REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 2

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s second episode pairs the two heroes together and puts its central theme more in focus, all while dropping a ton of fun reveals in the margins of the episode.

The second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, titled ‘The Star-Spangled Man,’ very much feels like a proper sequel to the Captain America trilogy, serving as both a proper extension, an epilogue, and a shift in the franchise. If Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the 70’s political thriller (an argument can be made as to how much it achieves that) then The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is very much the 80’s buddy cop comedy, with Sam and Bucky as the bickering duo whose differences both work against them and make them stronger.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s first episode was about setting up the two title characters as individuals, showing us their everyday lives and how they function normally when not performing superheroics. Episode two puts these two characters together and sees how their relationship/friendship works now that the glue that connected them is gone. Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes truly have nothing in common and under normal circumstances wouldn’t be people who would speak together; their only real connection is Steve Rogers. They are the definition of ‘mutual friends’ who now have the awkwardness of having to stay connected even though both don’t want to.

Marvel is strongly hinting at where the series’ main plot will go with how it depicts John Walker and the Flag Smashers, whereby at the end of the episode the audience sees these two factions very differently from where they began. While fans of the comics know John Walker is a more right-wing nationalistic government-sponsored Captain America, the show’s introduction paints him as more of an everyman. Still a loyal soldier but one that appears to want to do the right thing and live up to the legacy. He seems likable and is even given a hero introduction in a major action scene. Yet throughout the episode there are constant hints at something much darker underneath the surface. One subtle note is that Walker appears to be the exact type of soldier that the government wanted for the super-soldier serum in the first film: loyal and takes orders. Walker appears to be friendly with Sam and Bucky at first, but the framing of him near a police car and the fact that his suit resembles a riot cop outfit give strong indicators of someone who cannot be trusted with this much power. By the end of the episode he is warning Sam and Bucky to stay out of his way, and his mission is to go raid civilians who are harboring the Flag Smashers.

Speaking of The Flag Smashers, we are introduced to Erin Kellyman (Solo: A Star Wars Story) as a gender-flipped version of Karl Morgenthau aka the original Flag-Smasher in the comics. Here she is named Karli Morgenthau. What is interesting to note is how the series depicts her and The Flag Smashers. In their first scene, they are introduced as an antagonistic force, but that is because the POV of the scene is on Sam and Bucky who already see them as the enemy. Yet when we get a scene of just them on their own, they are painted in a more sympathetic light. They appear to have a lot of people’s support, who see the Flag Smashers as a modern-day Robin Hood. Their goal now becomes more clear. Many people in power who blipped out and then returned left the world even more fractured (further highlighted by the fact that the government now has their own sponsored superhero in John Walker). Due to recent changes in power after the Blip, vaccines only seem to be given to those that disappeared. The Flag Smashers have stolen them to distribute them to the rest of the world. The Flag Smashers, like other characters in the show, seem to feel like they have been forgotten or left behind and are fighting for their place in the world. They will look out for those whom the rest of the world appears to have turned their back on. Their act has more shades of grey than originally shown. Their final scene shows them escaping the clutches of a new mysterious villain known as the Power Broker, and the Flag Smashers are portrayed as barely escaping the clutches of this new player while losing one of their own.

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