Each Friday, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Bucky and Sam reunite in this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, giving us all the odd couple we’ve been dying for in the MCU!
Again, what an episode! There is no denying that this is shaping up to be one of the best entries in the MCU to date. This week, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continued it’s social commentary with some incredibly powerful moments reflecting the unfortunate social imbalance we are dealing with in the world today. The writing for these scenes was great, making for some of the best moments of the episode. I truly hope these conversations continue throughout the series, because even though Marvel is the studio that made Black Panther, this is the biggest move Marvel has made to address our world’s society in their works, and so far, it is doing an excellent job of it.
While last week’s episode did not see Bucky and Sam together, the two are reunited this week, allowing the buddy cop nature of the show to explode across the scene. While Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan continue to give great individual performances as Sam and Bucky, the two of them combined on screen are so much fun. It’s the same vibe as their small car scene in Captain America: Civil War, but dialed up to a level ten. Watching the two of them is such a joy as they play off each other so well, but also they connect on a more personal level which helps us get a further glimpse into the emotional baggage both Sam and Bucky are dealing with. Further, we get the couples therapy scene that was teased in the Super Bowl trailer, and while it began as the funniest scene of the episode, it quickly morphed into something powerful, speaking to the incredible writing we have seen so far in this series.
In this episode, we also get our first impression of John Walker. And while it’s clear you are not going to like this character, Wyatt Russell is doing a great job so far in the role. In the opening scene of the episode, Russell gives us a glimpse into the inner thoughts of what Walker is going through, having just replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America. Russell has been flying under the radar in Hollywood for the past couple of years, despite being the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, but this role looks like it will give him the recognition that he is long overdue for.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in this week’s episode…
The episode opens on John Walker, our new Captain America, in his high school gym locker room. Walker reflects on how this time around being a captain means something different, as the world expects him to be something. Walker is worried about failing, but his friend assures him he won’t as the world will love him. We then meet Lemar Hoskins, Walker’s military partner, who addresses Walker’s concerns about the job being all hand shakes, meetings and speeches, assuring him that it is all part of being Captain America. Hoskins reminds Walker that the suit comes with expectations, and that Walker can’t punch his way out of his problems anymore. We then see Walker put on the Captain America suit, and run out onto the football field. It’s a Good Morning America interview segment, with screaming fans in the bleachers wanting photos and autographs, and a marching band playing a pop version of Alan Silversti’s “Star Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger. During the interview, Walker talks about how becoming Captain America is the greatest honour of his life and how shocked he is a guy like him turned up where he is. Walker talks about how he has guts, something that Steve Rogers always had, and how that makes him the right person to become the next Captain America. At home, Bucky is watching this interview, clearly triggered seeing Steve’s legacy be dishonoured (mirroring my personal reaction and I’m sure lots of other viewers’ reactions to Walker and this scene).
Bucky goes to find Sam, who is gearing up for a mission in Munich. Bucky, clearly upset with Sam, expresses his disappointment that Sam returned Captain America’s shield to the US government. Sam tells Bucky he didn’t know they were going to give it to Walker, but Bucky reminds him that this is not what Steve wanted. Sam, however, does not know what Bucky wants him to do about it, as he can’t simply call the government and get the shield back. Bucky, getting angrier, tells Sam he had no right to give away the shield, to which Sam defensively responds by saying that Bucky cannot come here and say that to him. However, Sam puts the fight to rest (for now…) and tells Bucky there is something bigger to deal with: the Flag-Smashers. They have been spotted in Munich, and Sam thinks they are the next Big Three enemy. As Sam explains, the Big Three enemies are androids, aliens or wizards, you know, the enemies that the Avengers fight. Sam thinks they might be dealing with wizards here. Naturally, Bucky invites himself along on the mission despite Sam’s protests.
