Wakanda weak Captain America is this? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier “The Whole World is Watching”
Previously: The leader of the Flag-Smashers, Karli Morgenthau, is an anarcho-Thanosist terrorist with a Game of Thrones accent. Likes: bombs, stealing, being a super-soldier. Dislikes: governments, corporations, people other than her and her friends being super-soldiers. To track her down, Bucky and Sam understandably had to break a much more evil and destructive man out of jail and rip off an episode of Star Trek: Picard. They tracked her down to Latvia through “Donya Medani”, a random old woman she knew who died. The Wakandans tracked her down too; they’re following them because they want Zemo. Also following them is the jerk currently occupying the Captain America suit (more like Craptain America, amirite?) because he wants Morgenthau, but he also wants them to do all the work.
We open in Wakanda six years ago, where a still long-haired Bucky is sitting in a cave while a woman recites his code words to test if his brain is fully jailbroken. Flashbacks to his shameful deeds zip by while he grits his teeth and awaits the inevitable slipping into Assassin Robot Mode… but the slipping never occurs. He’s free. But what is freedom worth while he’s tortured by the memories of all the things he’s done?
Cut back to the present. Ayo, the same woman who was in charge of Bucky’s de-brainwashing, is also improbably in charge of hunting down Zemo. “How could you free him?” she asks Bucky. She’s understandably incredulous because Zemo killed the king of Wakanda and framed Bucky for it—an incident that occurred while she was the king’s bodyguard. Okay, that seems like overkill. One or two personal stakes in this mission should be enough, eh, writers? She gives Bucky eight hours with Zemo as a courtesy, then she’s going to scoop him up and take him back to a colorful Afrofuturist jail.
Bucky goes inside and tells Sam and Zemo about the Wakandans after them. Google News alerts informs them of Karli Morgenthau’s deadly bombing from last episode, which surprises Zemo not in the least. He argues that the super-serum inherently corrupts people. “The desire to become superhuman,” he says, “cannot be separated from supremacist ideals.” He paints the Nazis, the Avengers, and the Flag-Smashers with the same brush. What follows is the first of several philosophical debates in this episode about the morality of pumping yourself up with science juice so you can do more good in the world. It’s a particularly hilarious one to make in a superhero context. Sam’s basically arguing that yes, he flies around the world, accountable to no one in particular, and enforces his personal vision of law and order as he sees fit, and at one point he lived as a fugitive for a few years because the government wasn’t letting him do so… but he would never take super-steroids, because he doesn’t want to fall into the trap of considering himself superior to others!
The Flag-Smashers, meanwhile, are sitting in a circle and using Latvia’s free Wi-Fi to check on the Exposition News channel, which informs them that the global reach of the Flag-Smashers is growing, but in response, world governments are fast-tracking efforts to reestablish traditional borders. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the first action scene of the series derive a large part of its tension from the fact that Falcon was about to violate a country’s borders? What else needs to be reestablished here?
Our threesome bumble into a displaced-persons camp full of clammed-up people with Flag-Smasher decals all over their stuff and start asking about Donya Medani. Great detective work, guys. Zemo is getting better results by acting creepy as hell and literally handing out candy to children.
He finds out Donya’s funeral is in the afternoon, but he’s keeping the location secret as leverage. Not wanting to go in blind, Sam calls Agent Carter, who “may have access to a satellite or two”. What does “on the run” even mean in the MCU? Meanwhile, Karli and another Flag-Smasher go to a cemetery to retrieve the hidden unused doses of super-soldier serum.
John Walker and Battlestar, who seemed like they were going to follow and track Bucky and Sam secretly, instead meet them out in the open for a good bitching-out. They find out about Donya Medani’s funeral. Walker wants to go in and apprehend Morgenthau with guns blazing, but Battlestar encourages him to defer to Sam’s more talky approach.
