The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Power Broker

I am back and unimpressed

One of things I enjoy so much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the way they circle back to tie up loose ends you might not even have thought of. All the Easter Eggs are great, too, but I really like how they devote some thought to “What have we not cleared up so far?” They touch on that in this episode, as well as introduce new places from the comics that haven’t made it into the MCU before. Bucky and Sam have a lot to do as they hunt for the “Power Broker.”

The show opens with a commercial for the Global Repatriation Council, an organization created to help with all the chaos caused by the return of those first Snapped away and then Blipped back. It’s a very believable detail for a world that has gone through such major global events. This leads into the new Cap and Battlestar raiding someplace with ties to the Flag-Smashers, but they don’t find what they wanted. We do learn that Battlestar has some unanticipated talents. Cap is nowhere near as popular as he’d like to think, and their investigation into the new source of Super Solider Serum isn’t going anywhere. Cap has a plan Battlestar isn’t wild about, but there’s nothing better to pursue.

Speaking of bad ideas from limited options, Bucky and Sam are going to the prison where Zemo has been since Civil War. After debating tactics, Bucky goes in alone, while Sam looks really uncomfortable with all of this. Zemo and Bucky spar over their past, and Zemo offers an odd apology. Later, Sam and Bucky go to a safehouse where Bucky slowly reveals what he’s been up to, and Sam is very displeased. He’s even more so when Zemo turns up, having managed to escape with a very slight assist from Bucky. The three make an odd group, but there’s an interesting chemistry between them. They’ll never be close friends, but they seem like the start of an effective unit. There are some amusing exchanges before Sam reluctantly agrees to work with them. Zemo, as Bucky has observed, does have a code, however skewed, and he doesn’t like the idea of more Super Soldiers being created. There are a few surprising revelations about Zemo, an interesting debate about heroes and music, and a nice call back to a small bit from Steve Rogers in Winter Soldier. Eventually, Zemo tells them they need to go to Madripoor.

Madripoor, for those not familiar with it, is truly a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” a tiny independent island nation in Asia. It’s mostly strongly linked with the X-Men, particularly Wolverine, which probably explains why it hasn’t shown up in the MCU until now. At one of the Global Repatriation Council camps, Karli, leader of the Flag Smashers, gets some bad news and shows a more human side of herself to us. In Madripoor, Sam is not pleased with his cover identity, while Zemo gives a brief outline of the island before they go to the Princess Bar, a place that’s been frequented in the comics by the likes of Wolverine, Black Widow, and many of the shadier of the heroic characters, as well as many others. There’s the obligatory bar fight before they get to see who they want to, a shadowy woman called Selby.

We see someone duck out as our three head for their meeting. Zemo offers an interesting deal to Selby that I could see being very, very tempting to an underworld figure. Selby gives them a hint about where to find the Serum, and then things go to hell. Sam gets a very ill-timed phone call from his sister, and their cover story falls apart despite Sam’s best efforts. As things start looking bad for our heroes, they receive unexpected support by way of some impressive sniping from afar. This turns out to be Sharon Carter, former agent of SHIELD, and not seen since Civil War. She has been through a lot of changes, and caustically points out that, while Sam had high powered friends to get him pardoned after the Civil War, she’s been on the run for years. We see some of Sharon’s new life, her changed opinions on heroes, and what she wants to help our three not-quite-heroes.

After a very big party that Zemo enjoyed, Bucky ignored, and Sam was clearly suffering through, Sharon gets them the next step they need to find Dr. Nagel, the man behind the new Serum. In the comics, Nagel, who also used the name Josef Reinstein, worked on the Serum after Dr. Erskine’s death, and was behind the experiments that led to the tragedy of Isiah Bradley’s adventures. Here, he’s a very slimy man who wants to cut a deal and does actually touch on Isiah’s story. While our focus three deal with Nagel, Sharon is outside, showing some very impressive skills in dealing with assorted thugs and bounty hunters. The woman is a highly skilled combatant on many fronts. Nagel reveals some interesting details of his life, his ties to some big MCU events, and his work. As Sharon battles on, Zemo makes a find and takes some decisive action. The aftermath is messy (and fiery), and leads to a desperate escape with more bickering between Sam and Bucky. Zemo has plenty of chances to escape, but actually comes to the aid of the others, which is interesting.

Sharon parts company with the others, reminding them of her conditions. As they head back for the airport, there’s an amusing callback to one of Sam and Bucky’s scenes in Civil War. Over in Lithuania, Karli and one of her thugs talk about the lives they would have preferred to live as they stake out a GRC storehouse. As the man worries about the Power Broker coming after them, Karli proves remarkably well-informed about events that just happened in Madripoor. They make some plans for later that night. Cap and Battlestar visit someplace we saw earlier in the episode, and Battlestar doesn’t seem completely comfortable with Cap’s plan on how to proceed. Sam calls Lt. Torres for some information on Karli, and ruminates on how Nagel talked about Isiah. He and Bucky talk about the shield and the complications around it. Sam makes an interesting comment, and Bucky responds with a simple, if not entirely practical, plan. They get a lead that has Zemo change course for their plane.

As we get near the end of the episode, things get very tense on many fronts. Karli leads the Flag Smashers on a raid, and gets what they wanted. She then goes on to make a very pointed statement that her fellow Smasher strongly disagrees with. Zemo talks about what’s become of Sokovia since Age of Ultron, and leads them to their next stop. Bucky decides to take a walk instead of joining them, and finds a few interesting things lying around the city. This leads him to the start of a conversation with someone who has a very vested interest in Zemo not running around free, providing our final cliffhanger.

What I liked: Zemo’s escape worked, especially since it seemed like he’d been laying the groundwork for it for a while. The weird combination of Sam, Bucky, and Zemo was very entertaining to see. I’m glad Sharon came back, and she really shone in her fight scenes. Including Madripoor, a haunt for some of the X-Men, was a tie from the MCU to their world, moreso than “Quicksilver” turned out to be. Walker and Battlestar are a good team, and I liked that Lamar had skills so he’s not just a sidekick. Walker’s plan is good, if ruthless. The nod to Isiah was a nice touch.

What I didn’t: I just don’t care about Karli. She’s not capturing my interest, and any sympathy I might have felt for her disappeared this episode. I thought it was a bit odd to name the episode after a character that never shows up.

I enjoyed this, and thought it was another good part of the story. I’m giving this a high 3.5 out of 5, and eagerly awaiting next week’s installment.

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