Cut to the awkward plane ride to Munich. Sam is giving Bucky the silent treatment, refusing to answer Bucky’s question about what the plan is. Sam assures him there is a plan, before jumping out of the plane. Bucky asks Torres where the parachute is, to which Torres tells Bucky they are too low in the air for a parachute to work properly. Naturally, Bucky jumps out of the plane as is and crash lands into a forest outside of Munich. And of course, Sam has captured Bucky’s marvelous crash landing on camera using Redwing. Sam has Redwing lead Bucky to a nearby abandoned warehouse where Sam has tracked the Flag-Smashers to.
At the warehouse, Sam and Bucky find the Flag-Smashers loading boxes into trucks, which Sam thinks are weapons the group is smuggling. The two of them argue over what to do, as Sam thinks they should follow the Flag-Smashers and learn more about their plan, whereas Bucky wants to crash the party now and stop them. Sam jokingly asks Bucky if he is now the White Panther after spending time in Wakanda. Bucky, not too amused by this joke, tells Sam his name is actually White Wolf. As they argue, the Flag-Smashers finish loading the trucks and take off. Sam sends Redwing closer to scan the truck and discovers that there is someone inside the back of the truck. Sam assumes this must be a hostage, and Bucky and Sam head off after the trucks.
Bucky breaks into the back of one of the trucks, and discovers it is full of vaccines the Flag-Smashers are smuggling, not weapons. He also finds our hostage…except it’s not a hostage. It is Karli Morgenthau, and turns out she has super strength as she sends Bucky flying out of the truck. And cue the big action sequence of the episode as the Flag-Smahers face off against Bucky and Sam on top of the trucks in the convoy. The Flag-Smashers destroy Redwing (bye little guy) and Walker and Hoskins join the fight. However as none of our heroes can work together, the Flag-Smashers easily over power the four of them using their super strength and get away. During this sequence, Marvel fans may recognize Henry Jackman’s musical score, which reprises the end credits theme from Captain America: Civil War, ensuring that you get that epic music for the fight sequence.
Still licking their wounds from the fight, Sam and Bucky are still not getting along. Bucky tells Sam he is sorry about Redwing, but Sam doesn’t buy it. Sam is convinced that Bucky’s mechanical brain must be malfunctioning. Perfectly timed, Walker and Hoskins drive by and try to offer Sam and Bucky a ride. But there’s no way they are getting in a car with Walker…until Walker mentions the Big Three. During the tense car ride, we learn that Walker and Hoskins are working for the Global Repatriation Council, a government agency set up after the Blip to help refugees from the Blip activate citizenship, social security and health care. Walker wants to work together with Sam and Bucky, but there is no chance that Sam and Bucky are working with the man they view as unrightfully taking up Steve’s mantle as Captain America, and one who is not worthy of the title. Walker assures them that he is not trying to replace Steve, at which point Bucky jumps out of the car. Walker further puts his foot in his mouth by saying to Sam how much easier it would be for him if he had Captain America’s wingman at his side, at which point Sam exits the vehicle.
Having easily dealt with our heroes, the Flag-Smashers reach their destination, which is a makeshift rest station created by one of their followers. This man views the Flag-Smashers as a modern day version of Robin Hood, and believes in their mission. However, the Flag-Smashers have an enemy as Karli receives a text message from an unknown number accusing the Flag-Smashers of stealing and threatening to kill them for it. In addition, the Flag-Smashers involved in the earlier fight are now all wanted criminals with their pictures now circling the web. Karli gives a rousing speech to her followers, telling them how this is about trying to stop the individuals put in power after the Blip from remaining in power as they are not concerned about those who had to live through the past five years. She ends her speech by saying there is no going back after tomorrow, indicating that the Flag-Smasher’s true plan is about to unveil itself.
Sam and Bucky are headed back stateside after their failed mission. Sam, seeing that Bucky is clearly not okay with everything that has happened, asks him how he is doing. Bucky clearly does not want to talk about it, and suggests that they should steal Captain America’s shield from Walker and do the job themselves. Sam is clearly not on board with this plan and reminds Bucky what happened last time they took the shield from the US government: Sam and Steve were fugitives for years, and Sharon Carter was branded an enemy of the state. Sam tells Bucky that they gain nothing by stealing this shield. Bucky neither agrees or disagrees with Sam, but tells Sam that there is someone he should meet.
