“The hardest choices require the strongest wills.” The line is spoken by Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos, the Big Bad of the Marvel cinematic universe; a villain that has been memed to death, and compared (rightly) to a giant purple thumb. But it also could’ve been spoken by a boat surveyor. That’s especially fitting now, as it took a staggering 23 films, two series and countless subplots—which amounts to over 14 years of superhero content—for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to face off against the toughest foe they’ve ever faced: a boat refit.
That’s right, in the penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Solider streaming on Disney+, the titular heroes found themselves confronted with an aging, 40-foot fishboat in a Louisiana bayou. The boat is a family heirloom belonging to the Falcon, aka Sam Wilson, an Air Force airman who served two tours in Afghanistan before coming home to counsel veterans with PTSD. Wilson—played in equal parts by a tight-lipped and charismatic Anthony Mackie, trying to ring every ounce of gravitas out of the role—gets his superhero name from a pair of metallic wings that bestow the gift of flight on the wearer. (Because: comics!)
But all the outlandish technology in the world apparently can’t fix the cash flow problems at home in Delacroix. In Sam’s absence, his sister, Sarah, (played by Adepero Oduye) has been overseeing the family business, Wilson Family Seafood, and money is tight. They continue to air their sibling grievances aboard the Paul & Darlene, a heavy-handed reference to their deceased parents who made a living at sea aboard this very same vessel. In fact, here’s a snippet of dialogue to set the scene:
Sam: “You gotta marvel at it—baby being held together by duct tape and prayers.”
Sarah: “It’ll be fine, it just needs to float long enough for me to sell it.”
Sam: “I thought we were going to discuss if we were going to sell it?”
Sarah: “We did, and then you were off fighting Dr. Space Cape or whatever while I was holding it together for five long years. Now that the world is going back to normal, this thing’s gotta go.”
Sam: “We grew up on this thing. It’s not just Mom and Dad’s name on it Sarah, this thing is a part of our family.”
Sarah: “You know the situation we’re in, that’s why I prefer not to dwell on it in front of everybody.”
Sam: “But what if we don’t have to sell it...”
Sarah: “Can I talk to you?”
I mean, Dr. Space Cape aside—who hasn’t been there, amiright!? Sam ends the conversation with a simple question: “What if you had money to fix it up, make it nice so you can charter it when you’re not out working the waters?” Talk about fantasy.
Sam then goes off to fight some “super soldiers” (because: comics!) before getting down to business, going toe-to-toe with the series’ true nemesis: boat repair. What follows amounts to a minute of refit montage (!!!) set to Hey Pocky A-Way by The Meters. It’s realistic enough that you wonder if a consultant was called in to advise how best to pry off a rusted metal tumblehome. The answer? Just ask your friend with a Vibranium metal arm to do it! Superheroes—they’re just like us!
The episode is named “Truth”, a reference to the larger questions at play about being a black man in America. While those were welcome conversations—adding nuance to what is typically a rinse, wash and repeat formula of good guys versus bad ones—the truth is, I have never felt more connected to these characters than I was while watching Mackie wrench on a diesel engine. Or watching Sebastian Stan stare hopelessly at some wood that requires sanding. Or when Oduye comes back with some experts to find the Falcon and the Winter Solider futzing with the water pump. “I told you specifically that the water pump is not the problem and yet here you are,” she admonishes. Busted!
In the end, there’s a happy ending (because: comics!). “We can’t sell it,” says Sarah standing next to a repainted, possibly repowered, damn-near glowing Paul & Darlene. While there’s still a looming showdown in the works as I write this, the toughest villain anyone has faced so far—an aging boat—has been vanquished. Well, at least for now. Maybe next time, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can take on bottom painting. Or fiberglassing.
Wait, no—there’s some problems even heroes won’t touch.