WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 4
After a somewhat mixed first half of a series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hit new heights with an unpredictable, high energy, and thoughtful fourth episode. The Whole Wide World is Watching sees Sam and Bucky continue their partnership with Zemo to track down and stop Karli and her super soldiered Flag Smashers. The team hits bumps in the road, however, as the Dora Milaje and the new Captain America John Walker have plans of their own.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had been thoroughly engaging throughout its first three episodes, but there were a lot of little concerns that were adding up. The pacing felt jarring, with an unusually inconsequential and slow burn of a pilot in stark contrast to a high octane, globe trotting spy thriller of a third episode. There were a few writing decisions that had us scratching our heads, including pretty drastic alterations to Zemo’s character and the confusing fact that Sam struggled financially despite being an Avenger. I’m thankful to say then that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels like it has finally found its footing.
The episode has the task of adequately dealing with a few central characters at this point, not just Sam and Bucky. And yet, despite this difficult task, everyone is given memorable moments to shine and development that adds unexpected layers to their already complex characters. For instance, we get some insight into Bucky’s time in Wakanda and the way in which this time allowed for his liberation from his Winter Soldier identity.
Conversations between Sam and Karli blur the line between friend and foe and really get you questioning if the ends justify the means, a central theme poignantly running throughout this episode. The series is constantly playing around with the idea of ‘who really are the bad guys? who really are the good guys?’ But they particularly excel in this department in episode 4. Karli seems brutal and deadly, but justified and sympathetic. Zemo appears devious and villainous, but his views on the super soldier serum and the negative impact of symbols are reasonable.
Even John Walker puts the audience in a somewhat uncomfortable position in regards to this theme. Until episode 4, despite being pretty dislikable, he hadn’t done anything particularly villainous to make us outright hate him. And his plight about whether to take the super soldier serum and the trauma of witnessing his best friend die before his eyes added more depth to his character. After taking a backseat last week, the new Captain America is likely to be the primary topic of conversation from episode 4. His fight with the Dora Milaje was brilliantly choreographed and, overall, it was just really cool and unexpected to see these characters appear in the series. Wyatt Russell commands the screen as Walker, so much so that when he sees the super soldier serum on the ground, we are totally invested in what his next moves will be. The final scene of the series once again plays on the theme of questioning who are the good guys and the bad guys after Walker mercilessly kills a defenseless Flag Smasher in public.
Another highlight is Erin Kellyman as Karli, who continues to impress in her role as the lead Flag Smasher. Kellyman and Mackie share the episode’s best scene as they discuss the mass displacement of people after the Blip and the rationalization of her violent actions. Kellyman also kicks a lot of ass in this episode (maybe a little too much in the end as she kills Battlestar). At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if the tables turn by the end of the series and we see Kellyman and Walker switching sides.
Despite continued struggles with some dialogue and humor, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier firmly finds its footing with a thrilling episode that brilliantly balances multiple, complicated characters and deftly plays with themes of heroism and villainy.
Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney+