Last week’s episode saw Sam and Bucky reluctantly partner with Baron Zemo, which took them to Madripoor in a hope of finding the Power Broker. But a misunderstanding has them on the run, especially after Zemo killed the scientist responsible for making the new super soldier serum.
After an escape aided by Sharon Carter, they head to Europe to try and find Karli and the Flagsmashers, just as she ups her tactics and targets innocent people with a bomb. While they worked to find her, Bucky discovers that Ayo from Wakanda is here to see about Zemo, the killer of their king, the father of the Black Panther!
Recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, S1E4: “The Whole World is Watching”
Flashback to 6 years ago, where Bucky is in Wakanda, trying to heal and unlearn the things they did that can trigger him as the Winter Soldier. We get to see the first time Bucky is able to resist the trigger words that turn him into the Winter Soldier. It is a strange mixture of sadness, as he relives the times that he wasn’t able to resist, and joy, as Ayo declares, “You are free!” Which makes their modern day scene even more of a challenge, as Bucky tries to explain that they needed Zemo’s help as a means to an end. They depart without coming to a clear understanding about what comes next.
Zemo, having taken a great shower, gives a debate about how supremacy works and that Karli is drifting towards extremism, especially when they get the news of the supply resources being bombed, which happened at the end of last episode.
To Zemo, the line from supremacist to Nazi to Ultron to Avengers is all one long swing of history proving that power corrupts. But he has no answer when confronted with the reality that Steve Rogers was never corrupted.
They head to a location that Zemo knows about to find out more about the refugee that Karli was looking to help. While Zemo and Bucky work the courtyard, Sam moves inside and discovers that the people there see themselves as displaced, not refugees and that all the promises that are made to them always come up empty.
Zemo is working the kid crowd however, using turkish delight to gain their favor. In doing so he learns the location of the funeral later that afternoon. He eventually shares it with Sam and Bucky, but not before things get a bit too tense, as the bonds between these three are starting to run thin and Bucky especially is mindful that the Dora are coming for Zemo, maybe sooner rather than later.
Over the course of the next couple of scenes, we get almost dueling political debates. Karli and one of the Flagsmashers are discussing how righteous their cause is and could be. Think about how during the blip, people from all over the world were welcomed where they went, as they were helping to rebuild. But then the blip was undone and suddenly they were refugees, displaced as people. And this all happens while they are retrieving the vials of super soldier serum from a sensitive location.
But Sam and crew debate on whether or not Karli is too far gone. He essentially wants a chance to talk to Karli in her grief and give her a chance to change. He eventually gets his chance as Zemo is lead by the little girl to the funeral location and Sam and Karli get a chance to talk. The debate goes on and Sam expresses some solidarity with what she says and wants but not with her any means necessary approach.
But then John Walker and Battlestar cannot wait to storm the castle so to speak and a fight breaks out. Karli goes to run and Bucky and Falcon both lose her, but we see that Zemo has escaped as well. And when given the chance, Zemo does not hesitate to shot Karli. Then when he comes across the vials of the serum, he crushes them only to be knocked unconscious by Captain America’s shield.
We see John Walker pick up and pocket the one remaining vial of super soldier serum.
Karli laments the discovery that the serum is gone. But it is complicated when the Power Broker demands the serum back. Her allies are concerned about a fight on two sides, so she assure them that they can hold off on the Power Broker, while they separate the others, starting with a plan to engage Sam. But the end goal? Kill Captain America.
Zemo starts a debate about whether Sam would have taken the serum if he had been given it. And how the power has now corrupted Karli. But as the debate continues, in busts Walker and Battlestar.
After making some demands, it all breaks lose when the Dora Milaje arrive, ready to take Zemo. And some butt whupping occurs. Bucky eventually attempts to intervene as well and Sam gets drawn into the fight also.
But the fight takes a turn when they have Captain America’s shield pinned and, way more surprisingly, they deactivate Bucky’s arm and it falls off! But John Walker is devasted by their defeat, saying “They weren’t even super soldiers.”
Later Walker and Battlestar discuss if they would take the serum, at a mall where they are also signing autographs. It is an interesting challenge, as we in the audience know John pocketed one remaining vial that wasn’t destroyed. He seems torn on whether or not it would do him good or not. And Walker reveals that he doesn’t think of his time in the army in the same way that everyone else does, calling his honors a reminder of the worst day of his life.
And then, moving and acting more and more like a terrorist, Karli calls Sam’s sister, asking for her help in determining if she can trust him. But there is also a veiled threat against her and Sam’s nephews. This sets Sam off when he hears of the conversation and he tells his sister to head for safety and pay in cash as they go.
When Sam goes to meet with Karli, he breaks the rules by taking Bucky with him. While they are there, debating, Sharon relays information that Walker is storming the Flagsmashers hideout. Chaos ensues as Falcon flies out and Bucky runs towards the location.
But in the raid, Battlestar is captured by the group, who tie him up. Walker, knowing his friend is captured, gets more and more agitated during the fight, and presumably we see proof that he has taken the serum, as Walker does some ultra powerful things.
Meanwhile, Lamar is working his way free, using a knife to cut his bonds. And at the exact moment that Karli arrives to take her shot at killing Captain America, who is being grappled by another Flagsmasher, Lamar intervenes. But, her response hits hard and Battlestar flies into a column, breaking his neck and instantly killing him, at least the current appearances demonstrate.
And at that, Captain America loses it. In a fit of rage, he runs down one of the Flagsmashers. The fight moves into public square of the town and with an audience watching, John Walker takes the edge of the shield and in two swings ends the life of the Flagsmasher. With a crowd, and their cell phones all looking on, we see the bloody shield as Bucky and Falcon walk up.
Thoughts on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, S1E4: “The Whole World is Watching”
That closing shot tells the whole story: what happens when Captain America breaks bad? It is probably harder today for the modern audience to understand that in comics, there used to be a line that was never crossed: heroes didn’t kill people.
Don’t believe me? The Marvel Superheroes RPG gave you massive negative consequences if your hero crossed that line even unintentionally. Knock a villain out? Sure! Do all you can to get them there. But don’t cross the line. John Walker just crossed the line and as the title of the episode ominously told us: the whole world was watching.
Sebastian Stan doesn’t get enough credit for the work he has done with this character over the years. From the comic line, Bucky was always a troubled figure. During the Winter Soldier storyline, it is revealed that Bucky was essentially doing the ugly, dirty parts of war that the logo heavy Captain America couldn’t be seen doing. So even before he lost his arm and was turned into the Winter Soldier, James Barnes was a sad figure.
The opener this week, of watching him ride out the list of words that have made him a killer and weapon with no conscience is heartbreaking. He just wants to be free but keeps getting pulled back into war. And it is why this scene of Avengers: Infinity War is that much sadder: he sees the arm and knows that he was being called to battle. Again.
Is Battlestar really dead? It certainly seems so and it was a trigger to move the story forward. In the comics, John Walker loses it when his parents are killed by a terror group, so they aren’t that far off. But since Phil Coulson, there has been a history of the dead rising again in the MCU. I wonder if this really is the last time we see Lamar. I mean, they restored War Machine’s lower back. Why wouldn’t they try this for Lamar?
The political discussions are really deep in this episode and I like that they aren’t painting it as a clear case of which side is right. If you think of the magnitude of the things the universe has been through in the last 5-7 years in the MCU, there would be this kind of craziness and faction building. I mean, there would no doubt be some “Thanos was right” bumper stickers in the MCU, right?
And Zemo, again, proves to be an interesting and resourceful character from the wooing of the children to shooting Karli to the debates and also knowing when to get a nice random shower and put a robe on. He is kind of the exact degree of crazy that a villain needs.