As I say every week, here is your little Spoiler warning for the following post, which is a review/recap for episode 4 “The Whole World Is Watching” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Proceed with caution if you haven’t watched yet!
What was it about?
Bucky buys some time with the Dora Milaje in order for Zemo to help them find Karli. All the while, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins are also on their trail.
This episode – there’s a lot to unpack!
When Sebastian Stan said that episode 4 was one of his favorite episodes (please don’t make me look up that particular interview, there’s been so many), I thought it would be full of banter and fun, but this episode was really dark. I’m not sure if it was just me, but even some of the one-liners that were put in for comedic relief didn’t hit home as much as in previous episodes and just felt out of place at times.
With only two more episodes to go, the narration is getting tighter, although I still feel like we are far from being able to tie things up. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has brought up so many different topics and while they start to all come together instead of being separate stories, it’s still a big undertaking for the remaining screentime. I’ve thought about this ever since WandaVision ended, but I am not sure The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will end on a real conclusion either. I could see them using these shows to set up future movies in a more elaborate way, especially since they are so hell bent on making all the content one big universe and interconnected.
After last week’s appearance of Ayo, which really shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering that Wakanda would never let Zemo just walk free (Sam warned Bucky), we start off this week with a little flashback. Six years ago, Ayo (alongside Shuri and possibly other members of the Dora Milaje) was instrumental in freeing Bucky from the grasps of the Winter Soldier. I don’t think anyone could feel untouched at Bucky’s smile when he finally realized he was free. He owes so much to the people of Wakanda, for giving him a refuge when needed, restoring his arm and mind and you can see he does not enjoy having to barter for Zemo’s life, but he needs him. Ayo grants Bucky an 8 hour extension until they come for Zemo, therefore setting the timeline for the episode.
Side note: Marvel has not been great at featuring a lot of LGBTQIA characters so far. I am not saying there are none, but they are few and far between, so, please don’t ship Ayo with Bucky? I know it’s tempting, but Ayo is a canon lesbian in the comics and I’d really love it if they didn’t erase her sexuality.
So, let’s try and break down what all happens:
- Sam, Bucky and Zemo visit a GRC camp of internationally displaced people in order to get some information on Donya Madani. Sam suspects that since she was such an essential mother figure for many people in the camp, there would be a wake or funeral with Karli in attendance.
While no one really seems to trust Sam or Bucky, Zemo made some new friendships with children by offering them Turkish delight. Not going to lie, I was very conflicted about how to feel. For one, don’t let strange men give your kids candy and second, it just had very odd White Witch of Narnia vibes for me. Ultimately, he did get the information they needed, but ever since Zemo’s return he has always made sure to stay useful.
- While Sharon is still in Madripoor and not a huge part of the episode, Sam remains in constant contact with her, after asking for some more help. She uses her resources to be the eyes and ears of the team via some surveillance. Sharon also mentions that the power broker went “apeshit” when he heard about Nagel’s death. Despite last week’s episode title, we still don’t know much about who the power broker is. Sharon having taken on that mantle was just one of the theories, but there have been many indications that we have not met all the players yet. With only two episodes to go, I hope they won’t take until the last minute to reveal the identity.
- John Walker and Lemar Hoskins unfortunately intercept Bucky, Sam and Zemo before they can get to Donya’s funeral and therefore Karli. However, the scenes that follow are the beautiful proof of why Sam Wilson should be the next Captain America instead of John Walker.
While Walker is eager to just grab Karli and fight, Sam can sympathize with her struggle and would rather want to talk. During their scene together, you can clearly see Karli opening up and realizing that her actions could be perceived in different ways than she intended and that Sam has a point. If it hadn’t been for John waltzing into their conversation, Sam might have actually gotten through to her and a lot of the coming pain could have been avoided.
- In the ensuing chaos, Zemo manages to shoot Karli (not fatally) and destroy the serum she had kept safe until then. That is, all except for one syringe, which John Walker pockets for himself.
