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.
Sharon Carter makes her long awaited return to the MCU as the mystery thickens in this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Much like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is taking time to let audiences in on the overall plot of the series. The end of this week’s episode marked the halfway mark in the series, with only three episodes remaining, and it seems as if we know the central focus of the show now: the super soldier serum. This week the episode spends a lot of time with Bucky and Sam searching for answers as to the source of the super soldier serum that the Flag Smashers have used and how to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands. In doing so, this causes them to cross paths with two MCU characters that we have not seen since Captain America: Civil War: Baron Helmut Zemo and Sharon Carter.
Daniel Brühl and Emily VanCamp return, reprising their roles as Zemo and Sharon respectively, and it’s nice to see these two familiar faces back in the MCU. VanCamp this time is elevated to a main role this time around, and is actually given some decent writing to flush out her character compared to the flirting with Steve Rogers she did in the previous Captain America films (which made every fan’s stomach turn knowing that she was Peggy’s great niece). Sharon has been through a lot since we last saw her, and VanCamp does a great job breaking down this new version of Sharon while clouding her in mystery as to what her larger purpose in this series is. Then there is Brühl, returning as the evil mastermind Zemo. This time, we see Brühl getting to have a lot more fun with his character as he joins Bucky and Sam on their adventures. But Brühl does a wonderful job of hiding something sinister and a larger plan at play with those subtle facial expressions he has throughout the episode and his subtle undermining of Sam and Bucky’s relationship.
As with the previous two episodes, Mackie and Stan continue to give excellent performances as they each unpack their character’s new reality: living in a post Blip world without Steve with a man they both deem unworthy taking up the mantle of Captain America. Once again, both Mackie and Stan have great comedic comedy that continues to build the buddy cop relationship between Sam and Bucky, however this is not the focus of the episode. This is a plot-heavy episode where the pieces start to come together, but that does not mean that we do not get the spectacle action sequences and laughs we have had in the previous two episodes. However, the tone of the show takes a darker turn this episode with the new version of Sharon and the increased brutality and gore in the violence, which I thought was a perfect evolution to match the serious action thriller storyline of the show.
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 begins with Walker and Hoskins in Munich, tracking down the Flag Smashers. They find the location that Karli and her crew were at last episode and begin to question the man who provided them with shelter. Getting no answers from the man, and after another unfruitful lead to get answers about the Flag Smashers, Walker decides that it is time to bet on someone with a better hand to get the answers they are looking for.
We then jump to Sam and Bucky, now in Berlin to talk to Zemo. Bucky wants to speak to Zemo alone, but Sam is less than enthusiastic about this idea considering what happened the last time that Bucky and Zemo spoke. Regardless, Bucky visits Zemo alone. Zemo welcomes Bucky by repeating the Hydra code words used to activate the Winter Soldier, curious to see if they have any effect on Bucky. While Bucky does not turn into the brainwashed assassin he used to be, Zemo does claim he sees something of the Winter Soldier in Bucky. Zemo assures Bucky that what he previously did to him was nothing personal. Bucky was just merely a means to an end for Zemo to destroy the Winter Soldier program. Bucky tells Zemo he wants answers as to who recreated the super soldier serum, and Zemo assures Bucky he has the answers he is looking for.
Before we get to those answers, we cut to Sam and Bucky in a garage. They are arguing as Bucky has just proposed that they need to break Zemo out of prison to get his help tracking down the creator of the super soldier serum. Bucky assurses Sam that Zemo will cooperate as Zemo too wants to see the end of the super soldier serum, but Sam is convinced that Bucky does not remember what Zemo has already done to them. Bucky then proposes a hypothetical…
Well, it’s actually not a hypothetical. Bucky slipped a message from Zemo to another inmate as he was leaving the prison, which caused a prison riot. This gave Zemo the cover to escape unnoticed, and he arrives in the garage that Sam and Bucky are in. Sam is very mad at Bucky as Sam had Steve’s back when Steve fought for Bucky, and he feels betrayed that Bucky released Zemo from prison after all the harm Zemo caused to Sam and the Avengers. But Bucky asks Sam to have his back on this. Bucky assures Sam that Zemo can’t make a move without his permission, but knowing Zemo, we know he’s 100% playing Bucky and has an ulterior motive. Before leaving the garage in one of Zemo’s cars, Zemo finds his purple mask that Zemo wears in the comics, and puts it in a bag with some other gear he has gotten from his garage.
Much to Sam and Bucky’s surprise, Zemo is a rich baron, and they head off on his private jet to get answers about the super soldier serum. Zemo has set course to Madripoor, where there are answers about the serum. During the plane ride, Zemo finds the notebook that Bucky has written his list in, and immediately recognizes the names of many Hydra agents. However, he notes the name of Bucky’s friend’s son that he accidentally killed, that Bucky is trying to make amends for. Bucky is triggered by this, snatches the notebook from Zemo and warns Zemo never to ask him about that name again. However, Sam recognizes the notebook as the same notebook that Steve used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to write down events and pop culture phenomena he had missed while being in the ice for decades. Sam then asks Bucky his thoughts on Trouble Man, and while Bucky is clearly not a Marvin Gaye fan, Zemo fully supports Sam that it is a masterpiece. While Sam says that Steve loved Marvin Gaye, Zemo points out that Bucky must have looked up to Steve. But the problem with America’s super soldiers is that they are put up on a pedestal, and they become a symbol. However, people forget about their flaws, which leads to cities flying, innocents dying, and wars beginning. To prevent another war and figure like the Red Skull, Zemo tells Sam and Bucky that they must go to Madripoor in disguise. And as the final twist of the knife, Zemo tells Bucky that he will have to become someone he claims is gone: the Winter Soldier.
We then cut to a GRC Camp in Latvia. Karli and the Flag Smashers are there. Karli is visiting an unidentified woman in the camp, who is dying. Karli sits at her bedside, crying and says she is sorry.
Upon arriving in Madripoor, Zemo explains to Sam and Bucky the lawless city they are about to enter. He urges them to stay in character, as that will keep them alive as they search for answers about the super soldier serum. They are then escorted to an outdoor bar, with ominous graffiti on the wall across the street claiming that the “Power Broker is watching”. At the bar, a hooded figure recognizes Sam and Bucky and quickly disappears before they are spotted, which fans will immediately recognize as Sharon Carter. Zemo tells the bartender that they have business with Selby. However, one of Selby’s men approaches Zemo and tells him that he is not welcome here. Zemo tells the man that he has no business with the Power Broker. Zemo tells Bucky and Sam that the Power Broker is the judge, jury and executioner of Madripoor and instructs Bucky to attack one of Selby’s men who has just laid a hand on Zemo. Bucky, staying in character, attacks and a small brawl breaks out in the bar. The bar turns on Bucky, and Zemo instructs Bucky to stay in character. But before Bucky can continue his fight, the bartender tells them that Selby will see them now.
We then meet Selby. Selby asks Zemo how he escaped from prison, to which Zemo responds “people like us always find a way”. Zemo says that Selby must know what he is here for, and asks for information about the super soldier serum. In exchange, he is willing to give Selby the Winter Soldier and the code words to control him. Selby tells Zemo that the serum is here in Madripoor, being created by a Dr. Nagel, who works for the Power Broker. However, Selby says that the Power Broker’s plan did not go as planned. However, during this conversation, Sam receives a phone call from his sister Sarah. Selby demands that Sam answers it on speaker. Sam does so, trying to remain in character as the Smiling Tiger as Sarah wants to talk about their family situation. Sam appears to be pulling off the charade of keeping his identity secret, until Sarah calls him Sam at the end of the call. Selby, realizing she is being played, orders her men to kill Sam, Bucky and Zemo. However, she is shot and killed by an unknown shooter from outside the building, which sends Sam, Bucky and Zemo on the run with a bounty on their head for apparently killing Selby.
While being chased by bounty hunters in the streets of Madripoor, their assailants are shot by an unknown shooter from one of the buildings in the street. The shooter comes down to the street and reveals herself. It’s Sharon Carter. Sharon is ready to kill Zemo for all the trouble he has caused her, but Sam prevents her as he tells Sharon they need Zemo to find the recreated super soldier serum. Sharon explains that after going on the run during Captain America: Civil War for stealing Steve and Sam’s equipment for them, has left her with no choice but to come to Madripoor. However, unlike Sam, Sharon did not have the Avengers behind her which has caused her to remain on the run for years with no possibility of going home or seeing her family again. Bucky then asks Sharon for her help, and despite being amused by the situation, she takes them back to her place where they will be safe for a while.
During her time in Madripoor, Sharon now specializes in selling stolen art. Her view on the Avenger situation has changed, as she now thinks the whole hero thing is a joke as she suspects Sam does too as he gave away the shield. She asks Sam and Bucky how the new Captain America is, but all Bucky can say is don’t get him started on that. However, Sharon is not convinced by that answer and calls Bucky out, saying that she knows he buys into the whole stars and stripes situation. The conversation then moves to Karli and the Flag Smashers, to which Sharon warns them to stay away from the situation. Sam says they can’t leave until the find Dr. Nagel, and Sharon recognizes that name. Sam promises to clear her name and help her return back home if she helps them find Nagel. Sharon agrees and says one of her contacts coming to her party tonight will know where to find Nagel.
Sharon takes Sam, Bucky and Zemo to a container shipyard, where her source tells her Dr. Nagel is. Sam, Bucky and Zemo enter one of the containers, which has a secret lab in the back where Dr. Nagel is working on the serum. While in the lab, the bounty hunters after Sam, Bucky and Zemo arrive in the shipyard, and Sharon begins to disable them one by one.
In the lab, Nagel begins disclosing his history. He was originally recruited by Hydra to work on the Winter Soldier program, but after Hydra fell he was hired by the CIA to continue his work. He was given blood samples of a super soldier by the CIA and tasked with isolating the compounds to recreate the serum. We know that these samples must have come from Isaiah Bradley, who we met last episode. However, Nagel says that his serum was to be different. Before he completed his work, Nagel turned to dust in the Blip and the CIA abandoned the program. After returning five years later, the Power Broker funded Nagel’s work that allowed Nagel to create 20 doses of the serum. But, these doses were stolen by Karli and the Flag Smashers. Nagel tells them that Karli phoned him, asking him to help a woman naemd Donya Madani, a refugee in one of the GRC camps suffering from tuberculosis. Zemo asks if there are any doses of the serum in the lab, which Nagel says there are none. Zemo quickly shoots and kills Nagel, right after Sharon enters the lab telling them they have to go now as the bounty hunters have overrun the shipyard. One of these bounty hunters launches a rocket at the lab, blowing it up.
Surviving the explosion, Sam, Bucky and Sharon defend themselves from the bounty hunters as Zemo makes a run for it. While defending themselves from the bounty hunters, Zemo appears, wearing his purple mask, on top of one of the containers and takes out the bounty hunters, allowing Sam, Bucky and Sharon to escape. Zemo meets them with a car he found stashed in one of the containers, but Sharon declines to continue on with Sam and Bucky. She just asks for them to get her that pardon. However, Sharon meets up with an unidentified woman in the shipyard, telling her that they have a couple of big problems.
Karli is now in Lithuania, casing a GRC Supply Depot. One of her men comes up to her, asking whether Karli should take time to mourn her loss. Karli says that what they are doing needs to happen now, before the conversation turns to what could have been if the Blip had never happened. Karli saw herself as a teacher, never imagining that she would end up in Madripoor. However, she says it was the only place where she could find what they needed to protect themselves and to help them return the world to the kids in the GRC refugee camps. Her man warns her that the Power Broker will eventually catch up with them, but Karli does not see that as a problem as Nagel is dead. She thinks this will cause the Power Broker to come begging, looking for more of the last of the serum that they have.
That night, Karli and the Flag Smashers return to the GRC Supply Depot and take the six months worth of supplies that were being stored there. As a parting gift, Karli sets off a car bomb that lights the supply depot on fire, killing the men trapped in there. Karli’s man is shocked as this was not part of the plan, but Karli says that this is the only language that the GRC will understand. Clearly, Karli is evolving from the morally justified freedom fighter she sees herself as into a more morally corrupt villain.
We now return to Walker and Hoskins, now at the prison in Berlin that used to house Zemo. Discovering that Zemo escaped, Walker immediately jumps to the conclusion that Sam and Bucky broke him out. Hoskins tells Walker that they have no proof of that, and that they cannot make that accusation without any evidence. However, Walker tells Hoskins just to go with what he does, because with the result he will achieve, there won’t be any concerns about how he got there. While it’s a small scene, we are shown yet again the differences between Walker and Steve, hinting at Walker’s story arc staying truthful to his more morally dubious character in the comics.
Back on Zemo’s plane, Bucky has called Torres asking him to find them any information on Danya. Once off the phone, Sam reflects on Sharon and her circumstances since he last saw her years ago and what he learned about Isaiah, wondering how many people have been steamed to make way for a “hunk of metal”, referring to Captain America’s shield. Bucky is quick to point out that the shield has saved a lot of lives. Sam admits that he made a mistake, referring to giving up the shield. Once again, Bucky is quick to agree with Sam. However, Sam sees his mistake as not destroying the shield while he had it in his possession. Bucky, having a different view of the shield given his history with it and Steve, says that the shield means a lot of things to a lot of people, including him. He says that the world is upside down and that they need a new Captain America, and he says that before Sam goes on destroying the shield that he will take it from Walker. Before the conversation can get heated, Sam’s phone rings. Torres has found Danya, discovering that she died at a GRC camp in Latvia. Zemo instructs the pilot to set course for Latvia, clearly excited about the chance to come face to face with Karli.
