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Thumbnail image for John Walker with blood on shield.jpg

'The Falcon And The Winter Soldier' Recap: Sh*t Just Got Real

By Brian Richards | TV | April 11, 2021 |

By Brian Richards | TV | April 11, 2021 |


Thumbnail image for John Walker with blood on shield.jpg

Previously on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: 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 and travel to Madripoor so he can help them go after the Flag-Smashers in person (with some unexpected help from Sharon Carter). 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.

Baron Zemo also showed off some of his dance moves…

…and Bucky tossed a metal pipe at a bounty hunter that was pursuing him, Sam, Sharon, and Zemo, and impaled him without saying something cool like “Let off some steam, Bennett!” or something. (John Matrix would be so disappointed)

THE STORY SO FAR: Sam, Bucky, and Zemo continue working together to find Karli and her fellow Flag-Smashers and stop them from inflicting any more attacks that claim the lives of innocent people, and also from using the Super-Soldier Serum they have stolen in order to increase their numbers. They also have to deal with Ayo and her sisters-in-arms in the Dora Milaje, who are not happy about Zemo breaking out of prison, as well as Captain America 2.0 and Battlestar, who also aren’t happy about Zemo’s involvement and whose lack of patience and restraint result in things getting worse for nearly everyone involved.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE: Ayo working with Bucky to confirm that the Winter Soldier activation code no longer has any effect on him, and Bucky’s tearful reaction when he realizes that he is free of HYDRA’s brainwashing, as well as Ayo’s smile of comfort and joy. Ayo’s present reaction at letting Bucky know how angry and disappointed she is that he would ever work with Zemo after what he did in killing King T’Chaka and after everything that King T’Challa and Shuri did to help Bucky. Sam’s conversation with Karli, as he does his best to try and convince her that as much as he understands why she’s doing all of this, it is only resulting in chaos that is getting people killed. Ayo and the Dora Milaje making their presence felt as they attempt to take Zemo into their custody, even if it means handing Captain America 2.0 his own ass on a silver platter with all of the trimmings (as well as Sam and Bucky and Battlestar). The look of embarrassment and disappointment on Cap 2.0’s face, as he realized that he could barely hold his own in a fight against the Dora Milaje. (“They weren’t even super-soldiers.”) The conversations between Sam and Zemo, and Cap 2.0 and Battlestar on whether or not they would take the Super-Soldier Serum if it were offered to them. And the final scene of the episode, in which Cap 2.0 lashes out after Battlestar’s death at the hands of Karli, by using his shield to brutally murder one of the Flag-Smashers, only to realize that he’s done this in front of dozens of witnesses, all of whom are recording this act with their cell phones.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE: As great as it was to see Ayo and the Dora Milaje make an appearance and beat Cap 2.0’s ass as if he was Loki and they were The Hulk, it’s also ridiculous that these trained bodyguards were so focused on fighting with Sam and Bucky and Cap 2.0 and Battlestar that not one of them were actually focused on their target, which was Zemo, and allowed him to escape. As much as I appreciated seeing more of Karli and the Flag-Smashers, as well as the one-on-one conversation between Sam and Karli, the show still hasn’t done much to make Karli and the Flag-Smashers all that fascinating or formidable as antagonists, nor does it give us much reason to care about or feel invested in why they’re doing what they do, no matter how understandable it may be.

The show also seems to have ignored or forgotten about the fact that taking the Super-Soldier Serum is an incredibly painful process that makes your whole body feel like it’s on fire for several minutes (which was shown when Steve was first injected with the serum in Captain America: The First Avenger, and which was mentioned by Karli in the previous episode when she talked about her own experience with taking it), and I seriously doubt that John Walker could’ve injected himself with the serum and not spent the next five to ten minutes screaming in pain without anyone else noticing, least of all Battlestar, his partner, and best friend, who is by his side at nearly all times. Then there’s the fact that Battlestar (who isn’t given enough screen time or characterization to make him as memorable or interesting as he should be) was killed off in the episode, and done so as part of the Black Dude Dies First and Heroic Sacrifice tropes, to push Cap 2.0 over the edge and make everyone realize that he’s not fit to carry the mantle or the shield. Followed by Ayo using the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique to literally disarm Bucky and detach his vibranium arm from his body as a fail-safe while the two of them are fighting. Depending on who you ask on social media, this was an act of ableism against Bucky that violated his body and is something that Ayo never should’ve done to him in the first place.

FYI: Despite the Disney Plus captions saying that Ayo was speaking in Wakandan when she detached Bucky’s arm, what she actually said to Bucky in English was “Bast damn you, James.” Which just seems like yet another unfortunate case of bad closed-captioning, much like when Netflix was captioning Season 2 of Luke Cage, and did a piss-poor job of transcribing dialogue spoken by characters with thick Jamaican accents.

DOES STEVE ROGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No.

SHARON CARTER?: Yes, she does. She is still in no-extradition Madripoor, which according to her is about to get a little more chaotic thanks to The Power Broker being pissed the f-ck off about Dr. Nagel being killed and the last of the Super-Soldier Serum still in the grasp of Karli and the Flag-Smashers, but is willing to use some tricks up her sleeve to access a satellite in order to help Sam and keep a close eye on Cap 2.0.

BARON ZEMO?: Yes, and no matter how endearing he may be when on the dance floor, he is still doing his part to remain in control as a valuable asset that Sam and Bucky can’t do without. This includes finding out the location to Mama Donya’s funeral, which is where Karli, the Flag-Smashers, and their supporters are all expected to be in order to pay their respects to their former caretaker. And as he witnesses the battle royale taking place amongst Sam and Bucky and Cap 2.0 and Battlestar and the Dora Milaje, he takes the opportunity to make like Homer Simpson walking backward into the bushes and disappear without anyone taking notice.

LEAH, THE BARTENDER?: No.

YORI, BUCKY’S FRIEND?: No.

MEPHISTO?: Unfortunately, no.

WHITE VISION, A.K.A. CATARACT?: No. Whereabouts remain unknown.

DO ANY OF THE AVENGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No.

DO SAM AND BUCKY GET ON EACH OTHER’S NERVES?: Other than Bucky reminding Sam once again that he never should’ve given up the shield, not really.

DO SAM AND BUCKY MAKE OUT?: Sadly, no.

DO WE GET TO SEE SAM AND/OR BUCKY SHIRTLESS?: No.

ANY EASTER EGGS WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: Bucky’s Wakandan nickname of “White Wolf” is brought up once more, this time by Ayo. Battlestar discussing his perspective on whether or not he and Cap 2.0 would take the Super-Soldier Serum was very reminiscent of Dr. Abraham Erskine’s conversation with Steve Rogers before he took the serum and became Captain America, in that Battlestar pointed out that the serum will only make you more of the person you already were before and amplify those qualities, causing good to become great, or bad to become worse.

ANY FAN THEORIES SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE ACROSS THE INTERNET BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE?: Just the previous theory that Sharon Carter either is the Power Broker or is working with the Power Broker. There’s also the theory that The Power Broker is, according to a recent interview by showrunner Malcolm Spellman, a character from one of Marvel’s earliest movies and that it’s possibly Samuel Sterns, a.k.a. The Leader, who is one of The Hulk’s greatest enemies and who appeared onscreen in The Incredible Hulk played by Tim Blake Nelson. This episode pretty much invalidates the theory that John Walker already had the Super-Soldier Serum flowing through his veins when he was appointed to become the new Captain America. And the scenes between Ayo and Bucky may have inspired some fans to start writing some R-rated fanfic about the two of them. Hopefully, those same fans are aware of the fact that Ayo is a lesbian before they start putting pen to paper, but then again, there are Supernatural fans out there who felt the need to write R-rated fanfic about Sam and Dean Winchester while ignoring the fact that they are brothers.

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ARE THERE ANY SCENES DURING THE CLOSING CREDITS?: No.

