After a year without any Marvel projects, WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier have finally brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe back to the screen via the Disney+ streaming service. The second episode of the latter series introduces several new characters and puts the spotlight on the new Captain America, amid other notable, action-packed moments in this chapter.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier brings MCU actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan back as Sam Wilson and James “Bucky” Barnes, respectively, who are better known as the high-flying Falcon and the deadly Winter Soldier. Set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, the reunites the duo in a world missing their friend and mentor, Steve Rogers, that’s faced with a host of new threats.
In order to make sure you don’t miss anything, we’ll take a deep dive into each episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and discuss some of the notable moments and MCU-relevant elements you might have missed. (This article will discuss plot points from the latest episode, so consider this a spoiler warning if you haven’t watched it yet.)
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After the first episode’s surprise introduction of John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as the new Captain America, the next chapter of the series dives into his character a bit deeper with an episode titled (appropriately enough) The Star-Spangled Man. We learn a bit more about Walker’s background as a highly decorated soldier and eventually get to see him in action when he assists reluctant teammates Sam and Bucky on a mission to stop a mysterious shipment transported by the terrorist group known as the Flag Smashers.
The depth of Sam and Bucky’s’ animosity for each other is on full display in the episode, and the only thing the pair seem to agree on is their dislike for Walker, who brings along his own mission partner, Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett), who goes by the code name Battlestar. After discovering that the Flag Smashers they fought appear to be a new kind of supersoldier akin to Steve Rogers, Sam and Bucky visit Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a Black man subjected to supersoldier serum decades earlier whose existence was kept a secret by the U.S. government.
The episode concludes with Sam and Bucky planning a visit to the imprisoned Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) to find out more about the Hydra organization’s history with supersoldiers.
The introduction of Isaiah Bradley into the MCU is a big deal, as he’s an important figure in Captain America’s comics lore.
Bradley was introduced in the 2003 miniseries Truth: Red, White, and Black, written by Robert Morales and illustrated by Kyle Baker. The series first introduced the idea that the U.S. military tested the supersoldier serum on Black soldiers long before it was administered to Steve Rogers, in a tragic story inspired by the real-life Tuskegee Experiment. Of the 300 soldiers the military experimented on, many suffered brutal mutations and grisly deaths, either due to the serum’s effects or to the combat trials and missions they were forced to undertake, with Bradley ending up the sole survivor.
Red, White, and Black chronicled Bradley’s story and the subsequent cover-up by the U.S. government that made him a forgotten hero, cast aside by the country and suffering debilitating brain damage as a result of the experimentation that eventually led to the procedure used on Steve Rogers.
While he only appears briefly during Sam and Bucky’s visit with Bradley, Isaiah’s grandson, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson) — who answers the door and later ushers the pair out — is also an important character in the Marvel Comics universe (if not the cinematic one). In Marvel’s comics lore, Eli becomes the hero known as Patriot, donning a costume similar to the one worn by his grandfather, Isaiah, and is given Captain America’s first, triangular shield to use. He spent much of his hero career as the leader of the Young Avengers, a group of teenage heroes with connections to the adult Avengers.
While Sam and Bucky are preparing to investigate the Flag Smashers’ warehouse, Bucky suggests the pair should steal back Captain America’s shield from Walker, prompting Sam to offer a few reminders of the problems they faced the last time they went rogue and crossed the U.S. government.
Referencing the events of Captain America: Civil War, Sam reminds Bucky that his decision to ally himself with Steve Rogers when the latter refused to sign the Sokovia Accords (putting the Avengers under the control of an international government agency) forced many of them to go into hiding for several years. That decision also resulted in former S.H.I.E.L.D. and C.I.A. agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who helped them, being branded an enemy of the state. With VanCamp confirmed to be reprising her role as Carter for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, this casual name-drop is likely anything but, and we can expect to see Carter again at some point in the series.
Along with Isaiah Bradley, two more Marvel Comics characters were introduced to the MCU in this episode of the series.
First introduced in 1986, Lemar Hoskins’ comics timeline has him starting out as a soldier who becomes a professional wrestler and partner to Walker early on, operating under the codename Battle star, both before and during Walker’s time as Captain America. The pair operated as partners throughout much of their early lives, but eventually parted ways as Walker’s path took a darker turn, with Hoskins opting to go it alone or work as a paid mercenary at various points. Whether the MCU’s version of Hoskins will follow that path remains to be seen.
In Marvel’s comics, Hoskins was granted superhuman abilities by a criminal looking to exploit people who will pay for superpowers. That criminal was known as The Power Broker, and it looks like he’ll have a role to play in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, too.
When the Flag Smashers are shown loading supplies into an airplane in Slovakia during the second episode, one member of the group alerts the rest to the imminent arrival of “the Power Broker’s men,” forcing them to sacrifice one of their own in order to make a getaway. There have been multiple versions of the character known as Power Broker in Marvel Comics history, but both iterations have been criminals profiting off the ability to grant superhuman abilities to anyone willing to pay a high-enough price. Given the revelations of episode 2, it appears that the Power Broker will play a similar role in this series.
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere every Friday on the Disney+ streaming service.
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