“The World Is Watching” was the perfect title for last episode, as John Walker crossed the line, killing one of the Flag-Smashers in a spectacularly brutal way, and using Cap’s shield to do it. Now, the ramifications roil through the world of the major characters as everyone tries to figure out what to do next. Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Karli Morgenthau, and John Walker all have important decisions to make. Everyone is looking for their version of “Truth.”
Picking up shortly after the last episode, we saw Walker running into an abandoned industrial area. He’s having flashbacks that are arguably PTSD as he tries to process the death of his friend and partner Lemar, as well as his incredibly gory execution of the helpless Flag-Smasher. He doesn’t get much time to himself as Bucky and Sam catch up with him. Our heroes try and talk the frantic Captain down, but he’s in no frame of mind to listen, and a big fight ensues. There are a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, Walker gets a substantial injury, and Falcon’s wings are damaged badly, but Sam and Bucky leave with the shield. The way he acts during the fight, it is fairly clear that Walker losing his temper and killing the man was not a one-off. He also is already telling himself lies about what happened.
Sam provides some voiceover as the GRC does a few raids, finding followers but no one important in the Flag-Smasher movement. Lt. Torres makes an appearance as Bucky walks off. Sam and Torres talk about what’s supposed to happen next, but Walker’s actions have halted their official support. Torres is concerned that Karli is going to go into even deeper hiding after Walker’s extreme actions. Torres asks a few questions about some damage from the fight, and Sam makes a comment that makes it seem like he learned nothing from giving up the shield in the first place. In Washington, DC, Walker is called to account for his actions, appearing in military, not superhero, uniform before an inevitable committee. The committee makes some understandable decisions which anger Walker, and I think he should quit while he’s behind. Things could be much worse for him. As he leaves, the committee makes another demand that shows Walker’s report was, at best, incomplete.
Out in the hallway, John fumes and his wife tries to offer useful suggestions that he’s clearly not listening to. This is when they get an interesting visit from a woman identifying herself as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In the comics, she’s known as either Val or Contessa, and was a very high-ranking SHIELD agent and sometime lover of Nick Fury, then retconned into a double, if not triple, agent. Here, she’s played very well by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and is a woman of mystery with an intriguing offer for Walker. And let’s face it, Walker doesn’t have a ton of options right now. As she leaves, she makes an interesting comment about the shield. Karli and her people arrive at one of the refugee sites after a raid, and look at the aftermath. Karli fumes and rants and some of her comments make it sound like she’s not taking her own actions into account. She also has some ominous plans coming up.
Zemo visits the memorial he mentioned earlier to Sam and Bucky, which is where the former Winter Soldier finds him. The two talk for a bit about Karli and the larger picture, and then Bucky does something dramatic but kind of pointless before he takes a step with Zemo that makes sense. With the help of some allies, Zemo is heading for the Raft, the super-prison that played a part in both Captain America: Civil War and the third season of Jessica Jones. Not done yet, Bucky calls in another favor, although I’m not sure how that one worked. Sam goes to Baltimore to visit with Isiah Bradley, and hears more of the man’s tragic past. Bradley is very, very bitter, and I don’t blame him a bit. By the end of the conversation, Sam decides it’s time to head home. This brings up one of those detail points we’re probably not supposed to think about. Sam and Bucky got from Europe to America, and then Sam moved around a lot in the States, while Sam has the shield. If the government wants it, how is he managing to do that? It’s not like you can hide that shield. Plus, traveling around that much isn’t usually free, even if he hitched a ride on a military transport to get State-side again.
Back in Louisiana, Sam takes refuge in family and simple tasks. He’s trying to support something his sister wants to do that he’s against, but learns of more obstacles in the way. Sarah, exasperated in a friendly way, asks why Sam isn’t off saving the world instead of bothering her, and he makes the excellent point that his family is part of the world. After some thinking, he finds an unusual approach and calls in some favors of his own. One minor difficultly gets solved by the unexpected appearance of Bucky, who lends a hand and brings a gift. This is the part I’m puzzled about, as the gift he brought was last seen with someone who isn’t either Sam or Bucky. There’s also an entertaining bit about Bucky’s arm, and something different regarding Sam’s sister Sarah. The pair does some work together, banter, and discuss Karli.
Walker makes the kind of visit anyone who serves in a dangerous line of work dreads. It’s a touching scene, marred a bit by Walker telling more lies. Next is a brief scene of Sharon Carter making some kind of deal that seems to serve no purpose but to make her look shady and suspicious. While Walker and Carter do questionable things, Bucky gets a quick scene with Sam’s nephews. One small note of interest here; Bucky is still wearing his dog tags. I’ve seen military people do that after leaving the service, but he’s been out a very long time now. Bucky and Sam get back to work, then get kicked off their project by an expert. Back at the house, Sam does some training while he muses over some issues with Bucky. Bucky opens up a bit, too, and we hear some of his worries. Back when we first met Sam, he was a counselor at the VA (he’s a social worker in the comics), and he falls back into that role now, giving Bucky some hard but good advice. The scene ends with some more friendly banter.
Sam and Sarah have an important chat about their family history and actually talk to each other, and listen. It’s a good exchange between them, and leads to a big training montage as Sam does his damnedest to get familiar with a very important and famous signature weapon. Karli and her followers have a meeting in a park where they connect with someone else we’ve seen before both in the MCU and in this series. They plan to go after the Global Repatriation Council meeting, which we see on the news. Sam gets a call from Torres with an update, and figures out what’s going on. The Council has their meeting interrupted, and it’s not looking good at all for them. The last two things we see are Sam pondering a big decision and then, in a mid-credit scene, Walker taking steps to try and continue what he thinks he needs to do.
What I liked: The big fight with Sam and Bucky vs. Walker was very well done, brutal and ugly as you’d expect. Sam is getting very creative in the use of his wings. Bucky opening up a bit was long overdue and delivered in a believable way, as was his bit talking about his arm. Zemo, all things considered, got off lightly, but his getting retaken was a good scene. I liked Sam’s training near the end, and am intrigued by Walker’s final scene. I’m not at all sure what to make of either Val or Sharon’s scenes. Isiah’s tragic story is sadly believable.
What I didn’t: Walker’s new skill at the end seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m not sure how Sam and Bucky are traveling so easily. Far as I know, they don’t have access to a quinjet, if there’s even a version of the Avengers operating right now. The government clearly needs to vet their special operatives a lot better. A lot of the trouble in this series came from Sam giving up an important symbol that’s also a weapon. Why did he do it again?
I thought this was a fantastic episode in a great series. I’m giving this a high 4 out of 5.