On the ground on their way to meet Bucky’s old enemy (so that means he’s a friend given Bucky’s history with Hydra), Sam and Bucky pass by a young black boy in the street. He recognizes Falcon right away, but then asks why his name is not “Black Falcon”? Sam responds very appropriately, pointing out white superheroes don’t have the word “white” in front of their hero names, and therefore he can be just Falcon. It’s a powerful moment in the series, a bold statement unlike any that Marvel has made in any of their projects so far, and it’s exactly what we need to see in today’s world.
We next meet Isaiah Bradley, Bucky’s old enemy from the Korean War. Isaiah was injected with a super soldier serum during the Korean War by the US government, hoping to recreate Dr. Erskine’s formula that created Captain America, and learned that Isaiah was the only asset sent after Bucky who survived his encounter. Isaiah is now an old man, one not willing to work with Sam and Bucky after he was imprisoned for 30 years by the government and tested on. Isaiah further questions that Bucky is not as reformed as we think, as he does not think one simply cannot wake up and decide not to be a killer. After being kicked out of Isaiah’s house, Sam is upset that he was never told about Isaiah and how the world never knew there was a black super soldier. However, before Bucky can respond to Sam, their conversation is quickly interrupted by a cop car.
The cops get out of their car, asking Sam and Bucky if there is a problem. They both say there is no problem, but the police insist on seeing Sam’s ID. Sam gets annoyed and the police immediately escalate asking Sam to calm down. The police then ask Bucky if Sam is bothering him. Bucky asks the cops if they know who Sam is, and one of them quickly realizes that they are part of the Avengers. The scene quickly changes its tone. Everything is all good, and the cops are very apologetic. More cops arrive and the two officers quickly go over to tell them that everything is ok. While they’re gone, Bucky responds to Sam’s earlier question, telling him that he didn’t tell anyone about Isaiah as Isaiah had already been through enough. However, the cops then arrest Bucky as Bucky has breached his release terms by missing his mandated therapy session by going off to Munich with Sam.
At the station, Sam has called in Bucky’s therapist, Dr. Raynor, who he assumes helped get Bucky released. However, it is Walker who got Bucky released, and he begins talking as if Bucky is part of his team and how therapy will have to wait because there is real work to be done. However, Dr. Raynor calls a mandatory therapy session for Bucky and insists that Sam attends.
As you can guess, the therapy session does not start off well. After being given the miracle exercise, which is normally used for couples, where they are given the hypothetical situation where they wake up and change one thing about their relationship. Sam and Bucky both respond by saying that they wish the other would talk less. With even less success, they are given the soul gazing exercise, during which the two of them have to get close (real close, like legs between each other’s legs close) and look into each other’s soul. This turns into a staring competition between Sam and Bucky, that Dr. Raynor has to break up. Going to the source of the conflict, Dr. Raynor asks Bucky why Sam aggravates him, but firmly tells Bucky no childish responses. And we get the truth from Bucky: it’s all about Steve and Sam giving up the shield. Sam initially responds by saying he doesn’t see the big deal in giving up the shield, but Bucky tells him why it’s such a big deal. Bucky sees Sam giving up the shield as Sam throwing away Steve’s legacy. Bucky believes that Steve gave Sam his shield and legacy for a reason, and if Steve was wrong about Sam being the right person to become the next Captain America, then Steve was wrong about Bucky. Sam tells Bucky that his decision to give up the shield is something that Bucky and Steve will never understand. Clearly feeling the pressure to track down and stop the Flag-Smashers, Sam says he will lay to rest his fight with Bucky to stop the Flag-Smashers, promises never to see Bucky again after defeating the Flag-Smashers, and leaves the session. Bucky thanks Dr. Raynor for making the session weird, but Dr. Raynor says she knows the look Bucky has on his face and knows something is wrong. Before leaving, Bucky asks Dr. Raynor what rule number two is? She responds saying that it is to not hurt anyone. Bucky then says goodbye and leaves the room.
