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Review: “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” finds its footing in compelling second and third episodes

Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes bring buddy-cop action and couples therapy to the ever-growing Marvel cinematic universe.

By Matthew Royer, Staff Writer

Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) joins Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in the third episode of "Falcon and the Winter Soldier." (Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Avenge those forgotten.

In episodes two and three of “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” superheroes Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) are forced to tackle their pasts and futures as they are presented with a new evil who has taken hold of a weapon known too well to the two heroes.

In the second episode of the series, the audience is officially introduced to John Walker (Wyatt Russell), an American hero chosen by the United States government to carry the mantle of “Captain America,” the sole protector of American interests at home and abroad. While Walker is trying to navigate his new reality, Wilson and Barnes are less than happy with his rising status, although the American citizenry on the other hand embraces their new hero.

Walker as a character is brash but seems to understand his place in the world, making himself available to Wilson and Barnes at any notice. Russell portrays Walker in a way that gets on the nerves of the viewer, as the viewer can recognize something is off, although that may just be the biases developed through the previous 10-plus years of Marvel Studios.

Episode one of the show displayed to the viewer how Wilson and Barnes had to adjust to the world post “Avengers: Endgame,” but in this sophomore episode, director Kari Skogland develops an overarching theme that can be seen throughout: who is a hero and what makes a hero. This is shown precisely with the introduction of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), a Korean War veteran who participated in the super-soldier program but fell victim to the government’s greed over his developed powers, sentencing him to prison and later a solitary life at home.

Not only does Barnes have to wrestle his history with Bradley, but Wilson has to grasp his relationship with the concept of heroism and whether he can truly defend his previous actions after seeing what Bradley had gone through.

This discussion of heroism also comes across in a therapy session for Barnes, in which Wilson is also participating. Both heroes are tasked with questioning their roles in society; glamour is not of focus here, as both realize there is more to life than their individual problems.

With this, the events of the second episode travel smoothly into the third episode titled “Power Broker.”

The episode delves quickly into action, even before the title card can make its way across the screen. With Wilson and Barnes seeking after those using “super-soldier serum,” the formula that created heroes such as Barnes, Bradley and the first avenger himself Steve Rogers, the duo look towards the only man who is just as evil as those they are seeking.

The reintroduction of Zemo (Daniel Brühl), a supervillain from “Captain America: Civil War,” is one that leaves the viewer in awe as they watch him use his wit throughout the episode. Zemo slowly helps reveal how everything has been connected all along, to both those watching and the heroes who have sought his help.

With a quick trip to the pirate-run town of Mardipoor, not only do the titular characters and Zemo fight their way to the information they are searching for through beautifully choreographed combat, but fans of the Marvel cinematic universe and the “Captain America” films will also be glad to see the return of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who has been laying low within the city’s limits.

Carter, who has been exiled away from the United States, has taken a turn towards survival, not afraid to allow the ends to justify the means. VanCamp portrays her unwillingness to give in wonderfully.

Acting in this series so far has been fantastic, with Mackie and Stan in leading roles providing emotional and moving performances, as well as those in supporting roles like Brühl, Lumbly and VanCamp. These three actors not only steal the show in their scenes but also accent the leads in their roles as well.

Skogland sets up the second half of the season brilliantly, leaving viewers and critics alike salivating for more “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” from week to week.


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