“The World Is Watching,” the fourth episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was a reminder of how the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is not seen in shades of black and white.
Even before the blip, or the Thanos snap, Captain America/ Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) had to learn this as seen in “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
For Rogers, the world was far different than the one he lived in before being frozen in a block of ice for 60+ years. Technology was giving governments, and the military, the power to survey and police the world. Furthermore, HYDRA was still very much alive and some politicians and high-level people have been in bed with the organization, like Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). And the world became much more different after the blip, and its restoration thanks to the Avengers.
The MCU had the world watching, alright. And the universe wanted us to watch the events that led to the end that had us learn more about how grey the world had become post “Avengers: End Game.”
The White Wolf and Ayo
The first part of the episode is a flashback that takes place six years ago in Wakanda. In this scene, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is getting deprogramed from the Winter Soldier program by Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a member of the Dora Milage, an elite female bodyguard group aimed at protecting the Black Panther. After being deprogramed, we see the former assassin crying tears of joy after getting his new-found freedom.
Back in the present day, James is speaking with Ayo, who is clearly not thrilled with Bucky letting Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) run free. She reminds Bucky that it was Zemo who killed T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father. King. While Bucky explains to Ayo that he needed Zemo’s help and that he was a means to an end, Ayo warns the former Winter Soldier that he had eight hours before the Dora Milage with apprehend Zemo themselves.
Is Katli Morgenthau Another Steve Rogers?
The character of Flag Smasher, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), has become a very interesting character; almost like a wildcard. In many ways, she shares some similarities with the first Captain America Steve Rogers, though she would hate to admit it.
Both she and Steve were orphans, both are idealistic, both are selfless, and both are symbols of their causes. Like Steve wanting to fight bullies, no matter where they are from, Karli is the same way. She sees the Global Repatriation Council as a bully the same way Steve saw the Nazis during World War II. She sees the GRC’s reset, restore, and rebuild mantra as a farce. To her, the GRC’s agenda is more like cheat, steal, and exile.
Nico, one of the Flag Smashers even opined that Karli was just like the first Captain America, which he admired as a child. Nico noted that people “need a leader who looks like them who understands their pain” and “understands that today’s hero don’t have the luxury of keeping their hands clean.”
Karli may not have the shield but is very much this generation’s Steve Rogers in contrast to the hot headed John Walker. An example of this is when she prefers to talk to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), rather than kill or fight him right off the bat (although she threatened to do so). What other super-soldier would do that? In the films, Steve was open-minded and approachable to many people (friend or foe) alike and only threw fists when he had to. We also see that like Rogers, she is very level-headed despite being threatened by the Power Broker, who wants his super-soldier serum.
Baron Zemo- the master manipulator and opportunist
To me, Baron Helmut Zemo (Daneil Bruhl), is a chess player of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” The villain is a couple steps ahead of the titular heroes and their allies. He can anticipate what can happen and once he sees an opportunity, he grabs it.
Or, he can also execute a move that is seemingly benign but can also be disruptive. An example of this dark but brilliant cunning can be seen when he tells Sam and Bucky that Karli is not an innocent little kid that she appears to be; she is a supremacist.
However, I see this as Zemo planting seeds of doubt within Sam and Bucky since the villain knows that Karli is, perhaps, someone who is very much like Steve Rogers or someone who is good. Another example of his chess moves we see is when he uses Turkish Delight to bribe a young girl into telling him where and when the funeral of Donya Madani would be before Sam or Bucky could.
Another notable example of Zemo being steps ahead is when he escapes the heroes not once, but twice. The first time was when John Walker handcuffed him while the impulsive super-soldier and others went after Karli.And the second time when Sam, Bucky, Walker, and Lamar Hoskins (Cle Bennett) were busy fighting the Dora Mirage. You see Zemo waiting patiently with a nonchalant expression on his face while all hell breaks loose which he anticipated would happen. And both of these incidents were instigated by Walker which I feel was the ultimate chess piece Zemo used to make his move.
Sam Wilson-The Counsellor
When we are introduced to Sam Wilson in “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” we see that he is not only a soldier with an awesome parachute/jetpack. He is also a counsellor of sorts. In the movie, we see Sam hold a support group for military veterans who have struggled with mental health.
It was Sam’s way of helping those who had dealt with loss like he did. However, during the events of “Winter Soldier,” Sam was skeptical of Steve reaching in to get Bucky. However, Steve was able to prove Sam wrong. I believe that Sam remembered this and thought that he could reach out to Karli and help her despite Zemo and Bucky doubting him.
