Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 1, Episode 2 - "The Star-Spangled Man" Spoiler Review

 After watching episode one I was prepared to hate the new Captain America (John Walker), episode two threw us a curveball.  I like that so far, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Faws) has brought us back to the style of Captain America: Winter Soldier.  The look, style and action in Faws are very similar to Winter Soldier.  Faws is set in a world where everything seems to be grey rather than black or white, this dynamic has made the show very entertaining.  Our heroes Falcon (Sam) and Winter Soldier (Bucky) have a dynamic that fits the buddy cop cliche, they do not get along, but we know they will by the end.  Sam and Bucky do not seem to like each other, but they both care about each other because of Steve Rogers (Captain America).  The Star-Spangled Man took great care to introduce us to the many sides that make up John Walker (the new Captain America).  We meet John as he is about to appear on Good Morning America, he is sitting in front of his old high school locker.  John was given depth, which has me very excited for the remaining four episodes.  Faws is a Marvel MCU show, but it is taking an approach that puts characters first and action/spectacle second.  In episode two we were also given a little more time with the Flag Smashers; I am starting to think they might not be the true villains of the show.  I am not arguing that the Flag Smashers are the good guys, but I do not think they are going to be the true villains of the show.  Episode two revealed the name of a new character, the Power Broker, it is believed that the Flag Smashers got their abilities from the Power Broker.  The Star-Spangled Man was an episode filled with a lot of good story, while also giving us some great action.  


The episode opens with our new Captain America (John Walker) entering the locker room of his old high school.  John is joined by his wife and he tells her he is feeling worried that he will not be able to live up to the standard of Steve Rogers.  Walker's wife encourages him to be himself, she leaves Walker with his partner Lemar Hoskins (Battlestar).  Walker is frustrated with all of the attention he is getting, all the interviews he needs to do; Walker wants to get out and do some good.  We see that John Walker is in his hometown attending a taping of Good Morning America which is being filmed on the football field.  Walker is being interviewed and we learn that he is a very decorated soldier who has a very friendly, humble and charming manner to him.  Walker says he doesn't have the brain of Tony Stark or Bruce Banner, and he also doesn't have super strength, but he does have guts.  We see Bucky is sitting on the floor of his place watching the broadcast and he looks horrified.  Walker talks about wanting to keep people safe and that he feels like Cap is brother, which seems to annoy Bucky even more.   

We join Sam who is on a base meeting up with Torres, Sam is staring at a picture of John Walker dressed in the Captain America outfit.  Sam is using a military transport to take him to Munich, Sam wants to go after the Flag Smashers.  Bucky is there, and he is chastising Sam for giving up the shield; Bucky blames Sam for not doing what Steve wanted.  Sam tells Bucky about the Flag Smashers; Bucky is determined to join Sam on the mission.  Sam jumps out of the aircraft using his wings, but Bucky jumps out of the plane without a parachute (like Steve did) except Bucky hits a tree and falls to the ground hard.  Sam and Bucky enter an abandoned warehouse, they use Redwing to inspect the building.  Redwing locates the Flag Smashers; we see they are loading large crates onto a truck (using super-strength).  Bucky and Sam chase after the trucks; Bucky enters the truck and finds what he thinks is a hostage.  Bucky is then kicked out the back of the truck, Bucky is fighting three of the Flag Smashers on top of the truck.  Redwing tries to help Bucky, but it is destroyed, Walker and Hoskins join the fight.  The Flag Smashers are proving very difficult to defeat for Walker, Hoskins, Sam and Bucky.  Sam saves Bucky and they go tumbling into a field, Walker and Hoskins are defeated by the Flag Smashers.  Sam and Bucky are walking down the road, Walker and Hoskins approach in a jeep and offer them a ride.  

Bucky is determined to be rude, and Sam is not better.  Walker offers them a ride which they refuse until they realize they have 20 more miles to walk.  We find out that Walker found the Flag Smashers by tracking Redwing.  We learn of the Global Repatriation Council (GRC) is responsible for helping people who disappeared because of the blip get their lives back on track.  The GRC dispatched Walker and Hoskins to take down the Flag Smashers (FS), the FS want to make things as they were before people came back.  Walker is trying to get Sam and Bucky to join him, Bucky and Sam walk away after Walkers calls them Steve's wingmen.  The FS have arrived at a safe house, the leader of the FS (Karli) gets a text saying "You took what was mine.  I'm going to find you and kill you".  Karli says that the GRC cares more for the people that came back than the ones who never left.  Bucky and Sam are on a plane home, Bucky wants to take the shield back from Walker.  Bucky tells Sam that there is someone that Sam needs to meet.  