Sam walks into the church while Morgenthau is eulogizing “Mama Donya”. She sees Sam but finishes the eulogy. Afterwards, Sam comes in to try to reason with her. He gets hooks in her with his sob story about how his sister is about to lose her livelihood thanks to the Blip. He convinces her that her crusade is making her betray her ideals, and now she’s starting to view the lives and deaths of people as roadblocks to be overcome, which is exactly how her enemies think.
But before he can make the sale, an impatient Walker bursts in, and now Morgenthau thinks this whole thing was just a trap. She makes a superpowered getaway. Bucky, Sam, Walker, and Battlestar all lose her. Zemo corners her in a boiler room and fires a gun at her. She dives behind a table, scattering vials of super-serum everywhere. One by one, Zemo smashes all the vials under his foot. But Walker kicks him in the head before he can smash the last one. Tempted by its power, he secretly pockets the vial.
Karli escapes with a bullet wound that her super-physiology can easily shrug off. But with horrible timing, the Power Broker texts the Flag-Smashers demanding his serum back. Faced with the prospect of fighting a two-front war, Karli proposes doing a divide-and-conquer strategy and then killing the new Captain America once they’ve got him alone.
Walker bursts in to Zemo’s guest house and demands Zemo surrender to him. Sam and Walker nearly come to blows over the issue when a spear whistles by and lands in the wall. Zemo’s eight hours are up, and Ayo and a few other Dora Milaje warriors march in and demand him. Walker refuses, and offends them in the process, so they start wailing on him and Battlestar. After watching amusedly for a few moments, Sam and Bucky decide to join in so Walker doesn’t die. In the confusion, Zemo slips away.
When the dust settles, Zemo’s slipped out through an escape tunnel under a bathtub. Sam compares him to El Chapo, who apparently exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What, was Iron Man too busy to catch him? Meanwhile, Walker is miserable because he got his ass whooped by a bunch of chicks! And they’re not even super-chicks! You can tell that here’s where he decides in his mind that he has to take the serum now.
Cut to Karli making a call, and it seems she’s gotten hold of the number for Sam’s sister Sarah back in Louisiana. Karli says she thought she could trust Sam, but then he led Captain America right to her. Sarah’s basically like “don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy.” Karli says Sarah sounds like a woman after her own heart. Karli gives her some coordinates to pass on to Sam, with the stipulation that he meet her there alone, or else Sarah’s family is… aw jeez, they’re going to have some bad things happen, gosh darn it, you know what.
Sam meets Karli at the coordinates. Bucky disregards Karli’s explicit instructions for Sam to come alone and accompanies him. Karli gives Sam an ultimatum: we’re really the same, you should join me, or at the very least stop chasing me and let me do the thing we both want to happen. Agent Carter pipes in on Sam’s communicator to say that Captain America is coming. Karli flips out and makes a superpowered getaway.
Walker and Battlestar enter the building, but get separated. The Flag-Smashers kidnap Battlestar and tie him up. They attack Walker too, but guess what? Now he can bend their guns and stuff! He must’ve taken the serum! What a wholly unexpected development! Sam and Bucky come in and they go on a quest to rescue Battlestar, but Battlestar has already cut himself loose.
A big fight ensues in an atrium, and at one point a Flag-Smasher gets Walker restrained. Karli comes roaring up to stab him, but Battlestar appears and tackles her. In retaliation, she punches him into a stone pillar. It’s not a particularly savage hit—approximately every single MCU character has suffered a blow of this magnitude. But for plot reasons, the physics of the Marvel universe have inconveniently picked this moment to remember that blows to the head can kill people, and Battlestar dies.
The Flag-Smashers scatter while Walker is bent over the corpse. He looks up, enraged, and chases after the first Flag-Smasher he sees. “Where is she?” he demands. He throws his shield at the man several times, kicks him to the ground in a public square, and pins him under his boot. The man can only shout “It wasn’t me!” before Walker grips the shield with both hands and beats him with the edge. Blood sprays everywhere. The man dies horribly. The citizens of the Marvel universe inconveniently choose this moment to remember that they own devices capable of taking pictures and recording video footage. He looks up and realizes what he’s done. How can America ever come back from this?
Next week: America comes back from this.