The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 2 “The Star-Spangled Man” Review

You know the drill, people. This post contains SPOILERS for episode 2 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Read this at your own discretion.

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Sam and Bucky team up to deal with a global threat, while the world gets to know the new Captain America.

My thoughts?

After last week, I knew what topics The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was likely going to touch upon during its run, but I had no idea how they were going to go about it. I was surprised by the in depth character drama we got and so pleased to see it moving along quickly in terms of plot, however, still giving us plenty of introspection in this second episode. There are always one or two really well choreographed action sequences in the episode, but a lot of it is character work and I’m here for it.

We start the episode with neither Sam nor Bucky, but John Walker instead. I think it was evident by everyone’s reaction to last week’s final scene that he had quickly become one of the most hated characters in the MCU without ever having spoken so much as a word. We could have easily not seen his side of the story or his struggle with taking on the mantle of Captain America, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made sure this was a balanced way of portraying the issue (still doesn’t mean I have to like him though).

credit: Marvel Studios

From the glimpse we got, John Walker isn’t a bad man. He’s a soldier, and a very capable one at that. Having received several medals of honor and showing great skill with the shield, he knows how big a shoes he has to fill. I don’t think he takes it lightly to put on the mantle of Captain America (although he would likely prefer to punch his way out of a situation rather than use diplomacy) and I can see why the government took interest in him, but … nothing will change the fact that he is not Steve Rogers and Steve intended for that shield to go to someone else. Like Sam said in the pilot episode “these symbols are nothing without the men and women that give them meaning” and I cannot see Walker carry that same kind of hope.

Let’s check out what we learned about him:

  • He seems to have a good support system with a loving wife and a best friend, Lemar Hoskins, ready to be by his side. Lemar is Battlestar on the show. In the comics he staged attacks on Walker in order to build his brand, but I can’t see him doing that in the series. They seem to both be employed by the government and work as a team.
  • Not only has he physically trained to be Captain America, he also seems to have familiarized himself with the Avengers and notable associates. He was definitely fighting to get Sam and Bucky on his team, but I don’t think calling Sam a wingman, speaking of Steve as a brother without ever having met him or plain hacking into Redwing got him any browny points. By the end of the episode, he had burned quite a lot of bridges, showing a possible darker side to his persona.
credit: Marvel Studios

But on to more important things and the actual leads of this show – Sam and Bucky! As a lot of us predicted, it did not sit well with Bucky to find that Sam had given up the shield. He did not hesitate to confront him, despite not having talked to Sam and having ignored his texts the past couple of months. Immediately, as soon as they got back together again, they proved once more what an incredible duo they are. Not just are they able to carry emotional scenes, but their comedic timing is off the charts. I laughed out loud so many times and was really happy to have them paired up this episode.

Now, where are we moving with those two in terms of plot:

  • Bucky jumped on the plane with Sam and Torres to tag along for the fight against the Flag Smashers. I’m not sure whether Bucky just didn’t want to let go on the matter of the shield yet or if he was craving a new mission, but despite their constant bickering, Sam and Bucky are growing to be a really good team. They may not have won, but they have each other’s back when it matters.
  • We also found out that the Flag Smashers are indeed super soldiers, powered by serum and apparently led by one Karli Morgenthau. (So they are not one of the big three – aliens, androids or wizards – a joke that keeps on coming) They feel abandoned by the governments that care more about the returned people than those who were never blipped. It’s evident they already have a large following, although I’m not 100% clear on what their plan is. Giving everyone powers doesn’t really solve … anything?
  • After getting their asses kicked by the Flag Smashers, Bucky brings Sam to Baltimore to introduce him to a man called Isaiah he fought as part of Hydra back in the 50s. For those who didn’t know, Isaiah Bradley was the original Black Captain America (on this show as well as in the comics) and there was already a hint at his identity during last episode’s credits. He never got the same glory as Steve though and the government thanked him for his heroic deeds by putting him in a prison for 30 years, showing once again the double standard when it comes to race. Obviously, he wants nothing to do with Bucky or his past though, so they are left to seek help about the super soldier serum elsewhere.

