The second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings back the bristled duo and creates tension when they reckon with an unrecognizable hero.
After last week’s shocking finale, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues to build on a post-blip world disillusioned by nostalgia and symbols of freedom.
Episode 2 – “The Star-Spangled Man- gives us a proper introduction to the new Captain America in patriotic, pandering fashion. John Walker (a brilliantly cast Wyatt Russell) is a decorated veteran taking up the mantle in front of the whole world: on his high school football field during a Good Morning America segment.
This declaration signals a push for normalcy in America, but what about the rest of the world?
Sam finally reunites with Bucky – who keeps giving him grief about giving up the shield – to figure out what this group the Flag-Smashers are up to. It doesn’t take long though for Civil War hijinks to ensue: staring contents, low blows about age and experience.
“Look at you, all stealthy. Little time in Wakanda and you come out White Panther,” Steve says to Bucky in the middle of their mission.
“It’s actually White Wolf,” Bucky quips back.
When they try to intercept the Flag-Smashers smuggling trucks of medicine, they quickly realize how out of their element they are.
Whom Bucky mistakes as a hostage turns out to be Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), the group’s leader. You may recognize Kellyman from her star-making turn as rebel Enfys Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
When their asses are being handed to them, the new Cap and his sidekick Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett) swoop in. They’re the revamped Steve and Sam, if you will. They have their own style and energy about them that’s not only threatening to Sam and Bucky, but a painful reminder of what they once had with Steve.
And what’s this, Captain America has guns now?
Briefly in the middle of that same fight sequence, you can see Walker pull out his gun to shoot one of the Flag-Smashers. It makes you look back on the power of Steve Rogers’ super soldier strength and how he didn’t need to resort to such tactics. Who knows what the intentions of Walker are after being plucked from the ranks and put on a global stage, but he’s surely a different breed.
He’s a symbol for not only America, but the Army, too. He’s plastered on their promotional posters like a cheap marketing gimmick. It’s the modern day version of going on stage and knocking out Hitler every night.
And while the threat that the Flag-Smashers impose is important, and how Captain America fits in the modern world is worthy of conversation, what’s most engaging in this week’s episode is the back-and-forth between Sam and Bucky.
They have different versions of Steve in their minds that’s defining how they see themselves and the world. He was a childhood friend, a mentor, a brother-in-arms that’s large shadow still looms so heavy.
Later in the episode we learn more about the ethos of the super soldier and some background into their creation when Bucky introduces Sam to his former target, Isiah.
This brings about conflicting feelings for Sam. Had he known about Isiah, would he have given up the shield? Did he do something Steve would be proud of?
They’re going to have to go to Berlin get some answers.