The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Season 1: Episode 4

FULL SPOILERS AHEAD

We all knew it was coming to this, and the fourth episode seems like a good place for the tone of the show to become more serious. What am I talking about? I try to keep spoilers out of the intro paragraph because that’s the preview excerpt, so let’s dive right into “The Whole World is Watching,” the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier!

Bucky’s confrontation with Ayo (Florence Kasumba) of the Dora Milaje goes relatively well, all things considered. Instead of a fight she gives him an ultimatum: Wakanda is coming for Zemo in eight hours. There is no “or else.” Thinking that Mama Donya’s death–the reason Karli was sad last episode–might bring the Flag Smashers together, Sam, Bucky, and Zemo go asking around. Zemo continues to prove his usefulness by getting the location of the funeral, but the trio runs into “Captain America” and Battlestar before they can act on the intel. Sam manages to talks to Karli alone and starts to connect with her, but Walker has to barge in and fuck things up. While she and the Flag Smashers barely escape, all the super soldier serum is destroyed by Zemo. Well, except for one vial, which Walker secretly pockets. The Dora Milaje come for Zemo, but Walker just has to fuck things up so a fight starts. Zemo escapes and Walker has to come to terms with the fact that he’s gotten his ass handed to him so many times today. Karli threatens Sam’s sister, telling Sarah to tell her brother to come alone, which is a plan to separate Sam from Bucky. That doesn’t happen, and sure enough Walker shows up to fuck everything up yet again. Except this time he’s super strong! But even that’s not enough to save Lemar’s life, and Battlestar dies in battle. Enraged, Walker hunts down one of the Flag Smashers and beats him to death in public while a large group of people stare and record the incident. “The Whole World is Watching” indeed!

There’s this idea in the MCU that the super soldier serum doesn’t just make you strong and tough, but it makes you more… you. You essentially become an avatar of your ideals, which is a good thing for people like Steve Rogers, but a bad thing for those like the Red Skull and John Walker. Super strength and a vibranium shield does not a Captain America make, as the whole world is seeing right now. There may be a redemption arc for Karli–who at this point I’m willing to admit is probably not Sin, AKA the Red Skull’s daughter–but Walker is absolutely going to have to be taken down. And soon.

So I suppose now is a good time to talk about the comic book history of John Walker. Originally a wrestler because of course he was, he met with the Power Broker to gain super strength and became Super Patriot, first appearing in Captain America #323 (1986). His main goal was to upstage Captain America, who he felt was out of touch. That plan didn’t really work, but a huge opportunity fell into his lap when Steve Rogers stopped being Captain America for a time, allowing John to become a new Cap in Captain America #333 (1987). His tenure didn’t go well, partly because of his aggressive tendencies, but also because the Red Skull–who was in a cloned body of Steve Rogers because comics are dumb–was playing 4D chess and was manipulating everything as a way to tarnish the idea of a Captain America. Steve took the costume back in Captain America #350 (1989), and shortly after that Walker became the US Agent. Think Captain America, but black instead of blue. He would later go and be a member of teams like the West Coast Avengers (yes, he was there during the white Vision story as well as Wanda’s children turning out to not be real, as I recounted during WandaVision), Force Works, and more. He more or less redeemed himself, but was still a right wing nutjob.

Where Steve Rogers is more the personification of American ideals, I find John Walker to be a representation of America as it is. He’s brash, violent, arrogant, making him, well… a Super Patriot. During the Truth: Red, White & Black limited series (2003) that I talked about in the episode 2 post, near the end of the story we see Captain America investigating stories of a possible black Captain America (Isaiah Bradley). One person Cap talks to is Phillip Merritt, a military personnel who was there when Isaiah was active but is now in jail. Like, this dude is a racist xenophobe who sold meth to children. He’s total scum, and Cap hates every minute he has to talk to him. But before Steve could leave the questioning completely, Merritt asked for an autograph. There are some very bad people out there who believe they’re doing the right things for the sake of their country, and John Walker is dangerously close to falling into that camp. In the comics he doesn’t go completely evil–or at least stay an antagonist–in part thanks to the Avengers he would become friends with, but there’s no guarantee that the MCU version will see the errors of his ways. A confrontation is coming, and it’ll be interesting seeing who walks away from it.


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