This Week's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Wasn't Really About Either

Wonder what John is looking at?
Wonder what John is looking at?
Photo: Marvel Studios

Episode four of Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was all about contrasting viewpoints, mainly from two people—neither of which were the Falcon or the Winter Soldier—who represent factions on a collision course for possible war. And it might be up to Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Photo: Marvel Studios

The people I’m referring to are Flag-Smasher leader Karli (Erin Kellyman) and the new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell). You see, the latest episode of Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is called “The Whole World Is Watching,” a title that refers to both of them by the end. At the start, though, it seems to only refer to Karli and her crew; after she blew up a GRC (Global Repatriotzation Council) office in the last episode, we find out three people were killed in the blast and now news of the group is spreading. The GRC wants to pass laws to slow them down while others are becoming sympathetic to the Flag-Smasher cause. More than before, the whole world is watching.

Fast forward to the end of the episode and we witness Walker bludgeoning a Flag-Smasher to death with the Captain America shield as dozens of people film it on their phones. It was brutal. In both cases, though, in “The Whole World Is Watching” these two seemingly want the same thing: peace. They just have radically different opinions of how to get it and a complete inability to compromise—and each of their actions will have severe consequences for everyone around them.

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Loved the deepening of this relationship.
Photo: Marvel Studios

First, let’s start over. The episode begins in Wakanda, six years ago, as the Winter Soldier is being deprogrammed and rehabilitated by Ayo (Florence Kasumba), the Black Panther star who appeared at the end of the previous episode. Ayo tells Bucky she’s going to say his HYDRA trigger words to prove he’s better but he’s terrified. As she lists them off, he gets increasingly scared until she reaches the end—nothing happens. The look on Bucky’s face of relief and gratitude through streaming tears was truly moving, one of Stan’s best moments to date. “You’re free,” Ayo says, setting up the friendship and respect these two warriors have. That respect is why present Ayo gives Bucky eight hours to use Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) before she and the Dora Milaje come for him. After all, he killed their former king.

Meanwhile, Sam has an idea to find Karli: they should look for Donya Madani (Veronica Falcon), whom Karli was beside in the last episode as she passed away. Sam realizes Madani was a beloved figure in the community and thinks if they crash her funeral, Karli will be there. The plan will only work, though, if someone tells them where the funeral is. No one does. Thankfully, Zemo is still around, and after bribing a few kids with some Turkish Delight (“Irresistible,” he gleefully calls it), he figures out where the services are taking place. [Editor’s note: Don’t listen to pop culture, Turkish Delight is gross. -Jill P., one very disappointed The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe fan.]

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Before they go, Sam and Bucky have a crucial conversation where Sam admits he doesn’t think Karli is wrong. He understands how hard it was for people who had been snapped to show up five years later and expect things to go back to normal. And he knows that, in those five years where half of humanity was gone, the world came together as one. It was harmonious. It was aspirational. And it all went away when Bruce Banner snapped his fingers. So he sympathizes and thinks if he can talk to Karli alone, he can get her to see that.

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The boys.
Photo: Marvel Studios
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Meanwhile, Karli and fellow Flag-Smasher Nico (Noah Mills) retrieve the rest of the Super Soldier serum in its hidden gravesite location and their discussion mirrors the one Sam and Bucky just had. Karli is unsure if creating more Super Soldiers is the right thing to do. Nico explains that he used to love Captain America but what he represented doesn’t exist anymore—in fact, he thinks Karli should be the new Captain America because she represents the world more accurately now. Not just because of who she is, but the struggle she’s been through. She doesn’t necessarily agree but does think the shield is outdated and, like Sam suggested in the last episode, maybe it should be destroyed.

It’s very clear Karli and Sam have a lot in common, but soon after he, Bucky, and Zemo set off for the funeral, only to be interrupted by Walker and Lemar (Clé Bennett). Walker is pissed off, comes in hot, and basically just wants to take over the entire situation. Luckily, Lemar talks him down, at least for a minute, to let the plan play out. Bucky, Zemo, Walker, and Lemar wait outside the funeral so Sam can have a chance to speak to Karli one-on-one. Besides the fact that Sam lies about being alone, the conversation goes fairly well. He explains to Karli how bad what she’s doing looks to the outside world versus the effect she thinks it’s having. She seemingly appreciates the understanding and sympathy, and even starts to trust him, but just then, a twitchy, angry, anxious guy with a red, white, and blue shield storms in, interrupting their conversation (and the small bit of trust she had) and a chase ensues.

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This was Erin Kellyman’s best episode by far.
Photo: Marvel Studios

The resulting chase plays out rather predictably save one crucial element: Zemo, who had slipped off in all the commotion, is the one who catches Karli. He shoots her, she falls and drops the remaining vials of Super Soldier serum. There they are, maybe the most valuable asset on the planet, right at Zemo’s fingertips. After a brief second of consideration, he smashes them up, proving that while he may be evil, he does not deviate from his code: super soldiers should not exist.

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Zemo wasn’t careful enough though because one vial slid off to the side and later gets picked up by none other than John Walker, a man who in the last few days has been playing catch up with more experienced heroes and is incredibly frustrated and angry about all of it. This won’t go well.

While so much was happening, the clock has been running, and after a brief respite, the Dora Milaje have come to collect Baron Zemo. Walker, still on edge about, well, just about everything, tries to reason with them but has no idea what he’s up against. He and Lemar get into a battle with the Wakandan warriors who are about to literally kill them when Bucky and Sam finally jump in. Once again, using the commotion to his advantage, Zemo escapes through a large drain. This, of course, does not sit well with the Dora, who handily defeated everyone in the room. That includes Bucky, whom Ayo literally disarms in a special strike that locks up and detaches his vibranium arm (it actually reminded me of Kill Bill’s Five Point Exploding Heart Technique). She says something to him that sounds like “Damn you James” but it’s hard to make out and they leave. (The subtitles say “(Speaking Wakandan) James” suggesting it’s maybe something a little more personal.)

