The person pulling the strings may not have been revealed, but he or she has been formally identified. This “Power Broker” has deep pockets to hire ex-HYDRA scientist Wilfred Nagel (Olli Haaskivi) to recreate the Super Soldier Serum. The revitalized concoction has literally weaponized the Flag Smashers, allowing them to use brute force to stop anyone who thwarts their plans to return the world to its Blip heydays. Is their extremism truly indefensible, or might their call for global welfare have some merit after all?
The third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier launches with a jingoistic commercial for the Global Repatriation Council (GRC), an organization meant to provide aid and shelter to refugees affected by half the world’s population returning. In actuality, they are one step above America’s own ICE, doing little in the way of ending permanent displacement and family separation. What they don’t realize is that their main detractor is right under their nose. Yes, the leader of the Flag Smashers herself, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), lives in one of the GRC’s displacement facilities. Alongside her second-in-command Dovich (Desmond Chiam), the pair use their close proximity to the international group to cause destruction and steal valuable resources for their like-minded supporters.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) pulls a fast one on his mission partner Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) by breaking Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) of prison. We all anticipated the illegal release last episode, but it was a charming swerve to see Barnes explain Zemo’s breakout like a heist montage, only to then reveal the hypothetical plan had already been executed. We gotta love our Avengers who break protocol. However, there seems to be a double standard about who gets let off the hook by the U.S. government and who does not. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) can certainly attest to this. The former S.H.I.E.L.D. Operative is reintroduced to the franchise when Zemo leads his reluctant emancipators to Madripoor. The criminal-run metropolis is basically Mos Eisley by way of Las Vegas; it is here that Zemo meets with an old contact of his, Selby (Imelda Corcoran), who informs him of Nagel’s involvement.
A shootout puts Selby out of commission permanently, but thankfully an angel of badassery is looking out for them. Sharon Carter snipes the trio’s attackers, saving her old friends, and offers to assist some more for the right price. In exchange for tracking down their missing scientist, Wilson promises to secure a pardon from the United States so Carter can return home. The Sokovia Accords fiasco is long past, and it’s about time this fan-favorite fugitive ditch the shadows for some heroic spotlight. Aside: please, Marvel Gods, don’t let Sharon be the Power Broker! Though all roads end up leading to Morgenthau after all, there’s still the problem of slippery Zemo to contend with. Other than salivating to don his villain costume, the Sokovian survivor-turned-anarchist has yet to betray his true motives.
But you know who doesn’t have time to wait and find out what they are? A Wakandan bodyguard who spears first and refrains from asking questions she knows won’t redeem her enemy. In this instance, the hardened warrior turns out to be Ayo (Florence Kasumba), marking the third character to complete the full Captain America: Civil War reunion. Many fans are frustrated by Falcon and the Winter Soldiers’ refusal to commit to a tone or genre, but its character cohesion is why I have not been let down once this season. Steve Rogers was such a prominent draw that his movies often drowned out the importance of minor characters.
Listen, I know Captain America: The Winter Soldier is universally thought to be the best of the Cappy trilogy, but one of my main gripes was how they treated the titular figure with as much depth as a video game boss. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier aims, in my mind, to undo the shortchanging wrongs of its past. With its biggest star no longer drawing the main focus, we can finally spend time getting to love these secondary heroes beyond their comic book reputation.