Previously on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: Sam and Bucky cross paths once again when Bucky confronts Sam over his refusal to accept the mantle of Captain America. The two of them end up on a plane to Munich, where Bucky tags along with Sam on his mission to track down a shipment of vaccines stolen by the Flag-Smashers. Sam and Bucky’s attempt to stop them isn’t a smooth or successful one, and it doesn’t help when John Walker (a.k.a. the new Captain America) joins the battle to try and stop the Flag-Smashers as well. Bucky informs Sam of a disturbing secret about the history of the Super-Soldier Serum, and how he and Steve Rogers were not the first or only ones to receive it back in the day. Captain America 2.0 quickly realizes that Sam and Bucky have no interest in working with him, and the Flag-Smashers soon find themselves hunted down not just by the authorities, but by a mysterious individual known as The Power Broker.
THE STORY SO FAR: Sam and Bucky head over to Berlin, where Zemo is imprisoned, and instead of simply asking him what he knows about what he knows about the Flag-Smashers and where they’re getting the Super-Soldier Serum from that gives them their powers, they break him out of prison so he can help them go after the Flag-Smashers in person. Karli and her fellow Flag-Smashers step their game up in showing the world how serious they are in getting the world back to how it was during The Snap, and Captain America 2.0 decides that he may need to start bending the rules in order to find them and take them down for good.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Bucky and Zemo working together to assist the latter in breaking out of prison. Captain America 2.0 acting like a rich celebrity trying to get into a nightclub with his “Do you know who I am?!” reaction to one of Karli’s supporters spitting in his face and refusing to give up anything he knows about her, and realizing that being feared or respected isn’t always going to happen just because he’s now carrying the shield and wearing the costume. (He’s also much more comfortable with using profanity than Steve Rogers was.) Sam, Bucky, and Zemo sharing their opinions with each other about Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” right before Zemo goes on to share his view on superheroes and the danger that comes with putting them on pedestals. The three of them having to go undercover and work together in Madripoor (which is run and controlled by Power Broker) before everything ends up going pear-shaped. The look and feel of Madripoor, thanks to the impressive cinematography by P.J. Dillon, as well as all of the action sequences (including Sam having to run away with Zemo and Bucky after Selby and her bodyguards are killed, and quickly realizing that he can’t run in heels), which are very reminiscent of the John Wick saga, partly because this episode was written by Derek Kolstad, who not only wrote the first two John Wick films and co-wrote the third, but is one of the show’s executive producers. Zemo showing off his moves on the dance floor, which was much, much, much smoother than Angel showing off his moves on the dance floor. Emily VanCamp returning as Sharon Carter, and showing us viewers at home why she deserved a hell of a lot more screen time in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. Florence Kasumba as Ayo appearing at the end of the episode opposite Bucky, and she clearly isn’t happy about Zemo no longer being in jail.
P.S. If you’re one of the many people on the Internet who saw Florence Kasumba appear onscreen and lost their sh-t because you really thought it was Danai Gurira as Okoye, even though the two actresses don’t look anything alike…
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: As great as it was to finally see Madripoor in live-action form, it was disappointing but not entirely surprising to watch all of the scenes set in Madripoor and realize that, like too many other action and sci-fi films and television shows, there were little to no Asian people actually present onscreen, despite the fact that Madripoor is, as Bucky described it to Sam, “an island nation in the Indonesian archipelago” and is also modeled on Singapore. The lack of any actual Asian representation in the episode comes across as yet another example of a movie or television show relying heavily on Asian aesthetics, but not willing to actually use Asian people and allow them to be a part of the story that’s being told in their own backyard.
DOES STEVE ROGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No.
SHARON CARTER?: Yes, she does, and becoming an enemy of the state who had to leave the country and go on the run as a result of stealing Captain America’s shield and Falcon’s wings has had quite the effect on her. She’s become a black market art dealer living in Hightown (the rich and glamorous section of Madripoor, as opposed to Lowtown, which is the complete opposite) and has become much more cynical and snarky about superheroes and the impact they can have, and about people in general. However, that doesn’t stop her from helping Sam and Bucky with their task, and not just because Sam offers to try and get her pardoned so she can leave Madripoor and return to the United States to see her family again.
BARON ZEMO?: Yes, he does, and upon Bucky’s mention of the Super-Soldier Serum being recreated, he is eager to get out into the world and shut down whoever is responsible. Not only that, but Sam and Bucky also learn that Zemo is rich. Like “Prince Akeem has his own money with his own face on it” levels of rich, hence him actually being a baron. He also has the classic cars, private plane, and old White butler who looks and sounds like Woodhouse from Archer to prove it. (Seriously, I kept waiting for Zemo to curse Oeznik the butler out and force him to eat a bowl of spiderwebs as punishment.) And also, he seems to have a deep appreciation of the African-American experience, as evidenced by his love of Marvin Gaye’s album Trouble Man and his refusal to tolerate Sam’s complaints about his extravagant wardrobe when undercover in Madripoor. (“Only in America would a fashion-forward Black man be seen as a pimp.”). Imagine Chet Hanks without the horrible Jamaican accent that makes him sound like Kendra The Vampire Slayer, without the need to try and make “White Boy Summer” an actual thing, and without him being a physically and verbally abusive f-ckboy with the Black women he’s been in relationships with (while publicly singing their praises like his name is Jesse Williams), and that would be Baron Helmut Zemo.
