Hello, and welcome to your weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. These are meant to be read after watching, so they will go deep into spoiler territory. You have been warned!
In “The Whole World is Watching,” Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Zemo (Daniel Brühl) traveled to Latvia in search of Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), Super Soldier and leader of the anti-nationalist Flag Smashers. Before the Falcon and the Winter Soldier could establish trust with Karli and de-escalate the situation, Captain America (John F. Walker, played by Wyatt Russell) and Battlestar (Clé Bennett) showed up ready to fight. After his partner’s death, the newly “enhanced” Walker — juiced up on the last vial of Super Soldier Serum — snapped and killed a Flag Smasher with his shield as bystanders recorded the events with their smartphones. And at that moment, Walker became a Super-Patriot and a supervillain with the whole world watching.
Time to Go to Work
After killing the Flag Smasher Nico (Noah Mills), John F. Walker regroups with Sam and Bucky in an abandoned warehouse in Riga’s industrial district. “You saw what happened,” begins Walker. “You know what I had to do. I killed him because I had to. He killed Lemar!”
“He didn’t kill Lemar, John,” says Bucky. And he’s right. Technically, it was Karli who killed Lemar, and Walker’s actions allowed her to escape. Sam begins to do what he does best: empathize and relate. “Listen, it was the heat of the battle,” he says. “If you explain what happened, they may consider your record. We don’t want anyone else to get hurt. You gotta give me the shield, man.”
“You don’t want to do this,” says Walker, to which Bucky responds, “Yeah, we do,” which leads to a huge 2-on-1 battle, reminiscent of when Winter Soldier and Steve Rogers’ Captain America teamed up to take on Iron Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Between super-powered shield throws and flight suit-assisted spin kicks, Sam pleads with Walker. “This isn’t you, John.” But it is. As Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) told us in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, “The serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse.”
Using a grappling hook, Sam pries the bloodstained shield away from Walker, but Walker easily overpowers him and pins him to the ground. “I am Captain America,” he grunts through clenched teeth as he rips Sam’s Falcon wings off. Walker hoists the shield above his head to finish the job when Bucky makes the save. Working together as a team, Sam and Bucky break Walker’s left arm, retrieve the shield, and beat him into submission.
Take These Broken Wings (And Learn to Fly Again)
Shortly thereafter, the United States government comes to collect Walker. We catch up with U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), Sam’s boots on the ground, for a debrief. “Captain America killing a foreign national in public, it’s kinda like a big deal,” Torres says. “Like ‘international incident’ big. Folks higher up on the payroll are all over it now. So, unfortunately…” — “they’re taking jurisdiction,” interjects Sam. Essentially, Sam and Bucky are getting benched for a bit until the government can figure out what to do with Walker.
Torres explains that, after what went down, Karli’s laying extra low. She’s a ghost. “She’s got people helping her from all over the world, on all platforms,” he says. “She’s really, really good at this thing.” Torres examines Sam’s damaged flight suit and we get the idea that he might be the next guy to wear the wings. After all, the Mexican-born character introduced in 2015’s Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 stepped into the role after Sam took on Captain America’s mantle, so it’d only make sense to see that passing of the torch take place in the MCU as well. Every Captain America needs a partner like Falcon or Bucky at their side.
Sam is frustrated that they can’t do more. “Sometimes, there’s nothing to do until there’s something to do,” Torres offers. “That’s bizarrely wise,” Sam says with a chuckle. We see that not only is Torres tech-savvy, but he’s got a gift for dispensing sound advice, just like Sam. As Sam takes up the shield and leaves, Torres says, “Wait, yo, you forgot the wings,” to which Sam replies, “Keep ’em.”
An Not-So-Honorable Discharge
Back in Washington D.C., John F. Walker must face the consequences of his actions. We hear a Senator (Alphie Hyorth) hand down the decision: “John F. Walker, it is the order of this council that you are no longer to act in any capacity as a representative of the United States government or its military. You are hereby stripped of your title and authority as Captain America, effective immediately.”
