Disclaimer: This article on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3 contains major spoilers. So, please read it after watching the show. And if you aren’t very strict about spoilers, read on.
WandaVision was hugely lauded for swiftly changing tones with each episode. I was low-key afraid that people are going to go into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with similar expectations regarding tonality and then emerge out of it disappointed. But I have to report that after watching episode 3 that it is actually doing something similar. The first episode, after the big explosive opening, went deep into the psyches of the titular duo. The second episode, despite having some action, dug deep into the MCU’s racist history while also developing the bond between Sam and Buck. And the third episode goes into full-on espionage mode (Yes, there’s a good dose of action and comedy. Don’t worry!) while making a strong case for Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo being the franchise’s version of a James Bond villain.
Firstly, John Walker/Captain America. Still a douche. He even gets spit upon, which is something I don’t think would’ve happened with Steve Rogers. Because no matter how bad things got, Rogers never got venomous in any way. That’s why even when he went against everything that he stood for in Civil War, his sense of respect for people kept us from outright hating him. But Walker is way too obsessed with the fact that he’s Captain America and is clearly failing to be a good man underneath that helmet, thereby making his “unofficial” actions seem shady. However, here’s the thing. His plans to stop a branded terrorist organisation and Zemo aren’t different from what Rogers would do. It’s his presentation that is off-putting (Major props to Wyatt Russell again for that) and that’s something that made me think about the importance of optics. Also, am I the only one who feels Lemar Hoskins is going to go against Walker very soon?
Secondly, Zemo. I liked the fact that the episode kind of made his prison break seem so casual instead of making that its centerpiece because the show is aware that it has become a common thing in the MCU. I am kind of mixed about his overall portrayal though. Because his James Bond villain persona comes a little out of left field. The image of Zemo that I had in mind was this brooding figure weighed down by the loss of his family. Taking down the Avengers might’ve helped him get over it but I think I needed to see that a little. However, if I keep that aspect out of my mind, he’s fun! It genuinely feels like he’s flexing all the muscles that he didn’t get to flex during his time in the prison. And I can’t really complain about Zemo’s presence because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have gotten to Madripoor, which looks like the most awesome place to be after a world-ending event if you know what I mean.
Madripoor (Thirdly, in case anyone is keeping count) feels like the super-duper gated community that a world where superheroes are a block away from catching your asses and dumping them in a jail on an ocean would create. Why? To live a little. See, that’s the thing. For better or worse, the MCU always seemed a little too sanitised despite being populated by adults. And it’ll feel like that even more when you see the first two Iron Man movies now. I am not saying that they’ve to show people doing shady albeit extravagant stuff all the time. But a hint now and then is cool. BTW, Madripoor is a place that has shown up way too many times in the comics via the X-Men’s stories and in Matt Fraction’s run of Hawkeye, which is something that the Hawkeye is heavily drawing inspiration from. So, crossover? Maybe. Also, I noticed a little sign written in Hindi in Madripoor which excited my Indian heart (FYI, it translates to body augmentation/upgrade and that should raise some eyebrows).
In addition to these three highlights, there’s Sharon Carter who comes in with a bang, sweeps you off of your feet, and then leaves you wanting for more. Emily VanCamp is so charismatic that she sometimes ends up overshadowing Anthony’s Sam and Sebastian’s Bucky. That said, I loved how their dynamic is evolved. I love the fact that Sam is still apprehensive about Bucky, especially when he’s around Zemo because ultimately, he is a killing machine. But he’s not afraid to voice his difference with him regarding the shield. And the same goes for Bucky. You know what? I didn’t take Bucky to be a patriot but goddamn does he hold that shield in high regard. However, not in a way where he wants to keep it for himself. He really wants Sam to have it because that was probably Steve’s last wish. That’s respectable. What’s not respectable though is Karli Morgenthau’s work. I am alright with her stealing supplies for the needy but burning people alive. Nope!
That said, I like the fact that her actions are giving the necessary amount of hype for the show’s probable main villain i.e. Power Broker. In the comics, it’s both an organisation and a person. But in this show, I think they’re going for a person who is apparently behind the new super soldiers. We’ve seen the defectors in the form of the Flag Smashers under Karli’s wing. So, you can only imagine what those still working for the Power Broker are going to be like. However, since the show isn’t revealing a lot about them, I won’t speculate too much and ruin the fun.
In conclusion— Hold on, did you really think I am not going to talk about that Black Panther connection? Come on! I got goosebumps. Those Wakandan beats are never not going to hit me right in the feels. And Ayo’s (From the Dora Milaje) appearance actually ties back to my sentiments about considering The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a successor to Civil War because she was one of the first out of the many warriors from Wakanda that we got to see. Additionally, it ties back to the argument that Sam was making earlier that the Wakandans haven’t forgotten about Zemo’s actions and will come for him? Now, is the fact that Bucky broke Zemo out going to sour his relationship with Wakanda? Or are they going to respect the truce that Sam and Bucky have created and work with them to get the shield? If that happens, man, the playing field just got bigger. Also, here’s a little tidbit. At the time of writing this article, Florence Kasumba, the actress playing Ayo, isn’t even in the IMDb credits of the show. That’s how secretive this appearance was!
Now, I can conclude by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And I will be eagerly waiting right here for the next one while listening to Henry Jackman’s amazing score.
Cover image courtesy: Disney+