Previously on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier …
- Marvel did us all a favor and released the one-hour #Zemocut of him dancing! Enjoy!
- At some point Bucky and Sam have to realize that Zemo is using them as muscle, while he does whatever he wants, right? Hello?
- It’s interesting that they’re using Walker’s five o’clock shadow to symbolize his decaying mind. A little on the nose? So to speak?
If the last episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was this series catching up with itself, “The Whole World is Watching” lays everything out on the table in order to move us into the last two episodes. It’s a gripping story about how great power can corrupt greatly, at any turn, revealing the strengths and vulnerabilities of each character. There’s a few check-ins from our favorites, a couple of sad exits, and the one beatdown we’ve all been waiting for. Plus, a shocking ending that I’m still not over.
Warning: This article contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know the details of this episode, stop reading now.
When Bucky Met Ayo
We open on a flashback to six years before—Bucky and Ayo are in the middle of nowhere in Wakanda, testing the code words that turned him into the Winter Soldier. As she goes through them, Bucky marvels that they’re not working. Ayo tells him, “You are free.” Bucky bursts into tears, and I admit to shedding a couple myself.
Back in the present in Riga, Ayo is not so kind. You broke Zemo out of jail? The man who killed our King and brought shame on Wakanda and the Dora Milaje? We saved you, restored your mind, gave you that cool arm. What the hell? Bucky tells her, in Wakandan no less, that Zemo is just a means to an end … but Ayo doesn’t want to hear it. Bucky has 8 hours to turn Zemo in, or they’re coming to get him.
Up in another one of Zemo’s luxurious hideouts, Bucky, Sam and Zemo discuss the depot bombing, which the Flag Smashers have taken credit for. They need to find Morganthau before Walker does. And then what? Zemo challenges. “The desire to be a superhuman cannot be separated from supremacist ideals,” he tells them. “Anyone with that serum is inherently on that path. She’s not going to stop until you kill her or she kills you.” Bucky says that the serum never corrupted Steve, and Zemo agrees. “But there has never been another Steve Rogers, has there?”
I’m gonna raise my hand here with an unpopular opinion—the serum did corrupt Steve. Just watch Captain America: Civil War. He was against holding anyone accountable for Lagos or his friend for murdering hundreds of innocent people for almost a century. Like, he wouldn’t even discuss it. Steve flat out told Tony that they were the best people to decide where they would go and who they would fight, no matter how it affected the lives of thousands of people who weren’t given a choice or even a heads up. This arrogance is exactly what Zemo is talking about. It’s even present in Bucky’s unilateral decision to free Zemo, who killed a head of state and a dozen other people, just to break up the Avengers. But, Zemo is also needling them here. Steve is gone, and he knows that neither Sam or Bucky feels like they can replace him. No one says out loud what they’re all thinking—they’re allies for now, but when this is all over, will Bucky be on Zemo’s list of super-soldier threats to be eliminated?
Sam asks around the camp about Mama Donya’s funeral, figuring that Karli will be there. He’s ignored or told to go to hell. Zemo uses an old military tactic and hands out candy to the local kids until one of them tells him where the funeral is. Luckily, not taking candy from strangers seems to be just an American thing.
Sam calls Sharon and asks if she can keep an eye on Walker for them. Sharon says she has a couple of satellites she can use. As any art dealer would. I don’t think she’s the Power Broker as some have speculated, but if she is, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Enter Captain America
In the meantime, Karli and fellow Flag Smasher Nico are in the cemetery, retrieving the vials of serum they hid there. Captain America is the big subject of the day. Nico was a fan, but thinks they need a new hero that’s more like Karli, someone who cares about doing the right thing. Karli says that the shield is a symbol of a bygone era and needs to be destroyed. Sound familiar? Who gets to be a hero? Who gets to be right or wrong? Karli doesn’t recognize the moral sticky wicket she’s in. She has a point, but she’s not offering any sustainable solution other than “let’s go back to the way it’s been for the last five years,” which leaves the unblipped … where? This isn’t anyone’s fault, why does anyone have to get punished?
