DIRECTOR: Kari Skogland

CAST: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Clé Bennett, Adepero Oduye, Desmond Chiam, Indya Bussey, Noah Mills, Florence Kasumba

RUNNING TIME: 54 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON THE FALCOLN AND THE WINTER SOLDIER (MILD SPOILERS): Sam Wilson (Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Stan) have formed a reluctant alliance with former enemy Baron Zemo (Brühl) as they track down an anti-authority group of super-soldiers known as the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau (Kellyman). Their search takes them to the lawless city of Madripoor, where they reunite with fugitive Sharon Carter (VanCamp) who assists them with her new connections to mysterious local figurehead known as the Power Broker. Meanwhile, new Captain America John Walker (Russell) and his partner Lemar (Bennett) track Sam and Bucky’s journey with their own investigation. There’s also the small matter of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, represented by Ayo (Kasumba), who have come to claim Zemo.

IN THIS EPISODE: Sam, Bucky and Zemo are accompanied by Walker and Lemar as they make new progress with locating and getting through to Karli’s increasingly reckless actions…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Before we get into more detail about this week’s episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, a couple of key updates I’m sure you’re dying to know about. First of all, Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo is still awesome (like that was ever going to change after his episode-stealing reintroduction in last week’s entry), as is John Wick writer Derek Kolstad’s contribution to the miniseries, which has really injected life into this story just like that super-soldier serum originally did for scrawny Steve Rogers all those years ago.

And Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, who has very quickly become one of the most hated new characters in Marvel Studios history (and for good reason)? He is very much still a git, but after seeing the fourth episode – aptly titled The Whole World Is Watching – he’s now an extremely dangerous and quite possibly evil git too. But we kind of already knew that as soon as we properly met the guy (by no fault of the actor, who has unjustly received widespread threats and condemnation simply for playing – rather well, incidentally – an intentionally unlikeable bloke from the offset), though it’s nice to have our initial reservations about this person confirmed in brutal fashion here.

More on Walker in a minute, though. For now, this is another solid episode that gives us more of what has proven to really work about The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, namely the dynamic between the two titular leads (played, as always, by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan respectively), which here is tested as they continue to find themselves at dead ends in their ongoing search for Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and her band of fellow Flag Smashers. Luckily, they have the super-chill Zemo on their side to help locating the super-soldiers, who we learned last week were created thanks to replicated serums developed by scientists in Madripoor; not so luckily, they don’t just have an increasingly unhinged Walker and his partner Lemar (Clé Bennett) catching up to them, but members of the Wakandan Dora Milaje as well, for they want Zemo to pay for his actions in Captain America: Civil War, which killed their King T’Chaka.

Needless to say, it’s a lot for this episode to take on, but Derek Kolstad gives each plot thread a fair amount of time and development to give them some resonance as well as actual weight. An opening scene set in Wakanda six years prior, detailing Bucky’s emotional deprogramming at the hands of Dora Milaje member Ayo (Florence Kasumba), immediately establishes a strong connection with the former Winter Soldier and the warrior who has now come to claim rightful vengeance against Zemo, and gives the eventual showdown a bit more wallop as she pulls some surprising moves on her former pupil. Likewise, we get to spend a considerable amount of time with Erin Kellyman’s complicated Karli, whose intentions are certainly noble but her methods less so, and who gets to have a couple of character-driven moments with Sam as he tries to figure her out. These are well-written, fleshed-out characters who you are given a lot of understanding as to why they do what they do, no matter what side of the argument they fall on, and that leads into the fact that the smartest thing that this series has done so far was bring on board Kolstad as a writer, because while he can certainly create some expansive universe and high-octane action sequences, he’s also compassionate about the people who dwell in them, and it has really shown in these two episodes he’s been tasked with writing (currently, I’m not sure if he’s also due to write any of the remaining two episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but even if he isn’t Kolstad has definitely been a beneficial inclusion on this creative team).

Now that the series is two-thirds completed, a couple of overall thoughts so far: this is certainly an entertaining series, filled with plenty of the Marvel action and banter we’ve all come to expect, though the second act of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is by far more engrossing than the first, which did struggle to settle on a voice that set itself apart from other, better Marvel entries. I’m glad that it’s finally picking up, and I hope the series continues this momentum for the final two episodes, but it does leave me a little concerned that there’s precious few directions left for Marvel to take when it comes to some of their newer ideas; I have no doubt that I will be proven wrong, especially with upcoming series like Loki and What If… teasing even more unique twists to the formula, but given how reliable and even safe the first two episodes of this felt, I have every right to fear the day that Marvel Studios will finally run out of ideas (again, though, probably not for a good long while).

Finally, briefly, let’s discuss the new ways in which John Walker should completely go screw himself. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that if you were still holding out hope that this guy would ultimately prove himself in the role of Captain America, boy did you ever just lose that bet, and given the disturbing final shot this episode ends on, it looks like Steve Rogers’ legacy is in greater danger than ever (and that’s saying a lot, given all that he went through). Will he get his just desserts next week? We shall see…

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Episode 4 – The Whole World Is Watching boldly continues the momentum from last week’s series-high episode, largely thanks to writer Derek Kolstad’s strong understanding of character and world expansion which plays heavily into the high-octane action and especially the disturbing final shot.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Episodes 1-4 are now available on Disney+. Episode 5 will be available next week.

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