This is a SPOILER review for Episode Four of The Falcon and the Winter Solider. For last week’s review, click here.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier returns with its fourth episode. After a turbulent adventure in Madripoor, Sam and Bucky continue on for their search of the flag smashers with Zemo. Their search hits a road bump with the arrival of Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje arriving from Wakanda to take Zemo back with her. The cinematic structure continues to be a through-line with this series. Each episode follows up on the previous one’s cliffhanger. It’s a different presentation of storylines and cliffhangers compared to WandaVision. Moreover, it allows the characters to have a consistency missing from the previously mentioned show. This results in an absolutely stellar opening sequence.
One thing you have to hand to the MCU is that, despite the weight of continuity weighing on the 20-plus film universe, it also uses it to its advantage. The tragic history of the Winter Soldier is one narrative thread that is successfully pulled on, resulting in some truly emotionally cathartic scenes. Bucky overcoming his programming was mentioned briefly in previous films. However, actually seeing Bucky’s rehabilitation on screen is something else entirely. These shows continue to show their worth in making heroes we know and love and turn them multi-layered.
Something that has turned into a bigger arc than expected, the GPR, makes for an interesting angle. The world changed drastically between Infinity War and Endgame. The consequences of geopolitics in the aftermath of half of the world’s population disappearing then returning are examined closely. Sam recognizes and empathizes with the Flag Smashers’ reasoning for their actions.
Sam Wilson continues to show the traits of a true Captain America. Throughout this episode, Sam is levelheaded, and the voice of reason. Sam isn’t quick to a fight, choosing to try and reach out to Flag Smasher. From this episode alone, Falcon and Winter Soldier analyzes and ruminates what the symbol of Captain America means. Perhaps even more so than what the films managed to do. Flag Smasher believes that the symbol, known for its triumph over evil in a bygone era, needs to be destroyed. However, people forget the man behind the symbol. Steve Rogers, filled with empathy and the need to do right by people, not nations, was what bolstered the meaning of Captain America.
Sam’s attempts at empathy are undermined by the opposite of Steve. One that only sees the forceful implementation of his own will. John Walker is a man on the edge, driven to reckless and dangerous decisions because of the symbol of Captain America. This episode highlights the problems Erskine had with other potential candidates. Walker’s militaristic attitude and hunger for strength and dominance over others breakthrough in this episode. Hearing a melancholic version of Cap’s theme over Walker’s fractured psyche is a highlight of the episode.
Ruminations on power from every perspective of the main cast are enthralling. More than any action scene or easter egg, these deep dives into what it means to be Captain America and the power that comes with it are some of the best parts of the entire series so far.
Flag Smasher is getting some much-needed depth and more time to shine. After several small scenes with the typical tropes used to inspire empathy, we actually get real reasons and logic behind her actions. Sam’s attempts to reach out to her are highlights of the episode. Captain America continues to have an array of inspired and nuanced villains. Zemo takes a backseat after his bombastic debut, though not without his charms and moments to shine this time around.
The series isn’t without its action scenes, either. Taking a break from philosophical musings on power and the symbol of Captain America, the battle between the Flag Smashers and Falcon culminate in one intense action sequence. Moreover, John Walker gets the power he’s been craving. The power he thinks is behind the symbol. Because of this, John Walker finally goes off the edge in the most intense and stressful episode of the series. The death of Battlestar, John’s close friend and partner, leads to him going off the deep end. A Flag Smasher, who at one point admitted to admiring Captain America in his youth, meets his grisly end at the hands of one. Not Steve Rogers, the man of hope, empathy, and of the people.
Instead, a militaristic brute who doesn’t grasp the need for humanity. The episode ends with a chilling shot. John Walker, wielding the shield that once stood for something, stained with the blood of a fighter who needed compassion and not violence. A sign of the times. This fourth episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier is the best of the series yet. A grim episode that delves deep into what Captain America is, and what he should be. With only two episodes left, it will be exciting to see how Sam will handle this and eventually rise to the occasion and remind everyone who Captain America really is.
Until then, this episode was a grim and fantastic tragedy exploring the mythos of Captain America and how heavy the burden of that shield can really be. Or worse, the new kind of symbol it can become if put into the wrong hands. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 10/10
New The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episodes premiere every Friday on Disney+