Spoiler alert: This blog is for people watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to four.
As the episode opened by recapping what Karli did at the GRC supply depot, it was highly likely we were going to learn a lot more about the lead Flag Smasher and her squad of devotees. And that’s exactly what happened, as the plot dug in to her backstory and allowed her to explain her beliefs.
What we heard was a pretty convincing argument: refugees – or “internationally displaced people”, as the man in the school termed it – were turfed out on the street when the vanished returned. Interspersed with that, however, was a dash of naivety and a reminder that absolutism is a dangerous thing, no matter which side of an argument you are on. Karli’s first meeting with Sam was insightful, not least because she hadn’t considered for a second that she might be seen by some not as a freedom fighter or revolutionary, but as a supremacist. Had it not been for Walker’s interruption, it is very likely Sam could have talked her down. A nice nod to his former career as a counsellor, something not touched upon since we were introduced to him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It will be interesting to see how she reacts to killing Battlestar in the weeks to come. She has killed before, but not like that. Having now lost the serum she had as leverage with the Power Broker, there are definitely going to be more fights ahead.
Ayo, let’s go
I enjoyed the flashback, from Wakanda six years ago, in which Ayo tested Bucky’s reprogamming. He was understandably overcome with emotion to realise those words no longer have any sway, the first step in leaving his old life behind. Of course, when your old life saw you kill hundreds of people as a cryogenically frozen assassin with a metal arm on behalf of a secret organisation hellbent on destabilising the world, how much you can leave that behind is open to debate. Still, little wonder he sees Wakanda as the place where he found peace.
Despite the obvious bond between Bucky and Ayo, he still thought it a good idea to tell Sam and Zemo that the Wakandans were looking for the Baron and would probably try to kill him in the next eight hours.
The reappearance of the Dora Milajewas a highlight of the episode (“The Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever the Dora Milaje find themselves to be,” is one hell of a line); hats off to the fight choreographers, who managed to make a seven-person scrap not look like a scruffy bar brawl.
This might be called The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but in the past two episodes this has become the Baron Zemo show. It remains to be seen whether or not he becomes the moustache-twirling villain we expect. It could be that he remains an eccentric antihero, to be used in any Thunderbolts series or film that comes along, as is widely rumoured. Nevertheless, Daniel Brühl has stolen every scene he has been in so far, whether offering turkish delight to kids in exchange for information, critiquing Marvin Gaye albums or stomping on vials of super soldier serum. He gets the best lines, too – “I am sure it will all come to an agreeable solution” being a case in point.
Walker, lone ranger
The title of the episode is The Whole World Is Watching, which could be a reference to a number of things – the Flag Smashers making it on to rolling news channels, the global scale of the displaced-people problem – but it almost certainly refers to Captain America brutally executing a Flag Smasher with his shield in the middle of a town square, filmed by hundreds of onlookers.
Quite how the US government and the GRC will spin that is another thing – perhaps he will be fired as Captain America, leaving the title and shield vacant for Sam. There will also no doubt be a split between those have seen the footage: on one side, those who believe he has gone too far; on the other, those who think those extreme measures are necessary. That division will only cause Walker, who now has the serum coursing through his veins, to go further. As Hoskins said of the formula, it only brings out someone’s true character. While Walker may have three medals of honour, he also sulked like a toddler after being humiliated by the Doras (“they weren’t even super soldiers”), makes stupid decisions and erupts with anger whenever challenged. Coupled with a thirst for revenge, he has suddenly become a very dangerous player. The image of the shield dripping with blood was chilling.
A quick nod to those BTL who think I am missing a trick in suggesting that Sharon works for the Power Broker, rather than being the Power Broker. You may well be right. There is certainly enough evidence pointing to it – having control of satellites definitely doesn’t harm the theory – but my money remains on it being Thunderbolt Ross, with Sharon working for him in exchange for a pardon and a return to the US. Whatever the truth, it is fun guessing.
Still there in the background – how could it not be? – but only referenced fleetingly as Karli explained her motives. The GRC, however, is definitely not what it should be. I thought it was interesting when the man in the school explained to Sam that the GRC had promised to send teachers and supplies six months previously, but never did. If they are not keeping those agreements, what exactly does “Reset. Restore. Rebuild” mean?
The Patch Act is a terrifying concept, a bill to fast-track a “return to normalcy”. I await the outcome of that with horror.
Name drops and other business
Ayo called Bucky “White Wolf”, which is always nice to hear.
Zemo “pulled an El Chapo”, meaning the Mexican drug lord and tunneller supreme Joaquín Guzmán is now Marvel canon.
Brühl said in an interview after last week’s episode that Zemo’s nightclub dance, improvised on the day of filming, was a lot longer and that more footage remains. May I add my voice to the growing #ReleasetheZemoCut movement.
Grief and loss are almost everyone’s motivation in this series. Bucky grieves for those he killed, Zemo for his family, the Doras for their king, Karli for Donya, Sam for Steve and the world as it was – and now Walker, for the loss of Battlestar. Given WandaVision’s overarching theme, there is definitely a pattern developing.
The “return to normalcy” referenced by the GRC could be a nod to the campaign slogan of Warren G Harding, who, in his successful 1920 US presidential campaign, used it to mean a return to how life had been before the first world war and the 1918 flu pandemic.
Farewell Clé Bennett, who played Lemar Hoskins/Battlestar. A sad end for a promising character, who deserved more than being Captain America’s motivation for murder.
What did you think? Is Sharon the Power Broker, or merely working for them? What will Captain America do next? Where did Zemo go? Have your say below the line.