An episode that has come far from the lighter buddy tandem that we had at the start of the season
Spoilers alert. Also, I’m running out of witty spoiler alerts.
Let me jump the gun and say WOW.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s fourth episode had me both praising and cursing the Marvel gods. On the one hand, we still have two episodes to go, which is a huge yes. On the other hand, we ONLY have two episodes to go, which is as big a downer as they come as far as TV shows go because I simply don’t want this season to end. Not with what they have us in The Whole World is Watching.
The fourth installment of the season continues what the show has established since day one: a hugely entertaining narrative coupled with underlying social commentary around the misuse of power. As the story pieces come together (not YOU Power Broker, show yourself damnit!), the episode powers forward with Sam, Bucky and third-wheel Zemo in hot pursuit of the Flag Smashers. The chase is ultimately compounded by two critical parties, namely the Dora Milajae and their own hunt for Zemo and our new Captain America, John Walker who while chasing the super soldiers of the Flag Smashers comes into the possession of the very thing that will expose his true nature: a super soldier serum.
What he ends up doing with it in front of the world—cold-blooded murder—made my jaw drop in disbelief.
Bravo Marvel chiefs. Well done (again).
The darkest and grayest episode yet
Episode four is the darkest episode of the show thus far and feels like a far distant cousin of the buddy comedy that we started. There’s a lot to unpack in terms of how far the show has come in terms of communicating its theme of power and its mishandling and this episode’s tone puts that undertone front center with as little distraction. From Zemo’s clearly menacing motives to scenes of murder to open threats against innocent families, The Whole World is Watching doesn’t hold back and hardly feels like a Disney material at times but the showrunners are intent and successful in grinding the point through a complex story and themes that sometimes feel all too connected to the real world.
The motivations of the Flag Smashers are put on clear display through the extended conversation between Sam Wilson and Karli Morgenthau and we see that as misguided as Karli is, her intentions are noble. The same can be said of John Walker, who from one perspective took the super soldier serum only to fight the evils he couldn’t without it. As an audience member, you feel that you know what the ultimate moral choice should be but you can’t help but understand the motivations of the “villains.” This approach is different from the more common black and white, good and evil approach of Marvel. Despite how Marvel-formula the series has come to look like, this aspect of it is definitely one that shines through as a highlight.
The stained shield
In what is the most intense part of the episode, Walker finds himself unable to fight the Flag Smashers simply because he is not a super soldier himself, a predicament he solves by taking the serum. The situation turns desperately sour when new Cap’s partner, Battlestar, is murdered in front of him. Walker goes into a rage and chases down one of the Flag Smashers and proceeds to murder him in out in the open and in broad daylight in front of a gathered crowd holding up their phones, despite the man’s pleas and his innocence. A strong (but not identical) parallel to the George Floyd incident in the US, which took the world by storm.
This one caught me off-guard and slack-jawed! The non-Steve-Rogers level to which they took John Walker went well beyond my expectations! The blood stained shield says it all: the fall of Captain America’s symbol and a sympathy vote on the way for the Flag Smashers. Mind you we still have to see the Power Broker go full-force (I heard a wild online theory that it could be The Kingpin which would be INSANE!) and it might just be the right time to see him come out of the shadows with everyone’s backs heading towards the wall.
The shield incident opens up so many possibilities, all of which elicit a definite “Oh, that could work.” Will the US government strip John Walker of the shield and suit? If they do, who comes back as Captain America? Will it be Sam? Could it be Bucky? Will we even have a Captain America or will his symbol finally be made to rest albeit tarnished? At this point your guess is as good as mine, and I love it because while we think we’ve narrowed things down there are still several routes that will keep us guessing, until at least, next week.
The World is Watching sets the stage and the tone beautifully for the rest of the series and while it departs from the comedic opening that the show started with, the shift is welcome as the series dives into its last two episodes. Overt tones reflecting social commentaries complex yet faithful portrayals of the characters and universe we’ve come to love make this episode and a treat both as Marvel fan and a casual viewer. Strongest episode yet.
All in all for this episode’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier review? A 9/10.
Words Yosu de Erquiaga
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver