We’re somehow already halfway through the first (and probably only) season of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and it shows in the pacing of Episode 3, “Power Broker.”
Although the action-packed story we get on this episode isn’t a bad one, it is a big shift from the previous two episodes that took their time treating our protagonists more like people and less like superheroes.
The mission on this episode is their biggest yet, starting with them breaking Zemo (Daniel Brühl) out of prison much to Sam’s disapproval.
Do I find it hard to believe that Zemo isn’t in a higher security prison after bombing a UN meeting and killing a king? Yes, but here we are.
There’s plenty of tension between him and Bucky, because of the whole mind control thing, but lots of comedy too.
It’s amusing to see Brühl inhabit the role with a bit more camp this time. Between learning that he’s actually a wealthy Baron with a private jet and butler to him lecturing Sam on fashion, he’s a very odd villain indeed.
Zemo trying (and failing) to bond with Sam over Marvin Gaye is truly one of the top “I never thought I’d see this” moments.
This scene comes after he steals Bucky’s journal, which we get confirmation is the same journal Steve used. Fans already thought this was the case, but to know for sure makes your heart ache a little extra.
Bright Lights, Big City
Heading to Madripoor, a crime-ridden independent island, to track down a Hydra contact with information about the Super Soldier serum spurs most of the action and adventure of the episode. Given Madripoor’s lawlessness, the scenes can feel like a riff on John Wick and similar films.
One scene in particular, when a bounty is placed on their heads and everyone in the city gets a text alert, is literally a copycat from John Wick 2, but imitation is the highest form of flattery I guess.
For fans of the comics, Madripoor is a well-known location. Seeing the MCU put its own spin on it and seamlessly incorporate it into the plot is an exciting indicator that the MCU is ready to dig into the darkest corners of Marvel.
Even more exciting? The return of Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp). The MCU struggled to find a place for the character, with her short-lived romance with Steve Rogers falling flat, but now she’s back and even more badass than ever.
Seeing her so jaded after being on the run for so many years can be a tough pill to swallow. Her losing faith in heroes makes sense in context and fits into the theme of the post-Blip world, but also seems wrong for the character.
“Look, you know the whole hero thing is a joke, right? The way you gave up that shield, deep down, you must know it’s all hypocrisy.”Sharon Carter
Everything we knew about the character (which admittedly wasn’t that much) contradicts this change of heart, so it will be interesting to see what comes next for her now that she’s teaming back up with heroes.
A pardon may be in her future but there’s also something else afoot. A scene later in the episode where she meets up with a mysterious associate indicates there might be more than meets the eye to Sharon’s new life. What secret is she keeping?
The scene can be interpreted as her working with the bad guys (or being the bad guy), but I choose to think she’s undercover for an organization we haven’t seen yet. The only thing worse than making the niece of Peggy Carter date Captain America would be making her a damn villain. Do better Marvel!
The rest of the episode does get weighed down a bit by an exposition dump involving the mad scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel who helped recreate the Super Soldier serum. We learn about the original government project to recreate it using Isaiah Bradley and Madripoor crime boss Power Broker’s decision to revive it after the Blip. And then a rocket launcher blows the lab up.
The whole situation leaves Sam thinking he should’ve just destroyed the shield and that Captain America’s legacy is completely tainted. They still have to deal with the Flag-Smashers though so unfortunately we don’t see this emotional response explored as deeply as I would have liked.
Marvel wants its television shows to be different from the movies… until it doesn’t. We saw this towards the end of WandaVision and now we’re seeing it in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
It’s clear the focus of this episode is to set up the plot for the rest of the season. It’s arguably necessary given how few episodes they have left to work with, but still feels a little basic compared to the depth we got in the first two episodes.
“Power Broker,” devotes an adequate amount of time to emotional revelations and big themes, but starts to slip into a bad habit of “telling” instead of showing. Zemo and Sharon’s speeches about the failures and dangers of heroes could both serve as a thesis for the show, but neither is as effective as watching John Walker scream, “Do you know who I am?” at a refugee.
While Bucky and Sam are tracking down the Super Soldier serum, the Flag-Smashers show no signs of slowing down. Even Lemar Hoskins points out to Walker that they’ve won the people over with their humanitarian missions.
But it’s not all peaceful redistribution of goods, as we see Karli Morgenthau escalate things by blowing up a Global Repatriation Council station.
We now know that the new Super Soldiers are from Madripoor and double-crossed Power Broker. Is that who sent Morgenthau the threatening text? If so, she may have bigger problems to worry about than Fake Cap or Sam and Bucky.
Bucky has a new problem of his own. After arriving in Latvia, Ayo (Florence Kasumba) from the Dora Milaje shows up to get Zemo. Not sure how White Wolf is going to talk his way out of this one.
- The transition from the glossy commercial of the Global Repatriation Council to the refugee camp at the beginning of the episode really underscores the power dynamics of the post-Blip world.
- Bucky calling the guards “meatware” was… a choice.
- I’m sure the Madripoor appearance is going to send the internet into X-Men theory madness but can we all just keep a level head about this? They are not showing up yet!
- John Walker is still the worst. Fortunately, we didn’t have to spend too much time with him on this episode.
- Does Wanda know Sokovia is completely gone? Just wondering.
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere on Fridays on Disney+.