Episode two of Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues to peel back the layers of many of our favorite characters, including a new Captain America. What were the best moments? How does the episode grade out?
SPOILER WARNING!!! This Falcon and Winter Soldier review contains HEAVY SPOILERS AND THEORIES about the direction of the series and the next phase of the MCU. Click below for my series premiere review.
Sorry action fans, fight scenes yet again got pushed aside for this week’s episode that continued to layer and build upon strong character development. Episode two was deeply rooted around the pressure of becoming Captain America and what it means to put on the suit and carry the shield. Enter John Walker, a decorated soldier with 3 Medal of Honor awards and an extensive resume to boot. From the opening scene, we see the immense pressure and expectations it brings to become “America’s greatest soldier.”
For a show that will be centering on character development and chemistry, I loved exploring the dynamic between Sam and Bucky more intimately this week. The banter and tension built up between Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan was terrific. However, my favorite moment of episode two came during a mandated therapy session with Dr. Raynor.
“Steve believed in you,” says Bucky to Sam. “He trusted you. He gave you that shield for a reason. That shield is everything he stood for. That is his legacy. He gave you that shield and you threw it away like it was nothing. So maybe he was wrong about you but maybe if he was wrong about you then maybe he was wrong about me?”
I love the fact that we’re finally exploring Captain America’s legacy and how his loss is beginning to unravel both Sam and Bucky in both physical and emotional ways. Bucky is truly struggling with who he is, not only as an Avenger but also as a brother and person without the shadow of Steve Rogers. Meanwhile, Sam is struggling with a concept that circled Steve’s character since Phase One of the MCU.
Sam believes in doing what is right, a direct nod to Captain America: Civil War. In that film, Captain America is driven to “do the right thing.” While Tony Stark built his trust on systems, Steve built his belief on trusting individuals (we’ll get to this soon). If you needed any further evidence why Steve Rogers chose Sam Wilson for the responsibility for the shield, well there it is. Sam might not want to admit he’s fit to carry the shield, he sure acts like it.
The character development in this show has truly stood out over the last two weeks. Most notably, I enjoyed the different perspectives offered between Sam and Bucky on what it means to be a hero. While Bucky is trying to make amends with his own personal demons, Sam is trying to find his own identity, which leads me to the incredible introduction of Isaiah Bradley into the MCU. The tragic backstory of Isaiah Bradley and the racist cops confronting Sam on the street easily makes this the most grounded story we’ve seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I loved watching Sam become filled with anger towards Bucky about keeping Isaiah Bradley’s story a secret.
Tackling adult themes is where Marvel thrives.
I love the way WandaVision has begun to tackle adult themes such as isolation, grief and loss. I always felt that WandaVision thrived when it addressed Wanda’s struggle to confront and accept her trauma and past. Now, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier is tackling real life issues and integrating them within a comics point of view. As a Marvel fan, this is truly exciting stuff which brings new light and breaks new ground for these characters. In the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we’re now facing a central theme: who can you really trust?
A new Captain America makes his introduction.
Wyatt Russell was terrific this week. Shockingly, this is a very different version of John Walker than we’ve been used to in the comics. Here, Wyatt Russell’s John Walker is confident to a fault. He comes off extremely likable in episode two, but something clearly isn’t right about his character. On paper, John is a very good fit to carry the mantle of Captain America. He’s got the same charm as Steve but in similar respects to Sam, he’s also trying to figure out his own legacy. “I’m not Tony Stark. I’m not Bruce Banner,” says John in a touching moment. As mentioned above, it’s clear that John is a systems guy, a “yes man” that does whatever he can for his government without asking questions.
I loved the complete shift from John Walker’s character at the end of the episode. For the first 40 minutes, John is engaging and seemingly trust worthy. However, that takes a quick dark turn during the episode’s final 5 minutes. “Stay the hell out of my way” says John Walker who immediately became that much more intimidating and interesting. Just as it was for Steve Rogers, trust is incredibly important for Sam’s character. The moment Sam refused to work with John at the end of episode 2 was fantastic. Sam’s reluctance to trust John Walker makes it beyond evident that something clearly is off. Sam might not want to accept his destiny as Captain America just yet, but his instincts are right on point.
I think what this series is absolutely nailing is the concept that made Captain America: Civil War so fascinating: not everything is grey and white. Even the “bad guys” aka Flag Smashers are layered in mystery which gives them more depth than we would normally expect from a Marvel film or series. I find the parallels between John, Lamar, Sam and Bucky to be really intriguing.
I’m also really enjoying the integrative nature of Falcon and the Winter Soldier episodes. After deep diving into all 9 episodes of Scarlet Witch’s arrival, this is already a very different and distinct feel than WandaVision. WandaVision’s episode to episode was fun in its own right, giving us small pieces of the puzzle to talk about for hours each and every week. Here, we’re getting a much more linear story that feels like its ripped straight out of a movie theater.
Similar to the series premiere, it wasn’t the action that took center stage this week. Rather, it was the writing that truly shined. If you’re looking for brass knuckles, hand to hand combat like we saw from Captain America: The Winter Soldier then you’re going to have to wait. Rightfully so, this series seems to be much more focused on telling an engaging and complicated story rather than give you fist to face action. This isn’t a complaint for me, however I know this is what some people are looking for. Trust me everyone. I promise this series will deliver the goods after its characters are fully fleshed out and further layered.
Final Thoughts & Grade
Another extremely well done episode for Falcon and the Winter Soldier this week. I loved the series premiere, grading it a 9.2/10 with amazing writing and heavy focus on building character development. I actually enjoyed episode two more, making even the villains of the series (John Walker and the Flag Smashers, so far) more layered than I ever expected. We’ve only got 4 more episodes left, but I’m loving everything we’ve been given so far. The writers are clearly building up something big and I can’t wait to see more.