Outside the police station, Sam and Bucky run into Walker, who was outside waiting for them. Walker once again tries to recruit Sam and Bucky to his team as he does not see either team standing a chance of stopping the Flag-Smashers if they are divided. He offers up Karli’s identity to Sam and Bucky and his suspicions of where the vaccines are being taken. But Sam and Bucky still refuse to join forces with Walker and Hoskins. In his parting line, Walker warns Sam and Bucky to stay the hell out of his way.
We then cut to Bratislava, Slovakia to the Flag-Smashers. They are loading the vaccines onto a small plane, when one of their members receives a text. He quickly announces that they have been found by the Power Broker’s men and they have to leave now. This one man quickly volunteers to stay behind to give Karli and the others a chance to leave. He knocks down a power pole with his bare hands, blocking the Power Broker’s men from getting onto the airfield. This man is gunned down, but Karli and the others manage to escape in the plane.
Back to Sam and Bucky, they know that the Flag-Smashers must have some connection to Hydra given their super strength. Knowing that Isaiah won’t help them, they decide to go and get answers from Zemo, who is currently in prison in Berlin.
What a second episode! Once again we get lots of character development for Sam and Bucky, further exploring their state of mind following the events of Avengers: Endgame and Steve’s decision to live in the past with Peggy. In addition, we get some truly incredible social commentary on being black in America that is easily the most important discussion Marvel has ever had in any of their properties. While the episode did not reveal too much about the Flag-Smashers larger plan, or how Sharon Carter will play into the story, we did get some hints as to where we are going next.
The biggest tease is the appearance of Zemo in the final shot of the episode. It was not secret that Zemo would be making his MCU return in this series, but given the events of the episode it may not play out as fans expected. While it was easy to guess that the Flag-Smashers would be involved with Zemo’s escape to prison, the situation that Sam and Bucky find themselves in throws some doubt on that. Given that they need Zemo’s help, and based on what we know of Zemo, he won’t freely give that information without getting something in return, I think we may see Sam and Bucky having to break Zemo out in next week’s episode. If this is true, not only will this be incredibly difficult for Sam and Bucky given their history with Zemo, but this will easily turn them into Walker’s enemy and add him to the list of people Sam and Bucky have to deal with.
However, the more interesting reveal in the episode is the participation of the Power Broker in the series’ story. For those who are not familiar with the Power Broker is a mad scientist from the comic books who tested on individuals, augmenting them to give them super powers. And based on him going after the Flag-Smashers, it is clear that he is the source of that group’s superhuman powers. However, we do not meet the Power Broker, which begs a question of who is he? In the comics, his name was Curtis Jackson. Jackson co-founded Power Broker Inc. with Dr. Karl Maus to create a super serum trying to replicate the one used to create Captain America, and Malus’ name may sound familiar to anyone who has watched Netflix’s Jessice Jones. In the second season, Dr. Malus was played by Callum Keith Rennie. While Dr. Karl Malus took his life at the end of the second season of Netflix’s Jessica Jones, with the rights for Jessica Jones reverting back to Disney, this could be the first chance for the MCU to acknowledge the Netflix shows. We know that the Netflix’s Marvel shows existed in the same universe as the films as they had reference events from the MCU films, but time will tell whether the Disney properties will tie them in, and if they, how it will be explained?
More importantly, the introduction of the Power Broker could play an important part in Walker’s story. Walker does not have any superpowers. He has a gun and Captain America’s shield, but this will not be enough to stop the Flag-Smashers. The reference to the Power Broker could be a hint at the direction of Walker’s story, with Walker going after the Power Broker to get superhuman strength, as Walker and Hoskins do in the comics. Given the introduction of Hoskins in the episode as well, I think it’s safe to say that this will be the direction the show will head for these two characters.
And that is it for this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. After another great episode, it needs to be next Friday already for the story to be continued. Do not forget to check back in next Friday afternoon for my next recap and breakdown of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.