The world might have watched and approved this fourth episode of Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but yours truly did not. In both this series and Wandavision, the writers are great at creating initial intrigue yet fall sway to convention when it’s time to reveal the big “hush-hush” secrets. So, while audiences still don’t know the identity of the Power Broker, we have an obvious idea of where the show is going based on how its heroes, antagonists, and those on the moral tightrope fall into predictable step.
Zemo (Daniel Brühl) naturally has tricks up his sleeves, able to accelerate his agenda because his overseers would rather cannibalize themselves than keep fervent watch over the slippery anarchist. Walker (Wyatt Russell) wants so badly to prove himself, though someone fanatically attached to his ego is obviously drawn to the power that promises to enhance it. Then, there’s Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, respectively), the titular stars who are less the focus every week, particularly the reluctant successor to Captain America.
Wilson has a background in hostage negotiations, but Walker wants to neutralize the Flag Smashers before attracting more to their cause. Somehow, Bucky convinces America’s newest fake idol to allow Wilson some time to get through to Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) before she can flee. The self-proclaimed leader of the revolution is paying funereal respect to her adoptive mother, Donya Madani (Veronica Falcón), in a Latvian displacement camp. The matron watched over Morgenthau and other orphan children, someone whose tender love and actions mean a lot more than pandering, selective Avengers heroism.
The Falcon is not the only Avenger pressed for time. Bucky Barnes is reminded of his White Wolf days in Wakanda when Ayo (Florence Kasumba) of the Dora Milaje appears to claim Zemo as her prisoner. She gives him a finite amount of time to use the Sokovian terrorist for their mission, and then she and her unit are coming to collect. As you might remember from Captain America: Civil War, Helmut Zemo orchestrated the bomb that killed Wakanda’s former king T’Chaka (John Kani). No one deserves to punish Zemo more than the Wakandans, not to mention Barnes owes Ayo for purifying his body of the lingering Winter Soldier hold.
We all know no one is getting their way in this episode, least of all Falcon, who is written like a character serving the spirit of Steve Rogers rather than using such inspiration to inform his role. Wilson is inevitably going to reclaim the mantle — we know this — but why is his identity being shaped by the chaos, both personal and professional, that surrounds him rather than stand tall as the sturdy, gallant defender of justice we already know him as?
When Walker and partner Hoskins (Clé Bennett) barge in with their team just as Wilson and Morgenthau find peaceful common ground, the extremist leader makes a quick getaway. However, she later calls Falcon after speaking to his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), threatening her family’s safety unless she convinces Wilson to come to meet with Morgenthau alone once more. First off, no one is going to buy that Morgenthau has the uncaring grit to hurt innocents. Secondly, repeating the same conversation and expecting a different result is patronizing to the viewers. At this point, stalling to build up a foreseeable conclusion is only wasting precious time.
Speaking of time running out, the Dora Milaje are done waiting for Zemo’s usefulness to expire. Leading the charge, Ayo and her squad are forced into a brutal confrontation with Walker after refusing to give the prisoner up, clearly at odds about whose captive hands Zemo belongs with. No matter, since the fight — while enlivened with impressive fighting choreography and earned smackdowns — serves no purpose other than allowing Zemo an easy escape. With their chief asset in the wind, Walker recovering one last sample of the Super Soldier serum during an earlier skirmish, and Wilson and Barnes inadvertently leading Cappy’s men to Morgenthau’s hideout, what else could possibly happen except a complete catastrophe?
Walker injects himself with the Super Soldier serum to try and give him and Battlestar an edge in what they assume will be the Flag Smasher’s final stand. Sadly, it’s Battlestar whose mortal life flickers for the last time. However, considering Marvel’s penchant for resurrection and misleading deaths, Hoskins might wake up to find his friend went on a murder spree in vain.
In front of hundreds of plaza spectators, Walker graphically bashes the shield into the neck of the Smasher who killed Battlestar. The vengeful beating turns lethal, subsequently causing video footage of the globe’s new protector to go viral. The world witnesses a monster, not a mighty champion of human rights and peace they were promised. The facade is no more, a bloody shield exposing a masked hero who is unworthy of the legacy he promised to uphold. Out with the phony and in with the true!