Full spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier below.
Well, folks. I think we can safely say The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has officially entered “shit just got real” territory. Episode four saw the series effectively tie all its narrative threads together, as well as make the strongest case for why Sam is the one who should hold the shield.
Last week ended with the Ayo of the Dora Milaje pulling up to ask Bucky why he freed Zemo. This leads to an effective flashback that revealed just how broken life as the Winter Soldier left him. Sebastian Stan did a great job channeling the anguish, sorrow, and relief Bucky felt as Ayo spoke the Winter Soldier’s trigger words and they didn’t work. The fact that Bucky can speak Wakandan now has me fully convinced this man is trying to retire in Wakanda.
Zemo has really been an unexpected highlight of this series. He’s constantly playing his own game and I’m simply all about it. At every step of this episode, Zemo managed to stay one step ahead of our heroes, but he hasn’t been outright villainous. His characterization really helps drive home the main idea at the show’s core: people are fucking complicated.
This episode was strong because it finally dropped the buddy comedy gimmick and just took an honest, messy look at all its key players and was stronger for it.
Sam really is the heart of the show. This episode does a great job of showing how his empathy is his strength and makes a full-throated case for why he should wield the shield. When Zemo questions him about whether he would take the serum, he was quick to say no—instead of wanting to go in and kick Karli’s ass, he saw the funeral of her adoptive mother as an opportunity to reason with her.
During their conversation, Sam makes headway and manages to get Karli to momentarily see how her actions are similar to the people she’s fighting against. Sam understands what she’s fighting for, and he sincerely wants to help, but he just can’t get down with the rampant bloodshed.
I’m firmly of the opinion that the show is operating at a disadvantage with regards to the Blip. We learn that humanity came together to try and rebuild during the five year gap. Borders were dissolved and free movement between countries was the norm.
Problem is, we only hear people talk about that. The Flag Smashers would be more effective antagonists if we actually got to see that world. I know the five-year gap was a big plot point they wanted to keep under wraps, but it would’ve been so cool if the year-long gap between Infinity War and Endgame was filled with stories about how the world dealt with the Blip.
At the very least, I hope some of the new Marvel shows explore this time period because if the MCU intends to treat the Blip as seriously as Falcon/Winter Soldier, it needs to give us a clearer understanding of what that time period looked like. Just having people speak vaguely about how much better/worse things were during those five years isn’t enough.
The title of this episode really should’ve been John Walker Can’t Win, cause this man stayed catching Ls. Throughout the episode we see this man hopelessly outmatched at every step, and he’s honestly more of a hindrance in the effort to prevent the Flag Smashers from causing more damage. His gung-ho need to be a hero sees him barging in on Sam and Karli, just as Sam was making headway.
Walker’s actions result in the Flag Smashers getting away, though he does stop Zemo from destroying all the vials of the serum, and secretly snatches the last dose of the Super Soldier serum.
When the Dora Milaje pull up to take Zemo, Walker’s arrogance once again fucks things up as Zemo gets away, and Walker is left beaten and humiliated by the Wakandan warriors. “They weren’t even Super Soldiers,” he says as they leave.
Lemar and John have an interesting exchange after the fight, where John hints at the horrors he had to commit in the name of his country. He says holding the shield is the first time he’s been able to feel good about what he was doing. Lemar ultimately bigs his homie up, saying that John is more than worthy of taking the super soldier serum.
This episode closes out with an action scene between Sam, Bucky, Lemar, and John vs the Flag Smashers. Throughout the fight, John displays superhuman strength, making it quite clear dude took the serum. Things come to a head when Karli punches Lemar so hard he goes flying into a stone column, the impact killing him.
This sends John into a grief-stricken rage. He chases after one of the Flag Smashers and proceeds to beat him to death with the shield, in broad daylight. The episode ends with that incredible shot of John Walker/Captain America wielding the blood-covered shield, and a crowd of bystanders shooting cellphone pictures and video.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has not shied away from the messiness of the world we live in, and the series’ commitment to that messiness has me incredibly curious about what’s going to happen next week. Are the Flag Smashers going to be seen as martyrs who are being brutally hunted by an agent of the U.S. government? Are Walker’s actions going to be whitewashed? We know that a white man can kill someone in broad daylight and get away with it if it’s for the red, white, and blue.
With this episode, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finally tied most of its narrative threads together in a satisfying manner. Now, hopefully all this Power Broker business is brought to a head in an equally enjoyable manner.
-Yo, is Sharon working with the Power Broker? Every time we see this woman, she’s doing some shit that seems a little sus, just saying.
-Man, the action of this show delivers week in and week out.
-Bucky dunking on John while he’s getting his ass beat by the Dora Milaje is everything.
-Can we get a show of Zemo just doing heists or something throughout Europe? I’d watch that show.
-R.I.P Battlestar, we hardly knew ‘ye.