Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four Re-Watch. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, part 1

It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both Cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each

Title:  The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Characters created by:  Stan Lee, Gene Colon, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mark Gruenwald, Paul Neary, David Michelinie, John Byrne, Bob Layton, Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella, Sal Buscema, Dick Ayers, Jim Steranko

Returning characters (for the series):  Sam Wilson, James “Bucky. Barnes, Sharon Carter, James “Rhodey. Rhodes, Baron Helmut Zemo, George’s Batroc, Ayo

Episode one: “New World Order”

Director:   Karl Skogland

Writer:   Malcolm Spellman

US Release Date: March 19, 2021

Summary:  Six months after half of all life returned from the Blip, the U.S. Air Force sends Sam Wilson to stop a plane hijacking over Tunisia by the terrorist group LAF, led by Georges Batroc. With ground support from first lieutenant Joaquin Torres, Wilson fights the terrorists and rescues Air Force Captain Vassant before they cross into Libyan airspace and cause an international incident. On the ground, Torres tells Wilson about another terrorist group, the Flag Smashers, who believe life was better during the Blip.

In Washington, D.C., Wilson gives Captain America’s shield to the U.S. government to display in a museum exhibit about Steve Rogers. He later explains to James Rhodes that he feels like the shield still belongs to Rogers. In Delacroix, Louisiana, Wilson’s sister Sarah struggles to keep the family fishing business going. He offers to use his status as a famous superhero to help them get a new loan, but they are turned down due to the business’s poor profits and Wilson’s lack of income during the five years he was gone.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Bucky Barnes attends government-mandated therapy after being pardoned for his actions as the brainwashed assassin known as the Winter Soldier. He discusses his attempts to make amends for his time as the Winter Soldier with his therapist, Dr. Raynor. Barnes later has lunch with an elderly man named Yori, who convinces him to go on a date with a waitress named Leah. Both Yori and Leah discuss how Yori’s son RJ was killed with no explanation. Barnes recalls killing RJ as the Winter Soldier, which happened after RJ witnessed a Winter Soldier assassination in the hotel where he was staying. Barnes is unable to reveal this to Yori, and has also been ignoring text messages from Wilson.

Torres investigates the Flag Smashers and sees a bank robbery in Switzerland perpetrated by a group member with superhuman strength. Torres confronts him, but is knocked unconscious. He later informs Wilson of what he has learned. Wilson then sees the government announce a new Captain America, giving Rogers’ shield to John Walker.

MCU Continuity Nods:  The Smithsonian exhibit has a number of references to Rodgers career shown in the films. One photo is from the point of view of an extra holding a camera in the pier scene in Captain America: The First Avenger.A Tunisian man thanks Falcon for helping to return his wife to him five years after Thanos snapped half of all living beings out of existence in Avengers: Infinity War. His wife is noticeably younger than him, as she remained the same age she was when she was ‘snapped’ while the man has aged during the intervening five years.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson had a conversation with Steve Rogers in which he mentioned that his bed was too soft after he returned from the war because he’d become used to sleeping on the ground. In this episode, Bucky Barnes is shown sleeping on the floor of his room with no mattress, implying he feels the same way. Georges Batroc was last seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier hijacking the Lumerian Star, a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship used to launch the Insight satellites.

Easter Eggs: . In the comics, John Walker was first an “Hero Exhibitionist” known as “Super Patriot”, who would stage public attacks and defeat his foes; often calling and and coming to blows with Steve Rogers himself. Walker eventually takes the mantle of Captain America when Steve decides to step down. During his term in that period, Walker comes to respect Rogers’ ethics and strives to emulate them, although the Red Skull’s manipulations drive him temporarily insane. Later on, Rogers returns as Cap at Walker’s request, and Walker assumes himself the persona of “U.S. Agent”; donning a forsaken design of Rogers’ costume that he himself utilized during a period of self-imposed exile as “The Captain.” The costume in this series largely imitates that look.

In the comics, Karl Morgenthau, (changed to Karli) the Flag-Smasher, a supervillain fanatic dedicated to establishing a one-world government by violently attacking the symbols of nationalism. He leads an anti-nationalist terrorist organization called The Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind (ULTIMATUM). Lieutenant Torres is based on the comic book character Joaquin Torres, who was the second person to take on the mantle of Falcon.

Episode two: “The Star-Spangled Man”

Director:  Karl Skogland

Writer:  Michael Kastelein

US Release Date: March 26, 2021

Summary:  John Walker appears on Good Morning America as the new Captain America and discusses his desire to live up to Steve Rogers’ mantle. Bucky Barnes watches on, disappointed, and soon confronts Sam Wilson about his decision to hand Captain America’s shield to the United States government. He decides to come with Wilson as he searches for the Flag Smashers terrorist group.

Wilson and Barnes travel to Munich and find the Flag Smashers smuggling medicine. Wilson identifies a possible hostage, who is revealed to be the group’s leader, Karli Morgenthau. With their enhanced abilities, the Flag Smashers quickly overpower Barnes and Wilson until Walker and Lemar Hoskins come to their aid, though the Flag Smashers escape. Walker and Hoskins request Barnes and Wilson join them in aiding the Global Repatriation Council (GRC) to quash the ongoing violent post-Blip revolutions, but they refuse. Meanwhile, Morgenthau receives a threatening text from the mysterious Power Broker.

Traveling to Baltimore, Barnes introduces Wilson to Isaiah Bradley, a veteran super soldier who fought Barnes in the Korean War. Bradley refuses to help them uncover information about additional Super Soldier serums due to being imprisoned and experimented on by the U.S. government and Hydra for 30 years. As the two argue over him keeping the existence of an African-American super-soldier a secret, Wilson is harassed by police and Barnes is arrested for missing a therapy appointment. Barnes is released on bail after Walker and Hoskins intervene. Barnes and Wilson are forced into a therapy session with Barnes’ therapist Dr. Raynor.