On the ground in Latvia, Bucky, Sam and Zemo head to what is presumably the GRC camp. However, Bucky decides to not accompany Sam and Zemo inside and instead goes for a walk. Sam and Zemo head inside, and we learn what Bucky is up to. He has noticed trackers on the ground on the way to their camp. He follows the trackers to a small side street, at which point he says “you dropped something” to someone off screen. He continues talking to this individual, saying that he was wondering when they would show up. The camera changes angle, revealing the mysterious individual to be Ayo, a Dora Milaje from Wakanda. And she has come for revenge against Zemo, ending the episode.
Let’s just say when I was running down the possible surprise MCU appearances that could have appeared in the show, I was not expecting anyone from Wakanda! But as always, Marvel has shocked us all and I cannot wait for this story line to be furthered. It makes perfect sense that Wakanda would want revenge against Zemo, as Zemo was responsible for the death of Wakanda’s king in Captain America: Civil War. But with this surprise appearance, it now has me wondering whether we may get a surprise appearance from the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa before the series concludes. The majority of the show was shot before Boseman passed, so I’m sure Marvel will include the footage if it was shot, as there is no better way to honour Boseman before his final appearance in What If..? later this year.
This episode was a lot of plot setup again, setting up Zemo and Sharon’s stories in the series while further developing Karli and the growing divide between Sam and Bucky caused by their views on Captain America’s legacy. There is no denying that the writing is excellent, and the debate about superheroes and their roles is fascinating, going much further into the subject than the MCU previously did in Captain America: Civil War. However, by the end of the episode it seems like the show has reached the tipping point. I think it’s likely that all the plot pieces will come together next episode, and we will see an action packed and wild final two episodes.
While we were led to believe from the marketing that Zemo and the Flag Smashers were going to be the central villains of the series, it is shaping up that the Power Broker might be our big bad. Again, we do not have an identity for the Power Broker yet, so it remains unclear if they will tie in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, but it seems very clear that Sharon is working for the Power Broker. She saw Bucky and Sam in the bar, and someone sent out the bounty on them immediately after Selby was shot. My hunch, Sharon shot and killed Selby to frame Sam and Bucky, putting them on the run and creating the perfect situation for her to jump in and rescue them, so she could get them out of Madripoor before they discovered what she was up to. Further, the attack of the shipyard seems to have been orchestrated as Sharon had her getaway just waiting in a car with no security, suggesting that she may have tipped the bounty hunters off to their location. However, Sharon is not happy that Sam and Bucky are interjecting themselves in the super soldier serum situation, as she tries to warn them off getting involved. I’m certain Sharon’s true motivites and involvement will be revealed over the coming episode, but I am loving this complete character change to Sharon as it’s a great contrast between the different treatment of her and Sam following the events of Captain America: Civil War.
We also learnt that the Power Broker does not have any more super soldier serum. So it is clear that at this point, Walker won’t be able to get any serum from the Power Broker and transform himself into a super soldier. However, we saw a much darker side to Walker this episode, remaining true to his characters from the comics. He clearly has no issues crossing the line to accomplish an outcome he sees as just, no matter how wrong his actions are. While I definitely am not ruling out Walker becoming a super soldier in this series or crossing paths with the Power Broker, I see it happening towards the end of the series to set up Walker’s future in the MCU beyond this series.
And finally, the bic comic book connection of the episode: Dr. Nagel. While he’s dead and won’t be having much of an effect on the future of the series, his past in the comics does tie into the characters we have met so far in the series. In the comics, Nagel replaced Dr. Erskine as the head of Project Rebirth following Erskine’s death, and was the scientist responsible for turning Isaiah Bradely into a super soldier. While Marvel never just makes up a name, not every character they introduce serves a larger purpose. We do not need to over dissect this show like we did with WandaVision, but it is nice to see these nods to the comics continuing.
Or maybe we do… This episode took us to Madripoor, which has a connection to another Marvel property: the X-Men. We know that the X-Men will be debuting in the MCU now that their ownership has reverted back to Disney. And while we all thought they could have been introduced through the events of WandaVision, I think their appearance is still a ways out as Kevin Feige keeps saying. But the inclusion of Madripoor has connections to Wolverine in the comics, and there were small easter eggs referencing these comics. One of the bars in the show is named “Princess Bar” which featured prominently in one of the Wolverine comics. Another was Selby, which is the name of a mutant in the comics who has a mastery of computer binary language. While I doubt the Selby we saw was a mutant, these small nods in the episode were a lot of fun and sure to get Marvel fans even more excited for the inclusion of the X-Men in the MCU.
And once again, my recap and breakdown of the episode must end. But don’t forget to check back in next Friday for the next recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.