The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back after a year-long hiatus, and both WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on the Disney+ streaming service have been worth the wait. Episode 4 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier brings many of the simmering tensions between the characters to a violent boil, culminating in one of the most brutal scenes in the MCU so far.
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. In order to make sure you stay fully up to date, 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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Still in pursuit of Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag Smashers, Sam and Bucky track her down in Latvia — with some help from Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and his “irresistible” Turkish delights — at the funeral of the woman who raised her. However, the new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), and his partner Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett) are hot on their trail, and becoming increasingly frustrated by Sam and Bucky’s resistance to more aggressive methods of eliminating the Flag Smashers. Both parties’ efforts are complicated by the arrival of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite special forces unit, who want to bring Zemo to justice for the murder of their former king (in Captain America: Civil War).
During a raid on a Flag Smashers base, John and Lemar are ambushed, and John reveals that he’s taken the last remaining vial of super-soldier serum, which he recovered from an earlier fight with Karli. As John, Lemar, Sam, and Bucky battle the Flag Smashers, an enraged Karli joins the fray, killing Lemar with a devastating punch before fleeing the area. John tracks down one of the escaping Flag Smashers and brutally kills him with Captain America’s shield, in full view of a crowd of onlookers. The episode ends with John looking at the people around him as he picks up the now-bloodied shield.
A shield, tarnished
Although it’s no surprise that John Walker was unable to live up to Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) legacy, the bloody moment that hammered that fact home is still disturbing. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has featured plenty of big episode-ending moments, but none compare to the image of Captain America carrying a blood-drenched shield as a crowd of people gaze at him in fear instead of respect or admiration. As the episode title teases, The Whole World Is Watching — and now we know what they saw.
John’s murder of the Flag Smasher, Nico (Noah Mills), is particularly upsetting given Nico’s confession earlier in the episode that he was once a fan of Captain America. This is a new Captain America, though, and the way in which he dispatches Nico offers a powerful point of comparison between Steve Rogers and John Walker. In the climactic final battle of Civil War, Steve manages to overpower Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and knocks off the helmet of his Iron Man armor, leaving Tony vulnerable. Steve brings up his shield in much the same way John does, but instead of murdering Tony, he brings it down on the arc reactor powering his armor, incapacitating Tony instead of killing him.
If anyone needed a more clear distinction between Steve Rogers and John Walker’s two versions of Captain America, that’s about as direct as you can get.
With the fourth episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the brief superhero career of Lemar Hoskins, codenamed Battlestar, comes to a violent end. Or does it?
Although Lemar’s death appears to be the instigating element that sends the new Captain America completely off the rails, this is the MCU, so anything is possible when it comes to resurrections. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Lemar’s story is over, given that the character was never a major figure in the Marvel Comics universe and often played second fiddle to John or other characters he teamed up with during his few appearances in Marvel’s comics timeline.
As we saw in several episodes already, Lemar was often the voice of reason to John, supporting him while also providing a moral compass of sorts when the weight of his new role seemed too much to carry. Without Lemar, it’s anyone’s guess what direction John will go, and with his body now filled with super-soldier serum, he’s clearly as much of a ticking time bomb as Karli and the Flag Smashers.
Wakanda forever and ever
The return of actress Florence Kasumba as Ayo in this episode is a real treat, particularly when it also provides another opportunity to see the Dora Milaje in action. If there’s anything MCU fans have learned across the last few phases of the movie franchise, it’s that Wakandans are not to be underestimated — or challenged.
Given that the Wakandans kept their entire nation a secret from the world for generations, it shouldn’t be shocking that Bucky wasn’t aware of a secret method they installed for separating him from his powerful, vibranium arm. When the secret does come out, though, Bucky isn’t the only one surprised by it. along with this key moment, the episode also provided the first look inside his years as the “White Wolf” of Wakanda, when his brainwashing was removed and his new arm was created between the events of Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
John Walker rising
The episode’s final scene paints John Walker as the murderer he is, but it’s worth noting that the Marvel Comics version of John exists in a very gray area of the publisher’s universe of heroes and villains. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has hinted at John’s traumatic past as a highly decorated soldier who was ordered to do terrible things in service to his country, and that’s worth keeping in mind as John’s story unfolds in the series.
In Marvel Comics lore, John has alternated between clear-cut hero and something more akin to an antihero at various points but has rarely been a full-on villain. His beliefs put the needs of his country over any personal attachments or ideology, and his comics history is filled with events in which he was used as a pawn by the U.S. government or more sinister forces controlling it. At one point in his career, he even served as the American liaison to a Canadian superhero team, serving at the request of Tony Stark himself. Like his comics counterpart, John is a character full of nuance in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and anyone who thinks he’s the villain of the story could be surprised as events play out.
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere every Friday on the Disney+ streaming service.
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