This week’s third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier begins with a few words from the Global Repatriation Council reminding us that the world is a different place, but they are here to help. So, let us not forget to reset, restore, and rebuild.
Then we quickly cut to Munich where Faux Cap, Battle-token, and some GRC troops are infiltrating one of Karli’s safehouses. The occupants are clearly not thrilled with the raid and refuse to speak English to Walker when questioned. He calls for Battle-toad, his swiss army sidekick to translate, even though Steve Rogers never needed a translator. Not satisfied with the answers, Faux Cap angrily screams in disbelief at the suspect who retorts by spitting in Walker’s face. Now, we all must know, a Black Cap’s response would have been completely different, perhaps even some charges involved. But this Captain America decides pushing the guy into something then yelling, “Do you know who I am?” was the best way to go.
Afterwards, Battle-angel explains to a dejected Cap what makes these people so loyal to Karli and the Flag Smashers. His point is valid: food, water, medicine, and shelter mean everything when one doesn’t have it. After more coddling by, Lemar, New Cap decides to bet on Black….and Bucky.
Speaking of our heroes, Sam and Bucky arrive at the Berlin prison where none other than Baron Zemo is locked up. Bucky convinces Sam that he needs to go in alone to see him. Although the last time Zemo and Bucky were alone in a room, he spoke some words, hypnotizing Bucky into delivering some generous fades to a silk suited Tony Stark, Black Widow and Sharon Carter. As Bucky enters, Zemo chants the hypnotizing words, but thanks to his stint in Wakanda, Buck is unaffected. They discuss HYDRAs possible involvement with the new super soldier serum that is out on the street. Declaring that he knows where to begin, Zemo tells Bucky that he is fortunate.
In the next scene, Sam and Bucky are discussing why Zemo needs to be broken out. They go back and forth making strong points for and against why Zemo shouldn’t be out, much less working with them. Bucky finally relates a hypothetical prison break to Sam, while doing so, we see the chaos in action. As the prison devolves into the madness initiated by Bucky, Zemo escapes and rendezvous with our heroes. Sam reluctantly agrees to go along with the plan and the title card shows.
As we fade in, we are in a garage full of vintage cars that we later learn belong to Zemo’s family. Unsurprisingly, this episode heavily references Captain America: Civil War, all the way down to the score. As Zemo’s theme music plays, he refers to his mission to destroy HYDRAs super soldier program. Collecting his uniform along with his familiar purple mask, Zemo explains their next steps to Bucky and Sam. They board the Baron’s private jet and head to an island nation known as Madripoor.
Elsewhere, we catch up with Karli at a GRC Resettlement Camp in Latvia. She happens to be enjoying some respite with the kids at the camp when summoned. We then see a tearful Karli saying what looks to be her final goodbyes to someone who clearly means a lot to her.
Part of the reason we love the MCU is the extensive world-building they do. The Principality of Madripoor is no different, with its introduction, we must wonder when X-Men are going to start showing up. Marvel has been hinting at the X-Men in this universe for quite some time, however, the backdrop of Madripoor feels like more than a hint. Particularly the Princess Bar which, in comics, is half-owned by Wolverine under the alias: Patch.
After landing in Madripoor, Sam, Bucky, and Zemo get into character. Sam complains that he looks something like a pimp. In truth, Sam is playing the role of Conrad Mack aka the Smiling Tiger. The Smiling Tiger is also not new to Marvel, although in comic books, his race and origin are different. In this world, Sam and Conrad Mack resemble each other (was this an “all Black people look alike” stunt?), which is helpful where they are going.
Upon entering the Princess Bar, patrons immediately identify Bucky as the Winter Soldier. Sam is recognized as The Smiling Tiger and served a concoction involving liquor and a snake. Zemo announces to the bartender that they are there to see someone named Selby. It is clear the Power Broker runs Madripoor when one of his henchmen tells Zemo that they are not welcome there. We are then provided just enough exposition to know the Power Broker is probably not a good guy. Not that we didn’t already suspect that.
The henchman, not feeling as if his point was well-received, puts a hand on Zemo. That’s when we get to the Winter Soldier of old get busy. Bucky issues some “I missed my last therapy session” fades before being stopped by Zemo. They are then told that Selby will speak with them and led upstairs.
We meet the infamous Selby who we can’t help but wonder is an MCU version of the mutant. As the discussion goes on, Zemo offers Bucky to Selby in exchange for the information they need. They learn the person they are looking for is named Wilfred Nagel. Everything goes left when Sam’s sister calls blowing their cover. In the confusion, Selby is shot and killed by a sniper. Our heroes, with Zemo in tow, escape Princess Bar but are attacked immediately and cornered. Shots ring out and they are saved by guess who: Sharon Carter (Emily Vancamp, Captain America: Civil War), Agent 13 herself.