Fun fact: Isaiah Bradley’s grandson Eli/Elijah, who opened the door, will likely become a hero called Patriot, who is a member of the Young Avengers. Not every, but a lot of the shows/upcoming movie of the new MCU phase have had teases for the Young Avengers, with Wiccan and Speed in WandaVision, Kate Bishop in the upcoming Hawkeye series, America Chavez in the Multiverse of Madness, Riri Williams as Iron Heart in the show of the same name, Cassie Lang aka Stinger in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania and ultimately Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel in her own show as well.

  • Sam is naturally pissed that he never knew about Isaiah, even if Bucky never told anyone else about him either (not even Steve). They have a small fight on the street when a cop car pulls over, which immediately made my stomach tie up, knowing what would come next. I know that Sam and Bucky could easily take them, but I was still afraid for him. Of course, the cops racially profiled Sam and only backed down as soon as they realized that he was Falcon. Something he shouldn’t need as a protection against discrimination when he never did anything wrong to begin with. In the end, they do arrest Bucky though, since he missed his court mandated therapy session, while profusely apologizing for having to take him in. This scene worked as a mirror to many people’s reality when it comes to interactions with the police and I am glad that Disney/Marvel isn’t shying away from showing that on screen.
  • John Walker is the one bailing Bucky out and calling his therapist, because he wants Sam and him on his team. He asks that the therapist do whatever needed to get them to ship out on missions again and I just think that was a terrible, terrible idea. Bucky is nowhere near done dealing with his trauma and neither has Sam worked through his own stuff. Still, the “couple’s session” did provide a little breakthrough when Bucky revealed why he was so angry at Sam. They didn’t exactly grow closer through the exercises, maybe even a little further apart, but they will work together for now. I just hope they both take up therapy again, I think they could profit from it.
  • Lastly, we finally learn how Zemo comes into play with this storyline. Since Bucky can’t think of anyone else to ask about the serum, he ropes Sam into coming with him to seek out Zemo for answers. Doesn’t sound like a great idea either, if we are being honest.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode very much, which was overall solid. I loved that Bucky and Sam are finally together on screen again, even though I very much understood how necessary it was to show their current state of minds apart from one another in the pilot. This show is moving at a really nice pace and I think it will be able to tell a good story in the remaining four episodes.


PREVIOUS THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER REVIEWS


What is your take on the episode? Did I miss something crucial? Let’s talk!

12 thoughts on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 2 “The Star-Spangled Man” Review

  1. I was not expecting them to give John Walker such a sympathetic portrayal. I thought he was going to turn out to be an entitled jerk who got super-pissed when not everyone, especially Sam and Bucky, became cool with him and the shield. Surprisingly, they gave him a very nuanced characterization, and I do think we’re going to see several different sides to his character (including a dark one).
    Also, I’m predicting that he’s going to die heroically by the end of the season, give Sam back the shield, and we at home are all going to be so sad and wish we were nicer to him. But that’s just my theory.

    Like

    • I hear where you’re coming from on John Walker, but I can’t help but wonder if they’ll go down the comic route at least a little in terms of his character development, which would definitely not give him a hero’s death and make no one sad to not see him on their screens.
      Also, I kinda think that Sam will have the shield before the final episode from the looks of trailers.

      Like

  2. i really loved this second episode and so far i am glad they’re balancing well character work and plot (something i feel like the marvel movies are not super good at imo). i just think it’s interesting how they’ll develop the flag smashers as villains, because i can definitely sympathize with them. i wonder if they’ll do something like the killmonger-t’challa dynamic from black panther, where t’challa actually learns enough from the villain’s motivations he starts making changes on his own community. i think it’s possible, since the flag smashers’ motivation – in terms of wanting “a world without borders” and for government leaders to pay more attention to the people who stayed, rather than the ones who were blipped – is actually pretty reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you! While Marvel movies are always entertaining and action-packed, they have struggled with giving all the characters their due development time. That’s the beauty of shows though, you have at least three times as long to get your message across.
      Interesting though process on the Flag Smashers. I also don’t necessarily see them as evil evil, but I also don’t understand their ultimate goal yet. I agree that the governments shouldn’t neglect the people who stayed after the blip in favor of the returned, although I also sympathize with anyone who has to deal with that on an executive decision-making level. However, what is it they want exactly? Are they going to give everyone powers? Are they going to abuse those powers? I need more on them for sure to form an opinion, but I think they are interesting antagonists.

      Liked by 1 person

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