We learn that it’s only because of his previous exemplary service to his country that Walker will be spared a court-martial. But Walker feels that this mandate was made without fully understanding the circumstances of the situation.
“I lived my life by your mandates! I dedicated my life to your mandates! I only ever did what you asked of me, what you told me to be and trained me to do, and I did it. And I did it well.”
Walker is given a severe military administrative discharge, which is still a step above a dishonorable discharge. Walker will hold no rank in retirement and receive no benefits. As his wife Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss) tears up during the hearing, Walker levels one final statement at the council: “You built me. Senator, I am Captain America.”
“Not anymore,” replies the senator. “And if you continue to demean and denigrate the priorities and dignity of this council, you will spend the rest of your life in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks. Consider yourself extremely fortunate, Mr. Walker, and return the shield to us with expedience.”
Later, we see Walker talking to his wife. “They just do not know what it takes to be Captain America,” he laments. Olivia wants Walker to focus. “Take things one step at a time. You start by visiting Lemar’s parents. They need to see you. And then, we can build…”
But before she can finish her sentence, we hear footsteps approaching. It’s Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, played by none other than Julia Louis-Dreyfus! Created by Jim Steranko, the character first appeared in the “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in 1967’s Strange Tales #159. In the comics, Val has been a leading member of S.H.I.E.L.D., an on-again, off-again love interest of Nick Fury, and even adopted the identity of Madame Hydra for a while. The character also appeared in the 1998 TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., portrayed by Lisa Rinna. Here, her allegiances aren’t so clear:
“I would have killed the bastard too,” she says. “Nobody in there is mad at you about that. I mean, you would’ve been doing them a favor if you’d taken out the whole lot. But these guys in ties, you know, they got a whole thing to protect.”
Val says that Walker did the right thing by taking the serum, “It has made you very, very valuable to certain people.” Val gives Walker a blank business card (white on one side, black on the other) and tells him to pick up the phone when she calls. “Oh, by the way, don’t worry about the shield. I know you don’t have it. Here’s a little, dirty state secret. It doesn’t really belong to the government. It’s kind of a legal gray area.”
So, who is Val working for? Could she be recruiting members for the Thunderbolts, a team of reformed super-criminals? In the comics, the Thunderbolts were conceived by Zemo, but it’s possible that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version could be the brainchild of U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). Another possibility is that Val is a Skrull. In 2008’s Secret Invasion series, a Skrull agent posed as Contessa de la Fontaine to spy on Nick Fury. Considering there’s a Secret Invasion series in the works for Disney+, it isn’t out of the question.
From Latvia to Sokovia
Meanwhile, in Latvia, The Flag Smashers are planning their next move. An exasperated Karli expresses her sadness for the people they’ve lost and the rage bubbling up inside. “How many times do we have to pay with our lives just to be citizens of this goddamn planet!?” She says the movement is ready, and “it’s time.” But time for what?
Bucky travels to Sokovia where he finds Zemo at the memorial site. “The girl has been radicalized beyond salvation,” says Zemo in reference to Karli. “I warned Sam, but he didn’t listen to me. He’s as stubborn as Steve Rogers before him. But you…they literally programmed you to kill. James, do what needs to be done.”
“I appreciate the advice,” Bucky says, “but we’re gonna do it our own way.”
And with that, Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and two other members of the Dora Milaje appear to take Zemo into custody. Before he goes, the Baron offers something of an olive branch to Bucky. “I took the liberty of crossing off my name in your book. I hold no grudges for what you thought you had to do. Goodbye, James.”
Ayo says that the Dora Milaje will escort Zemo to the Raft — the underwater prison seen in Civil War — where he will live out his days. “It would be prudent,” she warns, “to make yourself scarce in Wakanda for the time being, White Wolf.”
“Fair enough,” Bucky says. Before Ayo leaves, Bucky says he has another favor to ask of her.
Pledge Allegiance to That, My Brother
In Baltimore, Sam visits Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), the Black Captain America, with shield in hand. “Them stars and stripes don’t mean nothin’ good to me,” he says coldly. “I need to understand,” Sam responds.