When Walker and Hoskins catch up with our guys (late again), Walker is frustrated and aggressive from the start, even more so when it becomes clear that NO ONE CARES. He demands to know where Karli is. Sam has a plan—he was a PTSD counselor for Vets and he thinks he can talk her down. Walker is derisive and doubts his chances, but reluctantly agrees to give Sam 10 minutes with Karli. Russell is nailing a very layered portrayal of Walker. He’s not a bad guy—okay, he’s kind of a tool—but his biggest problem is that he’s trying too hard to fill shoes that are not only too big for him, but don’t really exist. Like, Captain America isn’t a rank, it isn’t the serum, it’s a personal coda that belongs to Steve alone. Walker’s getting lapped over and over again on this mission. He’s not used to it, and it’s literally driving him crazy. Things are only going to get worse.
Sam and Karli get a good conversation going. Sam passes on Zemo’s idea that she’s a supremacist and she shoots back that she’s fighting supremacists. Sam’s like, yeah, when you kill people, you’ve lost the argument. She says these people are just roadblocks in her path and she’d do it again, and he’s like, rea-lly? She gets huffy (she is young) and says that’s not what she meant, but she needs to get her message across, not understanding that it’s having the opposite effect. And why isn’t he on her side, she asks? She’s fighting the same people that want to take his home. Gotta love a girl who does her research. Sam handles this so well, and he’s almost got her seeing reason when Walker, impatient AF, bursts in and tries to arrest her. And, of course she throws him against the wall, accuses Sam of tricking her and bounces off.
On the way out she runs into Zemo, who shoots her, causing her to drop the serum vials. He gleefully smashes each one as she manages to escape. Suddenly Walker appears and knocks Zemo out with the shield. He spots an unbroken vial and picks it up. Ooh, not good, but at least he got something done today.
Apparently, Zemo got away from Walker, because in the next scene he’s on the couch in the luxurious hideout, nursing his headache with a glass of scotch and a washcloth over his eyes. He asks Sam if he would ever take the serum if offered it, and is impressed by how quickly Sam says “No.” Sam’s seen enough misuse of it that he doesn’t want or need to go there. Zemo is back on his one train of thought: supers soldiers should not be allowed to exist as “Gods among common people.” Sam finally brings up the subtext: What about Bucky?
On cue, Bucky walks in and mutters that something is definitely wrong with Walker (duh) and then, proving his point, Walker breaks the door in (!) with Hoskins. He orders them to hand Zemo over. Dude, why didn’t you just take him when he was unconscious on the ground? It doesn’t matter, because no one cares. As Sam tells him, “The only thing you’re running here is your mouth.”
A Wakandan spear whizzes past Walker’s head into the wall. The Dora Milaje have come to collect. Walker tries condescending to them: “Can we just put the pointy things down please?” Such a tool. He introduces himself as John Walker, Captain America. No one cares. Then he puts his hand on Ayo’s shoulder, to calm her down—oh my good God—and she hands him the worst beating of his life. It’s beautiful.
Sam, Bucky, and Zemo watch casually from the other side of the room, until Sam points out that they should do something. Bucky’s like, really? Sam glares, Bucky sighs, and then stops Ayo from jamming her spear into Walker’s heart. Now we’ve got two brilliant fight scenes—Bucky preventing Ayo from killing Walker, Sam preventing the other Dora from killing Hoskins, while Walker lies on the floor recovering and Zemo slips out the front door (again).
Bucky wants to talk, but Ayo is angry— they had a deal—and unhooks his arm! Bucky stares at it on the ground in shock, as Ayo snarls, “Damn you to Bast, James.” No more White Wolf. Ouch.
Karli’s Three Problems
- The Power Broker wants his serum, or else he wants her dead. She doesn’t have any more serum, so …
- Sam and Bucky are after her, but she thinks she can turn Sam to their side.