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Walker, on the other hand, is still reeling from having his ass handed to him by the Dora (“They weren’t even super soldiers,” he whimpers to Lemar) and later the two debate the merits of serum, just like Sam and Bucky, just like Karli and Nico. Lemar doesn’t know Walker’s stolen it so, almost in a joking way, he tells Walker he would take it if he had the chance. It’s his belief the powers would just make you a better version of the person you already are, which seems to pique Walker’s interest. They discuss how awful their wartime experiences were and admit if they had the serum then, fewer people would have died. Both Karli and Walker think this Super-Soldier serum is the answer to their problems—whether it’s a systemic change to society or a desire to be good and help broker peace.

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This is about to get bad.
Photo: Marvel Studios
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Even in a very dialogue-heavy, relatively slow episode, the similarities of these two viewpoints really came through. Especially when, despite being slightly betrayed and losing her biggest piece of leverage, Karli reaches out to Sam via his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye). It’s a bit of a bummer to see Sarah only in one scene, on the phone, again, but it’s a big scene. She not only vouches for Sam and his lack of loyalty to Walker but gets threatened by Karli. It’s an empty threat, but Sarah doesn’t know that, and she flees with her kids while Sam confronts Karli. Reaffirmed in some of her trust in him, she asks Sam if he wants to team up to fight the injustices of the world, but before that can play out, once again they’re interrupted by John Walker.

Another fight ensues and it becomes obvious that Walker did, in fact, take the Super Soldier serum. His strength escalates things to the point where Lemar is punched so hard into a column by Karli, he’s killed. Everyone’s in shock, Karli bolts, and Walker chases the last Flag-Smasher he can find. He catches up to him in a public square and as the man begs for his life, Walker smashes him to death with the Captain America shield while dozens of people film it on their phones. Though the whole episode has basically been building to this malfunction, Sam, Bucky, Karli, and the audience are all stunned at the turn of events. The final shot, of the shield splattered in blood, is one noone will easily forget.

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“The Whole World Is Watching” was kind of repetitive, kind of monotonous, and filled with maybe a little too much talking, but it was also sprinkled with plenty of good bits. The Dora Milaje are always a welcome sight and their scene was one of the show’s highlights so far. The flashback with Bucky was incredible—certainly, something fans probably expected more of from this show—and learning more about the true natures of both Karli and Walker gives the series some more emotional complexity. There’s no way Walker can keep the shield now, is there? The question is, does the shield get passed on, or does it get destroyed?

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Photo: Marvel Studios
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Assorted Musings:

  • Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) sure got shortchanged in this episode. Sam calls her for help with something, she mentions the Power Broker is pissed about the doctor being killed (suggesting she’s not the Power Broker, but that could still be a diversion) and then she uses a few satellites for almost no reason. I feel like she deserves more and, hopefully, she’ll get it.
  • Zemo’s arc in this episode, while not crucial, was quite interesting. The way he handled himself to get the information about the funeral. The way he withheld that information to save himself. The way he escaped capture numerous times and then turned down the chance to take the serum. We’ll surely see him again before the season is out, and frankly, I want even more than that. And not just more dancing.
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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has two more episodes left. We’ll see you next week.


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Entertainment Reporter. NYU Cinema Studies Alum. Formerly Premiere, EW, Us Weekly, and /Film. AP Award-Winning Film Critic & CCA member. Loves Star Wars, posters, Legos, and often all three at once.

DISCUSSION

angriergeek
Angrier Geek

Holy shit. We knew it was coming, but when it did…

Those who read the original run (“O. G.’s” aka “Old Geeks”) with John Walker know that this is pretty much what happened. In that instance it was his parents who were killed, but the end result is that he slaughtered who he felt were responsible. Hated to see Lemar fulfill a trope though. Is there a clever designation for minorities who die for the white characters the way there’s “Women in Refridgerators?” Maybe “Ethnic Two Days Before Retirement.”

But the highlight had to be the Dora Milaje battle. Basically kicking the ass of everyone with a “Y” chromosome. And sis did the kick up to get the shield on her arm…! I could hear millions of fangirls squealing with delight…which it great because it covered my squeals. And girlfriend was gonna keep it too (it is vibranium which kinda makes it Wakandan property)! Disappointed Ayo and Bucky weren’t lovers (though they did share something intimate), but I guess you can’t have everything.

Loved they remembered Sam counseled at the VA! It’s a nice parallel to the comics where he was a social worker. Doing good in ways other than punching people in the face. Loved how he showed both Zemo and Karli how they were both as bad as the people they say they’re agains

Speaking of Zemo, he continues to earn his equal player status. Finally, another Marvel villain aside from Loki that’s fun to watch. Then again, they were all killed off before they could have a chance to shine.

Four Degrees of Super-Soldier: Lemar would take it with no hesitation. Walker hesitates but does. Sam flat out refuses. Bucky had it forced on him. Also, the shading. Walker and Hoskins carry some shame at how they earned their medals and what they’ve done for the flag.

Sarah Wilson minced no words about how she felt about [Captain] America. Dayum.

Sharon is looking increasingly sinister, but I hope it’s a feint. She’s an “Agent Carter.” Gotta get her back to SHIELD to keep kicking ass in the family tradition.

Two episodes left. I cannot wait. Man, Marvel is batting a thousand with these shows. Better than anyone ever could have expected. I’m looking forward to Loki being as wonderfully ridiculous as these two have been deep. Also, I couldn’t handle another deep dive like this in a row. I need a break.