“You understand. Every Black man does. Whether you wanna deny it or not…”
Bradley and Sam sit down and discuss what went wrong: why he was thrown in jail, and how he was declared dead to erase his identity. “We gotta do something,” Sam says. “We gotta tell somebody.”
“No. Leave me dead. My name is buried,” says Bradley. Sam, however, thinks the world is different now — he knows people who might be able to help.
“Man, that’s why you’re here? You think things are different? You think times are different? You think I wouldn’t be dead in a day if you brought me out? You wanna believe jail was my fault because you got that white man’s shield. They were worried my story might get out. So, they erased me. My history. But they’ve been doing that for 500 years. Pledge allegiance to that, my brother. They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.”
Sam has a lot to think about and needs to step away and gain some perspective. He calls his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) and lets her know he’s coming home to Delacroix, Louisiana. There, he reconnects with his family and his friends and attempts to repair the family fishing boat. Bucky shows up and drops off a mysterious case. “I called in a favor from the Wakandans.” Before Sam can inspect the case’s contents, a valve breaks on the boat, leading to a montage — set to “Hey Pocky A-Way” by The Meters — of the two working on the boat.
Do the Work
In Madripoor, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) is on the phone with Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), the French mercenary seen in the first episode. “I have a job for you,” she says. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be rotting in that Algerian prison,” she says. Is Sharon Carter a villain? Could she be the Power Broker? Or is she simply using Batroc as a feint — a movement made to deceive an adversary?
Back in Delacroix, Bucky finally opens up to Sam. “When Steve told me what he was planning, I don’t think either of us really understood what it felt like for a Black man to be handed the shield. How could we? I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. That shield’s the closest thing I’ve got left to a family, so when you retired it, it made me feel like I had nothing left. Made me question everything.”
“I understand, man,” Sam offers. “But Steve is gone. “And this might be a surprise, but it doesn’t matter what Steve thought. You gotta stop looking to other people to tell you who you are. You want to climb out of that hell you’re in, do the work. Do it.”
“I’ve been making amends,” Bucky says.
“Nah. You weren’t amending, you were avenging. You were stopping all the wrongdoers you enabled as the Winter Soldier, because you thought it would bring you closure. You go to these people and say ‘sorry,’ because you think it’ll make you feel better, right? But you gotta make them feel better. You gotta go to them and be of service. I’m sure there’s at least one person in that book who needs closure about something, and you’re the only one who can give it to ’em. Start with one.”
“Good talk,” laughs Bucky. “Call me when you have a lead, and I’ll be there.”
Later, we see Sam following his own advice and doing “the work.” He’s in serious training, getting in the best shape of his life, and practicing some fancy shield throws via a homemade obstacle course he’s put together. It’s a montage straight out of a Rocky movie, one that moves Sam closer to taking up the mantle Steve Rogers knew he was destined for.
The episode’s final moments find the Flag Smashers in New York City, where they meet with Batroc. Karli then activates a beacon on her smartphone, alerting her followers that it’s time to carry out their ultimate mission. The Global Repatriation Council (GRC) is voting on the Patch Act, which would move upwards of twenty million refugees back to their countries of origin. The Flag Smashers aim to make sure the act isn’t passed…by any means necessary.
As Sam discovers Karli’s next target, he opens the case Bucky brought him. We don’t see inside, but we know what it is — a new Captain America suit based on Falcon’s wing harness — no doubt upgraded by the Wakandans. In an after-credits scene, we see John F. Walker fashioning his own Captain America shield.
With “Truth” in the books, there’s only one episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier left, and it’s looking to be action-packed. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode of Malcolm Spellman‘s series, but this episode felt especially hard-hitting in its commentary and themes. The writing is great, the performances are fantastic, and I’m really intrigued to see where things go next Friday and the greater implications for the MCU moving forward.
But what did you think? Who is Valentina Allegra de Fontaine working for? What’s up with Sharon Carter? And will we see the formation of the Thunderbolts by the end of next week’s finale? Join me then for another in-depth breakdown!
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