Previously on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: Sam Wilson, a.k.a. “The Falcon,” is once again working with the U.S. Air Force and rescues one of its members: an Air Force captain held hostage by a terrorist group called the L.A.F. He then has to deal with giving Captain America’s shield to the government (who tell him that doing so is the right decision) so that it will be on display at the Smithsonian, and helping his sister, Sarah, keep her fishing business afloat so that their family boat won’t need to be sold. Bucky Barnes, who has been pardoned for crimes he committed while brainwashed as the Winter Soldier, has been attending government-mandated therapy sessions (where he refuses to admit to his therapist that he’s still having nightmares of the crimes he committed while brainwashed as the Winter Soldier) and trying his hardest to make amends. A terrorist group called the Flag-Smashers, who firmly believe that life was better during
The Blip The Snap without any borders and without order, and who want the world to adopt that way of living once again. And Sam soon finds out that the reason why he was told by the government that giving them the shield was the right thing to do was so they could actually give it to the new Captain America, who is introduced to the world at a press conference.
THE STORY SO FAR: 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.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Sam and Bucky finally appearing onscreen together and butting heads as only they can. Bucky attempting to rescue Karli Morgenthau (played by Erin Kellyman, who some of you will recognize as Enfys Nest from Solo: A Star Wars Story) because he believes her to be held hostage by the Flag-Smashers, only for her to clear up that confusion by kicking him fifty feet out of the back of a moving eighteen-wheeler. John Walker, a.k.a. Captain America 2.0, preparing himself for the responsibility of what’s to come and then being introduced to the world (along with his skill sets and qualifications) via a one-on-one interview with Good Morning America. The fight sequence between Sam and Bucky and Captain America 2.0 and Battlestar (a.k.a. Lemar Hoskins, Cap 2.0’s partner and Black best friend) vs. Karli and the rest of the Flag-Smashers. Cap 2.0 and Battlestar trying their best to win over Sam and Bucky at first, only to say the wrong things and end up failing miserably. Sam and Bucky heading to Baltimore to meet Isaiah Bradley (played by legendary character actor Carl Lumbly), an African-American super-soldier who gained his abilities in 1942 after being forced to undergo tests in which the U.S. government attempted to re-create the Super-Soldier Serum that was given to Steve Rogers, and who fought Bucky-as-the-Winter Soldier during the Korean War in 1952 before being sent to jail for thirty years and constantly experimented on (even by HYDRA scientists) for more attempts to recreate the serum. Sam being confronted by white police officers who think that he’s a threat to Bucky until they recognize him and realize who he actually is (and before they place Bucky under arrest for missing his therapy appointment, while still being much kinder to Bucky than they were to Sam).
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Nothing that comes to mind, though there are some dissenters on the Internet who don’t think that Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have great onscreen chemistry with each other as Sam and Bucky, and who go back and forth between Sam and his struggles not being all that interesting compared to Bucky’s, and vice versa. Debate amongst yourselves in the comments section as to whether these complaints have any merit.
Also, if you’re a fan of Redwing, Sam’s trusty surveillance/attack drone, this episode won’t make you very happy, as it ends up being destroyed by Karli, much to Bucky’s delight.
DOES STEVE ROGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No. However, after their conversation with Isaiah (which ends with Isaiah becoming upset and ordering them to leave his house), Sam demands to know from Bucky if Steve knew anything about this. Bucky tells him that Steve knew nothing about Isaiah’s existence and considering all that he went through, he wanted to keep it that way and let Isaiah live his remaining years in peace.
SHARON CARTER?: No, though she is mentioned by Sam as he reminds Bucky that much like Sharon, they could both be declared enemies of the state if they go forth with Bucky’s idea of hitting Captain America 2.0 with a sack of Valencia oranges and taking his shield away from him.
BARON ZEMO?: He doesn’t appear until the very end of the episode, when Bucky admits that in order to get some real answers on how to catch the Flag-Smashers and how they achieved their superhuman abilities, they need to pay Zemo (who is still imprisoned after the crimes he committed in Captain America: Civil War) a visit and find out what he knows. And if you’ve ever seen Manhunter (or read the novel that it’s based on) and remember what happened when Will Graham went to go visit Hannibal Lecter for advice on how to get the job done, you already know that this isn’t going to turn out well.
LEAH, THE BARTENDER?: No.
YORI, BUCKY’S FRIEND?: No.
WHITE VISION, A.K.A. THE MCU’S VERSION OF ASHY LARRY?: No. Whereabouts remain unknown
DO ANY OF THE AVENGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No.
