Hello, and welcome to your weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. These are meant to be read after watching, so they will go deep into spoiler territory. You have been warned!
In “Power Broker,” Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Zemo (Daniel Brühl) took the Baron’s private jet to Madripoor in search of answers about the new Super Soldier Serum that’s hitting the streets. There they reunited with ex-S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who’s been hiding out on the island as an enemy of the state after breaking the Sokovia Accords. Together, they track down Dr. Wilfred Nagel (Olli Haaskivi), a former HYDRA scientist turned CIA stooge who used Isaiah Bradley’s blood to create the new serum for the mysterious Power Broker. The episode ends with our heroes — and Zemo — traveling to Riga, Latvia, in search of the Flag Smashers’ Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). Before they can get down to business, however, Bucky has a run-in with Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a member of the Dora Milaje — the personal bodyguards and royal security of the Black Panther. The warrior has only one thing to say. “I’m here for Zemo.”
The White Wolf of Wakanda
Written by Derek Kolstad, “The Whole World is Watching” begins with a flashback. Six years ago, Bucky Barnes — given the name White Wolf by the people of Wakanda — was freed from HYDRA’s brainwashing by Princess Shuri. On a mountainside at night, Ayo tests the success of the deprogramming process by reciting the code words to activate the Winter Soldier. A flashback within the flashback shows us all the pain Bucky has endured over the years and the unspeakable acts he committed as the Winter Soldier. The deprogramming procedure was a success. With tears in his eyes, Bucky realizes that he’s truly free for the first time since World War II.
Riga, Latvia. The present. Ayo is not pleased to hear that Bucky helped spring Zemo from prison. “With time, will, and the resources, the Winter Soldier programming was removed from you like a rotten fur,” she says.
“And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for everything you and Shuri have done…”
“Zemo murdered our King T’Chaka at the U.N. The man who chose us. Who chose me to protect him.
“I understand,” begins Bucky, but Ayo finishes his sentence. “Very little, if anything, of our loss and our shame.”
“He’s a means to an end,” Bucky says in Wakandan.
“Eight hours, White Wolf. Then we come for him.”
Super Soldier Supremacy
After his run-in with Ayo, Bucky catches up with Sam and Zemo at their safehouse. The team receives word that Karli Morgenthau has bombed a GRC supply depot, leaving eleven injured and three dead. “She’s getting worse,” Zemo interjects. “She’s a supremacist,” he continues. “The very concept of a Super Soldier will always trouble people. It’s that warped aspiration that led to Nazis, to Ultron, to the Avengers.”
Karli is radicalized, but Sam argues there must be a peaceful way to stop her. According to Zemo, however, the desire to become superhuman cannot be separated from supremacist ideals. “Anyone with that serum is inherently on that path.” But as Bucky points out, the serum never corrupted Steve Rogers.
“Touché. But there has never been another Steve Rogers, has there?”
Touché, indeed. Sam and Bucky hope to find Karli by gathering intel on the recently deceased Donya Madani (Veronica Falcón), a pillar of the community and the woman who raised Karli. Accompanied by Zemo, they begin canvassing the streets, questioning the locals. Sam encounters a teacher (Adam Vacula) who explains the current situation. “The Global Repatriation Council promised to send more teachers, supplies. That was six months ago.” While the teacher knows who Sam is, he can’t trust him, and so the search for answers continues.
Zemo, meanwhile, has a more direct approach. Singing “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” the Baron strolls into the town square with a pocketful of Turkish Delight to use as a bargaining chip with a group of children. A sweet made with starch and powdered sugar and flavored with rosewater or lemon, Turkish Delight was also used by the White Witch in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) to persuade a young Edmund Pevensie to spill the beans on his siblings and betray his family.
“My old friend, Donya, passed away,” Zemo tells a young girl. “I would like to pay my last respects. Do you know where her funeral will be?”
Back at the clubhouse, Sam and Bucky are waxing philosophical on Karli’s methods. The ol’ “do the ends justify the means” conversation. Bucky thinks she’s no different than Zemo or anyone else they’ve fought. Sam isn’t so so sure. “She’s different. She’s not motivated by the same things.” Before the conversation can continue, Zemo lets them know that Donya’s funeral is this afternoon, and he knows where it will be held.
Before they leave, Sam contacts Sharon Carter on Madripoor for a favor. “I know I owe you already,” begins Sam,” but we could use a trustworthy set of eyes on the camp. You got any more tricks in your bag?” It turns out that ex-S.H.I.E.L.D Agent does, in fact, still have a few tricks. “I may or may not have access to a satellite or two. Let me see what I can do.”
Sharon warns Sam that the Power Broker “went apeshit” when he heard about Dr. Nagel’s death. “You killed the golden goose. Madripoor’s about to get real nasty.”
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
On their way to the memorial, the gang bumps into Captain America (Wyatt Russell) and Battlestar (Clé Bennett), who are tired of being kept in the dark. “Karli Morgenthau is too dangerous for you guys to be pulling this shit.” Language, John F. Walker! Anyway, Sam wants to talk to Karli — the person closest to her died and she’s vulnerable, she might be reasoned with — but Walker ain’t having that. Battlestar, however, thinks it might be worth a try if Falcon can talk her down.
At the memorial, Sam watches as Karli delivers a eulogy for the woman who raised her:
“Like a lot of you here, Mama Donya saved me. She clothed me, fed me, loved me. She taught me that we have to do for each other because they won’t. And we know who they are. They imposed struggle and hardship on us, then labeled us as criminals for pushing back. But the struggle is what brings us all together. People who have nothin’ in common. For we are, after all, simply one world and one people. So live accordingly.”
After the service, Sam approaches Karli. “I understand your frustration,” Sam begins. “I understand your helplessness.”
“So, you want me to stop because people are gettin’ hurt, right?” asks Karli. “But Sam, what if I’m making the world a better place?”
“It’s not a better place if you’re killing people,” replies Sam. “It’s just different.”
To this, Karli smiles. “You’re either brilliant or just hopelessly optimistic.”
Sam Chuckles. “Can’t I be a little bit of both?” He continues, “This guy I know, who knows more about Super Soldiers than anyone else on the planet, he says you’re a supremacist.”
Karli is shocked. “Me? That’s ridiculous. Everything I do is to end supremacy. These corporations and the beasts who run them, they’re the supremacists.”
Sam asks if she’s going to increase her army using the Super Soldier Serum the Flag Smashers have procured. “The people I’m fighting,” she replies, “are trying to take your home, Sam. Why are you here instead of stopping them?” Sam assures her that he isn’t her enemy. “I agree with your fight. I just can’t get with the way you’re fighting it.”
Just as Sam and Karli are about to find common ground, Captain America busts in to arrest her. Feeling setup, Karli springs into action, knocking Walker aside and making an acrobatic escape with the remaining serum. Zemo, however, catches up with her, shoots her in the stomach, and destroys the vials, save one. Before he can finish the job, Walker knocks the Baron out cold with his shield.
Remember earlier when Zemo said the desire to become superhuman could not be separated from supremacist ideals? It would seem this was some not-so-subtle foreshadowing as to what the fate of John F. Walker will be. Thanks to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, we know that with great power comes great responsibility. In the case of Walker, the responsibility of being Captain America demands great power — the kind of power that can only be gifted via the miraculous Super Soldier Serum. We know he’s going to take the serum, and we know what he’ll become.
Historian and moralist Lord Acton (1834–1902), a baron in his own right, once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” We know that once Walker gains the power he thinks he needs to be Captain America, he will be corrupted by it. As Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) says in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger:
“A strong man, who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion.”
Walker has never been a scrawny weakling deemed unfit for military service. His moral compass isn’t unwavering, and his Star-Spangled Boy Scout routine is only skin-deep. He doesn’t fully respect the responsibility he’s been given or the power he’s willing to take. He isn’t Steve Rogers. But he’s about to show the world who he really is.
Back at the safehouse, Zemo, Bucky, and Sam are confronted by Walker and Battlestar. Before another Civil War breaks out, however, Ayo and two members of the Dora Milaje show up. “Let’s put down the pointy sticks and we can talk this through,” says Walker with a supremacist attitude.
