Written by David Holland
This week’s episode is the calm before the storm. We get a look at Karli Morenthau’s plan for the Flag Smashers, John Walker faces consequences, and the heroes spend some quality time. With the exception of the fight over the shield, there was less action in this episode than in most of the others. But we still got plenty of important character development once the shield was wrested from the arm of US Agent.
In the aftermath of Nico’s execution, Sam and Bucky confront John Walker. Walker stands by his decision, justifying himself in the aftermath by saying that he had no choice. He seems to be coming around to Sam’s and Bucky’s way of seeing things until they ask for the shield. Being Captain America means too much to Walker, and a fight ensues. Walker rips Falcon’s wings off, Falcon breaks Walker’s arm, all for the right to carry Captain America’s legacy. In the end, Sam and Bucky leave with the shield and the knowledge that Karli’s trail has gone cold.
Walker faces some accountability. He receives a less-than-honorable discharge, the most egregious “administrative” discharge in the military (a dishonorable discharge would require a court martial). In his worst moment he meets Contessa Valentina Alegra de Fontaine and HOLY SH*T IT’S JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS! Sorry, I got distracted.
The Contessa goes by the alias “Madame Hydra” in the comics, so I think we can guess she’s not with the heroes. She suggests that Walker still has a role to play and that she will be in touch. The mid-credits scene shows Walker in pure middle school boy rage building his own shield because those losers won’t let him play with theirs anymore.
Zemo tries to continue his disappearing act, but Bucky has spent decades hunting people. He finds Zemo at the Sakovia memorial and the Baron believes Bucky is about to execute him. Instead, Bucky reveals that the gun has no bullets, but he did violate rule number one of gun safety by pointing it at someone and pulling the trigger, no matter how sure you are that it is unloaded. Instead he turns Zemo over to the Dora Milaje and I know I said this already but I have to repeat myself – it’s literally the first rule anyone who works around guns will tell you.
When Sam gets back to the states he visits Isaiah. The super soldier’s story is heartbreaking. Their conversation about race is one that I, as a white guy, appreciate Disney having the courage to address. I’m sure some viewers thought it was “too political” for a comic book movie, despite the fact that anyone who reads comics will tell you that they are always influenced by the politics of their time. Sam leaves Baltimore discouraged to say the least. The heart of the episode takes place at Sam’s home in New Orleans. Bucky joins him, ostensibly to deliver a package from Wakanda but in reality to search for a semblance of home. I’ll talk more about this in the next section because there is a lot to unpack. Sam calls on neighbors to help him fix the boat and Bucky sticks around to help. Sam and Bucky continue the conversation about Steve Rogers’ legacy and Sam decides to take up the shield. He practices with it, works out, and does all the things we would expect from a training montage. At last, Lt. Torres calls with some news. A signal that usually precedes Flag Smasher activity has surfaced again, this time in New York.
Karli mourns Nico but the GRC raids on camps housing displaced persons inspire her to go on the run to New York City because of course the final showdown will be in New York City, the only city that exists in Marvel. She acquires weapons from Georges Batroc, the pirate from “Winter Soldier” and the first episode of the series. Then she goes to work attacking the GRC during their vote on a controversial bill that would displace millions of people who migrated during The Snap. This sets us up for the showdown in next week’s finale.
What Does It Mean?
I’m going to switch it up and present my reflections on this episode in bullet form:
- I know that Steve Rogers’ legacy is one of the defining questions of this series but Falcon and Bucky fighting US Agent over who gets to have the shield felt… petty. The shield is just an object. Steve Rogers’ legacy is standing against the army of Thanos alone when he thought no one else was coming. I hope that in the finale we get to see Sam and Bucky live into the sort of hard choices that made Steve compelling and answer them ways that are unique while still being good.
- We finally get to spend some quality time with the Avengers! Well, two of them anyway. “Age of Ultron” may be the least popular “Avengers” film, but it had two scenes of the Avengers just spending time together. The party in Stark Tower and regrouping at Clint’s farm served two very different purposes but they were both breaths of fresh air. There is something refreshing about watching the heroes be a found family together, and that is true for this episode as well. Seeing Sam and Bucky work together on something as everyday as fixing up the boat is precious. Bucky flirts with Sarah and Sam gets protective. The heroes try to replace the water pump without Sarah noticing because she doesn’t believe that is the problem. Bucky sleeps on a couch instead of the floor and smiles at people. This whole sequence was a refreshing change of pace for a series that has been dedicated to the hunt. Having Zemo in the mix was fun while it lasted, but the boat montage was worth sending him to the Raft. Besides, if Loki taught us anything, it’s that a likable enough villain never really leaves the MCU.
- During their conversation, Isaiah tells Sam, “They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting black man would ever want to.” As evidence, he cites historical examples of Black veterans who faced the horrors of racism upon returning home. He also details his own unjust incarceration. This is such an important conversation for the MCU. If we are going to set these movies in the world, it can’t be a world that ignores both the historical and present-day challenges of racism.
- The GRC aren’t the good guys. Obviously the Flag Smashers aren’t good guys either, Karli has shown that she is willing to kill hostages. But the way the GRC talks about the human beings who, through no fault of their own, find themselves living in camps is pretty gross. I stand by my assertion that pretty much every government agency in the Marvel universe is bad.
- It seems likely that John Walker still believes he can do the right thing, or at least what he believes is the right thing. Whatever next week’s big climax looks like, I expect that he will try to “fix” everything. And he’ll probably make it worse.
- We don’t have confirmation that Sharon Carter is The Power Broker yet but it still seems likely. We know Batroc is a native French speaker and that Sharon Carter speaks to someone on the phone in French. Then, lo and behold, Batroc shows up to meet with Karli carrying a bunch of weapons. If Sharon is The Power Broker, I’m still not totally sure what she has planned, but I think she is playing the Flag Smashers.
If you enjoy this article and would like to support this writer, please check out our “Support a Writer” tier over on our Patreon page and select David.Holland.
Also please consider joining our Discord channel, to discuss this article and more.