The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: The Whole World is Watching

When you run into an old friend while hanging out with your new friends…

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has done a great job of exploring the post-Blip world. The complications were largely glossed over in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and WandaVision has a somewhat tighter focus. In a world that’s been through so much, and lost two high-profile heroes like Iron Man and Captain America, it makes sense there’s a lot of upheaval going on. There are some shocking developments in “The Whole World Is Watching.” The title itself is a callback to a very important line in Black Panther, with a similar situation here.

The episode opens with a flashback, six years ago in Wakanda. Bucky’s time there has only been very lightly touched on, but now we a very important scene between him and Ayo, a high-ranking member of the Dora Milaje. In the present, the two are reunited for a very tense meeting. Zemo managed to offend a great many people in his brief campaign to destroy the Avengers, and the Wakandans are near the front of the line. Ayo and Bucky have a strained conversation, and she finally leaves with an ultimatum. Returning to their safehouse, Bucky warns Sam and Zemo about the Wakandan presence, so at least Bucky isn’t keeping secrets. This leads to a debate about how to deal with Karli, leader of the Flag-Smashers, as well as the very nature of Super-Soldiers. An interesting point is that even two such diametrically opposed people as Helmut Zemo and Sam Wilson agree that Steve Rogers was exceptional in so many ways. Zemo suggests a plan, based in part on an observation from Sam, and brings up a treat that I’ve only ever heard referenced in a classic fantasy series.

Watching as the news covers the Flag-Smashers’ attack last episode, Karli and her crew are not happy to hear some of the repercussions from their actions. They seem to not really think things through as well as they think they do. Zemo brings Sam and Bucky to a place he used to know well that now houses many of the refugees that are Karli’s people. Sam and Bucky find few willing to talk to them, while Zemo takes a more devious, but effective, approach to finding out what they want to know. Regrouping at the safe house, they debate the ethics of Karli’s fight. Sam is very empathic to her plight, while Zemo manages to tick off Bucky again. Not that that’s overly hard. Sam gets in a great line and manages to make Zemo self-conscious.

While Sam calls in a favor from an ally with great connections, Karli and one of her fellow Smashers talk about heroes and heroism while they pick up something important. Things get complicated when Captain America and Battlestar find Zemo, Sam, and Bucky. Suffice to say the two groups don’t get along. Sam brings up some great points from his past, and gets unexpected backup for his approach. Meeting up with Zemo’s informant, they manage to find where they’re looking for. Cap makes an understandable decision about Zemo, and Sam goes in to try his way of handling things.

Cap is impatient and starts making preparations, including a minor costume change that makes me wonder where he was keeping things. Karli and Sam have a good talk, and he’s actually making some decent headway. Both Bucky and Battlestar try and calm down Cap, and he gets snarky with Bucky. Walker is a great deal less likeable than the first time we saw him. The Sam and Karli conversation goes well, but Captain Impatient barges in and things go downhill quickly. There’s a running fight/chase with various combinations of people. The only ones who have some measure of success are Zemo and the Captain. Karli and her lieutenant catch each other up, get a disturbing text, and make a plan for their next move.

Sam sends another message and then gets into an interesting discussion with Zemo. The Baron is a villain, without doubt, but he makes some good points and is possibly one of the MCU villains I can relate to the easiest. This conversation also has a line from most of the trailers, although it’s altered slightly. Bucky comes in and delivers a fairly obvious warning that everyone else has already picked up on. Things take a turn when their safehouse gets a lot less safe. First Cap and Battlestar arrive, making demands, and then Bucky’s deadline runs out and Dora Milaje arrive for a very complicated fight. No one gets what they want, and the Dora prove, again, they they’re damn impressive. High points of the fight include a slick move by Ayo showing Wakandans plan ahead and Zemo watching it all with snacks before making an exit. In the immediate aftermath of the fight, the Dora return something they captured that’s arguably theirs, and then Bucky gets himself together.

After being humbled, John and Lemar talk about their past, and the difference some things could have made.  There’s a mention, yet again, of how the Serum brings out what’s inside you, with more reverence for Steve Rogers. I do appreciate them paying homage to the first Cap, who Chris Evans brought to life so amazingly well. While Lemar and John talk about what might have been, Karli makes a disturbing phone call. While I do, at times, understand her point of view and admire her passion, this is yet another example of her really crossing over a line. It’s also a fine illustration of why secret identities are so important to superheroes, which is one of the few major failings in the MCU in my opinion. They’ve declared open war against the concept.

You can tell things are building to the climax of the episode because Bucky and Sam attend their next meeting in costume. There’s a moral debate and a sort of attempt at talking things out, as well as a sort of backhanded insult to Sam. Things get even more complicated when Captain America and Battlestar show up (how DO they keep finding everyone?). There’s a multisided fight that reveals some surprising capabilities. A few things have changed for some of the characters. The action builds as several shocking things lead to the end of the episode, including two deaths, a brutal but striking visual, and the complications of social media for people who would rather hide things. It was a hell of an ending, and next episode is going to be complicated, to say the least.

What I liked: They are doing a great job of making the characters multi-faceted. I don’t agree with Karli, but I get where she’s coming from. Her assistant (I can’t figure out his name from the credits, sorry) seems like a good guy with a few wrong ideas. John Walker is a conflicted man doing what he thinks is right in a no-win situation, for the most part. Zemo is, by turns, scheming, entertaining, vicious, and committed to his ideals. I loved seeing the Dora Milaje again, and that fight scene was amazingly well done. Their precaution with Bucky was brilliant. The ending was shocking, the deaths brutal, and the shockwaves will be wide-ranging. I’m glad some characters are still getting to help out, even if it’s at a distance.

What I didn’t: As I said above, secret identities are a thing for a reason. I really dislike the MCU tossing them aside. Karli seems both jaded but naïve, which just seems jarring when the transitions happen. I really hate the call she made.

I thought this was another great episode in a series I’m enjoying in a world I’ve come to love. I’ll give this one a rare 5 out of 5.