The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Star-Spangled Man (Episode 2) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Star-Spangled Man, John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is introduced to the world as the new Captain America as Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) come together to take down the Flag Smashers.
Going right from the reveal that the government has used Sam’s shield donation to create a new Captain American, we’re introduced to the new man behind the shield – John Walker. Although, as far as we know, he’s not a super-soldier, Walker presents some highly impressive skills with his shield throwing and has seen the battlefield. He’s more than just looking the part and the approach the series takes in making him a humbled fighter is really interesting. Russell’s performance is really good in making Walker initially likeable and genuine with how he talks about wanting to live up to name and having big shoes to fill. There’re even some vibes of a small-town hero as he heads back to his alma mater. However, Sam and Bucky aren’t all that impressed with him and there’s definitely some resentment that’s pretty warranted when you think about it.
Sam is rightfully kind of pissed that what he thought was a good deed and the right thing to do ended up being a ruse. Bucky is equally pissed both at Sam for giving up the shield in the first place and that someone is now parading around as the persona of his life-long friend. It’s like something sacred is tarnished and they likely share the same feelings that most nostalgic fanbases do when their favorite franchises are rebooted. Frankly, it’s hard not to blame them because even though Walker comes off as a humble force, there’s something off about the whole thing. The whole idea of Walker and his “partner”/sidekick Lemar Hoskins (Cle Bennett), aka Battlestar, being under government control and regulations really doesn’t feel right and even Walker telling Sam and Bucky that they better not get in his way at the end of the episode certainly doesn’t make him look as heroic. There’s even something about his Captain America that feels much more commercialized with his interviews and autographing that makes you not fully trust the purpose of this new Cap. There’s definitely more to Walker and this new Captain America than meets the eye.
When we’re not checking out Walker, we’re on a mission to stop the Flag Smashers with Sam and Bucky. Their reunion doesn’t come without some of their classic bickering that Mackie and Stan make incredibly comical. Without Cap there as a mediator, these two have no one stopping them from getting under each other’s skin. The dialogue pacing is nice, Bucky’s hatred of Red Wing is pretty funny, and the entire sequence with the two of them with Bucky’s therapist is funny and opens up old wounds. Their investigation of the Flag Smashers also leads to us getting to know some of the people behind the masks and makes you wonder if they’re intentions are better than assumed. They also have a pretty rad fight sequence on top of some moving trucks that’s fun to watch and showcases some of Walker’s prowess with the shield.
More importantly though, their realization that the Flag Smashers are super soldiers has Bucky introduce Sam to a still living super soldier. Bucky takes Sam to see a man named Isiah Bradley, who comic readers know as the first Black Captain America, that is an old, but still living and powerful super soldier. Now, it’s hard to say what the purpose or meaning behind this meeting is other than to say that super soldiers are still around, but it’s cool to see more lore from the comics make its way into the MCU.
This meetup also allows for more racial narratives to be brought into the series and while they still showcase interesting themes about impact of black status and being “white-approved,” they still feel added in rather than an integral part of the story. Sam’s interaction with a young kid really fleshes out the impact that his presence has with how the kid recognizes him as “Black Falcon” because he’s one of the few black heroes. His near altercation with the police is much more pertinent though as they treat him like dirt compared to Bucky and nearly arrest him for nothing until they recognize him as Falcon. It’s another great example of how Sam is viewed as more than black by some because of his social status as Falcon. Again, these are good moments and it’s great to see the MCU touch on more pertinent themes, but I’m worried that there will be no real recognition of this. With only four more episodes left, I’m hoping that there will be a moment where Falcon or maybe Battlestar, who at this point is sadly just another black sidekick in the MCU, recognize and talk about what they’re seeing in the black community or how they’ve been treated. Currently, these moments are good on their own, but don’t feel as strong as Sam and Bucky dealing with Cap being gone and hopefully it’ll become more integral to Sam’s story as he deals with more family woes.
The most pivotal moment though is what we see at the end as Sam and Bucky are going to talk to Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) in order to find out why there’re still super soldiers running around. Zemo’s return has been highly anticipated and it’s great that it looks like that’s on the horizon next week and hopefully Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who is name dropped here, will return along with him.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings its two titular heroes together for some great banter between the two as it also showcases a new Captain America that shows some prowess, but certainly isn’t fully trustworthy. Also, the way it cues up the return of Zemo and Sharon Carter definitely heightens the anticipation for next week’s episode even more.