Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Spoilers)

I liked this episode a lot more than the last one. There’s still some confusion in the plotting and the characters’ actions, but this one flowed much better and I thought the problems were more minor.

I had assumed the Power Broker would be revealed by now, and be a major antagonist, but that doesn’t seem as likely now. There are a lot of sets of characters now:

Bucky & Sam
New Cap
Flag Smashers
Zemo
Sharon
Power Broker
Dora Milaje

So I’m not sure how much space there is to reveal the Power Broker and have that plot line too.

People have been speculating that Sharon could be the Power Broker herself, or working for him. That could be a good end reveal, especially if Sam gets her the pardon he promised.

Yeah, it’s like I was saying up thread - super hero movies are a subgenre of action movies, and action movies are already very unrealistic about how strong and resilient human bodies are. Superhero movies take that baseline, and then add in people who can bend steel bars on top of it. Like, I’m pretty sure Sam, who also has no superpowers, would be dead if he were subjected to the actual g-forces involved in swooping around in that wing suit.

It’s why they explicitly told us in the 2nd episode that Walker hadn’t been enhanced in any way: to make it clear that when he did impossible bullshit, it was supposed to be normal human impossible bullshit, and not super impossible bullshit.

Its choppy…as if Sam and Bucky are along for the ride in their own series. Thats the kind of thing that happens when you’re shoehorning an agenda* into a story. Its a delicate balance. I still love the show but can see its faults.

*S’ok…happens all the time. Just makes a show choppy sometimes.

Nitpick: I got pulled right out of the show when Zemo was back in his apartment with a compress. There is ZERO reason he wasn’t in custody. His uselfulness was completely over at that point. What? everyone just went their seperate ways so Walker could bust in again and start yelling??

“How light the resumes…”

Welcome to 2021!

Look at ST: PICARD (well…if you saw it)…held together mostly til the last ep when the weight of inexperience* toppled the whole thing like a Jenga tower.

(Picard ending deleted for spoilers)

Anyway…my point is there are a lot of high-profile shows going to inexperienced writers and you just have to hope the positives outweigh the negatives. Like that final shot. That was a very powerful image. Carli’s talk with Sam’s sister, a little hamfisted but believable.

I would imagine Walker did not want him talking about the serum to anyone.

Here’s an interesting Twitter thread (unrolled) about John Walker’s costume and why it seems…wrong.

I have a lot more sympathy for Walker. He was really set up to fail just by being chosen, poor guy. He’s not really a villain, especially when put up against Steve “Perfect” Rogers.

It is worse than that; walker is being actively manipulated by whatever organization he works for (presumably some top level combatant command of the US military like USSOCOM) and put on show for the cameras just as they did with Steve Rogers hawking war bonds for an influential senator in Captain America: The First Avenger. The difference is that Rogers was personally selected by Dr. Erskine specifically because he was “a weak man” who would know the value and danger of the strength that the serum would give him. Walker was selected because of his war hero status even as he intimates that he is not actually proud of the things for which he was awarded multiple Medals of Honor. Walker is just a patsy for the real villain in this story.

Stranger

I was kind of hoping Hoskins would get some too, just to show another side of being a modern soldier who’s been enhanced. I also wonder if Zemo and Karli (who is very pretty but nevermind) will survive as well to be used later. Killing off your villains is such a dumb strategy.

The discussion of the suitability of Walker for the role he’s been thrust into made me think of the difference in eras and the soldiers of their given times. Given that it’s a Hollywood depiction that generalizes, stereotypes, and sugarcoats, I am reminded of the movie For The Boys, with Bette Midler and James Caan. During their USO shows, the soldiers of WWII are shown acting very differently from the soldiers in Vietnam. Gentlemen vs hooligans. Add in the realities of modern warfare and political manipulations, and choose the soldier to take up the shield, instead of Erskine’s good man.