This interaction between Sam and Karli was one of the most powerful scenes since it mirrors Steve’s resolve to never give up on eventually breaking Bucky out of HYDRA’s influence. Sam knows that Karli is still a young woman trying to make sense of the world. And there’s a good chance that she reminds him a little of Steve, or perhaps Bucky, due to her idealism and her tenacity to her mission. He understands why she is doing what she feels is right. People are having their homes taken away from them and being left out to dry. This is something that Sam knows is wrong but he is trying to tell Karli that there are other means of fighting this wrong. Just when Sam is about to break through to Karli, John Walker burns the bridge built between them and she becomes distrustful of Sam.
I believe that Sam’s willingness to try to connect with people and help them is one of the reasons why Steve passed the shield down to him. He knew that Sam could connect with anyone in a cathartic way just like he did with the war veterans.
Would you take the serum?
This episode was very centered on the super-soldier serum to the point where it was technically another character. There were two conversations that touched base on whether someone would willingly take the super-soldier serum. The first conversation was between Sam and Zemo.
Zemo asked the former paratrooper if he would take the serum. Without hesitation, Sam told him that he would not have taken the serum. Zemo noted that super-soldiers cannot exist and Sam questioned if that was how gods talked. He also asked “what about Bucky?” After all, it was Zemo who was a part of the Winter Soldier program and controlled Bucky with those words.
In another scene, John and Lamar have a similar conversation on the super-soldier serum. Walker asks Lemar the same question Zemo asked Sam: would he have taken the serum? Without hesitation, Hoskins responds with a “hells yeah.” John also asked if Lemar would not be worried with how it might change him. Lemar responds that since the power would make the person more of themselves.
He mentions Walker’s accolades of winning three medals of honor. Walker said that the medals were a reminder of the worst day of his life. He noted that he and Lamar had done some terrible things back in Afghanistan. This implies that he and Lemar have struggled with some post traumatic stress and probably never came to grips with it. John noted that being Captain America is the first time he did something that felt right. Lamar mentions that a lot of lives could have been saved had they been injected with the serum.
As mentioned by Brendan in a previous article, Walker symbolizes the warning Dr. Erskine’s (Stanley Tucci) warning in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Erskine told a pre-serum Steve that “the serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse.” And we can see that Walker, due to his frustration, and possible PTSD, is getting progressively worse and dangerous.
Captain America-John Walker Goes Postal
The world was introduced to a new Captain America. Enter John Walker (Wyatt Russell), an All-American who was an American as Norman Rockwell, Apple Pie, and the Fourth of July (Stole that from Lex Luthor in “Superman: Red Son,” you’re welcome).
He is a quintessential soldier with three medals of honor who proudly served his country. But little did the world know, this Captain America was not the same open-minded and selfless hero that Steve Rogers was.
This is a volatile man. Once more, this goes back to Erskine telling a pre-serum Steve about the serum making “good become great and bad become worse.” Just look at the Red Skull. When he took the serum, he went from bad to very worse both mentally and physically.
While John Walker may be the perfect soldier, that doesn’t mean he’s a good man. Pre-serum, Walker was probably impulsive and hot-headed but post-serum, it has gotten progressively worse to the point where his partner, Lamar Hoskins needs to calm him down.
He’s very much “The Walking Dead’s” Shane Walsh (Jon Berthnal) wearing a Captain America costume. We see Walkers descent to his demons when he inadvertently is responsible for Karli running away from Sam who was talking to her. We also see this when he gets bested in hand-to-hand combat by Ayo and her fellow Dora Milage bodyguards with him commenting that they were not super-soldiers.
Walker’s sadistic side is unleashed when Lamar is killed by Karli, who defended herself as he tackled her away from the super-soldier. This causes the new Captain America to kill Nico in cold blood with the iconic shield that was once wielded by Steve Rogers.
I felt that this was symbolic because the little did Walker know, he killed a man who once idolized her predecessor. I also felt that Nico’s blood on the shield was symbolic since it shows that Walker could have very well tarnished the true image of Captain America.
I am wondering if we would see a back story of Wyatt Russell’s John Walker and what he and Lemar went through in Afghanistan. I am also wondering what ramifications Walker would have to face for killing Nico in front of the entire world.
Would this be enough to convince Sam to finally take the shield that was bequeathed to him by Steve? I also wonder if we will see some reactions from within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How would Morgan Stark, the daughter of the late Iron Man, Tony Stark, react when she sees blood on the very shield she used as a snow sled? Or how would Pepper Potts react? How would the entire world react?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to impress with borrowing some of the material from the comics: the instability of John Walker, the Flag Smashers, Bucky’s road to redemption and self-forgiveness, and Sam Wilson’s gradual and eventual ascension to the Captain America mantle. And they use that material to create a show that resonates with societal views on how grey our world is, mental health, and war.
The world was watching and it was watching something that was telling a story about how complex our world and society really is.