflect — and then he’s approached by a mysterious woman. She introduces herself as La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), otherwise known as Madame Hydra in the pages of Marvel Comics, and explains to Walker that she can turn his luck around. She leaves him with a seemingly blank business card before departing, telling him to take her call when his phone might ring.
The next time Walker appears on screen is for the episode’s post-credits sequence — the series’ first so far — in which he’s shown constructing a brand-new shield for himself, which aligns perfectly with the defiant "I am Captain America" line he repeats multiple times throughout the episode.
At this point, it’s apparent that Walker is headed into U.S. Agent territory just as he does in the comics. What role Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, and/or the organization she represents, will play in his story going forward remains a mystery. Is HYDRA back? Is this version of the character representing a new, different bunch of baddies in the MCU?
Baron Zemo is back in custody
After making a quick escape from the Dora Milaje in "The Whole World is Watching," Baron Zemo visits his home of Sokovia. Bucky catches up to Zemo there, however, and pulls a handgun on him, seemingly planning to kill him where he stands. The viewers — and Zemo — learn, however, that the gun is empty — nothing more than a distraction so the Dora Milaje can approach Zemo and take him into their custody. When the Dora Milaje escort him away, Zemo is essentially written out of the story.
Something worth noting in this scene is that Ayo (Florence Kasumba) mentions they’re going to take Zemo to the Raft. For those unfamiliar, the Raft is an underwater prison for super-criminals that made its live-action MCU debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War — the same movie that brought Zemo to the screen as well. The members of Captain America’s (Chris Evans) "team" wound up imprisoned there for their refusal to sign the Sokovia Accords. Of course, in the case of Sam Wilson, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), the Star-Spangled Man busts them out of the Raft, implying that the base isn’t quite as impenetrable as it may seem, despite its nautical location.
Could Zemo’s time in the Raft lead to the establishment of the Thunderbolts team of villains, similarly to how it’s created in the comics? Either way, this is certainly not the last time we’ll see Zemo in the MCU.
A major point of "Truth" is Sam’s quest to understand the legacy behind Captain America’s shield — for better or worse. Educating himself completely isn’t possible without speaking to Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a Black super soldier whom the U.S. government unceremoniously wiped from the history books. He tells Sam all about the atrocities visited upon him, including the government’s penchant for experimenting on him without his consent while he was imprisoned for rescuing his fellow Black super soldiers from an enemy prisoner-of-war camp — a twisted echo of Steve Rogers’ own heroics in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Without a doubt, Sam and Isaiah’s conversation is one of the most poignant scenes in the entirety of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It’s painful to hear about Isaiah’s wrongful imprisonment and lost love. On a larger scale, this sequence speaks to the issue of Black erasure in American culture and how so many important, brilliant individuals have been shunned from recognition due to the color of their skin. Isaiah even refers to the Red Tails — also known as the Tuskegee Airmen — when he tells Sam his story. Meanwhile, Isaiah’s own story of being involuntarily subjected to torturous experimentation reflects that of the tragic, real-life story of the Tuskegee Experiment, in which Black men were experimented on by the U.S. Government without their consent or knowledge.
This chat seemingly presents Sam with only one choice: leave Captain America’s shield behind and let it lose its luster as a relic of American "greatness." However, it seems clear by the end of the episode that Sam instead decides to reclaim the shield for his own, and stand as the Black Captain America that Isaiah deserved to become and be remembered as.
What’s going on with Sharon Carter?
An extremely small amount of time in "Truth" is dedicated to catching up with Sharon Carter and her shadowy exploits back in Madripoor. She’s appeared a handful of times in the series so far, shown as having redefined herself as a successful illicit art mogul with plenty of wealth and power, leading many to wonder what her life post-Captain America: Civil War has actually been like. Sharon’s presence this week raises even more questions — particularly because she apparently conducts a phone conversation with MCU villain Batroc the Leaper (Georges St-Pierre) about working on another job for her for double the pay.
Toward the end of the episode, Batroc appears with a suitcase full of supplies for Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers. He notes that he doesn’t care about their cause and only wants to kill the Falcon, causing viewers everywhere to scratch their heads. If Sharon is really Sam’s friend, why would she align herself with someone who wants to kill him? Also, was she the one behind Batroc’s heist in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s premiere episode? This whole situation lends itself to the theory that Sharon Carter is secretly the Power Broker, suggesting that she’s using Batroc as a way to get close to Karli in hopes of securing her revenge for her theft of the Super Soldier Serum. Then again, as a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Carter may still somehow be conducting some double-secret espionage that we have yet to fully understand.
When it comes to Sharon Carter, the only thing for certain is that nothing is certain — at least for now.
Sam and Bucky’s heart-to-heart
With Karli hiding out and John Walker a relative non-factor for the bulk for the episode, Sam finally heads back to his family home in Louisiana. He bands the whole community together to help repair his and his sister Sarah’s (Adepero Oduye) family fishing boat. That includes Bucky, who shows up to give Sam a suitcase from Wakanda — and flirt a bit with Sarah. After spending the night and putting the finishing touches on the boat the next morning, Sam and Bucky start working with the Captain America shield a bit, and share a nice conversation about what it and they stand for.
For Bucky, this scene reinforces the concern that he’s still not so far removed from his Winter Soldier persona. The nightmares persist, and, as Sam notes, he’s constantly looking for someone or something to tell him his goals and worth as a person. Their conversation heavily implies that Steve Rogers may have indeed died, leaving Bucky as his own man, free to start over in the modern world.
As for Sam, this conversation with Bucky shows that he finally has a better understanding of what the shield represents and how to wear it properly. Sam doesn’t want to just be the next Captain America — he wants to redefine what it means to carry that title.
The two part ways shortly after their talk — and after agreeing that they’re just "co-workers" and "a couple of guys" and not really a legitimate team. Something tells us that the series’ final episode may still prove those assertions wrong.
The Flag Smashers make their move
"Truth" is fairly light when it comes to showing the Flag Smashers and Karli Morgenthau, but it wasn’t for nothing. It’s mentioned in the middle of the episode that they’re preparing to mobilize and execute their grand plan, something we begin to see by the installment’s closing scenes. The Global Repatriation Council is preparing to vote on the Patch Act — a piece of legislation that would deport more than 20 million immigrants and displaced people back to their home countries. Considering their anti-nationalist message, the Flag Smashers are against the idea entirely — and are prepared to act to oppose it.
As the GRC’s leaders give their final statements on the vote, the lights cut to black and the Flag Smashers — who have just met with Batroc and taken advantage of his cache of weapons — move in. What their actual plans might be aren’t made clear, though, since the episode quickly moves from this scene to one of Sam Wilson at home.
Sam puts the box Bucky gave him earlier on his bed and finally opens it, growing wide-eyed and taking a deep breath before the credits roll. Considering Sam left his broken wings behind for potential Falcon 2.0 Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), the Wakandan crate more than likely contains a vibranium-powered set of wings for the new-new Captain America.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will debut its final episode next week, and we can only hope that Marvel Studios will wrap up every loose thread. No matter what, though, we can count on the show closing in similar fashion to how it opened: with plenty of action, drama, and maybe even more hints toward the future trajectory of the MCU.