'The Falcon And The Winter Soldier' Meet "The Star-Spangled Man With A Plan" In An Action-Packed Second Episode

Hello, and welcome to your weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. These are meant to be read after watching, so they will go deep into spoiler territory. You have been warned!

Previously On...

"Thank you, Captain America. But this belongs to you."

In "New World Order," we caught up with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) as they struggle to find their place in the world since returning from The Blip. Hesitant to take up Captain America's mantle, Sam has relinquished the Super Soldier's vibranium shield to the United States government, while Bucky is trying to make amends with those whose lives have been devastated by HYDRA's Winter Soldier program. The episode ends with introducing the new, government-appointed Captain America, John F. Walker (Wyatt Russell).

The Star-Spangled Man

The second episode, written by Michael Kastelein, opens with Walker in the locker room of a football stadium moments before appearing on Good Morning America for a sit-down interview with the nation. Walker's first visitor is his wife, Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss), who reassures the former Marine that he will do his country, and Steve Rogers, proud by taking on the mantle of Captain America. Moments later, Walker's partner, Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett), appears to deliver his own pep talk.

"Two weeks ago we're prepping the team for a special ops mission in Chile, now this."

Pacing the floor, Walker tells us that the whole process of becoming the new Captain America has been frustrating. "It's been a lot of handshakes, a lot of suits, a lot of speeches, and senator meetings, and I just wanna do the job."

"This is the job, John," replies Hoskins. "All of it is. Star-spangled man with a plan and all that. It's always been in the job description. Listen, this suit, it comes with expectations, brother. You can't just punch your way out of problems anymore, you know? Time to go to work."

We get a reference to "Star-Spangled Man," the song composed by Alan Menken for Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). In that film, we saw Steve Rogers' early days as Captain America, touring the nation in a colorful costume to promote war bonds while the Star-Spangled Singers regaled us with this catchy tune about the man who will "campaign door-to-door" and "carry the flag shore-to-shore" for America.

The other interesting tidbit from this exchange is the notion that Walker is known for punching his way out of problems. It's a reference to the character's comic book origins as Super-Patriot, a vigilante with all of Steve Rogers' heroism and patriotism but none of his empathy. Speaking of the comics, this isn't Lemar's first appearance either. Created by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary, the Bucky-esque sidekick character was originally introduced as a member of the Bold Urban Commandos in 1986's Captain America #323 before adopting the name Battlestar in #341.

Walker takes the stage with host Sara Haines where he immediately tries to take up Rogers' humble persona with your relatively standard "How did a guy like me end up here?" bit, to which the journalist responds, "For those of you who aren't familiar with his résumé, John Walker, the first person in American history to receive three Medals of Honor." We learn that Walker ran missions in counterterrorism and hostage rescue and that government did a study of his body at MIT. He tested off the charts in every measurable category. Speed, endurance, intelligence — you name it.

Walker tells us that he's not Tony Stark or Dr. Banner. He doesn't have the flashiest gadgets or super strength, but what he does have is guts — something Captain America always had. And he's going to need every ounce of it because he's got big shoes to fill.

The Flag Smashers

Meanwhile, First Lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez) is prepping Sam for a mission to Munich, Germany. They're interrupted by Bucky, who lets Sam know upfront that he shouldn't have given up the shield.

"You didn't know that was gonna happen?" he asks.

"No, of course I didn't know that was gonna happen," an already exasperated Sam replies. "You think it didn't break my heart to see them march him out there and call him the new Captain America?"

Bucky persists. "You had no right to give up the shield, Sam." When Sam tells him that the outrage will have to wait because he's got bigger things to worry about, Bucky asks, "What could be bigger than this?"

The answer? The Flag Smashers. Redwing traced the anarchist, anti-patriotism group to a building somewhere outside of Munich. Bucky lets us know that he doesn't trust Redwing, Sam's pet drone. "You don't have to trust Redwing," Sam says. "'Cause I have a feeling they might be a part of the Big Three."

We get a hilarious exchange in which Sam tells Bucky that the "Big Three" are androids, aliens, and wizards. "Every time we fight, it's one of the three."

"So who are you fighting now? Gandalf?" Bucky retorts.  Caught off-guard by Bucky's knowledge of Middle-earth, Sam asks, "How do you know about Gandalf?" Smugly, Bucky says he read The Hobbit in 1937 when it first came out.

Bucky joins Sam on his mission to Munich, where the two get into an epic fight atop two semi-trailer trucks with the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). For me, this sequence felt like an amalgam of three other action set pieces: the train assault from The First Avenger, the freeway chase in The Matrix: Reloaded, and the train heist from Solo: A Star Wars Story, which also features Kellyman as the badass Enfys Nest.