- Captain America, who she decides must die—first to get him out of the way, second to kill a symbol of oppression, or something? Anyway, if she can separate Walker from Sam, she has a better chance of convincing him to join them. Like, he’d totally be willing to hang after she kills Walker, right?
Her friends frown—we’re killing more people now?—but reluctantly go along. It’s interesting that she’s ignoring the guy who wants to kill her and focusing on the others who only want her to knock it off or go to jail.
Karli calls Sam’s sister, Sarah. Karli tells her that she’s trying to decide if she’s going to kill Sam. Okay, She’s definitely leaning into this badass thing too much. Sarah assures her that Sam isn’t working with Captain America, but after Karli threatens to come after her and her kids, she agrees to tell Sam to meet up with Karli later. Sam is not pleased when he shows up, along with Bucky, despite her requesting he come alone. Sam’s like, whatever, you scared my sister, you don’t get to make the rules. Karli announces her plan to kill Walker and asks Sam to either join her or let her go. And she called Sam optimistic?
Walker: The End of the Beginning
Walker is at a mall with Hoskins, trying to work through his humiliation with the Dora the night before. They weren’t even super soldiers! Hoskins is the best of besties: You’re still awesome, you have three medals of honor because you’re awesome and you always know the right thing to do in combat. We haven’t seen that, yet, but thanks, Lemar. Walker snorts that he got those medals after the worst day of his life, while they were in Afghanistan doing some not great things. “Being Cap is the first time I’ve had the chance to do something that actually feels right.” Russell sells it. Walker wants to do the right thing, but he can’t accept that he’s doing it the wrong way. This is also the first time any PTSD he might be suffering has been mentioned, and maybe someone should have explored that before turning the shield over to him? There’s something in how dismissive he was earlier, of the soldiers Sam worked with. Too disturbingly weak for him, possibly? He asks Lemar if he’d take the serum if he could, and he says sure (a stark contrast to Sam’s response to the same question, but also without hesitation). “We could have used it in Afghanistan. The serum only turns you into more of what you already are.” That’s one hell of a foreshadow.
While Bucky and Sam talk to Karli, Walker and Hoskins break into the camp, in a last attempt to capture her and shut down the Flag Smashers. This is where everything gets horrible really fast. Hoskins goes ahead up the stairs and disappears. Sam arrives just in time to see Walker, wild eyed and breathing hard, bend a metal pipe in half and beat a Flag Smasher with it. Uh oh. Walker finds Hoskins on the top floor, and they’re quickly joined by Sam, Bucky, and the rest of the super soldiers. Karli lunges at Walker, but Hoskins pushes her back. She retaliates by kicking him into a concrete pillar so hard it cracks the pillar … and him. Everyone freezes. Walker, half-delirious, stumbles over to Lemar, who’s not moving. Karli, frightened, runs out, and Nico follows her.
Walker jumps through the window to stop them. He misses Karli, but catches up with Nico in the middle of the town square. While Nico screams, “It wasn’t me!” Walker stabs him through the chest several times with the shield, covering the bottom half in blood. Straight up murders him with this iconic symbol of American decency and hope, the same one Nico was admiring hours before. Walker looks up at the shocked faces of the crowd around them, filming it on their phones, as he strikes a pose right off of a comic book cover. Ironically, Karli didn’t have to kill him, she only had to push him to the point where he destroyed himself. Zemo would be proud.
- What happened post-blip parallels events in the UK after World War II. England—London in particular—needed people to help rebuild, so they invited residents of commonwealth nations to resettle and work. I talk about it in my recap of Small Axe.
- “The Dora Milaje don’t have jurisdiction here.” Has this man read a briefing about anything, ever?
- Yeah, I wondered how Walker processed the serum so quickly, too. MIT studied his body—maybe they could tell us?
- Oh my god, the shamed puppy dog look on Bucky’s face when Ayo took off his arm and cursed him. I wonder who’s going to be the next black person to rip that arm off?
- They have done a great job with Zemo as a character. He’s single-mindedness is deadly dangerous, but he’s so comfortable going with the flow until the flow goes with him. Plus he’s funny. I miss him already.