Spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (FAWS) through episode 3. Turn back now if you don’t want to read them.
I want to start out by giving fair warning that I’m going to engage in some speculation about FAWS episode 3 which, if I’m right, is going to point out details which are a big spoiler. Granted the key part of that is “if I’m right” which I very well may not be. But the details I point out, though based on nothing more than what was seen in the episode plus the publicity for the show, could still be considered spoilery by some.
I’ll bump that down a bit though for folks who want more general episode thoughts. Basically once you see me start a section named after a specific character that’s when the possible spoiler stuff might kick in, so if you want to bail out there it’s totally understood.
(See? I’m not even saying which character. I’m nice like that. :D )
The Confusing and the Less Than Great
I have to say that on the whole this episode didn’t do a lot for me. Yes I was thrilled to finally see Sharon and Ayo showing up at the end was exciting. But the episode itself felt weak.
Not that it didn’t have nice parts. It was exciting to see Madripoor, typically an X-Man property, show up in the MCU. I think they did a nice job of rendering it on the screen.
There were also nice bits of acting. In particular I liked Bucky looking like a kicked puppy when Zemo said he’d have to channel his Winter Soldier side for the mission.
But there were also a lot of things which didn’t gel or make sense.
For example, one thing which didn’t gel for me was the overall dumbing down of Sam. As I’ve said before, I have nothing against the concept of taking the piss out of a protagonist. But there’s a time and a place. It makes sense to do it to Bucky to help humanize the brooding cyborg vibe he has going. It would even make sense to do it to Sam in the right moments, such as my hope that his sister gets to tease him like siblings do.
But when it’s Sam on a mission, Sam who has worked for the military and who was on the run from the law for years after Civil War, and he can’t work an undercover persona or remember to put his phone into airplane mode? That’s making Sam stupid for no reason.
You don’t even need to dumb him down for many of the same jokes! In the comics Smiling Tiger is mute. You could’ve mined a lot of humor out of Zemo tricking Sam into playing somebody who can’t speak and then Sam being made to drink that snake cocktail because he tried to simply nod and then got stuck.
It also doesn’t come off well when Sam straight up lampshades what’s going on by saying he’s the one who isn’t worldly compared to the others which - again I remind you ON THE RUN FROM MULTIPLE GOVERNMENTS FOR YEARS. He has fought in WARS both as a regular member of the Air Force AND as an Avenger. Why is he being suddenly treated as a yokel for no reason? Arguably he should be more worldly than Bucky who, though older, was brainwashed and repeatedly on ice for decades! It’s not like the Winter Soldier was going to the opera in between missions!
This then gets into things which don’t even make sense, like the stolen art which Sam confirms to be the real deal when he scans it with his phone. Because if there is one thing tourists absolutely NEVER do in museums it’s take pictures of the fucking artwork.
There’s more with how Sam was handled but it ties into the possible spoilers so I’ll get to it when I get there. However the lack of logic wasn’t limited to Sam. I mean I don’t want to tell the Flag Smashers how to do their jobs but maybe keep your masks on until after you’ve left the crime scene?
Also what was the logic with Karli’s car? She drives there but hitches a ride with Dovich to go home and he doesn’t think to ask her why she’s leaving evidence behind? Why did nobody think it was weird she brought a car in the first place if she didn’t load stolen supplies into it? The Flag Smashers have to eat donated liver but they’ve got this many SUVs to spare they don’t worry about Karli’s intermittent preferences about the ability to be in the HOV lane?
I realize this is all stuff that doesn’t affect the moment of Karli using explosives to turn innocent people into her own version of Thanos dust but it’s still emblematic of a lack of thought put into many of the scenes in the episode. Everything I just said could’ve been solved by Karli leaving a large ass duffle bag in the same spot, Dovich going “Hey did you forget your - “ and then BOOM!
We get still more logic fails with Zemo. He’s got connections enough to get the key to his cell slipped to him but that same guard can’t create a diversion on his behalf? You need somebody with the Winter Soldier’s skills and only the Winter Soldier’s skills to slip a tiny note onto a gaming table? Also this super security prison which holds The Most Dangerous Man like Zemo sees no problem with letting guests walk through Gen Pop on their way out the door? They don’t, yanno, have a whole other hallway for that?
