John Walker loses patients with Sam and Bucky as they learn more about Karli Morgenthau.
Last week’s episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, despite being heavy on action, left me feeling a little old. In hindsight the action in “Power Broker” did a wonderful job of covering for the story remaining rather stagnant. It a typically Marvel sense the writers kept the plot circling by distracting the audience with what they do best, beating each other up.
This week however, the series finds itself really and truthfully succeeding as a philosophical sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier. Character motivations on both sides are twisted in clever and thought provoking ways. “The Whole World Is Watching” actually provokes the audience in to questioning their own moral compass thanks to the story of Karli (Erin Kellyman). Kellyman, particularly, shines through this episode as a reluctant leader with a conscience. Her motivations have never been clearer and they really challenged Sam’s (and my own) perceptions.
Writer Derek Kolstad really steps up from last week. “The Whole World Is Watching” capitalises on Marvel’s strengths in stunt work but really impresses with his character development here. Finding common ground between Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Karli really puts the series on a whole new level emotionally. Marvel often paints the world in black and white but succeeds best when is pivots in to shades of grey. We are very much in grey territory this week and its easy to revel in its successes.
Predicting the zeitgeist reaction to Wyatt Russell’s John Walker/Captain America is also a coup for the series. Whilst some fans have reacted a little too heavily to Russell himself, the actions of Walker this week will feel vindicating to many fans. As the narrative of the episode twists the new Cap in to a villain it feels authentically grounded in the world of Winter Soldier. The infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hydra serving as the perfect political foundation on which to build TFATWS. Koldstad capitalises on this by contrasting Russell’s darker side with more human aspects of his character. It’s he who is now crushed under the metaphorical weight of Cap’s shield.
A further brilliant contrast in this episode is how Russell falls as Karli rises. Their paths collide amidst a scene which easily could have proven to be Karli’s redemption. Though the moment itself is predictable the execution is flawless. As Karli finds common ground with Sam, the new Cap enters all guns blazing. It’s a moment of pure frustration for the audience but it successfully paints both characters in a new light.
That new light ultimately leads to the incredibly exciting climax of the episode. Wyatt Russell’s actions ensure that the whole world really is watching. It’s a scene which feels very edgy for Marvel. There’s a level of violence which certainly pushes boundaries for what the studio (and Disney+) are willing to show. Director Kari Skogland, of course, frames it all beautifully. There’s no unnecessarily heightened shock value in the scenario. Instead there’s just jaw dropping drama which puts the Flag Smashers even more in the public eye with plenty of sympathy to follow.
Elsewhere “The Whole World Is Watching” is still able to find stuff for Bucky and Zemo to do. A sub-plot featuring the Dora Milaje from Wakanda underpins the episode brilliantly. Not only does it further connect TFATWS to the wider MCU, it also brings about one of the series best hand-to-hand fight scenes. Brühl is still having incredibly fun playing Zemo again. His methods are more questionable this week, as are his motivations. Thanks to think repeat performance the character has successfully transitioned to more a Loki-like foil for the leads.
“The Whole World Is Watching” sets up the final two episodes of TFATWS with some of Marvel’s most creatively daring choices to-date.
The six-part limited series is directed by Kari Skogland and stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes. Emily VanCamp returns as Sharon Carter alongside Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo, and Wyatt Russell as John Walker/USAgent.
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