Full spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier below.
Welcome back to another thrilling recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier! While this week’s episode established just who is the “New Captain America” and what brought the titular characters together, the conflict at the center of the show still feels like it’s not fully developed.
The show opens with John Walker/Captain America (Wyatt Russell) confiding in his strike force partner Lemar Hoskins (Cle Bennett) about his trepidation at taking on this mantle. That trepidation quickly goes away after he makes his star-spangling debut on Good Morning America.
The PR blitz for the new Cap is fully on, with the Army plastering “Cap is Back,” posters all over the damn place. Bucky catches Sam as he’s heading out on a mission to investigate the Flag Smashers. Bucky is unimpressed with the new Cap and presses Sam on why he gave up the shield. Sam ain’t trying to hear it as he has to deal with either aliens, androids, or wizards; “The Big 3” according to Sam. Bucky says fuck court-mandated therapy and tags along with Sam to investigate the folks responsible for stomping his homie Joaquin last week.
We get a little bit of playful buddy comedy banter as Sam and Bucky scout the superhumanly strong Flag Smasher stealing crates of medicine. Once again, the only set-piece in the episode comes early on and it finds Bucky and Sam throwing hands with the Flag Smashers on top of two semi-trucks. It’s all but confirmed that these folks are supersoldiers and have the upper hand on our heroes until Walker and Hoskins pull up on a helicopter and join the fight.
Sam saves Bucky from falling off the semi, taking off from the fight in the process. New Cap and Lemar also get their asses handed to them by the Flag Smashers, and the group manages to get away.
Bucky and Sam are walking back to their base when Walker and Hoskins pull up in a Jeep to offer the most awkward car ride ever. The conversation between John, Sam, and Bucky is interesting. John doesn’t really seem to have an understanding of what that shield means to Sam and Bucky. That’s their friend’s legacy, not a costume someone can just slip on. He tells Sam that having “Captain America’s wingman” at his side would make his job a lot easier; essentially confirming that he only sees Sam as Cap’s sidekick and not a hero in his own right.
We then follow Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), the apparent leader of the Flag Smashers and beater of Bucky Barnes’ ass. She and her accomplices are given refuge by a man who’s a fervent believer in the Flag Basher’s goals. One of my biggest frustrations with this episode is how little we learn about Flag Bashers. At one point, Karli says “they care more about the ones who came back than the ones who never left.” We haven’t seen much of the post-Blip world, so we don’t really have much context for that statement. We hear a lot about how the world is chaotic, but so far we haven’t really seen it.
Right now the show just kind of just feels like the standard MCU—we haven’t really seen how the Blip changed the status quo of the world beyond Steve Rogers and Tony Stark not being in the picture anymore.
Anyway, Bucky says he has a lead that takes them to Baltimore, where they find an elderly man by the name of Isaiah Bradley. Throughout their conversation, it’s revealed that Isaiah and Bucky threw hands back in the day, with Isaiah being a supersoldier himself. Bucky asks Isaiah for intel on how there are more supersoldiers, but Isaiah doesn’t remotely entertain the idea. He reveals that he was imprisoned post-war and experimented on for 30 years by both Hydra and the U.S. government before telling the two to leave.
Sam is big mad at the fact that there was a Black supersoldier and no one ever knew about it. He raises his voice a little too loud and sure enough, the cops pull up and we have an uneasy confrontation with the police. After a few beats, the cop realizes who Sam is and quickly apologizes, but then arrests Buck for saying fuck court-mandated therapy.
This whole section is a lot. It’s not bad, but I feel like we’re taking a lot of time to go “see, white folks still ain’t shit in the MCU,” at the expense of driving the plot along. I feel like these scenes would be better if they were scattered throughout the season. As of now, it feels like Sam has had every bad Black thing happen in a very short amount of time, to the point where it almost becomes distracting.
On the other hand, I feel like the show did a really good job with these scenes and presented its themes with the seriousness they deserve. It’s cool that a Marvel series is tackling these ideas about race in America head-on, I just feel like the show as a whole isn’t quite congealing into a cohesive whole at the moment.
From here there’s an awkward therapy session in jail where Bucky reveals that he’s hurt by Sam giving up the shield because it means Cap was wrong about Sam, which could also mean Cap was wrong about him. It’s a good scene that furthers just how deeply traumatized Bucky is by the things he was forced to do.
John Walker bails Bucky out of jail and once more asks for Sam and Bucky to team up with him. Once more they decline, essentially explaining they have more autonomy as superheroes so working with him would only hamper them. Walker politely responds by telling the duo to “stay the hell out my way.”
So yeah, that’s not foreboding at all.
The episode ends with Bucky and Sam deciding to visit Zemo* (Daniel Brühl) in jail, as he knows the most about Hydra secrets and could perhaps explain the super soldiers running around.
*see Captain America: Civil War for more details!
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. We’re at the halfway mark next week and I feel like we still don’t have a full grasp on what the underlying conflict of the series is. I was hoping we would get more information on the Flag Smashers and the root of their motivations, but we only got brief glimpses of them.
I went into this show expecting a propulsive thriller, but so far it’s played out as a slow burn that seems to be focused on the micro and macro-aggressions Sam has to deal with as a Black man. That really seems to be the heart of the show, as those moments are given the most space, with the looming threat of, uh, whatever the Flag Smashers are trying to do almost being presented as the B-plot.
Ultimately, the show has a lot of balls to juggle, and it remains to be seen if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be able to do so successfully. See you next time, true believers.
-I love how perfectly packaged New Cap is, right down the presence of a Black sidekick.
-Bruh, if a nigga told me his name was Battlestar, I too would demand to be let out of the car.
-With Sam’s whole comment on how he and Bucky are “free agents,” does that mean the Sokovia Accords aren’t a thing anymore?
-I can’t lie, I got a good chuckle out of Bucky’s “It’s actually White Wolf,” when Sam teased him about being the White Panther.