They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.
Confronting John after his brutal and public murder of one of the Flag Smashers, Sam and Bucky take the shield from him, aggressively. With Karli’s disappearance and John being brought up on war crime charges, the US government and Global Repatriation Council (GRC) taking over jurisdiction of the hunt for the Flag Smashers, Sam seeks out Isaiah Bradley to understand his story and experience as one of the first Black superheroes. Hearing his tragic tale, Sam returns home to Louisiana to focus on saving his family and his community rather than saving the world.
Bucky easily tracks Zemo down at the Sokovian memorial where the city once stood before it was destroyed by Ultron, one of the big three. Bucky isn’t swayed by Zemo’s warnings against Karli’s radicalism and that the only way to stop her is to kill her, and to Zemo’s surprise, Bucky turns him over to Ayo and the Dora Milaje who promise to bring him to the Raft, the government’s maximum security lock-up for enhanced criminals, like Jessica Jones’ Trish Walker. Bucky also asks one small favor from Ayo and Shuri; a new set of wings for Sam, which he delivers to Sam back in New Orleans, and stays for a time getting to know his family and slowly becomes a part of the community. Before he leaves, Sam and Bucky discuss the ideas and unfortunate repercussions of Steve’s decision to pass the shield to Sam, a Black man. However good intentioned he was, neither Steve nor Bucky could truly understand what experiences Black men like Sam and Isaiah have had, and why their representing the stars and stripes of America is complicated, to say the least. But, knowing Karli and the Flag Smashers are still out there, Sam and Bucky decide to not let the shield’s legacy decide who they are, and build their own identity away from Steve’s shadow.
The building intensity and globe trotting of Sam and Bucky’s hunt for the Flag Smashers takes a back seat in “Truth”. That back seat however is actually the trunk of a large van with three rows of seats that are filled with the messages of racial inequality and mistreatment of veterans that this show has put at the forefront of Sam, Bucky, and even John Walker’s story, just in case those messages were too subtle for you.
Early in the episode we see John Walker’s hearing for the murder he committed, and as much as we want to rail against him for his actions, the statements he makes about doing what he was trained to do, what he was “built” to do, the same actions that the US government were now discharging him for, weren’t wrong. While there aren’t many super soldier veterans, this same scenario is a familiar one for many who find themselves tossed aside after a military career because they were no longer needed or they were inconvenient. While they give John a pass on the murder due to his service, he’s given no counseling, no accountability, and no military benefits often reserved for veterans. The men who trained John to be the ultimate American star-spangled man are the same exact ones tossing him aside, not because he murdered someone, but because he did it in front of everyone and made them look bad. Does any of this forgive John of his actions? No. But just like many aspects of this series it offers an intriguing perspective into how soldiers and veterans are treated.
It’s also interesting, and tragic, to hear Isaiah Bradley’s full story as a Black superhero. What stands out is how similar it is to Steve Rogers story, a man even Zemo had admiration for, though with key differences. While Steve signed up for the super soldier serum and was hailed as hero, Isaiah was lied to and used as a test subject for the experimental serum. Steve single handedly fought his way into a Hydra base and freed Bucky and the rest of his future Howling Commandos, and in return was heralded as Captain America and given his own authority to lead troops in the war. Isaiah broke into an enemy POW camp to rescue his fellow soldiers before the American army could bomb the compound and kill them to get rid of the evidence of their experimental serum, and in return was locked away from the rest of the world for 30 years. This parallel shows signs of the two (Captain) Americas that are still present today; one for the white majority, and one for the Black community and other minority groups. And Isaiah is right, nothing has changed.
Lastly, who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?! It was a huge surprise to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus take the screen in a very brief meeting with John Walker after his hearing? A woman who clearly has big plans for John, but what are they? Could she be the mysterious Power Broker we’ve been hearing about? Does that take the suspicion from Sharon Carter now that she’s apparently helping the Flag Smashers by connecting them with Batroc? But then Batroc wants revenge on Sam? So many questions. Hopefully they will be answered in next week’s season (series?) finale.