None of this hides the fact that he’s still as ruthless and cunning and manipulative as he was when he was first seen in Captain America: Civil War. As part of him going undercover with Sam and Bucky, Zemo tells Bucky that he must pretend to be the Winter Soldier and under Zemo’s control if they are to get the access and answers they’re looking for. It’s clear that this ruse brings some slight joy to Zemo in letting him know that Bucky is still the same person he was before, even if he claims otherwise, and that he’s still very capable of creating maximum carnage if he needs or wants to. After killing Dr. Nagel, the scientist who helped take blood from Isaiah Bradley and use it to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum, and leaving Sam, Bucky, and Sharon behind in Dr. Nagel’s exploding laboratory, it looks as though Zemo has gone full villain and become another obstacle for Sam and Bucky. To everyone’s surprise, however, he comes back with a getaway car for everyone (minus Sharon, who is staying put in no-extradition Madripoor), as he’s still on their side and is with them until the end of the line.
LEAH, THE BARTENDER?: No.
YORI, BUCKY’S FRIEND?: No.
MEPHISTO?: Definitely not.
WHITE VISION, A.K.A. DOUBLE VISION: No. Whereabouts remain unknown.
DO ANY OF THE AVENGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No, they do not.
DO SAM AND BUCKY GET ON EACH OTHER’S NERVES?: They do, when Sam quickly realizes that Bucky’s hypothetical for how Zemo could possibly break out of prison is not a hypothetical at all, and again during the gunfight in the shipyard over their refusal to follow directions when providing cover fire.
DO SAM AND BUCKY MAKE OUT?: No, unfortunately, they don’t.
DO WE GET TO SEE SAM AND/OR BUCKY SHIRTLESS?: Yes. Sam is shirtless when he’s at Sharon’s apartment and looking for something else to wear other than his “Smiling Tiger” wardrobe.
ANY EASTER EGGS WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: Not too many. Sam takes on the identity of Conrad Mack, a.k.a. “Smiling Tiger” when going undercover with Bucky and Zemo. Selby, the woman who tells Zemo who’s manufacturing the Super-Soldier Serum, was originally in the comics a Black male mutant with the ability to interact with computers and literally speak to them through their language, whereas this version of Selby in the series is a White woman who clearly is not a mutant nor does she possess any of those abilities. For any Marvel Comics readers, Madripoor is a familiar location, as it has appeared in many X-Men stories and is a frequent hangout for Wolverine, particularly when he has gone undercover as “Patch.” The fact that this episode is set in Madripoor will only whet the appetite of viewers who are still waiting for mutants to officially make their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but since that hasn’t happened yet and since that particular theory never became a reality in the series finale of WandaVision (much to the disappointment of many, even though such an event was never promised to happen on WandaVision), we’re all just going to have to wait a little bit longer.
ANY FAN THEORIES SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE ACROSS THE INTERNET BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE?: Not too many, though there is now at least one theory that Sharon Carter is really the Power Broker. The fan theories from last week’s episode about Captain America 2.0 secretly having the Super-Soldier Serum in his bloodstream already and is keeping it a secret, and also the fact that he’s the Power Broker, are still going strong. And after seeing Sharon in action, some fans are already clamoring for Emily VanCamp to get her own Agent 13 miniseries on Disney Plus.
ARE THERE ANY SCENES DURING THE CLOSING CREDITS?: No.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: A fairly impressive episode, mostly thanks to Daniel Bruhl and Emily VanCamp reprising their roles as Baron Zemo and Sharon Carter, and adding some new dimensions to their characters while doing so. Mackie and Stan are as solid as ever, though there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening story-wise that gives us much reason to care about Sam and Bucky and about what they’re dealing with, as the character development so far seems rather limited, especially now that there are only three episodes left in the season. (This same criticism applies to Karli and the Flag-Smashers storyline as well.) Considering that the series is partly supposed to be about Sam struggling with the responsibility of whether he should accept the mantle of Captain America, and about what would happen if a Black man like Sam chooses to take on that responsibility, I’m still waiting to see the rest of the series actually confront that head-on (or as head-on as Marvel and Disney will really allow, because …well, it’s Marvel and Disney) like showrunner Malcolm Spellman has said it would in various interviews, or if that was just all talk.
This episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has been brought to you by “Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye…
…And by “Experiment On Me” by Halsey.
Header Image Source: Marvel Studios