CAST: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, Cle Bennett, Erin Kellyman, Adepero Oduye, Desmond Chiam, Danny Ramirez
RUNNING TIME: 52 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON THE FALCOLN AND THE WINTER SOLDIER (MILD SPOILERS): Sam Wilson (Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Stan) have teamed up to locate anti-authority group the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau (Kellyman), who appear to also possess super-soldier strength. Desperate for answers, and frustrated by the ineffectiveness of new Captain America John Walker (Russell), Sam and Bucky decide to pay their old enemy Baron Zemo (Brühl) a visit in prison.
IN THIS EPISODE: After breaking Zemo out of prison, Sam and Bucky form an uneasy alliance with the Baron as they head to Madripoor for more answers…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
All it took for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier to finally feel like it was moving forward was the (re)introduction of a dastardly Baron.
Daniel Brühl’s Zemo, the main villain of Captain America: Civil War, returns in full force for Marvel’s latest miniseries, and almost instantly threatens to steal the entire spotlight from our two titular Avengers. Not only is the character actually quite fun to learn a bit more about – we learn here that he’s basically European Batman, complete with a wealthy background and even his own elderly butler – but Brühl is clearly having a blast striding through all of this action and neon-drenched scenery that’s like we’ve entered the futuristic world of Blade Runner all of a sudden. Already, I’m curious as to where they’re taking this character in this plotline, and whether it turns out he’s a semi-reformed anti-hero or still up to his destructive old tricks, I know for a fact that Zemo is going to be a highly valuable asset for the rest of this series.
It helps, too, that this third episode – titled Power Broker – is by far the strongest yet, not just filled with some pretty great action set-pieces but also giving us plenty more character moments and even a sense of its own personality beyond the mere Marvel traits.
Things start off strong, with a prison break sequence involving Zemo that comes with some fun editing as Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) tries to ponder Bucky Barnes’ (Sebastian Stan) plan to bust their former enemy from the confides of a Berlin facility. Then, it becomes even more engaging as Zemo takes the boys across the world to Madripoor, a lawless city which in the comics is a hotbed for criminal activity and on-screen is very much that too – people walk about clutching onto massive guns, while buildings host priceless stolen artwork – where they reunite with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who’s been on the run since the events of Captain America: Civil War, and also find out a bit more about who’s been making the new super-soldier serums that have inexplicably powered the Flag Smashers. Speaking of whom, we get a bit more time with their leader Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), and it’s starting to become clearer as we spend further moments with her and members of her team that while their methods are certainly dangerous and even deadly, their ultimate intentions may very well not be as villainous as they had previously been made out to be (although, given how this episode ends, that’s still very much up for debate).
Oh, and that new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell)? Yup, he’s still a massive git. Just thought you should know.
Of the three episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier that have so far debuted, Power Broker is by far the most enthralling, which is a relief because how it had been going previously – especially with its last episode – it really felt like it was becoming just another standard Marvel project, which wasn’t bad by any means but nothing different than what we had seen before. In this episode, however, everything appears to have been given a much-needed boost of energy, from the action to the character development all the way to the overall aesthetic, and I really think that a lot of it comes from the fact that there’s a new writer on board. Derek Kolstad, best known as the creator of the John Wick series (and is also credited as a co-executive producer on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier), takes over from series creator Malcolm Spellman and last week’s writer Michael Kastelein for this week – and also, apparently, wrote the script for next week’s episode too – and you can definitely tell that this episode has his voice all over it. Kolstad’s ability for world-building, as seen in the expansive John Wick movies, is definitely apparent here as we visit places like Madripoor which feel very lived-in and fully functional in its own outlawed kind of way, similar to how the world of The Continental was established in John Wick and its sequels.
He’s also got a way with giving certain characters intriguing new backstories and fun, jolty quips that feel very on-brand with Marvel but also of its own variety. It isn’t just Zemo getting a swanky new background, but Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter too, as we learn a bit about what her life has been like since going on the run during Captain America: Civil War and, in pure Kolstad fashion, it represents a very fascinating corner of a world you’re left even more eager to learn more about. The action also gets an energetic upgrade, which series director Kari Skogland is more than able to execute, only here it lands more of a punch (pun intended) because the writing is a lot sparkier and more kinetic than it has been recently, and the overall feel is that this is a Marvel outing which, finally, feels like it has more of its own voice, like how WandaVision very much had its own approaches to familiar territory.
The very fact that next week we’ll be getting not just more Kolstad-penned action and character moments, but also more moments with Zemo being this kind of awesome anti-hero (and given the shock reveal at the very end of this episode, it looks like he’s in for some very difficult showdowns), makes me finally actively look forward to another entry in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which is a comforting thought after the last couple of standard outings.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Episode 3 – Power Broker is by far the most enthralling entry to date, not just because John Wick writer Derek Kolstad steps in to finally give this story, these characters and the overall action a unique voice, but because Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo is a fun anti-hero that you desperately want to see more of in the future.