The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Episode 2 Review: “The Star-Spangled Man”

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After an entire episode of seeing them apart, the dynamic duo is back in action! The Falcon and The Winter Soldier digs even deeper into the mystery of The Flag-Smashers after Sam and Bucky team up on Episode 2, “The Star-Spangled Man.”

But before we talk about them, let’s address the red, white, and blue elephant in the room: John Walker AKA the new Captain America. 

The episode chooses to open with this character, giving us a look into his motivations for becoming Captain America. Like Steve Rogers, he just wants to be a good soldier and do his duty. 

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The show and actor Wyatt Russell do their best to make the character seem likable at first, and Walker has the perfect resume to be America’s new hero, but there’s a reason the show is named after Falcon and Winter Soldier. Regardless of whether John Walker turns out to be an actual bad guy or just another government puppet, it’s obvious from this episode that his main role is to be an antagonist to the two Avengers. 

The character’s smarminess makes him seem more like a less vicious version of Homelander from The Boys than Captain America. But that means he’s the perfect vehicle to examine some of the flaws of the Captain America mantle, something Marvel rarely did when it was held by our beloved Steve Rogers.

From the start, there are obvious parallels that promote deeper examination. For example, giving him a Black partner, Hoskins/Battlestar (Clé Bennett), who gets little to do other than support his Captain America can be read as a critical commentary on how the MCU treated Sam in his earliest appearances. 

Couples Therapy

Back to our main heroes, Sam and Bucky’s screentime on this episode is split between hunting down The Flag-Smashers and continuing to deal with the fallout of Steve’s legacy. Chris Evans may never show up on the screen, but Steve’s presence is felt throughout “The Star-Spangled Man.”

Just as Sam’s reaction to the new Captain America news on the last episode was heartbreaking, so is Bucky’s. Bucky doesn’t just look betrayed or upset, he looks haunted. But it’s enough to get him talking to Sam again, even if it’s just to yell at him for giving up the shield.

Their buddy comedy routine provides some of the best bits of the episode thanks to Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s superb chemistry. 

The meta-joke about Marvel’s Big 3 (“Androids, aliens and wizards”) and their ensuing argument shows how the mix of Sam’s high energy wise-cracking and Bucky’s droll deadpan delivery is the perfect combination for comedic genius.

“How do you know about Gandalf?” – Sam

“I read The Hobbit. In 1937, when it first came out.” – Bucky

Fortunately, the show still leaves moments for emotional contemplation. Their impromptu couples therapy session may start with a ridiculous staring contest, but Bucky’s vulnerable admission that he believes if Steve was wrong about choosing Sam he could’ve been wrong about Bucky’s ability for redemption too breaks your heart.

Although Sam sticks with his generic assertion that what he did was the right thing, the show explores Sam’s reality in other ways. From meeting Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a Black Super Solider who was imprisoned and used as a test subject by the U.S. government, to almost being arrested himself just for getting into an argument on a street corner, the show doesn’t avoid the issues Sam faces as a Black man.

It may be unspoken, but how the world sees Sam clearly plays a role in why he felt he couldn’t take up the shield. It’s a reality that Steve, for all of his good intentions, did not consider and as a result he unintentionally burdened Sam when selecting him as a successor.  

“One World, One People”

This episode’s action, including a fight sequence on top of moving trucks, comes courtesy once again of The Flag-Smashers.

The Flag-Smashers’ scenes create more questions than answers with the new theory about them being some sort of Super Soldiers. To be honest, Marvel wheeling this old trick out is less interesting to me than the geopolitical implications of the group. 

Episode 1 took a more thoughtful approach to the fallout of the Blip, but on this episode, all we get is the mention of the Global Repatriation Council without much time devoted to what the new world order actually looks like. 

Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) does not seem like the usual unhinged, egomaniacal Marvel villain, so learning about her motivations and how she got injected with Super Soldier serum are questions I can’t wait to see explored. 

This episode shows The Falcon and The Winter Soldier figuring out its balancing act between action, comedy, and drama — one that I hope it can keep up through the rest of the season. 

Additional Thoughts:

  • So many good jokes on this episode but I truly lost it when Sam called Bucky the “White Panther” instead of “White Wolf.”
  • We’re 0 for 2 in Sharon Carter appearances. She did get a mention on this episode which makes me think we’ll see her on the next episode. 
  • Oh hi, Zemo.
  • Who is texting threats to The Flag-Smashers? My first guess was Zemo but he does not seem to have phone access in his super-max prison.
  • The moment Bucky rips the sleeve off of his jacket… *chef’s kiss*.

New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere on Fridays on Disney+.

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