NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on March 31st, 2021
Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The Star Spangled Man Recap
After the events of last week’s episode, it’s time for John Walker to start embracing his new role as Captain America. For him, it’s very similar to how Steve Rogers began, mostly as a publicity machine but John is well aware that he has the biggest shoes on the planet he has to fill, not only as an image but as an actual fighter for justice.
While the press tour goes on, Falcon and the Winter Soldier finally team up (naturally starting their team up with a protracted argument) and go off to chase after the Flag Smashers who have stolen a shipment of vaccines. Once the fight with the Flag Smashers begins, Falcon and the Winter Soldier learn that the Flag Smashers have superhuman strength… the same kind of strength that Steve had thanks to the super-soldier serum.
Even when the new Captain America joins them, they can’t really beat these super soldiers. Defeated, Bucky decides to introduce Sam to an important figure from his and Steve’s past which doesn’t go well. This is quickly followed by a stint in a jail cell and a trip to Bucky’s therapist before Falcon and the Winter Soldier decide they need some info from someone who they haven’t even thought about in many many years.
Last week’s episode was clearly the setup and with that out of the way, this episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier is finally deciding to flex and see just what it can do. While we spent the entire last episode waiting patiently for the two leads to meet up, this episode barely even makes us wait 5 minutes before we finally get to see Falcon and the Winter Soldier side by side and it’s glorious.
Anyone who has seen an interview with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan knows that the two of them have an unbelievable chemistry that’s endlessly entertaining, so seeing them transfer that magic into their characters is something special. Every single scene where Falcon and the Winter Soldier are either fighting together, throwing cutting lines at each other or just staring angrily at each other is a sheer joy because these two performers know when to let the other one shine.
Much like last week, we have another lengthy fight scene in this episode that is heart stoppingly brilliant. The fight against the Flag Smashers is amazing, a high octane hand on hand combat that takes place on top of two giant trucks moving at full speed. It not only shows off how well Falcon and Winter Soldier work together, but when the new Captain America (and his sidekick Lemar Hoskins) show up we also see that they can adjust to a new team on the fly, and that Bucky still knows how to work that shield almost as good as Cap can. It would be the most powerful scene in the episode… but we all know what that is.
The scene where Falcon and the Winter Soldier go to Baltimore to visit with Isaiah Bradley is easily the high point of the episode. The history of the super serum has always been a little bit iffy but to reveal that the MCU is taking a leaf out of the 7 part comic book series Truth: Red, White & Black is powerful. The very basic version, it’s the MCU’s version of the Tuskegee Experiments where a large number of black people were experimented on. In the real world, this was about learning what happened when syphilis was untreated (That’s the obscenely basic version that I can fit into the word count, go read up this horror for yourselves) and in the MCU this was the government testing the super serum on 300 black men.
Taking real-world horrors and putting them into this fantastical world is powerful, and the appearance of Isaiah Bradley is one of the most emotional moments of the episode… almost directly followed by the terrifying moment when a bunch of white cops pull up and start asking Falcon for his ID. It’s clear at this moment that Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not going to shy away from real-world political issues, so if you’re someone who doesn’t like politics in your art… well, politics is in every piece of art that ever existed so I’m sorry you live an art free life, but this series is going to clearly be much more explicit about it than most.
While the first episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier was good, this is great. This lays out a clear idea of exactly where this series is going to go and I’m excited to see what happens. It’s been a while since the MCU really dived into a political action thriller, I don’t think we’ve really seen them do something like this since Captain America: Winter Soldier. If the series can just stick to this level of quality from now on, it’s going to be something pretty special.
Stray Observations (MAJOR SPOILERS IN HERE)
- The idea of the Global Repatriation Council (aka a government organisation that is helping people who vanished in the blip) feels like it’s going to be a serious player in this era of MCU films. It certainly is a step up from the charity events we saw in Spiderman: Far From Home but I have an odd feeling it might not be a net positive in this universe.
- Not only do we get Isiah Bradley, AKA the first Captain America (though I’m sure he’ll have a different name when they do that inevitable reveal) but we also get Eli Bradley. The sound you heard was comic book fans screaming “PATRIOT!” and flailing because his appearance strongly suggests that we’re going to get the Young Avengers at some point, though how we assemble that when Wanda’s kids are kind of dead is a mystery to me but I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
- Welcome back Zemo, been wondering if we were ever going to see you again after Civil War. Looking forward to next week to see how you mess with Falcon and the Winter Soldier (or, more accurately, how you mess with Winter Soldier who will then mess with Falcon)
- Best Mackie & Stan scene: The therapy scene is where their chemistry is so perfect that I could gleefully just watch an hour of them doing couples therapy.
- Best Line “Just because you carry that shield doesn’t make you Captain America.”