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 and two.
A big shield to fill
Hello and welcome to the second TFATWS recap. This second episode opens with one of Rhodey’s lines from last week (“The world’s a crazy place right now. Alliances are all torn apart …”), part of Sam’s Washington speech about symbols being nothing without the people that give them meaning, and a reminder that Bucky is having nightmares about his Hydra missions. All in all, a pretty neat precis of what’s about to follow, with the old band getting back together, the new Captain America revealing himself unfit to carry Steve Rogers’ notebook and the Winter Soldier dragged back in to his former life of violence.
Instead of Battleship and drinking games, we get John Walker, Captain America, who is nervous ahead of a ceremony at his old high school in Georgia. We meet Lamar Hoskins, who later reveals himself as Battlestar, new Cap’s Bucky, and an interview in which Walker offers a cringeworthy story about seeing Steve Rogers as a brother, despite having never met him. Cheesy as it may be, it at least motivates Bucky in to action …
Avengers, of sorts … Reassemble
The reunion between our eponymous heroes isn’t quite the grand affair we might have expected, consisting as it does of Bucky barging in to an aircraft hangar to harangue Sam about giving Cap’s shield away.
There’s some expositional dialogue, a nice line about the big three – androids, aliens and wizards – and the definition of a sorcerer, and then they’re off to Munich, where the Flag Smashers have been sighted.
I am a fan of the chemistry between Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, although I hope the reliance on gags about Bucky being old, staring a lot and hating Redwing aren’t overplayed. Sooner or later, they have to bond properly. If you consider their first meeting, though – the Winter Soldier, on the roof of Sam’s car, grabbing the steering wheel out of his hand and trying to kill him – and this is practically a love-in.
Bucky and Sam engage the eight Flag Smashers, led, as predicted, by Karli Morgenthau, but very quickly realise they’re outmatched. Enter Captain America and Battlestar who level things up – Bucky even gets his hands on the shield again, momentarily – before they all end up grounded and the baddies get away with whatever medicine and vaccines they have in those wagons.
Walker wants to team up with Bucky and Sam, although as he reveals he tracked Redwing, technically US government property, just like him, it doesn’t seem like they’ve got a lot of choice. The second conversation they have later in the episode is markedly different in tone, with our heroes saying they could never work with him, and Walker offering a slightly chilling warning – if they won’t join his team, they must keep out of his way.
Flag Smashers’ European vacation
They were first seen robbing a bank in Switzerland, and then having a lorrytop scrap on their way from Munich, and now the Flag Smashers are in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. Perhaps the group’s love of travel is why they want a world without borders? Although can you really imagine a group of people getting angry enough about passports to tear their world apart? What a ludicrous notion.
After turning his nose up at the finest chicken livers in Slovakia, Morgenthau gets two text messages. “You took what was mine,” says one. “I’m going to find you and kill you” says the next. Who is this charmer? Perhaps it’s Baron Zemo, although as we see in the closing shot of the episode, he’s still in jail (not that it would stop him getting a phone). More likely, though, is the mysterious Power Broker, the very mention of whom is enough to have the Flag Smashers dash to an airfield to escape. All but one of them makes it, the unlucky volunteer gunned down to delay the trucks full of troops.
This was a powerful scene, with Bucky taking Sam to meet Isiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a former soldier who in 1942, along with other African American subjects, was given a version of the super soldier serum that had worked on Steve Rogers. Rather than being given a shield and made a national icon, Bradley was utilised at first, hence his prior meeting with Bucky in the Korean war, and then thrown in jail for 30 years to be experimented on further. I hope that storyline is examined more closely.
It did crop up again a bit this week, mainly in relation to the Flag Smashers’ objective. There was also chilling talk of refugee camps full of those that returned, and a US government organisation called the Global Repatriation Council in charge of “reactivating citizenship, social security, healthcare managing resources for the refugees displaced by the return”. It seems it provides the resources for the people, and whichever branch of government it is that funds John Walker’s Captain America and Battlestar pays to stamp out anyone deemed a threat. If the Sokovia Accords are still in place, he and Hoskins definitely signed on the dotted line.
Name drops and other business
Aboard the plane, there are some callbacks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Steve Rogers jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and then, on the ground, while they walk around a warehouse and spy on the Flag Smashers, there’s a nod to Infinity War as Bucky refers to himself as the White Wolf. In the comics, at least, the White Wolf is the adopted brother of T’Challa, the Black Panther, and goes on to become the leader of the Wakandan secret police. In the MCU, the name seems more casual than that, but as Bucky said in last week’s episode, he found some peace in Wakanda, so it’s little wonder he enjoys the nickname he was given while there.
Sam asks Bucky “Remember what happened last time we stole it?”, shutting down his plan to steal the shield from John Walker. “Sharon was branded enemy of the state and Steve and I were on the run for two years.” Sharon Carter, that is, Agent 13, last seen in Captain America: Civil War and due for a return to the MCU in, I’d say, about seven days.
I can’t be the only one who found it pleasing to hear Erin Kellyman speak with her natural Staffordshire accent. It made me imagine a world in which Shane Meadows might get to direct a series for Disney+. This is Madripoor, perhaps? WoodyVision?
One thing I didn’t have space to delve into last week were the closing credits. There are many, many deep Marvel cuts here, almost worthy of their own blog, but the words you can see partially obscured beneath a poster – “longing”, “rusted”, “seventeen”, “daybreak” and “furnace”, with “nine”, “benign”, “homecoming”, “one” and “freight” car still obscured – got me thinking. They’re the words, when spoken in Russian, used by Hydra to activate the Winter Soldier. And here they are. Are they lightly papered over and trying to reappear. Will reactivating the Winter Soldier be part of Zemo’s grand plan, just as he did in Civil War? Or did Shuri’s reprogramming in Wakanda go deeper than that?
What did you think? Who sent Karli that text message? What does Power Broker want from the Flag Smashers? What is Baron Zemo’s plan? Who is going to fix Redwing? Have your say below the line.