We learn, that since the events in Captain America: Civil War, Sharon has been branded an “Enemy of the State”. With nowhere to go and no Avengers to back her up, she relocated to the seedy outlaw nation of Madripoor which doesn’t allow extradition. Since then, she has made a life for herself selling original artwork on the black market.
There is some banter about the hypocrisy in the hero business, which is a clear subplot of the series. Sharon warns Sam, Bucky, and Zemo to steer clear of Karli and the serum for their own good. Of course, Sam wasn’t hearing that, he ultimately strikes a deal to clear Sharon’s name if she will help them find Nagel. She is reluctant as Nagel works for the Power Broker, but eventually she agrees to help, setting up a party scene before eventually getting the location of Nagel.
The next morning at a shipyard they find Nagel in a laboratory made from a shipping container. Upon making entry they encounter the Doctor listening to music while working away. A couple of threats later and the Doc is ready to talk.
Let’s take time out to talk about what is going on outside while the Doctor is being interviewed. Bounty hunters, who have been searching for our trio since Selby’s death, show up. In the following sequence, we see Agent 13 put on a show that could only be rivaled by Black Widow. She singlehandedly takes out 8 bounty hunters before sneaking into the lab with the guys. We know we lost Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame, but Agent 13 seems like a capable replacement with the damage she deals at the shipyard.
Inside the lab, the Doctor details how he was hired by HYDRA, then the CIA to recreate the serum. He used the blood samples taken from Isaiah during his prison sentence to recreate the serum. He goes on to say that his serum had been not only perfected, but streamlined, optimized. There would be no more jacked bodies, like Steve Rogers and Isaiah Bradley because his serum was perfect. No one knew about this because the Doctor turned to dust while working on his project and the project was shelved in his absence. Upon his return, the Power Broker funded the Doctor’s recreation of the serum which was then stolen by Karli. The Baron, having heard enough, puts a bullet in the head of Doctor Nagel ending the debate of what to do with him next.
The laboratory is struck by an RPG but Bucky, Sam, Sharon and Zemo manage to escape. Outside there is a gun battle and Sharon, Buck, and Sam are pinned down. Zemo dons his purple mask and joins the action, killing the bounty hunters and saving our heroes. He manages to find what looks like a Pontiac GTO and drives around to collect Sam, Buck, and Sharon. However, Sharon is not going along for the ride, bids them adieu and the trio sets off to find Karli and potentially 19 additional super soldiers. But not before recreating a comical scene from Captain America: Civil War, where Bucky asked Sam to pull his seat up. Only this time, Bucky is in the front seat, and able to get some payback.
Outside of a GRC storage facility we see Karli who is clearly affected by the death of Mama Donya. Up until this point, Karli and her team have appeared to be normal people who only wish to help those less fortunate. She laments to her comrade how she thought she’d be a teacher or a professor coming up, but that all changed when they went to Madripoor and took the serum. Pledging to use all her strength to help the kids in the camps, her and her partner conclude their recon and leave.
Not to be forgotten, Faux Cap and Battlestar are leaving the Berlin prison after inquiring about Bucky and Sam’s visit. Cap tells Battle-axe his theory that Sam and Bucky probably helped break Zemo because they needed a lead. The subsequent conversation gives us some insight into the fact that John Walker isn’t as black and white as Steve Rogers once was. In fact, we learn that Walker may operate more in the grey to get the job done, this is a fundamental difference between him and Steve, who always believed how the job got done was just as important as doing it.
On the flight from Madripoor, Sam reflects on a few things that have been bothering him. Knowing how she has served her country he thinks about how Sharon has been treated. Then shifts to considering all the lives that have been negatively impacted by the shield. He wishes he had destroyed the shield. Bucky reminds Sam the shield has saved lives and is a symbol of hope to many people, then pledges to take the shield for himself. They then receive information that alters their course to Latvia.
The episode winds down with a successful supply run by the Flag Smashers. They have gone into the GRC supply building and repossessed at least six months’ worth of supplies for people who need it. But in contrast to normal, Karli detonates a car bomb killing all the GRC men inside. Is she fed up or is the serum making her lose her mind?
Finally, Zemo, Sam, and Bucky arrive in Riga. As they enter Zemo’s safehouse, Bucky says he is going to take a walk. Unbeknownst to Sam and Zemo, Bucky has found a clue in the street. Tracking what appear to be little beeping balls, Bucky walks into an alley. Looking around he is confronted by Ayo (Florence Kasumba, Captain America: Civil War) of the Dora Milaje (bodyguards for the King of Wakanda), who says she is there for Zemo. If Ayo looks familiar, she was about to hand out a beat down to Black Widow before being called off by T’Challa (Captain America: Civil War).
It is safe to say, Wakanda never forgets, Sam was right.