This week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the longest yet, clocking in at 53 minutes, but it’s also the slowest. Falcon keeps his wings folded and Bucky barely cracks a knuckle as the pair walk through a whole lot of exposition on their way to finding the answers they need, but a grounded, old-fashioned bit of filler doesn’t feel too out of place in a show that often just wants to be taken seriously.
Last time out, we were reintroduced to Baron Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War) but this week he actually gets to join the A-team. Stuck in his cell reading Machiavelli (of course), Bucky and Sam quickly bust him out of prison so he can help them track down the people responsible for leaking the super soldier serum into the hands of the Flag Smashers. Brühl is still in full snarling evil-scientist mode, and he makes a great addition to the double act as they all reluctantly head off together in a convertible.
First stop is Madripoor. Long featured in the comics, it’s nice to finally see Marvel’s own Mos Eisley on film – a cyberpunk pirate island (that looks a lot like Hong Kong) full of all the kinds of people who don’t want to be found. Sam pretends to be a bad guy, Bucky acts like he’s still the Winter Soldier, and Zemo leads them both into a shady nightclub to eat snakes and pick up leads.
“The Power Broker” gets a proper mention here, hinting at the bigger bad behind the super serum sales that comic fans will have already seen coming, but the only stooge they actually meet is British gangster Selby (Imelda Corcoran), who almost gives them what they need before Sam’s phone rings and ruins the ruse. A stylish shootout breaks out but it’s stopped before it gets interesting by the arrival of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp, back again after two Captain America movies).
Making up the fourth member of the team, Carter is just as capable as Bucky and Sam – sniping from windows and knocking heads outside the shipping container she leads them to – even if the show’s main duo are starting to look lost in the crowd. Inside, the pair have just met Dr Wilfred Nagel (Olli Haaskivi), the man responsible for making more serum. First employed by Hydra, then by the CIA, Thanos’ Snap wiped out Nagel’s research (along with Nagel) before he reappeared in ruins and was forced to take his work to the highest bidder – and before Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) stole it to juice up the Flag Smashers.
Everything is finally falling into place now for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, even if this week’s episode still leaves us with plenty of questions. Karli might blow a few people up, but the Flag Smashers are actually starting to seem… alright. Stealing supplies from the military to feed displaced kids, are the bad guys going to end up being the good guys? One person who will definitely still be a baddie is Zemo, who even tries out his dad’s old Nazi supervillain look by putting on a Red Skull mask (okay, it was a woolly balaclava, but still…) Fake Cap (Wyatt Russell) is getting snappier with everyone as his own trail grows colder (even screaming, “Do you know who I am?!” at one goon), which seems to be pushing him further away from being the right man to hold the shield. And then there’s the big new arrival in the episode’s closing seconds, with Ayo (Florence Kasumba) turning up to hunt down Zemo for killing King T’Chaka, re-sparking all the fan theories about Bucky’s transformation into White Wolf… We’re halfway through the series already and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier still feels like it’s building up to something. Hopefully next week we’ll find out what that actually is.
For frequent flyers
- “Who is Nakasima?” snarls Zemo, looking at the top of Bucky’s apology list. This is a reference to the grieving father we met in episode one – the person who most reminds Bucky of his dark past (since he killed his son) as the Winter Soldier.
- Actress Imelda Corcoran already has a role in the MCU as Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. surgeon Dr Goodman, but here she swaps sides to play Madripoor gangster Selby.
- Sam is told to dress up as Conrad Mack, aka The Smiling Tiger, to infiltrate Madripoor – this is a nod to the clawed mutant New Warriors character who may or may not now find his way into the MCU after this namedrop.