The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 1×03, “Power Broker,” has its moments, but most of the episode feels disjointed and unfocused. This has been the case for most of the two prior episodes. I thought it was still trying to find its footing in an attempt to give the series the benefit of the doubt.
We are now halfway through the season, and hardly anything has happened. Sam and Bucky have traveled the world, painting the allusion that things are happening because they’re physically going places. However, they’ve made hardly any progress with their relationship as reluctant partners, let alone hardly any development personally — especially Sam.
The character development is so few and far between info dumps and verbatim references to past MCU movies that it makes me wonder what this could all be heading towards in the end. The show always teases moments that could be significant breakthroughs for these characters but never follows through.
There is hope The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could turn this around in the second half of the season. I want that for Sam and Bucky (and Sharon and Zemo). The show seems to keep losing sight of what it’s supposed to be about, so it isn’t easy to remain optimistic.
For that reason, I want to start with the thing that sparked the most joy for me in this episode: Sharon Carter’s return. It’s easy to see how the MCU hasn’t given Sharon Carter what she deserves. I have been impatiently waiting to see how The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would bring her back and, wow, it did!
Her entrance seems convenient in that, of course, she’s in Madripoor right when the guys need her to be, and of course, she has a safe place for them to stay right when they need one. Plus, she verbally recaps her role in Captain America: Civil War to people who were there, but she isn’t the only one guilty of this in this episode. It’s a frustrating element of this episode because it makes the characters look dumb. Of course, they all remember the Winter Soldier and Civil War‘s events because they changed their lives forever.
TFATWS likely does this to make the show accessible for viewers who haven’t seen the movies or don’t remember every detail. It just doesn’t work as best as planned because they do these recaps too often that it spends more time rehashing the past when there’s plenty to unpack in the present.
Sharon also agrees to a pardon rather quickly for someone who, rightfully, has a bone to pick with superheroes and the government. The latter may make more sense within the next episodes because Sharon appears to be working with someone behind Sam and Bucky’s backs. I can’t blame her for that.
Though the decision to help Steve and Sam save Bucky was her own, I can imagine that it is frustrating to remain in the shadows when other people on Team Cap don’t have to do that. I’m not sure what the line is there because neither Disney+ shows have addressed it straightforwardly. I’m sure it has something to do with the Sokovia Accords.
As a fan, it’s simply nice to see this character again and see her be more of a character than she was allowed to be in the movies. Sharon comes in, kicking ass, taking on all of Madripoor’s bounty hunters on her own while Sam and Bucky interrogate a doctor. I’m also pretty positive she says more lines in this episode alone than she does in two films. The same can be said for basically all of the returning characters on this show, though.
Like Sharon, it’s good to see Zemo and see him be more of a character this time around. His jailbreak is fine and fun, but it’s the other trouble he stirs up within his short time out from behind bars that makes me want to see more of this character.
There are information dumps about Zemo’s past that the show could have easily left out in this episode. The best one that deserves to stay is when Zemo tells Sam, “I’m a Baron, Sam. I was royalty until your friends destroyed my country.” That paired with Zemo’s absolute extra-ness of wearing that oversized coat to board his private jet is the kind of Zemo I want to see more of in the MCU. Daniel Brühl is excellent in the role, emphasizing the character’s charm and manipulative ways.
This is best exemplified during that plane ride towards the beginning of the episode. While a lot of this scene is the characters reminding each other of events they lived through, it exemplifies the tone I wish we could see more of on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The show refuses to let Bucky and Sam break down any walls with each other that it feels stupid to even root for them ever to see eye to eye. This scene on the plane lets them be a little more light-hearted around each other. Who would’ve known that all it would take is Zemo?
Alternatively, it is odd that Zemo knows that Bucky had to be desperate to come to him for information when both Bucky and Sam made it seem like Zemo was the only man they could turn to about Hydra at the end of the last episode. It’s also weird that Sam calls Zemo one of the most dangerous men. Yes, he blew up the UN and killed T’Chaka, and those things are terrible and inexcusable. But Zemo is just a man. He’s just a man who used his resources to turn the Avengers against each other from the inside. That makes him a threat to superheroes, but I don’t know if he warrants the villain factor that Sam tries to give him when they’re in the garage.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is setting up the Power Broker as the show’s main antagonist (alongside John Walker), so it feels silly to waste time trying to frame Zemo as someone on the same level as them. That’s why it’s weird (Do you see a trend with this episode?) that Zemo keeps his mask a secret and puts it on before causing an explosion that helps Bucky, Sam, and Sharon. This scene proves that he’s not an outright villain, even though he likely has his own plan that doesn’t include them.
