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“The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse.” – Captain America: The First Avenger

At the end of the fight in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rodgers has the upper hand in his fight with Tony Stark. He raises his shield high, signaling to go in for a death blow. However, everything we knew about Steve at that point shows he’s a man of valor. Of morality. Surely, he wouldn’t kill someone (a friend) if he didn’t have to. It would have to be an absolute last resort. Even then, he would probably twist himself in knots not to do it. At that moment, he lodges the shield in Tony’s Iron Man suit reactor to power it down. Deter, rather than destroy. A man who had all the power in the world elected to show restraint.

A world without Steve Rodgers has two different people are picked to fill his legacy by others. In “The Whole World Is Watching,” the heaviness of that responsibility continues to weigh on one John Walker (Wyatt Russell). In contrast to the early episode where there was a huge pep rally to celebrate his new appointment, the cracks further hint at an emotional earthquake to come. He’s skittish, impatient, and incensed. A man in a foreign country on the warpath acting with autonomy. When Sam (Anthony Mackie) elects to talk to Karli (Erin Kellyman), John is eager to go in guns-a-blazing. There’s a stark inversion to the levelheadedness that Steve carried and John lacks. Ironically, Sam, the man who gave up the shield, embodies the personal qualities that one needs for that responsibility.

Within the conversation that he has with Lemar (Clé Bennett), John alludes that he’s suffering some PTSD from a previous tour from Afghanistan. You immediately think of the haste of the GRC in putting John in this position. Straight from war without extensive decompression from what he just came from. During the fight with the Dora Milaje, Walker is clearly out of his league. Shaken because he might be under-tooled, he looks to take the serum. Not only did it enhance his strength, but it also increased his insecurities and impulsiveness. In mirroring the First Avenger quote, Lemar says to John, “Power just makes a person more of themselves, right?”

Previously, Karli elects to blow up a building that killed innocent people. Her actions cause the GRC to retaliate and push the Patch Act. It’s to restore regular borders around countries like pre-Blip. The conversation that Sam and Karli almost acts as a metaphor symbolizing how fans feel about some MCU villains. Think about Thanos and Killmonger. Two tyrannical figures with a complex idea that spirals into something genocidal. They want to create changes at the expense of innocent collateral damage. Karli says this is ok with her to Sam, unflinchingly just like that explosion. It shows that she’s way too far gone in a terrorist-like direction. So, when a Flag-Smasher equates her to being a new Captain America, that doesn’t work because Steve would think of the greater good. The gravitational pull of Karli and John’s paths would come together with tragic consequences. To think of it, both characters think they are doing the right things.

Neither of them really knows what it takes to be a leader. Further, clouded by the artificial power flowing through their veins. One built on revenge and the other trying to cling to the position that was awarded to him. Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) warns that being a super solder will always come with supremacist ideals. By the looks of things, it’s hard to argue with him. Although, for someone who killed people himself, it feels like a “right message, wrong messenger.” Speaking of Zemo, he has to answer for his crimes, which put Bucky (Sebastian Stan) at odds with Dora Mijae’s second-in-command Ayo (Florence Kasumba). The beginning of the episode showed how she helped him with his deprogramming. That scene is powerful because the audience continues to see how being a super-soldier can be traumatizing. Bucky is forever going to be running from the ghosts of his past. His actions in working with Zemo put him at odds with the Wakandians. They rightfully feel betrayed, given that Zemo framed Bucky for T’Chaka’s murder!

The same shield donning the red, white, and blue pattern. The one that exhibited mercy in secret became blood-stained as onlookers recorded what happened. John Walker stood tall, almost to revel in killing a Flag-Smasher soldier. It’s an eerie and unsettling critique of an American imperialistic mindset. That he could think he could go into another country and kill somebody in that matter. Never mind the fact that if he just acted with some temperament, his partner would still be alive. Maybe Karli would be in custody right now. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and right now, the mantle of an old hero seems like too heavy of a cross to bear.

Photo Credit: Disney +