WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!
The start of second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Solider (The Star-Spangled Man) did make me a little nervous at first, starting off by going into the story of John Walker becoming the “new Captain America.” For a minute I was nervous that the show was going to dedicate an episode (of which there are only six) to solely focus on the new character, but my fears were eased by the time I saw Bucky sitting on the floor of his empty apartment dejectedly watching the “new Cap” talk on TV. While he doesn’t say anything before the scene changes, his mannerism clearly states what he thinks of this new character and sets the stage for what will most likely be tense interactions as the series goes on.
While it was interesting to see a little about a new character, the main event is we FINALLY get to see Sam and Bucky interact and they are right back to usual arguing. “You shouldn’t have given up the shield,” says Bucky in his first words to Sam... as the two discuss their displeasure with the new Captain America and argue about what Sam should have done. They quickly switch to the “villain” as they discuss the Flag Smashers and Sam’s mission to find them, which Bucky essentially invites himself to. The two definitely continue their argumentative nature here, although it seems more serious than in past interactions, showing just how important Steve (and the persona of Captain America) was to each of them, albeit in slightly different ways.
It’s during this convo that we also learn about Marvel’s “Big 3,” as Sam “enlightens” Bucky to the fact they always seem to be fighting 1 of 3 things: androids, aliens, and wizards! THIS IS WHAT I WAS WAITING FOR! I FINALLY, got some of that bickering humor that the two are famous for and that I continually noticed was missing from the opening act, as the two go back and forth about the difference between wizards and sorcerers. And this is just the beginning as they have numerous interactions throughout the episode like this.
We quickly find the two searching a warehouse for the enemy, and it’s here that I truly began to get the “buddy-cop” movie feeling I was expecting. I actually turned to my wife and said this reminds me of “Lethal Weapon,” to the point I was actually waiting for one of them to say “I’m getting too old for this shit.” And just like in most buddy-cop movies, their mission goes sideways when their arguing gets in the way, leading to a chase scene as Sam and Bucky are forced to pursue their escaping targets in big rigs. We get an excellent fight sequence with the two squaring off with members of the Flag Smashers atop the moving vehicles and another first interaction, when John Walker shows up to “help.” You’d think that 3 super heroes versus a few “thugs” would be a pretty easy fight, but these aren’t you typical bad guys, but as we learn, actually super soldiers! We get tons of one liners between Sam and Bucky making it even more enjoyable to watch (almost more enjoyable than watching the new Cap get punched off the moving truck…almost), even though they essentially lose this fight!
After the encounter, Walker and his sidekick Battlestar, offer Sam and Bucky a ride and along the way urges them to join forces. We continue to see the almost hatred toward Walker which reaches its acme when Walker tells Sam, “I’m just trying to be the best Captain America I can be and that would be a lot easier with Caps’ wingman by my side” and the two basically jump out. While Sam and Bucky have consistently argued with each other, it seems like their shared displeasure over Walker’s new mantle will be the force that eventually brings them closer together?
We do get the chance to get a little bit more background on the Flag Smashers as they are welcomed to a hide out and are referred to as “freedom fighters.” We also learn their leader Karli is being hunted by a mysterious figure who threatens her for taking something of his (perhaps the super solider serum?) The group seems to be a tight-knit group who truly believe in their “one world, one people” cause stating they don’t want the same people in charge after the Blip who care more about those who returned rather than those who never left. This short scene provides an interesting opportunity to give the “enemy” a character of their own rather than just making them some masked super soldier terrorists.
The show continues with the super-soldier theme revealing that Steve and Bucky weren’t the only super soldiers in the past as they meet an elderly African American man named Isaiah who fought in the Korean War and who was just as feared by Hydra as Rogers himself! Isaiah even fought against Bucky when he was Winter Solider and beat him! It seems Bucky is hoping that Isaiah will see that he is a changed man, but he wants no part of it and outright refuses to help the two. (This scene makes me think that Marvel may be planning a new series maybe?)
This secret leads to another conversation on race as Sam is rightfully upset that no one ever heard of Isaiah. The situation escalates when while the two are speaking loudly in the street, the police show up asking Bucky if Sam is bothering him, an obvious nod once again to the systemic racism issue of today’s society. After they figure out Sam is actually the Falcon, they apologize, and in a turn of events it’s actually Bucky who is arrested for missing his court ordered therapy.
At the police station we find that John Walker has been able to pull some strings (he seems to be enjoying his influence) in order to get Bucky released pending an “exit counseling session” with his therapist, who orders that Sam join them. She wants the two to talk out their problems which offers up the funniest scene in the episode as she has them go through some “couples counseling” activities including a “soul gazing” exercise. While this is certainly entertaining and they initially argue, Bucky does open up a little explaining that he is upset that Sam gave up the shield because Steve believed and trusted in him when he gave him the shield and he’s afraid that if Steve was wrong about Sam than he was maybe wrong about him too. We once again see the importance of not only Steve Rogers, but Bucky’s yearning to prove that he is a good person. Sam explains that Bucky might not understand it, but he did what he thought was right. They don’t get much further other than saying they will “squash” what’s going on between them, finish the job, and then never see each other again.
The final part of the episode sees a few things happen in quick succession. First, the Flag Smashers flee from an unknown approaching group of people, losing one of their members along the way. We see Walker once again try to convince Sam and Bucky to work with him, but after they refuse, he warns them “not to get in his way.” (I’m liking him less and less). Finally, Sam and Bucky discuss their next move which leads to them decide to go visit Zemo who we get a glimpse of looking very Hannibal Lecter-ish in a prison cell somewhere, ending the episode.
Overall, episode 2 gave us a number of interesting plot points: from getting some background on Walker, revealing who the Flag Smashers are, and setting up the relationships between our main characters, to touching on some of those same “real-life” aspects we talked about during the first episode review, and re-introducing Zemo, it serves as a great follow up act. We again got a fun action scene, that while it didn’t seem as extreme as episode one’s, was still exciting and of high quality. At the same time, the episode didn’t have to skimp on character building either even with offering so much more to the story line itself. But the thing I was most excited to see was our heroes finally interacting in their familiar ways. The arguing, one-liners, ribs, and the way they are able to play off one another was great to see again and was very much what I was hoping to see and hope to continue to see. After 2 episodes, I still don’t necessarily think it’s better than Wandavision (as a whole), but just like last time, if I had only seen the first two episodes of each show and could only pick one to keep going with, I’m sticking with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier!
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