We have never seen this mask in the MCU, so it has no meaning to fans that aren’t aware of its significance in the comics, yet it’s supposed to be a big deal when he puts it on. That’s how the show frames the reveal, anyway. It’s also never brought up again before the episode ends, which is out of character for two characters (Sam and Bucky) who like to poke fun at things like wizards’ existence and bad guys’ names. Since this is the first episode Zemo is in, I hope the show will bring more light next week. They’ll probably talk more about their time in Siberia instead.
Bucky’s book is Steve’s book! They’re not just similar; they’re the same notebook! That’s enough to fuel me in the Bucky Barnes department for the entire episode, which is a good thing. There isn’t much to appreciate about the development of either titular character, but Bucky still had more than Sam. More on that later.
Zemo uses Bucky’s time as the Winter Soldier to get into the room with Selby, who has no real significance to the plot other than to bring Sharon in to save their asses. This is frustrating as a long-time Bucky Barnes fan because Bucky is used as an asset once again. Bucky assures Sam that he’s alright, which is a welcomed moment shared between the two that have done nothing but bicker for the majority of their time together so far.
It’s unfortunate because Bucky was heading in the right direction to process his trauma, and Zemo throws him back into that mindset. Bucky could have said no, but I’m not confident that TFATWS had another way to get the trio into that room with Selby had Bucky disagreed with the plan.
TFATWS could use Bucky falling back into the Winter Soldier ways as an opportunity for Sam and Bucky to share a candid moment and maybe even the beginnings of friendship. Instead, the show uses that scene to bring the conversation back to the shield. That would be fine if there were more discussions about how all of this related to Captain America’s legacy. The show could benefit from a more refined focus on the message that its TV spots keep pushing: protecting the legacy.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier keeps introducing moving parts without fully addressing the ones that already exist within the show. It only adds fuel to the already large fire by adding Black Panther‘s Florence Kasumba as Ayo to the show. Her appearance isn’t entirely shocking because TFATWS keeps reminding Bucky and us of his time as the White Wolf in Wakanda. It makes sense that Ayo would only make her presence known to Bucky after Zemo breaks out of prison because she would want him to stay there for a very long time for killing T’Chaka. I’m not sure how that will fold into the many other aspects of this show, but it has three episodes to figure it out.
Falcon is the first character in the title, and Anthony Mackie is top-billed as Sam Wilson. “Power Broker” does not align with that at all. For most, if not the entire episode, it feels like Sam is just along for the ride. He’s the one that always needs to learn information. Bucky, Sharon, and Zemo are constantly pointing Sam in different directions. He should be playing a more active role in a show that’s supposed to be about him. That’s not a lot to ask.
Not to mention, Sam’s phone goes off during the undercover mission in Madripoor, which makes Sam look like he’s never done this before. This moment is another way for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to remind the characters and us of the other things happening within the show — like the Wilson family business going under. It doesn’t work in the lead character’s favor, though. Not everything has to go in Sam’s favor all of the time, but nothing has gone in his favor since the show began. Sam not turning his phone off before something that’s supposed to be so high-stakes is just silly.
There is more to Sam Wilson than we’re seeing, even though that’s what this show is supposed to let us see. Why is TFATWS holding back where it matters? There are only three episodes left.
- What was the point of starting the episode with a GRC commercial?
- Second question: What was the point of any of the John and Lamar stuff? All it did was strengthen the belief that John is a jerk and make me want more for Lamar than to be John’s voice of reason.
- It is cool to see Madripoor realized on screen.
- Zemo dancing during Sharon’s party!
- The costumes are pretty amazing in this episode!
- I guess it’s nice to get to know Karli some more, but I still don’t know where all of this is going.
- Too many references. Please dial back the references.
- Bucky cleaning his Vibranium arm!
- I hope that we get to see more of Isaiah Bradley’s story. It can’t end here.
- The circle back to “Will you move your seat up?” was greatly appreciated.
What did you think of this episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know in the comments below!
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