DISCLAIMER: I was provided access to this episode by Disney+.
Editor’s Note: The following review will only contain necessary spoilers, and only what appears on Disney+ descriptions and marketing materials.
After last week’s premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, (which you can read my thoughts on here), this week’s episode, entitled “The Star-Spangled Man”, wastes absolutely no time getting Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam (Anthony Mackie) together. Once the two meet, the two exhibit the same kind of chemistry that Riggs and Murtaugh exhibited in Lethal Weapon (no doubt an inspiration for their dynamic), while also surfacing the emotional journey yet to come in the four episodes remaining.
Avoiding spoilers, what brings them back together after not speaking for six months? Cap is Back! However, it’s not Sam or Bucky, but John Walker, a government-appointed Captain America (Wyatt Russell).
We first meet John Walker as he’s preparing to go on “Good Morning America” as part of the government’s final push for his unveiling as the new Captain America. This essentially is an updated version of the PR campaign Steve went through as a war bond salesman in Captain America: The First Avenger, even down to a drumline cover of “Star-Spangled Man”.
At the same time, Sam is busy with the Flag Smashers. After a short amount of bickering with Bucky about why Sam gave up the shield, the two head off for the mission of the week. This mission of the week I could’ve gone without – I get the reason for why it was needed, but it feels to exist solely to call back to The Cradle sequence in Age of Ultron while the two call each other names.
Likewise, the work the episode does with the new Cap team & the Flag Smashers feels quite pointless. Again, I get why the developments here need to happen and why they’re included in the episode, but even after watching the episode four times through, I have no idea why the new Cap team or the Flag Smashers are doing the things they are, especially when the three teams seem to be closely aligned with each other.
To get what I’m talking about, let’s go over the goals of all three parties. John Walker (and by extension, America) wants to get the status quo back, Sam and Bucky want to take the shield from Walker, and the Flag Smashers just want peace. I feel like there’s a way in which John Walker could step down from being Captain America, Sam regains the shield, Bucky becomes whatever new name Marvel wants to give him, and Sam could negotiate with the Flag Smashers for peace that doesn’t result in violence.
See? That’s not that hard.
Ultimately, the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes some much-needed improvements, but it still feels like its pulling many of its punches.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to stream with a Disney+ subscription. New episodes will be released every week.
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