Bucky and Sam are in Baltimore, Bucky brings Sam to a house where Isaiah Bradley lives.  They are refused entrance until Bucky tells the kid to tell Isaiah that the guy from Goyang is here.  Isaiah agrees to see them, Isaiah and Bucky had a run in from the past (1951), Isaiah whooped Bucky's ass.  We learn that Isaiah was an experiment with the super soldier serum after Steve Rogers disappeared.  Isaiah is a super soldier, but his story is even more tragic and sad than Steve's.  Isaiah, after fighting in the Korean war was imprisoned for 30 years where they further experimented on him.  Isaiah kicks them out of the house and Sam and Bucky argue over why Isaiah is a mystery.  Bucky tells Sam that Steve did not even know, a cop car pulls up and they are about to arrest Sam (for no reason) until they realize he is an Avenger.  Bucky though does get arrested because he missed his court-mandated appointment for therapy.  Bucky is freed after Walker gets him released, but Bucky's therapist is there, and she wants to speak with both Bucky and Sam.  The therapy leads to a pissing contest between Bucky and Sam that ends in a fight.  Bucky admits that he his mad about Sam giving up the shield, Bucky thinks if Steve was wrong to trust Sam with the shield maybe he was wrong about Bucky too.  Sam explains that he did what he thought was right, and that Bucky and Steve might not understand what it is.  Buck, Sam Hoskins and Walker meet outside the police station.  They talk about the intel they have on the FS; Sam reiterates that they don't want to work together.  

The FS are loading the crates onto a plan, but the Power Broker's men have found them and one of the FS decides to stall the men so the remaining FS can escape.  The lone FS member is killed by the Power Broker's men as the plane carrying the remaining members of the FS flies away.  Bucky and Sam talk about what to do next, Bucky says they need more intel on Hydra.  Bucky decides the best way to get information on Hydra is to see Zemo, we see Zemo is still imprisoned as credits roll.


While not as crazy/weird as Wandavision, Faws is a show that might tackle some social issues plaguing the world right now.  The show is focusing on life after the blip, Wandavision had a little bit of that but Faws is jumping into that mess.  I can see why a group like the FS would form, for some people that 5 years with half the population might have led them to a better life.  The time we got to spend with the FS made me think they do not come across as bad guys like Hydra, the FS are more like Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.  I am wondering if the Power Broker will be revealed to be the true villain, I assume since the Power Broker is after the FS, the FS got their super-strength from the Power Broker.  With Walker feeling so much pressure being Captain America, I think he will feel overmatched and eventually turn to the Power Broker to get powers.  I have no idea where the show is going, but with only four episodes left, I think each of the next four episodes will be stuffed with plot.  

The end of episode reveal of Zemo has me excited, I am curious if they will try to turn Zemo into a sympathetic character or if he will turn full villain.  Zemo showed in Civil War that you do not need powers to take on the Avengers, I have a feeling Zemo will have an interesting arc.  With Tony Stark now dead and Captain America presumed dead (?), will he consider his mission to avenger his family complete.  Will Zemo be setup for a redemption arc, in Civil War by the end of the film I kind of felt sorry for him, he lost his family and was denied death by Black Panther.  Zemo will escape or be let out of prison.  We know that next episode Bucky and Sam will visit Zemo in an attempt to learn more about Hydra and the super-soldier serum.  I can see a situation where Zemo will either get released to help them locate the information they need, or if he will be broken out of prison by someone else.  Zemo is scheduled to appear in the final four episodes, while I am sure he is not the Power Broker, I think he will have an important role going forward.  I just can't figure out how Zemo ties into everything we have seen so far, maybe he supplied the Power Broker with information on Hydra's research into the super-solider serum.  

