The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had a strong start but episode 4 turned out to be the strongest in the series thus far, providing interesting social commentary and analysis into the show’s main characters.
By now the show has solidified one fact: the Flag Smashers are not the main villains; the show continues to delve into Karli’s character while putting John Walker down an increasingly dark path. The opening sequence with Bucky and Ayo has to be one of the most powerful performances in the MCU to date, with Stan giving his all portraying Bucky’s anguish over his past and relief over his freedom.
The action sequences this episode are also a highlight, between the gang’s chase with Karli and the Flag Smashers to the Dora Milaje ganging up on John Walker and company. The ending sequence is probably the most gruesome thing in the MCU to date, with John Walker bashing in one of the Flag Smashers’ skulls.
Another thing Episode 4 does so well is its character work. There’s an interesting thread the show builds, setting up John Walker and Sam Wilson as polar opposites each episode. This week the question of being a super soldier comes up — Sam tells Zemo without hesitation he would never want the serum.
John Walker, on the other hand, steals a fallen vial after his chase with Karli and takes it for himself. The show says the serum makes the good great and the bad worse — a quote that rings even more true in that last haunting shot with John Walker’s shield — a symbol for America itself — covered in blood, having just murdered a man minutes prior. It’s a great shot, one that really drives home a huge focus for the episode.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also makes good political and social commentary, with Sam defending Karli’s goals as wanting to help others versus the malice others like John paint her as having. When Karli calls Sarah to use her as a bit of a bargaining chip, Sarah tells her that she doesn’t care about the “mascot” for America because “her world” doesn’t matter to America. This is, quite clearly, an examination of Sarah’s feelings as a black woman in America, something that is particularly hard-hitting especially given current affairs and the treatment of black citizens in America.
All in all, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4 keeps its viewers on their toes, giving an interesting story with some hard-hitting commentary to boot. The ending shot of John Walker with the shield doused in blood has got to be one of the most striking images in the MCU to date.
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