TO SUM IT ALL UP: Despite the fact that this episode relied on too many characters grabbing hold of the Idiot Ball in order for Zemo to escape from Sam and Bucky’s custody, the Dora Milaje’s appearance helped contribute to this episode being slightly better than last week’s. As I mentioned earlier, this didn’t do much to make Karli and the Flag-Smashers any more interesting, but Karli’s interaction with Sam accomplished the tasks of showing that Karli is in way over her head, especially after killing Battlestar, and how much more patient and considerate and rational Sam is compared to Cap 2.0, who is anything but as he is hell-bent on proving to himself and to the world that he deserves to bear the shield and the mantle, even if it means taking the serum for himself. And if viewers didn’t already hate Captain America 2.0 before, that hatred pretty much grew three sizes after his brutal murder of a Flag-Smasher named Nico, as he lost his temper and used his newly acquired super-strength to bash him repeatedly with his shield until he was dead and left the shield covered in his blood.

Let me take this brief moment to say this: Even though Wyatt Russell himself hasn’t been verbally bullied and harassed on social media, there has been some talk about some Wyatt Russell fan-pages and posts about Wyatt Russell elsewhere on the Internet that have grabbed the attention of Marvel fanboys who are very much determined to express how much they hate John Walker-as-Captain America as well as the actor playing him. If any of that is true, these next few words are for the fanboys: You f-cking dumbasses need to get some damn Act-Right and knock this sh-t off immediately. You can dislike and talk sh-t about the fictional character all you want, but going after the actor who is doing his job and doing it incredibly well by playing this fictional character? Completely uncalled for and totally unnecessary, and a very good reason why you deserve to lose your cable service, lose your Internet service, and suffer from projectile diarrhea from now until the end of the month.

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This is what happens when you don’t grow up watching daytime and primetime soap operas and getting used to watching villains who you love to hate, and accepting that those villains are very fictional characters played by very real actors.

Where the hell was I? Oh yes.

Most viewers and fans have been wondering since the end of the series premiere on what would possibly happen that would make John Walker lose the shield and mantle of Captain America, and have Sam take over in his place. I’d like to say that we now have our answer after seeing what Cap 2.0 just did, but…

John Walker is a man who was trusted to wear the Captain America uniform so that he would not only protect the people in this country with the power and authority that comes with being Captain America, but to inspire them as well. Instead, he used that power and authority to be judge, jury, and executioner by murdering someone in cold blood without any hesitation. We’ve all seen and read far too many examples of men in uniform who use their power and authority to abuse, intimidate, and murder the (Black and brown) people they’re sworn to protect. No matter how many people saw what John Walker did and recorded it with their phones before uploading the footage to YouTube and Instagram, America has proven over and over and over again that when it comes to men in uniform abusing their power and authority in the worst ways imaginable, even when that abuse is captured in 4K, none of it matters. None of it matters, because the only lives that truly matter are the lives that belong to men in uniform. So I wouldn’t be surprised at all if John Walker murdering an unarmed Flag-Smasher on camera is somehow swept under the rug and whitewashed by the government so that Captain America 2.0 can keep being the inspiration that the country needs and wants. And if John does suffer actual consequences for what he’s done, and is no longer allowed to continue serving as Captain America, that aftershock you’ll feel will be my jaw hitting the floor from complete and utter shock.

I probably should apologize for allowing this recap to become so damn woke (and boy, do I just love how white people have now turned the word “woke” into both an insult and a dog-whistle), but: 1) That apology is never going to come, so you can stop expecting one. 2) Some viewers (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Maher is one of them, because the man just loves his escapism as much as he loves pretending that he’s Black so he can say “nigga” as much as he wants) are actually upset about the fact that The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is becoming too woke and focusing too much on social issues and not enough on action and laughs, which makes plenty of sense as there have never been any comic books which told any stories that touched upon political and social issues, so this complaint is entirely valid, and 3) Some viewers also see nothing wrong with what John Walker did when he murdered that Flag-Smasher, and you can go ahead and draw your own conclusions as to why that is.

Either way, with only two episodes left, it will be interesting to see where this story goes next, and if we’re all going to be satisfied when that story arrives at its destination.

This episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has been brought to you by “Stop Being Greedy.”

And by “Slippin’” by Earl Simmons, a.k.a. DMX, who died this past Friday at the age of 50.

May he rest in peace.

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Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



Header Image Source: Marvel Studios