DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode “The Star-Spangled Man” is laden with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome back, Marvel fans! The Falcon and the Winter Soldier chugged right along this week with the highly anticipated Sam Wilson/Bucky Barnes reunion! Our favorite buddy cop duo is back. The bromance can freely blossom. “The Star-Spangled Man” pulled back the veil on this John Walker fellow. We got to see the new “Captain America” in action. Additionally, we learned more about the Flag Smashers and their objective: to demolish governmental leadership and proceed full steam ahead in total anarchy. They want to return the world to how it was when half the global population vanished.
There’s a lot to unpack in “The Star-Spangled Man,” so let’s get to it!
Now, we open with John Walker (Wyatt Russell) prior to an appearance as the new Cap. He’s got the jitters. We see he’s dressed in a U.S. Army uniform. So, the government plucked a soldier to don Sam’s shield. His buddy and fellow soldier, Lemar Hoskins (Cle Bennett), pops in the locker room to give John a pep talk.
Later, we see John Walker burst onto a football field to sign posters, take selfies with fans, shake hands and presumably kiss babies. We learn that he’s at his alma mater making an appearance at a football game. Additionally, he gives an interview regarding taking up the Cap mantle and his desire to do right by the country. John is the only American to win three Medals of Honor on top of his extensive (and successful) military operations. Not to mention, he “tested off the charts” in terms of strength and stamina. We see footage of him tossing around that undoubtedly hefty shield with ease.
Next, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is watching the televised event in his apartment. He looks bewildered by it all. I am too. That should be Sam getting interviewed and kissing babies! Speaking of, we see Sam (Anthony Mackie) arriving at a military base alongside Torres (Danny Ramirez). He’s about to embark on a mission to Munich, Germany to hopefully deter the Flag Smashers.
Later, Bucky brusquely enters the scene and our pair are finally reunited. He scolds Sam for giving up the shield. Steve wanted Sam to be the next Captain America. Bucky feels this is a slap in the face — a blatant disregard of their friend’s last wish.
Then, Sam reveals that he thinks the Flag Smashers are part of “The Big Three.” “Androids, aliens and wizards” apparently constitute this Big Three. Bucky and Sam proceed to bicker over whether this is a fabrication on Sam’s part or a real, legitimate thing. Oh, and Doctor Strange isn’t a wizard — he’s a sorcerer. “But a sorcerer is a wizard without a hat,” Sam counters. Mic drop! Someone get Strange a hat, stat!
Now, Bucky insists that he’s tagging along on Sam’s mission. We see our duo preparing to jump out of the plane as they arrive in Munich. Bucky asks Sam about “the plan,” but the latter keeps mum. Sam’s so petty and I’m here for it. Finally, on Torres’ go-ahead, Sam soars out of the plane. However, the plane’s too low in altitude for someone to deploy a parachute, so Bucky nonchalantly rips the sleeve off his nice leather jacket to reveal his Vibranium arm. He jumps out without a parachute. We see him ungracefully crash through a copse of trees while utilizing his arm to cushion his fall.
Thankfully, Sam reveals that he caught the whole shebang on camera because, you know, Redwing. I live for Sam and Bucky’s incessant back-and-forth. They really are The Odd Couple.
Next, the pair sneak into an abandoned warehouse to observe the Flag Smashers from afar. Bucky surreptitiously launches into the back of one of their semi-trucks. He tells Sam that the group’s smuggling vaccines and medications. Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) emerges from the shadows. Bucky calls out to her. He assumes that she’s a hostage solely based on her demeanor. However, she delivers a massive kick to Bucky’s middle section and he goes flying outside the truck. She puts on her signature mask. Hostage, she is not. In fact, she’s the leader.
Then, we see Bucky briefly seized by members of the Flag Smashers as they duke it out atop a semi-truck. Sam swoops in and tries to stave off the fighters so Bucky can wriggle free of their grasp. But they’re incredibly strong. Too strong.
Suddenly, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins arrive on the scene in a helicopter. Both men proceed to take on the Flag Smashers. Bucky is clinging to the side of the semi-truck with his super metal arm. Sam teases him for getting his ass handed to him by a “little girl.” Unfortunately, Karli deftly tore apart Redwing, so Sam didn’t get that on video.
Meanwhile, Sam grabs Bucky and the pair goes flying into an adjacent field, leaving Walker and Hoskins to deal with the Flag Smashers.
Later, we see Bucky and Sam walking alone in the German countryside. Bucky knows for a fact that those Flag Smashers were injected with the super-soldier serum. So, after 80 years, it’s back on the market. But how? Walker and Hoskins pull up beside our favorite duo. Walker offers to give them a lift to the airport. Apparently, he tracked their location via the now-defunct Redwing. According to him, Redwing was considered government property. Both Sam and Bucky are reticent to trust Walker. Just because he has the shield, that doesn’t make him Captain America. That honor belongs to Sam.
Next, Bucky learns that Hoskins is part of Battlestar, which is enough to make him leap out of the vehicle. Walker claims that he hopes to work with “Cap’s wingman.” Naturally, this rubs Sam the wrong way. He isn’t anyone’s wingman. But I appreciate the wordplay here.
Now, the Flag Smashers retreat to a safe house while still in Germany. Karli and her team attempt to eradicate their online government records in an effort to stay off the grid. We get a peek into their objective as a group. One world, one people. They believe that the world has failed to check in with those that never blipped with Thanos’ snap. Now that the vanished have returned, those that never left have fallen by the wayside. I can see where they’re coming from, but their execution isn’t the most morally sound.