Walker and Hoskins again ask Barnes and Wilson to work with them, but they refuse once again. Disgruntled, Walker warns the duo to stay out of their way. In Slovakia, the Flag Smashers escape by airplane while one member stays behind to hold off the Power Broker’s men. Barnes and Wilson decide to visit an imprisoned Helmut Zemo in Berlin to gather intelligence on the Flag Smashers.

MCU Continuity Nods:  Bucky says he’s called White Wolf. This is a nickname that was given him by local children while he was recuperating in Wakanda, as revealed in a Black Panther post-credits scene.

Easter Eggs: . In the comics, when John Walker was recruited to replace Steve Rogers, Hoskins was recruited with him to become his sidekick, Bucky with an equivalent costume. However, when Dwayne McDuffie told comics writer Mark Gruenwald that “Buck” was a common racial slur against African-Americans, Gruenwald wrote a correction where another African-American soldier tells Hoskins that same fact with some comments about the condescending imagery of him imitating a white teenager from the 1940s. In response, Hoskins adopts a new identity, Battlestar.

In the comics, Isaiah was one of a group of African-American soldiers who were the first test subjects in attempts to recreate Project Rebirth that gave Steve Rogers his enhancements. Unfortunately, while Bradley’s treatment appeared successful enough for him to emulate Captain America, he also suffered the usual failures to recreate Doctor Erskine’s work and his mind was badly affected.

Elijah Richardson plays Eli Bradley, a character who was also known as The Patriot in Young Avengers

Music:The song playing for John Walker in the stadium is a marching band version of ‘Star-Spangled Man” the song written by Alan Menken and David Zippel for Captain America: The First Avenger, which was performed at Steve Rogers’ USO tour during WWII.

Episode three: “Power Broker”

Director:  Karl Skogland

Writer:   Derek Kolstad

US Release Date: April 2, 2021

Summary:  Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson travel to Berlin to talk to an imprisoned Helmut Zemo about the emergence of a terrorist group of Super Soldiers, the Flag Smashers. Behind Wilson’s back, Barnes orchestrates a prison riot to help Zemo escape after the latter agrees to help the pair. Barnes, Zemo, and Wilson travel to Madripoor, a criminal sanctuary city-state run by the mysterious Power Broker. Zemo asks Barnes to act as the Winter Soldier while Wilson poses as a gangster who frequents Madripoor.

After Zemo uses Barnes to get the attention of high-ranking criminal Selby, the group meet with her and reveals that Hydra scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel was hired by the Power Broker to recreate the Super Soldier Serum. Wilson’s identity is exposed after his sister Sarah calls him in the middle of their meeting. In the ensuing firefight, Selby is killed and all of the bounty hunters in the city target the group. Sharon Carter, who has been living as a fugitive since the Sokovia Accords conflict, saves them from the bounty hunters.

Carter uses her connections in Madripoor to find Nagel’s lab and takes Wilson, Barnes, and Zemo there. Nagel explains that he recreated twenty doses of the serum and they were stolen by the Flag Smashers’ leader Karli Morgenthau. Zemo unexpectedly kills Nagel, and the lab is destroyed when bounty hunters attack. Zemo finds a getaway vehicle, but Carter decides to stay behind in Madripoor and Wilson agrees to obtain a pardon for her so she can return to the U.S. Meanwhile, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins arrive in Berlin and deduce that Barnes and Wilson helped Zemo escape. The Flag Smashers raid a Global Repatriation Council (GRC) storage facility in Lithuania for supplies, and Morgenthau blows up the building with personnel inside to send a message.

Zemo, Barnes, and Wilson travel to Latvia in search of Morgenthau. Recognizing Wakandan tracking devices in the street, Barnes breaks off and confronts Ayo of the Dora Milaje, who demands that Barnes hand Zemo to her

MCU Continuity Nods:  When Sam says to Bucky “You’re not going to move your seat up are you?” and Bucky replies “No”, it’s a callback to Captain America: Civil War when the positions were reversed and Sam didn’t move his seat up.The objects that Bucky picks off the street at the end of the episode are Wakandan Kimoyo beads.

Easter Eggs: The fictional island of Madripoor is usually associated with the X-Men series of comics. It first appeared in New Mutants #32. Falcon, Winter Soldier and Baron Zemo are seen walking past The Princess Bar, which first appeared in Marvel Comics Presents #1. Wolverine used it as his base of operations when he went under the pseudonym “Patch”. The bar they enter in this story is the “Brass Monkey Saloon” (sometimes called the Bronze Monkey) which made its only appearance in Captain America #363. Sam Wilson poses as Conrad Mack, aka Smiling Tiger. In the comics, Smiling Tiger first appeared in New Warriors #19 and for a time, helped run the criminal underworld of Madripoor.

Music:When Bucky enters Zemo’s cell, you can hear the music used as Zemo’s theme from Captain America: Civil War.

My Take: 

We are really beginning to see the consequences of the Blip, which we have seen on a personal level in both Spider-Man: Far From Home and Wandavision, but this time we are seeing the global effects of having half the world’s population disappear for five years and Tony’s choice to bring back people five years later.

The action sequences are fun particularly the van sequence and the plane hijacking. The real fun of the show is the interaction between Bucky and Sam, like an 80s buddy action comedy. It gets better when Zemo gets thrown in the mix

Race has been addressed in the MCU before with Killmonger, but here we see one of our heroes can’t get a loan, and get unwanted attention from the police. Isiah Bradley’s story is set up in direct contrast to Steve’s.