The Falcon and the Winter Soldier recap: How not to go viral
The Dora Milaje are here! And John Walker is desperate to prove himself in the latest episode of the Disney+ superhero series.
Wakanda! As much as I enjoyed the dash of X-Men mythology we got from last week's visit to Madripoor, the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier distinguishes itself even more by bringing in a few members of the Dora Milaje to spice things up.
Picking up right where last episode's cliffhanger left off, Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje, has arrived to tell Bucky he only has Zemo for eight hours before they come to take him into Wakandan custody for the murder of King T'Chaka. The name Ayo should be a pleasant surprise for readers of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther comics — maybe one of these days we'll get to see her wear the Midnight Angel armor!
During their remaining eight hours together, Zemo engages Sam and Bucky in a fascinating conversation about superpowers and superheroes. According to Zemo, anyone who seeks out superpowers (by pursuing the serum, the way Karli and her Flag-Smashers are doing) is inherently a radical supremacist. Sam and Bucky point to Steve Rogers as an example of someone who wasn't corrupted by superpowers, and that's a hard point to argue with. But as Zemo says, there's never been another Steve Rogers, has there? In fact, isn't that what this whole show is about?
When Steve's successor does finally enter this episode, he's screaming and whining like an idiot. Stomping around, yelling that people are under arrest and demanding that people obey him. Zemo's subtler methods are much more effective. Though his choice to approach young children and offer them Turkish delight like he's the White Witch of Narnia feels more than a little creepy, it's actually effective. Zemo is able to successfully ferret out Karli Morgenthau's location, and Sam approaches her for a one-on-one talk...that gets quickly interrupted by John Walker showing up and screaming again.
In the resulting chaos, Zemo manages to chase Karli down and pin her behind debris as her vials of super-soldier serum scatter across the floor. Zemo picks one up, and for a second it looks like we might be getting a superpowered supervillain. But Zemo doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. True to his words about how much he disdains superpowers and those who want them, he smashes as many vials as he can before Karli finally makes her escape.
In the post-game huddle, John Walker is once again whining. Sam calls him out for ruining his meeting with Karli: "The only thing you're running is your mouth." Just when it looks like Sam and John are about to come to blows, that's when the Dora Milaje show up and demand Zemo. John decides to treat them with condescension ("let's all put down the pointy sticks"), which was absolutely the wrong decision.
The Dora Milaje start beating the stuffing out of him in what is unquestionably my favorite scene of the episode. It's not the episode's only fight, or even the most climactic, but it is the most fun. In some ways I wish the whole show could be about the Dora Milaje beating up John Walker. Zemo watching it all with a smile, and Sam shouting sarcastic commentary like "looking strong, John!" is just the icing on the cake. John is a little too humiliated by this, and unlike Zemo, he decides to take the super-soldier serum himself.
His friend Lamar tells him that the super-soldier serum just makes you more like yourself. It enhances what you already are. We already know this because we've all watched Captain America: The First Avenger and seen brave, lovable Steve Rogers take the serum and become the hero he always was inside. We've also met Karli, who by taking the serum became the unstoppable revolutionary her followers see her as. So John takes the serum too, and what do we know about him? Mostly that he's obnoxious, arrogant, and haunted by darkness in his military past. Doesn't sound like a great combination, honestly.
Meanwhile, Karli means business. She tells her friend, who earlier in the episode was talking about how he used to look up to Steve but thought no one else could embody the Captain America spirit until he met her (fascinating to think about!), that her new plan is to kill Captain America as a blow against this new world order. To that end, Karli makes contact with Sam's sister, both because she genuinely wants to meet with Sam and because she wants to send a threat. She knows where Sam's family lives.
Karli insists that Sam come alone, but this show isn't called The Falcon, you know? Bucky comes along too and doesn't take no for an answer. But they barely get started talking before Sharon Carter radios the titular twosome to tell them John is on the move. Karli's plan was to separate the Americans, and it seems to be working. The Flag-Smashers take John's buddy Lamar hostage, but they don't get John to themselves for long. Sam soon joins up with him to fight the Flag-Smashers together.
Even if it's not as fun as the aforementioned scuffle with the Dora Milaje, this fight is still pretty fun. I especially enjoy Sam using his wings as a close-range weapon, igniting the exhaust from his jetpack to blast someone in the face or pulling out wing at a time to hit someone. John is much more direct, and Sam is astonished to see him bend a pipe with his bare hands. The problem with superpowers, though, is that it's easy to get used to them. Sam and John are hitting these guys with everything they have, and they're hitting back, because they all know they can take serious blows.
The same cannot be said for Lamar, unfortunately. John's buddy successfully frees himself from his bonds and joins the fight just in time to get kicked into a pillar by Karli. Lamar does not have enhanced strength or durability, he hits the pillar the wrong way, and dies immediately. This is bad news. The Flag-Smashers immediately scatter, but John won't let them get away. He charges right out a window and manages to chase down Karli's friend from earlier. As this guy, a lifelong Captain America fan, begs for his life, the fake Captain America shows no mercy, and savagely beats him to death with Steve Rogers' shield...in the middle of a public square, where dozens of people have smartphones to film him with.
If you're a soldier with blood on your hands haunted by some unnamed war crimes and violent trauma, maybe enhancing yourself with a super-drug wasn't the best idea after all. Maybe Zemo was right. B
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier