The second installment of the series makes it feels like the last episode was a prologue of sorts, while this episode is really the start of the main story. The episode covers a lot of ground between highlighting the new Captain America, teaming up Sam and Bucky, and a greater introduction to and look at the reigning series villain. While the episode does boast another impressive action sequence, the bulk of the episode is slower and reminiscent of the first with its focus on character development and a more detailed eye on the outskirts of the main plot.
The episode begins by introducing the new Captain America teased at the end of the first episode. The writers do their best to straightforwardly describe John Walker but also humanize him. The result is possibly a tempering of the audience’s pure hatred of the off-brand Captain America last week as Walker at this point seems like an OK guy. While possessing no superpowers, he apparently can be qualified as an exceptionally high-functioning person in virtually every physical or intelligence test. The best part of Walker’s introduction is that he is reminded that the “job” of Captain America is more than fighting the bad guys—it involves press conferences, meetings with politicians, shaking hands, and otherwise being propaganda. It is a great callback to the early Steve Rogers’ Captain America from Captain America: The First Avenger. Since then, it was largely omitted that Captain America had any other “duties” other than being a superhero. Perhaps, Steve had already proven himself as the symbol that Walker is currently striving to be.
Without much fanfare or even explanation, our titular heroes meet up before Sam goes on a mission involving the Flag-Smashers. Despite the lack of clarity as to Sam and Bucky’s relationship up until this point, the sparks truly fly with the butting of personalities and the pure stubbornness that both pulls them together and pushes them apart. The backbone of the episode is certainly their interactions and back-and-forth dynamic, peaking at their joint therapy session. The most intense exchange the two have happens here, with the two verbally sparring over Sam’s decision to give up the shield. While Sam again emphasizes that he felt it was the right thing to do, Bucky holds on to Steve’s intentions and confesses that if Steve was wrong about Sam he was wrong about Bucky too.
The only real action seen in the episode is a fight on top of two moving semi-trucks full of medical supplies being smuggled by the Flag-Smashers. While our heroes essentially flat-out lose, they do so with the surprise help of Walker, who shows up to also lose—the guy does know how to use that shield, though. The aftermath creates an awkward relationship between Sam, Bucky, Walker, and Walker’s partner Lemar Hoskins (also known as Battlestar). While Walker clearly wants to team up, Sam and Bucky cannot get past the falsity of the new Captain America.
We also learn from the Flag-Smashers that we are not dealing with the “Big Three”: Androids, Aliens, and Wizards. Instead, the villains are super-soldiers, which is fitting for a Captain America-inspired series. The general assumption is that super soldiers ceased to be created after World War II, but this opens the door to a whole new realm of history inside the MCU. Bucky introduces Sam to a man named Isaiah, who Bucky fought during the Korean War in 1951. Sam is outraged that Bucky never told anyone, including Steve, but this further shows that the Flag-Smashers are likely just the tip of the super-soldier iceberg. The episode ends with a tease of Baron Zemo, who our heroes are planning to visit to try and learn more.
It is lastly worth highlighting the episode’s occasional spotlight on issues surrounding race. This is surely a wise and important move for the MCU given that TFATWS features the only black titular character other than Black Panther. At one point in the episode, white police officers are openly hostile to Sam while Sam and Bucky were arguing in the street. It was not until the officers realized who Sam was that they backed down. Sam also expresses outrage that there was a Black super soldier in the 1950’s that no one ever knew about, and it is likely not a coincidence that Isaiah spent 30 years after the war in prison being studied and tested on.
3.5 R.I.P. Redwings out of 5
Episode 2 solidified the tone and superhero spy thriller potential of the series with the cinematic quality still in play. It also doubled down on exploring character development, even venturing to spend some time on characters that ordinarily would not get as much attention. This highlights the benefits of the series format, but the episode still felt a bit slow and those looking for bigger and better action sequences were probably not fully satisfied.
- We get our first mention and foreshadowing of Sharon Carter, who was branded an enemy of the state after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
- Bucky simply jumping out of a low-flying plane to roughly flop to the ground showed a bit of personality in his action style, and making his jump look far different than Steve’s parachute-less leap in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- Will this be the end of the line for Bucky’s therapist?