by Sam Acosta
Episode three of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” throws a lot of exciting new elements and characters into the mix. The plot is becoming more interesting, but the execution is still somewhat sloppy. While I like the direction the show is headed, I wish it was moving that direction in a straight line instead of swerving its way forward.
The intro sequence has Bucky talking with Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who claims to know where to find information about the new super-soldier serum. Sam isn’t convinced of this claim, especially after Bucky tells him that Zemo wants them to break him out of prison in exchange for his help.
Before Sam can object, it is revealed that Bucky has already helped Zemo escape, and Sam reluctantly agrees to go along with the plan. The trio flies to the city of Madripoor, a hub of organized crime crawling with ruthless, well-off criminals and their hired mercenaries. To infiltrate the city, Bucky reclaims the mantle of the Winter Soldier, assuming the role of Zemo’s “personal bodyguard,” while Sam pretends to be a criminal known as the Smiling Tiger.
Once inside, Zemo asks to speak to someone named Selby (Imelda Corcoran). At first, his request is roughly rejected, but after Bucky incapacitates a few of the guards, the trio is let in to see her. Inside, Zemo offers the services of his “bodyguard” in exchange for information on the new super-soldier serum.
Selby tells them that the serum is the work of Dr. Wilfred Nagel, but before they can learn more, a surprise phone call from Sam’s sister blows their cover. During a desperate escape, our heroes are overrun by guards but then saved by none other than former S.H.I.E.L.D agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who, last time we saw her, was helping Steve, Bucky, and Sam evade capture in “Civil War.”
Sharon reveals that she was forced to go into hiding in Madripoor after being branded as a traitor for her actions. At first, she is unwilling to help them hunt down Dr. Nagel but is convinced when Sam promises to get her name cleared if she helps them.
She leads them to the shipyard where Nagel’s lab is hidden. Zemo, Bucky, and Sam investigate while Sharon stands guard outside. The trio is able to get the scientist to talk as bounty hunters quickly descend on their position. As Sharon fends them off outside, the group discovers that Nagel has seemingly perfected the serum at the request of the Power Broker and is making more after the theft of his first batch by Karli and the Flag Smashers.
Out of spite for the doctor’s work, Zemo abruptly shoots the scientist, ending the spill of information. Before our heroes can react, a bounty hunter launches an RPG at the lab, making the whole place go up in flames. An intense firefight ensues, and the situation seems hopeless until Zemo, donning his comic-accurate purple mask, single-handedly takes out most of the assailants before casually driving up in a fancy muscle car for our heroes to make their escape in.
Sharon stays behind, reminding Sam to uphold his end of the deal and get her name cleared. The trio then flies to a safehouse in Latvia. Once there, Bucky decides to take a walk, where he finds a trail of high-tech beads that lead him to Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a Wakandan warrior in search of Zemo. He was the one, after all, who orchestrated the U.N. bombing that killed King T’Chaka in “Civil War,” meaning Ayo is definitely not there on friendly terms.
This episode introduced a lot of intriguing story elements that I loved. Oddly enough, Zemo is my favorite character of the series so far. He comes across as so personable, which is strange, considering he is supposed to be an incredibly threatening villain. His dynamic with Sam and Bucky and his knowledge of the criminal underworld make him compelling in his own right while also adding to the story as a whole.
I also appreciated the introduction of Madripoor, and I’m hoping it’s a place we’ll get to see again at some point. It is an incredibly story-rich place in the comics, and our excursion through it in this episode barely scratched the surface of its narrative potential. It seems the show’s main link to the city will be the Power Broker, Madripoor’s inscrutable ruler who is apparently hunting down the Flag Smashers and the doses of super-soldier serum they stole.
Once again, the action sequences were a highlight in this episode. They were highly polished and helped ramp up the pacing of the story. It was surprisingly satisfying to see Zemo show off his combat skills, especially since we have never gotten to see that side of him. In “Civil War,” he was presented as a primarily intellectual villain, but his action chops here demonstrate his abilities extend far beyond his intellect.
Sharon’s role was interesting as well. After the team leaves, we see her get picked up by an unknown character and tell her that there’s a big problem they need to deal with, implying that she might have a bigger part to play in the story down the road. Are her intentions more elusive and sinister than she lets on? Does she in fact work for the Power Broker? While I felt her character had little to offer in this episode (besides her thrilling, bare-knuckle fight scene taking out the bounty hunters), she could potentially play a much bigger role in future episodes.
Meanwhile, the Flag Smashers’ presence in the show is becoming more and more disappointing with every episode. They barely get anything to do in this episode, and what they do get to do is both confusing and disturbing. Their importance to the plot seems to center around their leader Karli, who is presented as a good person trying to help her people but committing terrible crimes to do so. I understand the effort to humanize her for the sake of the story, but the show has consistently spread itself too thin trying to make its antagonists extremely sympathetic and relatable (see John Walker’s character development in the previous episode). I am completely ambivalent toward the Flag Smashers at this point, which is disappointing because I loved them as a concept when they were first introduced.
Overall, this episode is a step in the right direction. The introduction of Zemo, Sharon, and later Ayo adds a lot to the story, and I’m excited to see what each has to offer to the plot. I wish that the execution was better in some places, as I am still left feeling generally unsatisfied. Luckily, I am more optimistic this time around and have high hopes for episode four and beyond.
Episode three of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Sam Acosta is a sophomore Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays.