The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Ep. 3: Clues, takeaways & predictions
After finally uniting the titular heroes with last week’s hilarious and action-packed episode, Disney+’s latest Marvel Cinematic Universe series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has returned for its third episode and the world of the story is starting to grow in interesting ways.
Clues: Welcome to Madripoor, There’s a New Serum Out There and Who’s The Power Broker?
The episode opens up with an ad giving viewers a cheerier insight into the goals of the Global Repatriation Council as they seek to return things back to the way they were before The Blip, though shows the true nature of the GRC as we see a group of their soldiers alongside John Walker and Lemar Hoskins invading the computer café hideout in Germany the Flag Smashers previously hid out at before fleeing from the Power Broker’s men. We also get a glimpse into Walker’s mental state and frustration over a lack of leads regarding the anti-patriotism group.
We now catch up with Sam and Bucky, who were last seen visiting the prison in which Helmut Zemo is currently imprisoned in the hopes they can learn information from him about the resurgence of the super soldier serum. Knowing his distaste for the Avengers after the events of Age of Ultron, Bucky elects to talk to Zemo on his own, with the Civil War villain attempting to use the code words to reactivate Bucky’s Winter Soldier programming, though it doesn’t work. Before we can learn much fro their conversation, we see Sam and Bucky in a dark garage with the latter talking about breaking Zemo out and describing the plan of how he would do so, reaching the end of his discussion right as Zemo walks in according to Buck’s plan, initially frustrating Sam though Bucky’s able to convince him based on Sam backing Steve Rogers and Bucky in Civil War.
The trio visit a hangar full of vehicles belonging to Zemo’s family, referring to past generations of his royal family and acquiring various gear and resources needed for the journey, including his purple mask from the comics. Heading towards his private plane, which Zemo confirms he’s a baron to Sam and can afford such things, the Sokovian discusses they will need to make their way up a ladder of criminals connected to his HYDRA past, beginning with a fencer named Selby in the criminal sanctuary city-state island of Madripoor, which fans will remember as tying into various characters from the comics. During the plane ride over, Zemo also toys with the titular duo’s tension-filled relationship, including Bucky’s list of names from his HYDRA past and Sam’s time spent in prison for Bucky.
Before the group heads into the area, we see Karli Morgenthau in a Latvian GRC refugee camp with some of the other Flag Smashers and learn this is the location of her mother figure, Donya Madani, who dies from tuberculosis she was exposed to during her time in the camp.
Back in Madripoor, Zemo tells Sam and Bucky they have to follow his lead and instructions and that Sam has to go undercover as Conrad Mack, also known as the Smiling Tiger, a cheeky reference to the comic book character well known for his time with the villainous group the Folding Circle, only to later become a major player in the criminal underworld of Madripoor. The group visit a bar in Lowtown to visit Selby, with references made to Power Broker and Zemo’s desire to stay under his radar, but when a group of thugs make mention he’s not welcome in the area, Bucky must act like The Winter Soldier and take them all out in order to get them in to meet with Selby. In an effort to learn more information on the serum, Zemo offers to trade Bucky for it, learning that it’s being developed by a scientist named Dr. Wilfred Nagel for the Power Broker. In the comics, Nagel was responsible for continuing the work of Project Rebirth after Dr. Abraham Erskine’s death and tasked with testing his work on 300 African-American soldiers, with only Isaiah Bradley — whom we met in the last episode, but more on that later — surviving and subsequently taking on the mantle of Captain America. Before they could learn more, Sam receives a phone call from his sister Sarah and after nearly succeeding in convincing Selby and her guards there’s nothing fishy, Sarah calls him by his real name as she hangs up, alerting Selby who is killed by a sniper before she can react.
Taking out the guard in the room and leaving his weapon, the trio must escape the city before everyone can claim the bounty on their heads for “killing” Selby and are rescued after being cornered by Sharon Carter, who has been living on the island since being branded an enemy of the state. Though pissed at the group, she elects to take them back to her place in Hightown, where it’s revealed she now specializes in stolen art. Desperate for help and to fix the wrongs of their past, Sam makes a deal with Sharon that if she helps them find Nagel, he’ll get her name cleared so she can come back home and reconnect with her father.
After spending some time in a club while Sharon gathers the information needed, the group head to a shipping yard at the harbor, where Nagel is reportedly in one of the containers and though initially appearing empty, Zemo finds the secret passage leading to his lab and the group confront Nagel. While Sharon fights off the invading bounty hunters outside, the group interrogate Nagel, who reveals he was first brought into HYDRA’s Winter Soldier program to pick up the failed attempts in Siberia and then recruited by the CIA after HYDRA’s fall and utilized Isaiah’s blood samples from the past to create a new and improved version of the super soldier serum. Before he could complete it, he was Blipped and when he came back the government abandoned the project and he elected to bring it to the Power Broker, for whom he made 20 vials of the stuff, though it was all stolen by Karli. Though unaware of her location, he does reveal she called for help with Donya’s health, but was unable to.
While determining what to do with Nagel, Zemo shoots him dead and a bounty hunter shoots the containers with a rocket, with Zemo seemingly escaping in the chaos and leaving Sam, Bucky and Sharon to try and face them all on his own. As the trio run out of ammo, Zemo shows up and creates an explosive distraction and kills a few of the hunters, allowing the group a chance to escape and after outrunning and taking down a few hunters, he shows back up with a vehicle to drive them all out of there, though Sharon stays behind and heads to a nearby car, where she calls someone and says “they” have a problem.
Meanwhile, Karli and Dovich are seen scouting a GRC supply depot in Lithuania, to which they talk about their running from the Power Broker and Karli believing he won’t kill them as long as they have the remaining vials of the serum. The group successfully raid the building later and leave the guards and employees tied up in a room, with Karli responding to one calling them “filthy Flag Smashers” by noting they were sitting on six months’ worth of supplies without helping the refugees. As she gets into Dovich’s car and leaves hers behind, it’s seen she planted explosives in the vehicle, destroying most of the building and leaving it on fire with the people left to die, disturbing Dovich but Karli argues it’s the only argument people will listen to.
Back in Germany, Walker and Hoskins visit the prison that held Zemo, learning Sam and Bucky had visited the day he broke out and Walker putting together that they aided in his escape. While Hoskins initially expresses disbelief in this theory and concerns over Walker’s thoughts at going off-book to catch up to the titular duo and Flag Smasher, Walker notes as long as they get the job done, no one will ask how.
In flying to Latvia, where Donya’s camp was located, Sam and Bucky have a further discussion about the future of Cap’s shield, with the former expressing regret he tried to retire it though believing he should have destroyed it instead while the latter states if Sam won’t take up the mantle then he’ll take the shield from Walker and the mantle. Upon arriving in Latvia, where Zemo criticizes the duo for the events of Age of Ultron and not visiting the memorial to Sokovia, Bucky decides to break away from the group as he notices a familiar tracking bead on the ground and follows the trail of others to an alley, where he is confronted by Ayo, a Dora Milaje who is demanding Zemo for Wakanda.
Takeaways: Walker’s Going Rogue, Zemo’s Rich and Wakanda Wants Revenge
One thing this series is really exploring in interesting fashion is that while everything might have been hunky dory for the Avengers and other heroes in the past, there’s been a lot of sins committed by S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA and other government agencies to get to the hero-filled world they’re currently in and it’s all finally coming to wrought. After learning from Isaiah in last week’s episode the lengths the government went to recreate the super soldier serum and pain they caused him despite serving his country, we’ve now discovered the government’s only hang up for moving forward with a new serum was losing their scientist to Thanos’ snap, sowing fear as to what the CIA would’ve done with it had the Avengers won in Infinity War. Another interesting fact is that while it was briefly discussed he had come from a Sokovian royal family, the extent of Zemo’s familial lines have been further expounded upon with this episode, from the vast wealth he retains to even the character’s iconic purple mask being kept in a vehicle in a storage garage, hinting at a comics-accurate depiction of the fact that Helmut’s father Heinrich was also a supervillain donning a purple mask. This episode also sees a further evolution in the relationship between its titular duo, with Sam and Bucky not necessarily getting more desperate but certainly more willing to try undesirable methods to stop the Flag Smashers while also better addressing their disagreement over the future of Cap’s shield and their bond over their connection to Steve. We’ve also learned a little more about Karli and seeing a darker path for the character being laid ahead as she turns to a more violent approach to getting the Flag Smasher’s message out in the world despite their better intentions. Additionally, we’ve finally caught up with Sharon after her efforts aiding Cap, Sam and Bucky in Civil War, learning her actions have forced her on the run from the US and turned her into a colder and uncaring criminal with a lot of anger behind her, possibly so much she might even turn against the titular duo. Last, but certainly not least, the world of Wakanda is returning to the fold with Dora Milaje Ayo seeking Zemo out for her country, presumably to get revenge for his involvement in the death of their former king, T’Chaka.
Predictions: Zemo Will Go Back to Prison, Sharon’s Working With The Power Broker and Bucky Will Fight Walker
Though he’s donning the iconic mask in a number of promos for the series, even in this episode itself, and still appears to have some villainous inklings, the fact Zemo’s consistently decided to stick with Sam and Bucky when given multiple opportunities to escape does point towards his willingness to simply put a stop to the Winter Soldier program and then return to prison, especially if the series follows in the steps of its buddy comedy inspirations.
The return of Sharon was a pretty exciting thing to see, but it also brought with it an entirely new persona for the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that seems to point towards her heading down a darker path, namely that she is most likely working with the Power Broker in some capacity. Having been on Madripoor so long and living in Hightown, the elite area of the island, and working as a fence for stolen art, chances are she’s either one of the Power Broker’s top partners or indebted to him in some capacity and her phone call after leaving the shipping yard seems indicative of filling him in on everything she learned from Nagel in the brief time she was in the interrogation. Though she expressed a desire for Sam to clear her name so she can reunite with her family, the rage she holds from the past may be clouding her judgement slightly on how best to get the Broker his serum back.
One of the big unknowns for the series has been how exactly they will handle John Walker, who isn’t necessarily a villain in the comics but takes a more aggressive and morally-devoid approach to protecting America, very much opposite of Steve’s ideals as Captain America. This episode is certainly pointing towards a turn to his comics-accurate persona, willing to go off books, not holding in his rage and even possibly a little racist/xenophobic, and with Bucky really desperate to get the shield back from Walker, whether for Sam to take on the mantle or himself, it’s certainly looking likely he and Walker are going to face off.
Given Karli is currently in possession of the super soldier serum, it now seems unlikely Walker and Hoskins will turn to the Power Broker for help powering up to face off against the Flag Smashers, but should his off-books approach to hunting them down work, he may be able to get his hands on the serum and become the US Agent and Battlestar.