***SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses the events of episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.***
Last night’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was relatively quiet, with a focus on Sam Wilson the man instead of Sam Wilson the Falcon. Sam’s greatest strength has always been his empathy and his humanity, which he has wielded time and time again to find common ground with the people he encounters. The episode is a breakthrough of sorts for Sam, as he finally accepts the shield and (presumably) the mantle of Captain America. And he does so by returning to his hometown in Louisiana, where Bucky shows up to help him rebuild his family’s boat and train with the shield. He also returns to see Isaiah Bradley, who was abused, imprisoned, and experimented on by the government that made him. It’s a powerful episode that explores not only Sam’s past, but the legacy of the first Black super soldier.
Series director Kari Skogland discussed the episode in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying “We wanted Sam to engage in both a public and private conversation of what it means for a Black man to pick up such an iconic historically white symbol,” she said. “By starting off with his acknowledgement of how important it is as a symbol, and that it is connected to a bygone era, Sam opens the door to the idea that what defines a hero today is not the same ideal as it was when Steve first picked up the shield.”
Skogland continued, “It is important that we explore all sides to its future as a symbol, given it represents the American flag and the deep history that comes with something that represents equality and freedom, … It needs to be an ongoing discussion because those very coveted ideas that are the core to the American Dream are actually fragile and need to be protected from those that go down a slippery slope, no matter how well intentioned, that actually puts freedom and equality in the crosshairs.”
Skogland also discussed Sam’s place as a regular human hero, who doesn’t have the powers, money, or support that the other Avengers do. in the episodes best moments, we see Sam reaching out to his community for help in restoring his family’s boat. We also see him not only connect with Bucky on a deeper level, but push Bucky to heal himself by “doing the work.”
Skogland said, “I wanted the show to explore the redefinition of a hero who has traditionally been seen as a warrior/soldier to being a first responder and front line worker,” adding that she considers Sam to be a first responder. “To see a hero who has a strong moral fiber and yet is not rigid so is able to conciliate, include and discuss with the opposition with an eye to solving global issues because they are ultimately interconnected to our universal quality of life.”
Sam Wilson’s Captain America offers a new kind of grounded hero who shines in everyday moments. These are moments which the MCU often ignores in favor of CGI-saturated big battles and set pieces. That’s part of what makes these Disney+ series so satisfying: they allow for these smaller character moments that are so quickly jettisoned on the big screen. We can’t wait to see what Skogland has in store for the season finale next week.
(via EW, image: Disney+)
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