The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 4, “The Whole World Is Watching,” starts strong. Most of Episode 4 works to resolve issues from the previous episodes. The biggest issue resolved to be that Sam Wilson is an active character in this episode. It’s the final five minutes that take the show down a much darker path than most likely anticipated.
Episode 4 is the best depiction yet of the blurred lines between heroes and villains, like TFATWS‘ team always said the show would explore. On the other hand, those final five minutes don’t leave any room for questions about whether John Walker is a hero or villain. There is no coming back from what happens at the end of this episode because the whole world is watching.
The White Wolf
Whenever we learn more about Sam and Bucky or fill in the gaps between previous projects, I eat up every second of it. That’s what makes these shows so appealing to me, and I have a feeling I’m not alone in that. There have been more opportunities for this on Bucky’s side of things, but this episode does start to balance it out a bit better than the other ones. It’s just unfortunate that it comes at Episode 4 of a six-episode season. Nevertheless, the opening in Wakanda isn’t long, and it doesn’t need to be. Once again, Sebastian Stan became accustomed to doing a lot with a little, and he knocks it out of the park in this scene. It’s hard not to break down with Bucky when it hits him that he’s finally free.
This scene also reconstructs what we already knew about Bucky’s time in Wakanda. We only knew that Shuri was involved in his recovery. This scene gives us more context, showing us that Shuri wasn’t the only one by his side. This short scene establishes a longer relationship between Ayo and Bucky, aka the White Wolf, built on trust and respect. Their past makes it all the more heartbreaking when Ayo detaches Bucky’s Vibranium arm that looks to be a fail-safe if their work in Wakanda didn’t stick. Bucky’s expression is humorous at first glance, but then, Stan lets a hint of pain come to the surface.
It’s also the perfect lead-in for the arrival of The Dora Milaje to take Zemo back into custody. Of course, Zemo slinks off through a tunnel, but before he does that, he sips on a drink while The Dora Milaje gives John Walker what’s coming to him. This moment is more than satisfying because we get to see these women in action again, wielding more strength and skill than anyone in that room could. Let’s not forget that Ryan Coogler is developing a Disney+ series set in Wakanda. It’s a major bonus that Walker’s pride is more than hurt by their bringing him to his knees.
Sam and Karli’s Talk
Sam Wilson is such a good man and a great hero, and we get to see that shine in Episode 4. This episode leans on Sam’s leadership so much that it makes The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 3, “Power Broker,” even more of a letdown. This episode doesn’t make up for the lost time of not getting enough Sam Wilson in the past. Hopefully, it’s not presumptuous to assume “The World Is Watching” implies Sam will be a more active player in a show named after him now.
Furthermore, it’s reassuring to see Bucky consistently take up for Sam in this episode. Sam kept a close eye on Bucky while Zemo toyed with him last week. This week, Bucky is in Sam’s corner because he knows how important it is to have someone who believes in you. I understand that bickering is a part of their dynamic, but it is nice to see them get along more than argue.
It’s easy to see shared characteristics between Steve and Sam in how they case situations and approach people. This episode does an excellent job at pulling Sam’s experiences that make him stand apart from Steve, as he is his own person. We learned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that Sam counseled soldiers living with PTSD. That part of his past is an invaluable resource then and now — and likely well into the future.
All of this leads up to Sam and Karli’s confrontation that goes so well until, unsurprisingly, Walker busts in on them. Sam approaches Karli with such care and concern, and Karli leans into that. They have an open conversation about her motives and methods and how the latter needs significant improvement. Karli doesn’t dismiss Sam’s perspective because he makes it well-known that he agrees with her fight. Unlike Walker, Sam doesn’t need to punch his way out of situations. Sam doesn’t need the super-soldier serum to be a good man or a good hero.
This scene digs deep into the grey and nuance of the Flag Smashers. This attention is beneficial, especially four episodes into the season, because it let us know where the characters and we as fans should draw the line. We shouldn’t draw the line between the heroes and the Flag Smashers since heroics are in their mission. They want nothing more than to help people whom the people in power forget. It’s also helpful that TFATWS introduces many Flag Smashers members but dedicates its time to a few. It makes it easier to identify with them — mostly Karli Morgenthau.
Like Sam says, it’s their methods that are the issue here. He says something along the lines of killing people won’t make things better; it makes them different. The Flag Smashers’ methods are compelling though Karli argues in Episode 3 that the people in power will only respond to violence. This makes me wonder how the people in power, specifically those who gave him the job, will react to Walker’s heinous display of power in the final five minutes.
First and foremost, Lemar Hoskins didn’t need to die. Walker could have snapped in the same grotesque way without the death of his best friend. A BIPOC character dying to advance the story of a white guy sparks uneasiness and outrage because this trope is tired and reductive. It’s frustrating because Walker has already shown signs of this coming that it would be just as shocking for him to murder one of the Flag Smashers and let Lemar live.
I can’t stop thinking about Lemar telling Walker that he can’t punch his way out of situations anymore before Walker’s GMA interview. That is just one example of a big red flag with Walker. He’s someone who has chosen violence in enough situations that Lemar warns him about doing it again. No warnings work with a guy like Walker because he is too far gone.
Alternatively, Sam wishes to stop Karli’s destructive path and help them, and that’s a clear difference between the Flag Smashers and Walker. There’s room for improvement with the Flag Smashes because Karli is welcome to acknowledging her blind spots. There’s no redeeming John Walker.
Because of that, TFATWS questions whether the mantle of Captain America is repairable. That’s difficult for me to even write as the biggest Cap fan, but it’s impossible not to wonder at this point. Walker has gone too far, and now he has the super-soldier serum. Nothing is stopping him from doing more than decapitating an unarmed man in broad daylight next time. That’s terrifying within itself. It only gets worse when you consider that he’s wearing that suit and wielding that shield.
Walker has permanently tarnished Captain America. There’s no coming back from this, and maybe that’s a good thing. Hear me out!
In the first episode, Sam mentions the importance of having heroes that reflect the times we’re in. There’s no denying that John Walker doesn’t represent the Captain America we know or knew. I’ve said it before: Walker is the antithesis of Steve Rogers’ Captain America. We also know that Sam Wilson is more fit for the role than he can admit. Although it’s challenging to accept still, this is who Captain America is now. If John Walker represents some portion of the world we live in now (spoiler alert: he does), I don’t want Sam to wear that suit. Sam shouldn’t be burdened with reconstructing Captain America’s reputation that Walker ruined.
As for the shield, it was always Sam’s. I know it’ll find its way back to him before the show ends because of the footage in the trailers and TV spots. That gives me faith. It makes me believe that John Walker will face the consequences for his blatant and criminal misuse of power. Then, the government will reinstate the shield to its rightful owner. There is already a hero that reflects the times we’re in, and it’s Sam Wilson. He may never wear red, white, and blue or carry the shield in the same way as Steve Rogers, but he doesn’t have to be an inspirational hero. Steve knows a thing or two about that, as well.
- Did anyone expect Zemo not to betray Bucky and Sam?
- Zemo with the towel over his eyes is the exact amount of extra I expect to see from this character.
- Please tell me there’s more to Sharon on this show than her just doing them favors. I don’t want to believe she’s the Power Broker. Not yet, at least.
- “The Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever The Dora Milaje find themselves to be.”
- “Shield or no shield, the only thing you’re running here is your mouth.” Please let this iconic line by Sam live in infamy.
What did you think of “The Whole World Is Watching” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know in the comments below!
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