The Somewhat Good
I do like that we’re getting Wakanda in the mix. In hindsight it makes sense that Ayo would be the one to show up both because she was the first member of the Dora Milaje we met in the MCU and because Florence Kasumba probably had a more flexible schedule than other Black Panther cast members (RIP Chadwick).
Obviously we have to wait and see how she and Wakanda are handled in the show but a lack of Wakanda in FAWS would’ve been noticeable. Sam of course has a vastly different experience as a Black man than Wakandans do, but somebody like Ayo would still understand the idea of taking on a mantle with a reputation and responsibility to your country which might feel bigger than you are.
Also not for nothing but if you’re going to be going on and on about how Captain America = whoever has the shield you at least need to touch on why the answer to the shield problem is something other than Bucky hits the “Call Shuri” button on his speed dial and asks her if she can make a few dozen more using whatever Vibranium got tossed into recycling that week.
(I get that the answer is “Because Steve’s shield specifically is a symbol” but I’ll remind you Steve’s shield got ripped to pieces in Endgame so we’re arguably in Ship of Theseus territory again.)
Speaking of our female characters, I loved that Sharon got to kick ass 1) entirely on her own, 2) against multiple people, 3) with no super powers, and 4) without having to fling her crotch in someone’s face as a finishing move. It’s sad that this is apparently such a high bar for a fight scene involving a female character but when we’ve had years of the MCU and that bar only just got met right now… well yeah. It’s nice to see.
On that note:
This would be the potentially spoilery bit.
Let me warm up to it both to explain my thoughts and to help give space to folks who don’t want to see spoilers.
First up, I’m glad we finally saw Sharon after knowing all this time that she’d be on the show. I’m down for this version of her which is understandably bitter about how things were left for her after Civil War. I would point out that Sharon being left high and dry without even a phone call is more Steve’s fault than Sam’s but I get for how that difference would be academic from Sharon’s point of view.
What started to not sit well with me is that Sharon, blond haired, blue eyed, white woman Sharon, gives a speech about the naivete of believing in heroes and the goodness of systems to the Black man. Either this is a scene in which the dynamic going on was not noticed as being problematic by anybody involved in the show or - as hinted by Bucky saying Sharon is awful now - it was done on purpose to put Sharon in a bad light.
Here’s the thing. I take notes as I watch the show. Nothing fancy, just quick bullet points as I notice things so I remember to address them when I do my writeup. In my notes, during the scene with Selby, I wrote down, quote: “Interesting that AFAIK we don’t know who was cast as Power Broker.”
Then we get to the end of the episode and I think to myself oh dear, I think Sharon is the Power Broker.
Now I could be wrong! It would not be the first time! But there is some evidence to support this theory.
First up, as I said, we don’t know who was cast as the Power Broker. Given that we knew about Karli and #NotAmericasAss’s casting, both in terms of the actors being on the show and the characters that they would be playing, it stands out that somebody as significant as the show’s ultimate Big Bad hasn’t even been hinted at. So either this is an amazingly well kept secret or we’ve already met them.
Emily VanCamp, on the other hand, was heavily hyped as being part of the show from the moment the show was a gleam in Kevin Feige’s eye. Which implied that she had a role bigger than a one off in Madripoor even before we saw her ride off at the end of the episode.
The Power Broker doesn’t get pronouns. Even Nagel in his monologue never used one, not even a “they.” It was always the full proper name. This suggests that the show is trying to misdirect us about gender. (In the comics, the Power Broker is male. Of note, so is Karli’s character.)
Sharon’s kick ass fight with the bounty hunters was brutal, including head shots. This is either an indication of understanding that female characters without super powers need to be more brutal to match stronger opponents or it’s a hint that Sharon’s darker now than we might suspect.
The woman Sharon meets up with at the end is credited as “Sharon’s bodyguard.” So not a government agent of some kind, which would imply Sharon is working under cover for the CIA or some such.
Sharon is living large in Madripoor - including an expensive apartment in Hightown while Zemo can barely get a drink in a Lowtown dive bar - which indicates Sharon’s doing better on the criminal ladder than Zemo is. Given that Zemo nearly brought down the Avengers that does suggest that Sharon’s criminal activities might be something more than stolen artwork.
