As always, the following review/recap for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will include SPOILERS! Read on at your own discretion.
What was it about?
Sam and Bucky break Zemo out of prison in order to investigate the provenance of the new super solider serum, meeting an old friend on the way. In the meantime, Karli proceeds with her own plans to help the people.
Can you believe we have already reached the halfway point of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? The plot keeps on moving, clearing some things up while also raising new questions. This episode felt a bit slower to me than previous ones. There were a lot of locations involved with beautiful but lengthy exhibition shots that felt like filler and made it seem a bit scattered at times. Still, I cannot help but praise the stunt coordinators and choreographers, because every episode delivers on top notch action scenes that never get boring to watch.
We’re also at a point in the show where we have met most (but not all) the important players and it becomes more difficult to balance showcasing each character each episode. I enjoy that they, for example, had very few shots of John Walker this episode, because he got a lot of screen time last week. Instead, we meet old friends and new foes. Let’s dive into everything in a bit more detail.
- We start off the episode with an ad (which we should be accustomed to from WandaVision by now, but always feels a bit odd to me still) for the Global Repatriation Council – or GRC in short. This organisation is supposed to help people who have returned find their footing in this new and changed world again. They make it look wholesome and good, but Karli and her group know that people are forced to live in crowded camps, getting little to no medical assistance and that governments regularly withhold necessary provisions.
We also get introduced to someone dear to Karli, who ultimately dies because of the conditions at the camp, furthering her struggle. It adds more depth to Karli’s and the Flag Smasher’s rebellion and explains why people want to rally behind them. During a heist for provisions, Karli shows that she is done playing nice though, causing an explosion and killing several people in a building and therefore proving that she is dangerous in her grief. If she isn’t careful, it could soon create doubt in her character as I don’t believe everyone will like her radicalization.
- All the while John Walker and Hoskins are scrambling for clues concerning the super soldier serum, showing a growing darkness and Walker getting more unhinged, Bucky and Sam follow their own lead by visiting Zemo. I think the show gave Zemo a great reintroduction to the universe, making his character shine in his own way. There wasn’t too much detail we knew about him, but he now carries himself with more bravado and charm than what I remember from the movie. His prison break was well crafted (when did Bucky have time to set all that up?) and he is sure to cause much tension. There is no way he can be trusted, but within a couple scenes he proves that he is useful (and not just because it turns out he is filthy rich).
Once the new team consisting of Sam, Bucky and Zemo arrives in Madripoor, this is where things really kick off. So much information is learned there, but as always I’m going to try and break it off into smaller bits and pieces:
- In order to not get immediately killed, the threesome have to pretend to be their old selves or someone different entirely. While Sam offers some great humor-filled scenes as The Smiling Tiger, it was jarring to see Bucky having to be the Winter Soldier again. Aside from people filming this and me worrying that the footage getting out could possibly nullify his pardon, I cannot imagine this didn’t take a toll on his mental well being. It warmed my heart to see Sam constantly checking in with him to ask if he was okay. They can pretend to be annoyed by each other all they want, but in the end, they care!
- Things get a bit more complicated from here on out and I hope I won’t make it too confusing. It basically boils down to the boys making a mess and having a bounty put on their heads, them learning about the doctor who created the serum and having to get saved by the one and only Sharon Carter.
She is different from when we last saw her. After being on the run for years and still not welcome in her home country, she is disillusioned of star-spangled awesomeness and has hustled her way up in Madripoor instead. She doesn’t hesitate to tell things as they are and the boys probably couldn’t have made five steps in that city without her. Sam ultimately convinces her to help them in exchange for a pardon from the US government. I’m not sure he has the sway to really make that happen, but she does agree to it.
- Once they find Dr. Wilfred Nagel, (a reference to the comic book doctor who actually gave Isaiah his super strength) we learn that he was originally recruited by the CIA and was given genetic material from Isaiah in order to recreate the serum. After the blip, his project had been abandoned and he was employed by the Power Broker to continue his work. Zemo, who likely doesn’t want to see any more super soldiers in his lifetime and has made a point about how people glorify them and put them on a pedestal, goes to the drastic measure of simply killing Dr. Nagel and destroying the entire lab. It takes a shootout with the mercenaries that are at their heels to get them out of that place.
- So, who is the Power Broker? There’s many theories going around about this. We know the Power Broker is an independent third party, not affiliated with a government. They have considerable amount of money and obviously power. They, too, are on the hunt for Karli since she stole the serum, but who is behind them? My bet is on Sharon Carter herself for now.
Her appearance was mighty convenient and the way she exited those docks seemed like she was backed by someone powerful, or is possibly that powerful person herself. As always, I could definitely be wrong, but I also wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. I don’t think it would make her villain either. She had to do what she did to survive and no one can blame her for thriving and being good at what she does. Did you see how she took out a dozen mercenaries by herself? I would not mess with her.
The entire ordeal in Madripoor made Sam reconsider his stance on the shield. He felt like he shouldn’t have given it up to the museum, but rather should have destroyed it, to which Bucky immediately replies that it has too much meaning and that he would rather take it for himself to become the new Cap than see it gone entirely. Such a small statement, and yet it carries so many implications with it. We know that Sam doesn’t feel ready to carry the shield, despite Steve having left it to him. Imposter syndrome is real and we have additionally seen the struggles he faces because of race and how a Black super soldier was treated by the government before, I understand his hesitations 100%, but I also think that statement hurt him a little bit. There was this flicker in his eyes and I hope it was the spark needed to get Sam Wilson on the road to actually becoming Captain America one day! It’s the ride I am here for.
Towards the end of the episode, we see Walker and Hoskins puzzling together the pieces of Zemo’s prison break with them going off the books and on the hunt for Sam and Bucky. I would be surprised if this doesn’t end in some sort of showdown between the duos.
At the same time, Sam, Bucky and Zemo are following their next lead already. When Bucky first said he needed to go for a walk to get some air, I thought he actually needed alone time (silly me), but he found trackers like bread crumbs and followed them to let us meet another surprise appearance – Ayo!
As Sam mentioned earlier on in the episode, Wakanda would not take lightly to Zemo being freed. Ayo, as part of the Dora Milaje, having been King T’Chaka’s security detail on that fateful day in Vienna when Zemo caused his death, would definitely be the last person to let his escape slide. I loved that Bucky immediately recognized the Wakandan tech and I’m very interested to see how he is going to stall her so she won’t go killing Zemo while he needs him. They definitely left us on a great cliffhanger here.
Ultimately, I keep enjoying the show. I keep feeling engaged by the storyline and wanting to know what happens next. I am not trying to decipher as much as I did with WandaVision and rather try to just enjoy the ride, hoping that they will make it all come together in the end. By now, they have so much previous history to consider and need to be careful not to contradict themselves, but by adding small and fun callbacks to old scenes (e.g. the mention of “Travel Man” by Marvin Gaye or Sam/Bucky refusing to move the car seat for the other person, …) they seem to be on the right way, making it all feel connected.
Side note: Marvel has got to stop putting their characters all over the world and then having the actors and glorified extras butcher the languages. It’s painful and completely takes you out of the setting at times, because all authenticity is gone. I appreciate the efforts of making it global, because the world is larger than the US, but there’s a better way to do that.