When we last left our heroes, Sam and Bucky had parted ways with John “New Cap” Walker because he may, in fact, be the worst and had decided they need the help of Baron Zemo, he of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR infamy.
This episode takes a page out of the WandaVision playbook, adding an advertisement from the Global Repatriation Council, basically a post-blip NATO/United Nations deal priding itself on helping rebuild. It’s treated with a surreality that you can easily assume they’re not on the up and up at worst, or maybe just governmental screwups at best.
The episode proper kicks off with New Cap on the next step towards proving he’s no Steve Rogers. While the SECOND EPISODE I think toed the line on if we should see Walker as someone struggling with the figurative weight of the shield, by the end of this week’s episode, the writing seems on the wall that New Cap is a bum destined to lose the shield. In one tense interrogation, Walker lets off the jackass mating call of “Don’t you know who I am?” after a less-than-impressed prisoner spits on Walker. This episode marks the halfway point in the series and while I did not expect Walker to leave the series with the shield, I was on the fence whether he’d give the shield up realizing he’s not cut out for it or if it would need to be taken away from him. At this point, it looks like the latter, especially with his sidekick Battlestar questioning Walker going off protocol. Walker points out “If we get the job done, do you think they’ll sweat us on the how?”
Thankfully this is the bulk of New Cap’s time this episode, and we get back to the titular stars of the show in Germany, visiting Baron Zemo in jail. Bucky asks to speak to him privately, explaining Zemo will be hesitant to talk to an Avenger.
Zemo immediately breaks out the Winter Soldier control words on Bucky, who brushes them off. Zemo admits he didn’t think it would work but wanted to see how Bucky would react.
After Bucky explains the super soldier serum is back in play, Zemo admits he may have a lead. We do a quick cut to Bucky and Sam in a garage with fancy cars as Bucky admits to Sam he helped Zemo escape prison, complete with brief flashbacks showing the hows and whys.
Sam finally asks why they’re in the fancy car garage, to which Zemo admits they’re his. “All this time, you’ve been rich?”
“I AM a Baron, Sam.”
We get an X-Men easter egg next, with a trip to the island of Madripoor. In the MCU incarnation, it has an international waters, anything goes vibe. Here our heroes and Zemo begin tracking the serum by meeting with a criminal named Selby. We get role play here as Zemo insists Bucky has to act as the Winter Soldier, complete with a bar room destruction and Sam taking on the identity of another Marvel character, Smiling Tiger.
Things quickly break down, though not before our heroes get the next breadcrumb to follow but also not before Selby is shot by a soon to be revealed Sharon Carter once the gun play starts.
Sharon was another character I was looking forward to seeing once casting was announced. Having roles in Captain America 2 and 3, she served as yet another true believer of Steve Rogers. Makes sense, as she’s also Peggy Carter’s niece. Honestly though, I can’t help but be bummed out by Sharon here. Sharon had no happy ending, no government pardon for her role in freeing Bucky in Civil War. We find out she’s been on the run since the events of Civil War, taking up residence as a power player in Madripoor, dealing with stolen art, and in this episode, kicking all kinds of ass helping Bucky and Sam on their next piece of the puzzle.
Sharon is justifiably miffed, mentioning she hasn’t even been able to contact her family in years. While an understandable character beat, it does bum me out that they went there with her. Sharon was willing to stand with Cap when Hydra turned. She was willing to risk her career to help Bucky out. Now, her words of “You know the whole hero thing is a joke, right?” to Sam gives us another character struggling in a post-Steve Rogers world. I do wonder if everything is as it seems here, though, as she did talk to a mystery person after parting ways with Sam and Bucky. Plus, if everything is as it seems, this leaves an irksome plot point post-Civil War. Steve, Sam, Black Widow, and Wanda were on the run for 2 years leading up to Infinity War, and never once checked in on Sharon? That doesn’t ring true. Plot hole possibly or setting something up for future episodes, maybe?
They find a Dr. Nagel, who we find out had reverse engineered the super soldier serum by studying Isaiah Bradley’s blood. Before he could go mainstream with it, he was blipped out. Post-BLIP, the CIA-led interest in the program was gone, so Nagel found his way to Madripoor at the bequest of its leader, the Power Broker.
We find out as of now, there’s only 20 vials of the serum and it was all stolen by our lead Flag Smasher, Karli Morgenthau. Zemo sees this as an opportunity and quickly kills Nagel, much to Sam, Sharon, and Bucky’s chagrin.
We get some Zemo bad assery next. It’s a shame the character’s gone too far down innocent murder wise, as this episode builds him up as a Bruce Wayne-esque bad ass with training, money, and murders aside, a pretty well-defined moral code.
The episode ends with Sam, Bucky, and Zemo on the next breadcrumb trying to track down Karli. Bucky though, tells the other two he’ll be right along. He’s noticed Wakandan tech, and calls out Ayo, one of Black Panther’s body guards, who is there for Zemo, killer of Black Panther King T’Chaka.
Overall a solid week, going smaller is allowing the show to go deeper on what other people think of heroes. Especially post-blip, there’s a jaded cynicism over what heroes are actually worth. Nearly every character is aligned with Zemo’s Civil War monologuing, that any good the heroes has done gets outweighed by the damage.
Favorite bit of interplay may be Sam rethinking giving up the shield, but instead of wondering if he should have taken on the mantle, wonders instead if he should have just destroyed it. Bucky tries to interject: “That shield represents a lot of things to a lot of people including me. We need a new Cap and it ain’t going to be Walker. Before you go and destroy it, I’m going to take it from him myself”
I’ll go 7/10 this week.
The plus side of only being six episodes is there is not a lot of filler. In a longer series, I’d be wondering if there’s some slight of hand brewing but it does seem like they’re intent on sticking with the Flag Smashers as the main threat while they unwrap a post-blip world, what exactly Cap’s shield stands for, and who exactly should serve as the Captain.
Hype Machine Week #3
So many misdirects here! Madripoor and the X-Men, Conrad Mack’s Smiling Tiger, the episode being named Power Broker but they’re given the Vera Peterson treatment and are never seen. I know what they’re doing here. The Smiling Tiger? Disney continues its march to world domination and in just 3 episodes time, the newest Disney property will be unleashed! The MCU/Thundercats shared universe will be insane when a smiling tiger, Tygra herself saves the day! It’ll be perrrrfect!