DO SAM AND BUCKY GET ON EACH OTHER’S NERVES?: They most certainly do. When they’re not arguing over Sam turning over the shield and refusing to become Captain America, or arguing about Bucky’s tendency to stare a lot, they’re also confronting one another in a forced therapy session after Bucky gets arrested for missing a therapy appointment and Dr. Raynor heads to his location to check on him. Bucky is angry at Sam for turning down the mantle and the shield because Steve wanted him to have the shield and to become the next Captain America, and for Sam to refuse that implies that Steve was wrong about him, and if he was wrong about Sam, then he was wrong about Bucky as well. Sam absorbs this and tells him that neither he nor Steve can understand that he did what he chose to do for what he believed were the right reasons. Which only makes them even more aggravated with each other and making a promise to never see or speak to each other again once they accomplish this mission and shut down the Flag-Smashers for good.
DO SAM AND BUCKY MAKE OUT?: Sadly, they do not, but they do end up rolling around on top of each other in a grassy field on the side of the road after Sam sees Bucky dangling from one of the eighteen-wheelers (with Karli kicking him repeatedly to make him lose his grip) and flies in to swoop him away to safety. And in case you’re wondering, the rolling ends with Sam being the one on top.
ANY EASTER EGGS WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: The teenage boy who Isaiah lives with is Eli Bradley, who is also known in the comics as “Patriot,” one of the Young Avengers and who gains superpowers that he apparently inherited from his grandfather. Captain America 2.0 is introduced by an African-American marching band playing their own version of “The Star-Spangled Man,” which was sung in Captain America: The First Avenger during Captain America’s USO tours. Bucky, who has adopted Captain America’s tendency to jump out of planes without a parachute, though his landings are a lot more painful. Sam teases Bucky about his time in Wakanda and jokingly calls him “White Panther,” only to be corrected by Bucky and told that his actual nickname over there was “White Wolf.” And the real name of the male comic-book version of Flag-Smasher is Karl Morgenthau, whereas Karli Morgenthau is the female leader of the Flag-Smashers, who is determined to avoid capture and keep going with what they’re doing, and also make sure that her fellow members feel the same way.
ANY FAN THEORIES SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE ACROSS THE INTERNET BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE?: That John Walker either has the Super-Soldier Serum in his bloodstream already (as skilled and capable as he is, his handling of the shield is almost too impressive, especially when he used it to save Battlestar and cushion his fall after he was thrown off of the truck by a Flag-Smasher) and is hiding that from the public now that he’s the new Captain America in order to avoid any questions or bad press for the government that could make people think that he’ll be another Winter Soldier. That Cap 2.0 and Battlestar will get their hands on the serum and inject themselves with it so that they can take down the Flag-Smashers (and any other superpowered opponents) and make themselves look good.
DO PEOPLE REALLY HATE THE NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA THAT MUCH?:
How do I put this?
People on Twitter hate this man like they hated Iron Fist (the character and the show). They don’t like his face, they don’t like his attitude (not when he’s at his friendliest and trying to get along with everyone, and definitely not when he puts some bass in his voice and warns both Sam and Bucky to “Stay the hell out of my way”), they don’t like him being too damn familiar by referring to Bucky as Bucky, and they really don’t like the fact that he’s even in possession of Captain America’s shield.
In short, when it comes to John Walker as Captain America 2.0 (or Captain America 3.0, if you count Isaiah), the general consensus seems to be this:
TO SUM IT ALL UP: Another impressive episode so far which goes into slightly further detail as to what the Flag-Smashers want and who they’re running from as they continue trying to get what they want, and which goes into much greater detail in showing what both Sam and Bucky are struggling with: Bucky with his murderous past and whether Steve was right to believe that he’s even capable of redemption, and Sam being reminded through his conversation with Isaiah Bradley and his confrontation with the Baltimore Police (where the hell are Kima Greggs and “Bunk” Moreland when you really need them?) that the government has never had any interest in letting a Black man represent them as Captain America, and that he could easily end up beaten or murdered by racist cops if not for the fact that he’s an Avenger who has helped save the world. And even that isn’t enough to garner him the respect that he deserves.
There is some much-needed humor in seeing Sam and Bucky annoy the crap out of each other while also having each other’s back, and it’s only a matter of time before they (and we viewers at home) find out if John Walker really is a good man who deserves to carry the name and shield of Captain America, or if he’s an annoying pain-in-the-ass who is one step away from becoming a villain that Sam will have to take down with Bucky’s help so that he can finally fulfill what Steve Rogers wanted.
This episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has been brought to you by “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:
And “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy:
Header Image Source: Marvel Studios