- Back at Zemo’s hideout, things escalate further. When Walker and Sam almost go head to head (without the shield), the Dora Milaje interrupts to take Zemo. Like so many times before, Walker makes an utter fool of himself and starts a fight with the Dora Milaje. Time and time again, he proves that he does not know when to stop or when not to fight. His first go to response is violence, even when he cannot win, maybe because it is the only thing he has ever done.
Eventually, Bucky and Sam step in because Walker and Lemar thoroughly get their asses kicked, which Zemo uses to his advantage and flees. A noteworthy observation from that fight is that the Dora Milaje knows how to disarm Bucky (quite literally, by removing his arm), which he wasn’t aware of prior and seems like a huge deal to me.
- Karli, trying to regroup with her fellow super-powered Flag Smashers, realizes that she can’t fight on several fronts at once. Not only is the power broker after her, but also the new Captain America, so she makes a decision to contact Sarah Wilson and suss out if she can get Sam on her side. I think contacting and threatening Sam’s family was not only a bold but dangerous move. There’s no way he would have ever taken to that threat lightly.
- The meeting gets interrupted by the fact that Walker found the Flag Smashers hideout and is attacking them, sending Sam, Bucky and Karli on their way to help. While Lemar gets taken in order to separate him from Walker, it turns out that John already took the serum to be on an even playing field with the other super soldiers. As everyone fights to support their side, Lemar eventually gets free and jumps in to have his friend’s back. Karli, possibly underestimating her strength, but maybe just trying to win, deals a fatal blow to Lemar. This is the final drop for Walker, who had been on edge for a while now and cannot take the loss of his friend. In a frenzy, he pursues one of the Flag Smashers and publicly executes him with the shield. This scene is all the more darker when you think back to the fact that this particular Flag Smasher was a fan of Captain America when he was a child. As I watched on in horror, the people witnessing the scene filmed it in shock, making the episode title come true in this devastating moment.
- I am furious that it was Lemar who died. That viewers once again had to see a black man brutalized on TV (just like it was really unnecessary to show Monica get shot in slow motion in the finale of WandaVision), but the show set it up this way, so that it could not be any other character. He was the only one Walker would care about so much that he would snap. And while I do not like John Walker, who has forever disqualified himself as a worthy Captain America, I think Wyatt Russell is playing the nuances of the character great. As much as it pains me to watch him.
A lot of this episode talked about whether the super soldier serum should be taken at all. I loved Sam’s quick answer to never wanting the serum compared to Lemar’s immediate opposite response when asked the same question. The episode showcased different opinions, such as Zemo’s radical belief that all super soldiers are a form of supremacy, the Flag Smasher’s need for action and their conviction that superheroes no longer have the luxury of keeping their hands clean, but also the thought experiment that it might just amplify your inner self and with that who you truly are. There was a lot of talk about how it never corrupted Steve Rogers, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if they squandered the chance of others doing great with the serum. People like Isaiah Bradley for example.
In general, while I do enjoy the emotional depth this show has given Bucky, I hope they will refocus more on Sam in the final episodes. We know there’s more coming with him and the shield as well as in his hometown with his family, but he deserves the spotlight. His name comes first in the show title and in terms of depth, he has taken a bit of a backseat so far, even if some seeds have been sown about his personal struggles. Mostly though, he has just been worrying and wanting to take care of others, be it Bucky, Sarah, Sharon or now also Karli. He cares a whole lot, as a true Captain America would, but I also want him to be taken care of.
It’s not often that I have to sit with an episode for a while and I am not sure I found all the right words to express myself in this recap. Something about an unhinged John Walker just terrifies me apparently, because I felt sick by the end of that last scene. The end credits, while I didn’t see any changes in the imagery, also reflected my dampened mood with a more somber outro song. It’s the little details that Marvel takes care of that I appreciate so much.