As it turns out, the Flag Smashers are all jacked up on Super Soldier Serum. Just when it looks like Sam and Bucky might be outmatched, Walker and Hoskins show up to even the odds. Walker and Battlestar tracked the Avengers to Munich thanks to Redwing. Bucky was right not to trust that drone as the government seems to be using it to keep tabs on Steve Rogers' old wingmen.

Walker tells us that violent revolutionaries aren't usually good for anyone's cause, to which Sam replies, "Usually said by the people with the resources." Walker wants to team up, but Bucky's having none of it. Walker tries to smooth things over.

"Look, I get it, okay? I get the attitude, I do. You didn't think that the shield was gonna end up here. I get it, Bucky. And I'm not trying to be Steve. I'm not trying to replace Steve. I'm just trying to be the best Captain America I can be."

On the plane back to the States, Bucky confides in Sam that there's someone he should meet — a misplaced, forgotten piece to the puzzle that may shed some light on how, 80 years later, we have Super Soldiers runnin' around again.

Isaiah Bradley, the Black Captain America

In Baltimore, Maryland, Bucky and Sam visit the home of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), an elderly Black man with whom Bucky had a skirmish during the Korean War.

"He was a hero," Bucky tells Sam. "One of the ones that HYDRA feared the most. Like Steve. We met in '51."

"If by met, you mean I whupped your ass, then yeah," says Isaiah.

We learn that the U.S. military dropped Isaiah behind enemy lines to deal with the Winter Soldier. "I took half that metal arm in that fight in Goyang," he continues. Going back to his attempts to make amends, Bucky tells Isaiah he isn't a killer anymore, but the old man isn't so sure. "You think you can wake up one day and decide who you wanna be? It doesn't work like that."

Created by writer Robert Morales, artist/inker Kyle Baker, and editor Axel Alonso, Isaiah Bradley first appeared in the 2003 series Truth: Red, White & Black as one of 300 African-American soldiers who were used as lab rats (not unlike the infamous and grotesque Tuskegee Study) as part of the United States government's attempts to replicate the Super Soldier Serum. The only survivor of this clandestine experimentation, Isaiah become known as the Black Captain America, an underground legend that not even Steve Rogers was aware of.

During this scene, we are introduced to Isaiah's grandson, Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson). In the comics, Eli follows in his grandfather's footsteps as Patriot, a founding member of the Young Avengers. However, Eli isn't the only member of the Young Avengers to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among the group's members are Ant-Man's daughter, Cassandra Lang, who will appear next in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania; Kate Bishop, who will carry on the mantle of Hawkeye in an upcoming Disney+ series starring Hailee Steinfeld; and America Chavez, AKA Miss America, who will make her debut in director Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It's also possible that Morgan Stark, daughter of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, may someday become Iron Lass. Oh, did I mention that WandaVision's Billy and Tommy Maximoff, known as Wiccan and Speed respectively, are also members?

United We Stand

After their trip to Baltimore, Sam and Bucky hash out a few things in therapy with Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino) thanks to something she calls a "soul-gazing exercise."

"Steve believed in you," says Bucky. "He trusted you. He gave you that shield for a reason. That shield is everything he stood for. That is his legacy. He gave you that shield, and you threw it away like it was nothing. So maybe he was wrong about you. And if he was wrong about you, then he was wrong about me."

They decide to squash things for now and get to work. Outside, Walker and Hoskins are waiting. Satellites have found the Flag Smashers' symbol popping up in various displaced communities all across Central and Eastern Europe. Sam reminds them that they have rules of engagement that he and Bucky don't. The Avengers are free agents – it wouldn't make sense for them to work together. Walker offers a word of advice, "Stay the hell out of my way."

And with that, our heroes are off to uncover the truth about the recreation of the Super Soldier Serum, which means they're off to see Zemo. Played by Daniel Brühl, Baron Helmut Zemo is a former Colonel with the Sokovian Armed Forces who became the terrorist following the Battle of Sokovia, vowing revenge against the Avengers after losing his family. We last saw Zemo in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, where, after creating a rift between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, he was captured and imprisoned by Everett Ross (Martin Freeman).

Final Thoughts

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues to intrigue with its second episode as we see these characters come more into their own. I remain invested in the friendship between Sam and Bucky as well as their individual struggles, and I'm beyond intrigued to see how Walker's Captain America continues to evolve. Is he a good guy caught in a bad situation, or is he more like his comics counterpart than we've been led to believe? And how will Isaiah and Eli Bradley factor into things moving forward?

What do you think? Who is the mysterious Power Broker, and how did they get their hands on Super Soldier Serum? And what about Zemo? Will he have any answers for our heroes, or will he fill their heads with lies to further fracture the Avengers? Join me next week for an in-depth breakdown of the latest episode!