This would also turn a plot hole into a plot point: the boys are on the run from bounty hunters and need to lay low. Which they do by… being publicly visible at a crowded party? Either this is another moment of stupid logic or Sharon had the power (heh) to keep the bounty hunters off them.
Of course this does bring up something which pokes holes in the theory, which is why Sharon would need to fight off her own bounty hunters at the shipyard. Likewise why would she bring the boys to Nagal if Nagal is her sole supplier of the serum? She had to know that wouldn’t end well.
Granted it’s possible that she’s pulling some kind of Xanatos gambit, particularly as it relates to the Power Broker’s need to get Karli for stealing the serum. Which frankly I would be all for if it’s true. I’d love if part of Sharon’s heel turn into villainy is that she’s better at 5D chess than Zemo is.
I would also 100% tip my hat if Sharon is the Power Broker and thus the show put that in plain sight by having her appear in the episode titled, yanno, Power Broker. I am all for that kind of meta humor.
Also on a meta level, the “not much happened, really” vibe of this episode which I am not the only one to notice would play differently if this episode is the one that gave us the Power Broker even if we weren’t aware of it yet.
Me being me once I started pondering the theory of Sharon as the Power Broker I went back and studied the costumes to see if there were any hints to be found. It’s a tough call. Sharon wears nothing but black but so does Bucky. Her silhouette is different from Sam and Bucky’s, with her coat coming closer to sharing things in common with Zemo’s longer one, but that could just as easily be due to a need to make it easier to slip Emily’s stunt double into a scene without making it noticeable (much like all the hoodies everyone wears).
So there’s things that could mean something but it’ll be harder to say until we get more data.
Anyway, those are my thinky thoughts. I could be wrong.
- As promised, I am signal boosting reviews and essays on the show written by those who aren’t lily white like myself. We’ve got Charles Pulliam-Moore talking about how the show handled race in episodes 1 and 2 and The Root is covering the show as well. I’ll add more as I get them. Also keep an eye on my twitter because I’ll RT stuff which is great food for thought on topics raised by the show but might not be connected to the show enough to get mentioned in these reviews.
- Nothing says "Tell me which parts were filmed before and after covid" like one scene of people partying shoulder to shoulder in a tight space and another scene of four people spread out into every corner of a giant room.
- Tonight’s episode was written by Derek Kolstad, who is perhaps most famously known for writing the John Wick movies. On the one hand, if you’re going to have an episode involving an assassin kick ass in a shady nightclub you’d want the writer of John Wick to do it. On the other hand I wonder if we only had that fight because when you write John Wick that’s your hammer and every script is a nail.
- I think it’s interesting that an argument could be made that #NotAmericasAss is actually the ideal Cap for symbolising America as it currently is. Which is to say not great, Bob.
- I wonder if Zemo’s speech about the danger of super powered people as symbols will end up influencing Sam’s decision to take on the role of Cap.
- Sam is me with regards to Zemo. I’m very WE GET IT YOU’RE EVIL. Fucking poser making a big show of reading Machiavelli just in case we didn’t notice he’s a scheming mastermind. You know Zemo read Atlas Shrugged when he was twelve and never shut up about it ever again.
- “I can’t run in these heels!” AHAAHAHAHAHAHAHHA
- I liked Bucky being smart enough to stay by the door of the container when they first entered to make sure they didn’t get trapped.
- Interesting use of the blip to talk about things that got interrupted such as Nagel’s work
- Also, you know Nagal is in a science place because there’s beakers and flasks with colored liquids in them!
- Obviously Isaiah’s story is a direct correlation to the Tuskegee experiments but I think it’s worth noting the use of his blood without his permission ties in to the story of Henrietta Lacks as well.
- If we’re paying attention to costumes, worth noticing that nothing Zemo wears vibes with anything Sam and Bucky wear. He looks the odd man out in any scene of the three of them.
- Also even when all the other characters are dressed in black, Sam has on a brown coat. Bucky, Sharon, and Zemo all have darkness in them that Sam does not.
- Costumes do raise a continuity error though. The four of them are wearing the same clothes in the shipyard, which is during the day, that they did at the party, which was at night. Whoopsie!
- They say that Apple refuses to let their products be used by villains in movies and TV shows. We see Sharon with two different phones during the episode. Just putting that little factoid out there. What you do with it is up to you.