With a shorter episode count, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier can’t afford to have underwhelming episodes. The Star-Spangled Man was anything but lackluster with a mix of blockbuster style action, genuinely funny comedic moments and thoughtful commentary on its main characters.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Star-Spangled Man was its portrayal of John Walker (Wyatt Russell) aka the new Captain America. Like Steve Rogers, there’s no secret identity and he’s on full kissing babies, signing autographs and doing publicity rounds.
John earnestly states he doesn’t want to let people down as the new Captain America. The obvious route would have been to immediately make him a jerk, but showing this humble side of him as he confides in his girlfriend/wife and best friend Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett, Arrow) of his concerns makes him more accessible.
Still, that doesn’t matter as Bucky is fuming seeing this stand-in take up Steve’s shield that he gave to Sam. This is a personal matter for Bucky, who has tried so hard to live up to Steve’s faith in him that he was worth saving and splintering the Avengers over. The shield isn’t a prop used for validation. It’s a gift that’s now in the wrong hands.
If anything held the first episode back it was the lack of actual Falcon and Winter Soldier interaction. That was quickly fixed here as Bucky and Sam get right back into their bickering groove. Falcon is ready to chase down The Flagsmashers to determine if it’s one of the Big 3 — Kevin, Kate or Randall? Oh, no, androids, aliens and wizards. Man’s got a point.
The banter between Sam and Bucky was hilarious. It’s wild to think that car seat exchange from Civil War could lead to an actual series with these two.
Falcon and Winter Soldier have more than a little trouble tangling with the Flagsmashers, but backup is on the way in the form of Captain America and Battlestar (Lemar with his costumed-out battle gear). The show is going hard on the Cap fill-in story and I’m loving all of it. Once again, Director Kari Skogland delivers an incredible action sequence that holds up just fine with the films.
John proposes a partnership since the two pairs can’t handle eight super soldiers on their own. Bucky has no use for a partnership and Sam gets turned off on an alliance when John says he’s just trying to be the best captain America I could be and it’d be a lot easier with Cap’s wingman on my side. The last line is always a killer.
Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman, Solo: A Star Wars Story) is one of the Flagsmashers’ leaders and she’s dealing with a harassing text thread where someone is threatening to kill her.
Bucky decides it’s time for Sam to meet someone in Baltimore and introduces him to Isaiah Bradley, a black man that was given the a derivative of the Super Soldier Serum more as an experiment and lab rat to replicate the formula to create more a Captain America more fitting America’s image.
This is mind exploding stuff that we got even a fragment of the Truth, Red, White and Black storyline in the MCU. Bucky doesn’t go into some long sermonizing message — it wouldn’t be his place — but through his actions Bucky shows Sam the reason why he shouldn’t have given up the shield.
It wasn’t just about living up to Steve Rogers’ Star-Spangled Plan. It was about raising the shield for Isaiah and the generations to come.
F&WS isn’t shying away from contemporary issues and we get another instance of Sam’s superhero status serving as a shield from the realities of life if he wasn’t an Avenger. The encounter with the cops this episode and the loan officer last week are instances that are subtly reinforcing why Sam has to be Captain America. It’s not the status, but being a light to call attention to these casual moments of racism. Maybe a black Captain America could change some attitudes?
This plays in to the first episode when Sam’s father died and his sister called him out for running away. We’ve seen Sam the soldier/Avenger who’s capable of tremendous feats of bravery, but in this series we’re seeing a side of him where he’s reluctant to take up the mantle of different roles — the head of his family in the wake of his father’s death and as Captain America.
Ironically it’s Bucky who gets arrested for missing therapy so he gets an impromptu session in prison. This therapy session could have been real goofy, but it’s hilarious while showing different levels to Sam and Bucky.
John helped speed up Bucky’s release and again proposes a partnership. This time, he’s not as nice when they blow him off. Bucky recalls the conversation with Isaiah and a line Sam thought was referencing Bucky’s race. Actually, it was about Bucky’s old running mates in Hydra. And the only person who knows anything about the group now is tucked away safely in a cell. Yep. It’s time to see Zemo.
The Star-Spangled Man accomplished a lot in introducing Sam and Bucky’s hero rivals, doubled down on their comedy, delivered another wild action sequence and set the stage for the return of one of the MCU’s best villains.
Yeah, this was a pretty solid episode. #RIPRedwing
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney+