Last week’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series opener started big (helicopter fights!), dipped in the middle (bank loans!) and ended with a twist that shook up whatever’s left of the Avengers – seeing John Walker, aka U.S. Agent, pick up Captain America’s shield.
Episode two begins with fake Cap (Wyatt Russell, walking a perfect line between heroic and annoying) pacing around his old high school before a big telly interview to introduce him to the world. It’s nice to see the series already rounding out Walker’s character with a bit of nuance – clearly wanting to make him more than just a distraction before Sam takes his shield back – and we get a small slice of Walker’s backstory via a TV showreel (a highly decorated special ops soldier who definitely doesn’t have any super powers), as well as a lot of self-doubt.
We also get some more context about the bigger story being told. Just as Captain America: The Winter Soldier introduced a lot of political weight to the MCU, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier seems to want to acknowledge the stuff that most Marvel movies choose to ignore – bringing us into a world where online revolutionary groups seek to abolish borders, communities have been financially devastated by the Blip, and where Black Avenger Falcon can still get pulled over by the cops for walking around the wrong neighbourhood.
At the same time, it’s pretty obvious where the real meat of the show is going to be as soon as Sam and Bucky turn up in the same room together. Bickering about always having to fight “the big three” (that’s “androids, aliens and wizards” in a phrase that’s sure to instantly make its way into MCU fan lore), and love-hating each other like proper buddy-cop bromantic leads, Sam and Bucky’s on-screen relationship starts driving the whole show as soon as they share the screen.
“I’ve got a Vibranium arm, I can take them!”, yells Bucky. “And I can fly, who gives a shit!” yells back Sam, as the pair track last week’s masked flag smasher to a warehouse outside of Munich, almost immediately getting into a great Indiana Jones-style truck chase in the middle of the Autobahn. Here we also meet bad girl Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and find out that all the Flag Smashers seem to have Cap’s super-strength – something that makes the fight a bit fairer when fake Cap turns up to save the day with his own other half, Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett, Jigsaw, The Man In The High Castle).
Back home, Bucky drags Sam to Baltimore to meet Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly, Doctor Sleep) – an old adversary from the Korean war and an old icon from the comics who carried a powerful storyline about African Americans being experimented on as part of the super soldier programme. Unfortunately, Bradley doesn’t want to help at all and Sam and Bucky end up arrested, bailed out by fake Cap, and forced into couples therapy for some more comedy bickering.
It’s surprising to see so much of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier take place on a psychiatrist’s couch already, but the show seems to be doing a great job of making sure all the flying/punching/exploding stays grounded in some very believable neuroses – with Sam and Bucky both struggling with their own real-world issues, just as they’re struggling with each other’s company.
Heading off to find Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War) who they last saw getting locked up by Black Panther, Sam and Bucky continue digging through their contacts book looking for help in defeating the Flag Smashers, assuming they really are the bad guys they’re being made out to be…
For frequent flyers
- Ever since the post-credits scene in Black Panther, we’ve known that Bucky is destined to be called the White Wolf, but here the moniker crops up again as he refers to himself with the new name – leaving plenty of questions about his future (and about potential storylines in the next Black Panther movie).
- Lemar Hoskins calls himself Battlestar in the latest episode (when getting laughed at by Bucky, aka the White Wolf…), which matches the name of Walker’s partner in the comics – both of whom have small doses of super serum flowing through their veins.
- Stop the end credits at 44 minutes and four seconds to see a scrap of paper with the words “Powerbroker is watching”, hinting at the introduction of the criminal organisation in the comics that gave super strength to anyone willing to pay. Does this explain the abilities of the Flag Smashers?