Then, Sam and Bucky travel to Baltimore. Bucky wants to introduce Sam to an old acquaintance. We meet Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), someone that Bucky fought during the Korean War. Of course, back then, Bucky was still under HYDRA’s control. Isaiah was a super-soldier. He was administered with the serum. He reveals that the military sent in everyone they could to take on Bucky, but none of them returned. That’s why Isaiah was deployed. He managed to sever Bucky’s Vibranium arm, so he’s clearly immensely strong.
Of course, that strength came at a price. When Isaiah returned home, he wasn’t given a hero’s welcome. He was thrown in jail for three decades. Bucky and Sam attempt to broach the subject of newly christened super soldiers i.e. the Flag Smashers, but Isaiah won’t have it. He orders them to leave. This scene is so emotional and beautifully performed by Lumbly. What a force of nature. Clearly, racism was at play here with regard to his treatment post-Korean War.
Next, Sam is taken aback by Bucky keeping Isaiah a secret. Bucky claims he didn’t want the older man to suffer any longer. Apparently, Bucky also withheld his existence from Steve. Two police officers pull up while Sam and Bucky are talking. They demand to see Sam’s ID. Then, they ask Bucky if Sam’s “bothering” him. Sam asserts that they’re having a conversation and, no, he doesn’t need to “calm down.” Racial profiling, folks. That’s what’s happening here. The police are on his ass because he’s a Black man.
However, one of the cops reveals Sam’s identity to the other — he’s Falcon, a bona fide Avenger. The profiling cop claims he “didn’t know” and apologizes. That’s beside the point, dude. Instead, they arrest Bucky because the latter failed to show up for his court-appointed therapy session.
Meanwhile, Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino) appears at the police station. Sam’s still waiting for Bucky. While Sam assumes that Raynor was able to free Bucky, it was actually John Walker. I guess you get absolute and total authority when you don the shield. Walker tells Raynor that she gets one more chat with Bucky, then she must clear him for work. He needs our Buck for the impending mission at hand involving the Flag Smashers.
Next, Raynor sits down with both Bucky and Sam. She wants the duo to work out their differences. Mend fences. Naturally, both men are resistant to opening up. She conducts an exercise that she utilizes for married couples. Raynor orders them to sit close together. So close that their legs interlock. Then, it’s all about eye contact. She urges them to stare into each other’s eyes. See the other person. Really see them. Of course, this quickly devolves into a staring contest because Sam and Bucky are literal children.
Later, Sam agrees to put their cards on the table. Bucky divulges his anger at Sam for relenting the shield. Steve trusted him. And if Sam’s not who Steve thinks he is, then what does that mean for Bucky? That moment tore my heart asunder. You can see the emotion in Bucky’s eyes just as you could at Isaiah’s home. Bucky truly wants to be a better person. After that, Sam departs. They’ve got work to do.
Then, the pair find Walker and Hoskins outside the police station. Walker wants the four of them to cooperate, to work together to demolish the Flag-Smasher threat. But Sam reminds them that he’s a free agent just like Bucky is. They don’t need to abide by governmental sanctions or worry about clearances. As they walk away, Walker urges the duo to stay out of his way. That doesn’t sound very Cap-like.
Meanwhile, in Slovakia, Karli and her crew are preparing to board a small plane with their precious cargo. Suddenly, a slew of military officials locks down their location. Karli’s friend sacrifices himself so the rest can depart without interference. We see him take on all his opponents by tossing down a telephone pole like it’s nothing. However, he isn’t strong enough even with the serum coursing through his veins to withstand a bevy of bullets. We see Karli and her group flee the scene.
Later, Bucky alludes to paying a certain someone a visit for some much-needed answers. He believes that HYDRA is behind the resurgence of super soldiers. Perhaps the once-defunct evil organization is back in action. Sam doesn’t like where this is headed. However, maybe this person also knows a thing or two about John Walker. Bucky’s referring to Zemo. We see Zemo himself (Daniel Brühl) is sitting in a cell. Undoubtedly bored out of his skull since, you know, captivity.
“The Star-Spangled Man” was a step up from last week’s episode, in my humble opinion. I always love seeing Sam and Bucky’s dynamic on screen, especially since Mackie and Stan are close friends in real life. That chemistry definitely translates well on camera.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s graceful handling of racism should profoundly resonate with everyone in today’s climate, notably with the Black Lives Matter movement. The racial profiling and Isaiah’s heartbreaking story are proof that even in this fictional world racial injustice is still prevalent. Colorism is real. That alone grounds this tale in our reality. Sam’s rightful place as Captain America was taken by a white man with no real connection to Steve Rogers. In fact, I don’t think he’s a super-soldier. So, I suppose he’s just a symbol.
Additionally, I dug the “White Wolf” name drop. Back in the warehouse, Sam teased that Bucky emerged from Wakanda as the “White Panther.” “It’s White Wolf, actually,” Bucky retorted. You gotta love those Marvel Easter eggs.
Now, after learning more about John Walker, I still don’t like him. Something about him doesn’t sit well with me, especially after his thinly-veiled threat to Bucky and Sam. We’ll see.
Do you think we’ll get a Bucky/Sam/Zemo reunion in next week’s episode? Is John Walker a potential enemy? How does Sharon Carter fit into the overall narrative? Join me next week as I recap The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, here on Geek Girl Authority.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier streams new episodes every Friday on Disney Plus.