by Sam Acosta
With its first episode being the most-watched premiere in Disney Plus history, all eyes are now on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” to live up to the hype. While this second episode does introduce some interesting aspects to the series, it feels like a lot of style with very little substance. I finished the episode wanting more, not because I loved what I had just seen but because I hadn’t gotten a lot out of it.
We start the episode with John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the new Captain America, in an interview with Good Morning America talking about his journey to becoming America’s newest hero. We get to see his heart and passion for what he’s doing. We also see as Bucky watches the mantle of his best friend be given to a stranger and, in his opinion, openly disgraced.
Bucky then angrily confronts Sam about giving up Steve’s shield, and Sam asserts that he didn’t know any of this was going to happen as a consequence. Their argument is cut short, however, when Sam is tasked with going to Munich to find the leader of the Flag Smashers. Bucky ends up joining him to check out the situation. Amidst their comedic banter, the dysfunctional duo is able to track the group to a warehouse, leading to a high-speed chase. They discover quickly, however, that all of the group’s members are super-soldiers.
They quickly find themselves outnumbered and outmatched, but they are saved by Walker and his sidekick Battlestar (Clé Bennett). While they are unable to defeat the Flag Smashers, the four heroes are able to escape mostly unscathed. Walker tries to convince Sam and Bucky to join forces with him, but his offer is promptly shut down.
Instead, our titular heroes attempt to seek out the source of all these super-soldiers on their own. Their quest leads them to Isaiah (Carl Lumbly), an African American super-soldier who hunted down Bucky back when he was the Winter Soldier. Isaiah offers them no clues, however, and soon after Bucky is arrested for missing his court-mandated therapy sessions.
The police agree to set him free at the request of Walker, but only on the condition that he and Sam talk through their grievances with Bucky’s therapist (Amy Aquino). While this conversation is mostly played for laughs, it also reveals the real reason for Bucky’s grievances: Steve believed in Sam as his replacement, and if Steve was wrong about him, then who’s to say he wasn’t wrong about Bucky too?
Afterward, Bucky and Sam meet up with Walker, who gives them one last offer to team up. They once again refuse, and the usually agreeable Walker ominously warns them to stay out of his way. With nowhere left to go, they decide there’s only one person left to turn to for answers regarding super-soldiers: Zemo (Daniel Brühl), in prison since his arrest in “Civil War.”
Let’s start with the positives of this episode. The chase sequence between the Flag Smashers and our heroes is an absolute blast to watch and definitely one of the best Marvel fights that we have seen. Even though it’s relatively short, it captures the same gritty intensity and electric thrills of the action in “The Winter Soldier.” It seems we will be getting one of these scenes every episode, which makes me worry that this pattern will eventually devolve into the “token action sequence of the week.” Still, in this episode, the “token” sequence was creative, energizing, and engaging throughout.
I also really enjoyed the unique look at John Walker’s background. We are obviously set to hate this new Captain America from the start, but this episode gives him a sense of humanity and earnestness. We sense his patriotism and his desire to do the right thing. I even found myself cheering for him during the fight with the Flag Smashers and afterward wanting Bucky and Sam to team up with him.
His character development is all but undone at the end of the episode, however, when he threatens Sam and Bucky. At that point, I went right back to hating him. I appreciate the nuance that they gave Walker (it was definitely the strongest part of this episode), but I hope it wasn’t just a throwaway fake-out and that they instead continue to build on this foundation.
Despite these great additions, the show still feels like it’s missing substance. The humor feels forced, and the dynamic between Sam and Bucky established in “Civil War” feels like it’s being shoved down our throat and doesn’t really go anywhere. The first two episodes of this series have given me less to think and be excited about than the first two episodes of “WandaVision,” which were both nearly half the length of these.
I still have hope for this series, and I am extremely excited to see what Zemo will bring to the table. While “WandaVision” set the bar incredibly high, I am rooting for this series to turn around and become even better than its predecessor. The show has so much going for it; it simply needs to tighten things up a bit, as it has the potential to become another amazing piece of Marvel entertainment.
Episode two 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.