Sam warns him to take it easy, but Walker won’t listen. What the new Cap doesn’t know, of course, is that the Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever the Dora Milaje find themselves to be. Walker and Battlestar are easily outmatched by the three Wakandan warriors, which infuriates Walker even further. Sam and Falcon attempt to break up the fight but only get pulled deeper into the conflict. Ayo deactivates Bucky’s vibranium arm while Zemo, seizing an opportunity to escape, slips away undetected.
Realizing their target “pulled an El Chapo,” the Dora Milaje stop fighting and give chase. A warrior returns Captain America’s shield to Walker, who is having serious self-esteem issues after having his ass handed to him by women who aren’t even Super Soldiers.
Later, at a café, Battlestar and Captain America weigh the advantages of taking the serum.
“Power just makes a person more of themselves, right?” asks Battlestar. “Karli Morgenthau. Steve Rogers.”
“And me?” asks Walker.
“You already have three Medals of Honor,” replies Battlestar. “You consistently make the right decisions in the heat of battle.”
Now we get some additional insight on the “heroic acts” that led to Walker being recruited as Captain America:
“Three badges of excellence to make sure I never forget the worst day of my life. We both know that the things that we had to do in Afghanistan to be awarded those medals felt a long way from being right. Being Cap is the first time I’ve had the chance to do something that actually feels right.”
Battlestar concludes the conversation with, “But God! Imagine how many lives we could have saved that day if we had that serum.”
Karli calls Sam’s sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye). “I’m thinking if I need to kill your brother,” she begins. “I thought I could trust him. I got the impression that he and I had some things in common, but then it turns out he’s working for your new Captain America.”
Sarah responds, “I didn’t choose him,” to which Karli asks who she would have chosen instead. “My world doesn’t matter to America,” Sarah says. “So why should I care about its mascot?”
“I like you, Sarah. You remind me of me.”
“Karli, if you believe one thing, believe this. My brother is not working for that man.”
“I hope you’re right,” says Karli. “I need to meet with Sam. Alone.”
Karli needs Sam to know that she’s serious. And she needs to know that he won’t betray her trust again. “Otherwise,” she says, “instead of meeting Sam here, I can always meet with you, and AJ, and little Cass there, maybe out back, by the dock?”
Blood on the Shield
Sam and Bucky meet up with Karli. “You called my sister? That’s how we’re gonna play this?” Sam asks.
“Sam, I would never hurt her. I just wanted to understand you better. I see you didn’t come alone.”
“I don’t wanna hurt you,” Karli continues. “You’re just a tool in the regimes I want to destroy. You’re not hiding behind a shield. If I were to kill you, it’d be meaningless. I was gonna ask you to join me. Or do the world a favor and let me go.”
Before Sam can reply, Sharon Carter checks in with news that Cap and Battlestar are moving on their location. A fight ensues between Bucky, Sam, Walker and the Flag Smashers, and it’s here we learn that Walker has taken the last vial of Nagel’s Super Soldier Serum. In the ensuing battle, Battlestar is killed by Karli, which causes Walker to finally snap. He jumps out a window and chases a Super Soldier to the town square, and pummels him into submission. As the Super Soldier pleas for his life, Captain America brings the shield down over and over, like Jack Torrance with an ax, as a crowd gathers and records the events with their smartphones.
When he’s done, Cap’s shield is covered in blood and the unarmed Flag Smasher is dead. Walker has become what we knew he would be: A Super-Patriot and a supervillain with the whole world watching.
With “The Whole World is Watching” in the books, there are only two episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier left, Overall, I’ve really enjoyed Malcolm Spellman‘s series so far. It’s been a treat to watch Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Daniel Brühl further develop their characters and build upon their established chemistry while newcomers like Erin Kellyman and Wyatt Russell make the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel bigger and more complicated post-Endgame. I’m very excited to see what lies ahead for these characters and how this series shapes future MCU films.
But what do you think? Are you enjoying The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so far? And who is the mysterious Power Broker? Could it be Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) or Sharon Carter playing both sides? Or is it someone new we haven’t met before? Could it be disgraced military contractor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)? And if so, will he break out some sweet James Brown dance moves? One can only hope.
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/Film – ‘Slash Film: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Realize “The Whole World is Watching” in a Grim, Pivotal Episode’
Author: Adam Frazier
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April 9, 2021