The dynamic between Bucky and Sam is very reminiscent of the buddy cop genre, but in both Sam and Bucky's case their issues are a little deeper.  The forced couples counseling between them revealed that Bucky's anger with Sam is more to do with Bucky's insecurity of what/who he is.  Bucky wants to believe that Steve was right to think that Bucky is the same Bucky as he was, but Bucky is wrestling with the fact that maybe he is not the same.  Bucky has done some terrible things when he was brainwashed, he is living with the guilt of all his actions as the Winter Soldier.  Bucky has been fighting back against the notion that he is a soldier, and that he likes the action and the killing.  What Bucky is not accepting yet is that he does enjoy it, that enjoyment makes him doubt he is the man Steve thought he was.  Bucky wants Sam to be Captain America because that is what Steve wanted him to do, Bucky has yet to understand that Sam was never given a choice.  Sam too, is also struggling with his choice even though he won't admit it.  Sam thinks that he himself might not be worthy to take up the mantle of Captain America, I think Sam knows there is a part of the world/country that would not accept a black Captain America.  

The issue of race has been featured in the first two episodes; I think it is a good idea to use this show as platform to talk about race.  The comic book explored similar themes and I am glad Disney is letting the show explore them too.  It would be very easy for Disney to push the show to quieten its tone, but race in America is a big issue and those who push back against that are often the ones that are the problem.  Social issues need to be brought up everywhere so that the people causing the issues either stop or are made to stop.  Hearing about Isaiah Bradley's history is heartbreaking, how can a man who served his nation be treated in that way.  To serve your country, risk your life, be experimented on and then be locked up for 30 years seems incredibly cruel.  I have to assume that because Isaiah was black, and he had powers he was treated as a threat rather than a hero.  I hope we get to spend some more time with Isaiah, you can see learning of Isaiah shook Sam.  Sam was angry that Isaiah was kept secret, both out of shame for what was done to him, but also because the powers that be did not want a symbol for the social justice crowd to rally around.    

I want to talk about John Walker and Lemar Hoskins, I came out of episode one wanting to hate John Walker.  I leave episode two kind of liking him, I admit Walker is a little overconfident, but he is capable.  Walker also appears humble, but he also seemed that being overpowered by the FS was something he is not used to.  I am sure Walker and Hoskins will pay a visit to the Power Broker; they will try to get powers.  I think Walker is meant to be a good guy, and the mantle of Captain America will cause him to buckle under the pressure.  I do not want to see Walker turn completely bad, but I if done in a good way I could see it making sense.  I would much rather see Walker go too far and back down and give up the mantle of Captain America because he no longer feels worthy.  I also think it would be funny if Walker and Hoskins get captured are rescued by Bucky and Sam.  Walker and Hoskins have been shown to be competent, but they may be in over their heads.  Sam and Bucky have some experience in dealing with the Flag Smashers and the Power Broker type of villains.  Sam and Bucky failed in their first encounter, but they will learn from that failure and do better.  I am not sure Walker can do much better, he is a decorated warrior, but he doesn't yet have powers and he may lack the experience in dealing with villains of this type.   

I think this was a very strong episode, better than episode one, I enjoyed episode one, but I wanted to see Sam and Bucky together.  Episode two gave us a lot of information on John Walker, the Flag Smashers and Bucky and Sam going on a mission together.  Episode two also introduced the Power Broker to the mix and get a tease of Zemo.  The show is a character piece as much as an action show, I am enjoying the style, pace, plot and action so far.  I admit the Faws is more of a traditional MCU show, compared to the weirdness in Wandavision, but with Black Widow being pushed until July I will take MCU action any way I can get it right now.  Since Faws feels similar in nature to Captain America: Winter Soldier, I am waiting for a big reveal, I am not sure what it will be, but I feel something is coming.  Sam and Bucky do not get along every well with each other, but they are loyal to each other too.  I think Bucky joining in on the mission with Sam was about him wanting to keep Sam safe, neither will admit it but with Steve gone they both need each other.  Sam is such a positive guy, but in little moments you can see the positivity is a facade, Sam misses Steve and I think him and Bucky will bond over their shared brother in Steve Rogers.  I am not sure if Faws will have a season two, but I think it will; with only six episodes I think there is a lot left to explore and hopefully season two is announced soon.  Join me next week as I review episode three, leave comments about your thoughts on the episode.

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