The splash of blood on the shield was very striking, and could be said to be a symbol for America’s military adventures. With that in mind, Walker’s crime, even though (assuming) the world saw it online, will be glossed over and covered up by The Powers That Be. That’s my guess, anyway.

That’s a falsely nostalgic distinction, even within the narrative world of the MCU. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Colonel Phillips is disdainful of Dr. Erskine’s selection of Steve Rogers (a literal “ninety pound weakling”) and insists on using Hodge despite the fact that he is shown as disrespectful and makes a deliberately insulting pass at Peggy Carter (who rewardingly decks him for his crudeness), which doesn’t seem to be considered particularly outrageous behavior. Phillips argues, “You don’t win wars with niceness, Doctor. You win wars with guts!” Rogers, of course, is shown to not only be the bravest and smartest soldier in the candidate group, but also the one with the most compassion (“I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from,”) which Erskine knows is the critical characteristic for a super-powered soldier to remain humble and sane. Rogers is uniquely qualified because he’s never been in the position of exerting power and because his first thought is for others.

There is no indication that Walker is evil or deliberately malicious but he is clearly used to getting his way and being worshiped, first as a high school sport hero and then as a war hero. Playing backup to an ex-sidekick and a reformed assassin is grating on him even though he continues to enjoy the manufactured celebrity of the role (the marching band entrance, the soft focus interview that emphasizes his false humility, the fan celebrity, et cetera), as is the sense that he isn’t really as heroic as he’s made out to be. Notably, the title of the episode, “The Star-Spangled Man With A Plan”, is the same as the name of the song-and-dance routine of Steve Rogers hawking war bonds and punching out Adolf Hitler “from Hoboken to Spokane”. Walker is being used in the same way that Rogers was; whether he’ll figure that out and rebel against it or become increasingly angry and vengeful is another question entirely.

Stranger

Let’s perhaps compare and contrast to Wanda in WV and the discussion of her as hero or villain or maybe potentially either?

His first act a powered individual was to murder someone, someone not even guilty of what caused his rage, just handy and associated.

Villains and heroes alike generally think they are doing what they do motivated by a greater good and with justification.

Zemo has sincere motivations … and is a villian for what he has done in pursuit of them. Karli … maybe a good cause - we are led to think so - but she murdered people to make a point. Thanos … and on.

His motivations being less than pure evil and more pure ego may make him a marginally complex villain - but right now, that first powered act, that abuse of the essential symbol, tips him heavily into villain side of the scale. Maybe one capable of redemption, but on that side of the scale without question.

Power makes you more of who you are? An entitled ass, used to being admired but insecure of it, maybe with a bit of imposter syndrome mixed in, with anger management issues is who Walker has been. He is now that exponentially so. He will do as poorly as Homelander would with the world not worshipping him. He needs the worship and is now as unto a god. Anakin was manipulated too; Vader was still a villain.

My wife really liked Wyatt Russell’s likable loser in Lodge 49 and is really pissed that he’s playing a real douchebag in this show.

Tiny nitpick-his first act was to engage in a fistfight and win whereas before he’d been getting his butt kicked pretty regularly (and how they expected someone without some kind of advantage to step into Steve’s shoes I don’t know). We might also argue that he’s not been given any other choice to respond to this situation. Wanda and Thanos of course could have done a hundred other things, as could Karli and Zemo. He’s experienced PTSD and so has the same type of trauma as Zemo and Wanda, but he also had a choice to become Cap. I’d argue he is more complex than you suggest and even pitiable-he’s certainly not Homelander since Walker’s falling down a chute and I think knows it whereas Homelander feels in total control.

I read somewhere that having a Super Soldier do PR is a mistake and waste of his talents. But having one in the field is likewise a dangerous option. It’s a no-win situation (and they’ve yet to mention the Accords, which is interesting).

The music the marching band was playing on the field was, in fact, an updated, funkified, version of “The Star-Spangled Man With a Plan”.

