Keep up with all of our The Falcon And The Winter Soldier reviews here.
In a hero’s journey, there’s always that one defining moment where they set themselves apart from the rest. In 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, a scrawny Steve Rodgers selflessly, jumped on a grenade during training. (This episode even refers to it.) Rodgers’ iteration as Captain America in the MCU was full of morality and altruism. That’s one reason Bucky is so incensed about Sam’s decision to give up the shield. To be picked by Steve to carry the mantle really means something. Almost like Thor and Mjölnir. You really have to be worthy to pick up where the first Captain America left off. Not only was it big for Steve to pick Sam, but it gave something for Bucky’s peace of mind. Years and years as the Winter Soldier has plagued him. Steve leaving that responsibility to someone next to him almost vindicates his redemptive arch.
The second episode gives us immediate insight into the ‘new Captain America.’ John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is almost in direct contrast to how Steve arrived at being a superhero. In the pep-rally, Good Morning America interview, it’s revealed that he’s a war hero. Three medals of honor and no super strength, but peak physical form. He doesn’t need super serum to go into his role, although he was hand-picked like Steve was. As he has a conversation with his friend and partner, Lemar Hoskins / Battlestar, (Cle Bennett), John is reluctant to do all the pomp and circumstance.
He looks at the mantle of Captain America as a job only, which differs significantly from his predecessor. Chalk it up to different time periods and values. This builds the conflict that each team will have in their interactions. Bucky and Sam are obviously battle-tested and knew who Steve was at this core. John saying things like him feeling like they were brothers while following his life from afar. Or referring to Bucky and Sam as Steve’s “wingman” shows that he has a lack of decorum. That tension only escalates as the episode goes on.
There are a lot of real-life implications for the post-blip society that the viewer can recognize. Previously, we learned about The Flagsmashers and their motivations. Meeting their leader, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) gives a bit more insight into that. At their core, the members believe that a world without borders was best. They also refer to the GRC or Global Restoration Council – the same one that John and Lemar work for. Karli believes the political entity is only concerned with the people that come back post-blip. Thus, creating these classes of people adds an extra layer to the political and economic tension of this world.
On the flip side of this, this episode’s story dips into the racial aspect of who gets to be Captain America. While Sam willingly gives up the shield, the government didn’t exactly stop him from making that choice. They immediately slid another clean-cut, safe, white war hero into that role. A beneficial aspect of having a character like Bucky is because he’s so old. There’s a lot of history with his character that we have yet to uncover. With a trip to Baltimore, Maryland, it’s discovered that Steve was not the only super-soldier. Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) in comic lore is created through Project: Rebirth. He’s the Black iteration of Captain America. Isaiah and Bucky had a confrontation during the 1950s, and it’s a big deal because few people walked away alive from The Winter Soldier.
However, when he came home, he was put in prison for 30 years and experimented on. In contrast, Steve Rodgers was looked upon as a hero even when he emerged from being frozen. Isaiah’s history is buried away in Maryland. This has a real-life parallel when you look at instances with the Tuskegee Airmen and the Vietnam War. Where Black soldiers fought wars overseas, but came home to racism and segregation. Bucky didn’t even tell Steve of Isaiah’s existence. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself with Sam. A theme that connects the first two episodes is one of Bucky’s regret of the past. One would hope that the MCU would explore these aspects more. The element of patriotism that permeates with Captain America also has some unpleasant history to it.
For all the layers that this episode provides, there are some lighthearted moments. Particularly the banter between Sam and Bucky. They fight like siblings at points. Like last week, there’s a big action set-piece. This time, involving a road chase. Contained in The Flagsmashers’ plot with the serum that provides super strength, there’s a shady power broker that is after them. John and Lemar have to work within the confines of the law where Sam and Bucky do not. With four episodes left, this show pleasantly displays that it has many layers to it. Characters trying to figure things out in a world that provides both old and new impediments.
Photo Credit: Disney