The Marvel series finally takes flight with the help of Baron Zemo who brokers an uneasy alliance with our heroes
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier made an impressive debut in the last two weeks and was Disney Plus’s most watched TV series premiere yet. Debuting after Wandavision, the show marked a big return to the traditional Marvel format in both a good and a bad way. Whilst the show made the most of more streamlined storytelling and provided a much needed look at the ordinary lives of Sam and Bucky, some of the action scenes and set up arguably felt out of place and rather unnecessary. Now about halfway into the season, the series is finally taking flight with all the set up behind us and finally a good reason for all these action sequences. Baron Zemo’s comic accurate return also massively boosts the show as he forms an uneasy alliance with Sam and Bucky. In truth, it’s just so much fun seeing what this trio gets up to in an episode that balances characters, action, and plot and has no filler.
An Alliance of sorts
“Power Broker” delivers on last episode’s exciting tease and starts with Zemo in prison for his crimes in Civil War. With the race on to take down the Flag Smashers, Bucky is going to extreme lengths. In his desperation to honour Steve’s legacy, Bucky decides to team up with one of the greatest villains in the MCU. This time round, Marvel delivers a more comic-accurate version of the character. Zemo is not only rich now but a Baron like in the comics and he even gets to wear his iconic purple balaclava this episode. Watching the trio work together is so much fun due to fantastic character interactions and the fact that Zemo could turn on Sam and Bucky at any time. Zemo is so likeable this episode in large part due to the writing but also due to Daniel Brühl’s charisma in the role. We want to trust Zemo but do not know whether we can. Even more so than in the first two episodes, the scenes in Madripoor are full of impressive cinematography and action scenes that allow each character to show off their distinct abilities. Bucky even sort of returns as the Winter Soldier making one nostalgic for an earlier era in the MCU. Not only does Zemo return this episode but also Sharon Carter whom we last saw in Captain America Civil War. Since then so much has happened in the Marvel Cinematic universe. Carter may have been on the run for years but once called into action here, she fits right into this episode with a key role to play.
The Flag Smashers
One thing which this episode has not fixed about the show is the Flag Smashers. They remain as uninteresting as ever, neither intimidating nor wholly sympathetic. The show is clearly trying to make audiences feel for the Flag Smashers but their motivations are bland and the actual characters so far underdeveloped. Marvel arguably had a similar problem with Wandavision as over the course of the show, Director Hayward became one of the main villains. He ultimately was written as a bland, cliched villain. Whilst Hayward and the Flag Smashers stand on the opposite side of the military/political spectrum, they are both undeniably props - unimportant characters that only exist for the sake of the story. By the looks of it, the Flag Smashers will likely not even end up as the main villains by the end of the show with Zemo likely to turn at any point and the new Captain America, Walker, also being set up as a threat. It may be fun watching Sam and Bucky in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier but this is undeniably an MCU project through and through. And since it’s on TV, the big event will likely be saved for the films. Using the Falcon and the Winter Soldier as essentially a vehicle to set up not only Sam and Bucky’s future respective roles in the MCU but also Baron Zemo as a big villain going forward would be a genius move by Marvel but one that undermines the current show.
Overall, “Power Broker” gives the Marvel series the boost it needed to finally get off the ground. The show has not managed to shake all of its problems but the main characters’ chemistry and the reintroduction to Baron Zemo in the MCU in more comic-accurate fashion is more than enough to justify watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. All the pieces are coming together to make the show a great MCU project even if as a standalone it does not completely carry its own weight. Sharon Carter is even back and all these characters once again in action makes you nostalgic for the earlier MCU. The show may never make The Flag Smashers that interesting but with so many moving pieces at the moment, hopefully The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can deliver more fun character driven episodes and in the end stick the landing more than Wandavision did.