It’s the Peter Principle. He’s a talented person, but up until now he’s only been faced with challenges that met his abilities. He’s finally been promoted to his level of incompetence and he’s failing spectacularly.
There were two things that stood out to me - one was Hoskins saying that he always made the right choice in battle. That’s pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen where he pretty much always makes the wrong decision under pressure. Either Hoskins is an idiot or Walker’s options have always been constrained and someone higher up the chain was actually handling the harder questions.
The other thing is his lack of social skills. He’s completely out of his element with people who don’t already find him impressive. His early comments to Sam, Bucky, and the Dora Milaje were the kind of “jokey” insults that you have to take from your boss - and that bad managers mistakenly think that people find fun loving. (I’m certain that he’s done the same things with his troops). And this time when people who didn’t have to put up with his crap didn’t respond positively to it, he whined that he got his ass kicked by a Black woman. He has no idea how to treat people with respect - probably because he doesn’t respect people.

At least they answered my nitpick of how everyone is being an ass to a three time MOH winner…I just assumed he wasn’t a figurehead because it didnt come up. I’m sure he’s brave as **** and all, but its nice to know now that Falcon and Bucky almost certainly know that he’s Joe Figurehead.

…I still hold Bucky and Falcon somewhat responsible for what has happened. It wouldn’t have killed them to have a convo with Walker that no one else has the balls to do so. At least tell him theres no dishonor to losing to the Dora.

What was Ayo’s line? “The Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever the Dora Milaje say they have jurisdiction”? That’s a very American attitude - usually, we’re the ones with so much power and money that we can act unilaterally and everyone else has to just suck it. That fight wasn’t just personally humiliating - for a guy like Walker, that loss was also a symbol of America’s loss of power and prominence - a reminder that he’s a second rate Captain America, for a second rate America.

Yeah, I noticed that, too. It’s all part and parcel of selling him as “The New Captain America”; I’m surprised they weren’t having him show up on Mad Money pushing investment in defense contractors.

It isn’t just that Walker was bested by the Dora Milaje; he is getting his ass kicked left and right to the point of just not being able to do his job. It isn’t at all surprising that he would take the serum given an opportunity, consequences be damned, and in fact given that the US has apparently had a supersolider program going on for decades previous makes it a little surprising that he wasn’t used as a test candidate for it.

As for Walker’s potential as a villain, he is certainly an adversary to Sam and Bucky, and his rage, insecurity, and guilt, accentuated by the serum, have and will likely continue to drive him to do bad things, but he isn’t a villain in the sense of having a concerted plan opposing what the protagonists want. He seems to act reflexively and without consideration for the consequences of his words and actions. Given the dislocations created by ‘The Blip’ and subsequent return, it is hardly surprising that unscrupulous people would move into the vacuum left by both Hydra and legitimate governments (whose actions and agendas are frankly not much more upstanding that Hydra if Secretary of State Ross is an example of how they have responded). There has always been something of a shadow authoritarian bent in the MCU (e.g. the shady “World Council” with its ability to order a nuclear strike on Manhattan, the Sokovia Accords being applied essentially unilaterally, and now the Global Repatriation Council with its resource hoarding and ignoring displaced persons) and Walker is the perfect “Follow orders without asking questions” type of soldier to be a face on it. He’s a patsy, and as long as he is beating up on the designated terrorists of the moment, i.e. the Flag Smashers, nobody is really going to question him.

The parallels to the events of the last couple of decades (e.g. the Global War on Terror, rise of authoritarianism, Syrian and other refugees, et cetera) are, of course, evident and intentional. John Walker is a reflection of the United States in turning jingoism into entertainment and singular acts of terrorism into an excuse for unchecked military adventurism. He represents an America that Steve Rogers would no longer recognize, and not just because of the digital billboards of Times Square.

Stranger

I wouldn’t be shocked if John just hands over the shield next ep…i think people are misjudging him.

Wait til Thunderbolts and getting indoctrinated by Ross for him to be more of a hardass.