The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4 review: Captain America's super-violence
Sam, Bucky and their ol' pal Zemo face off with more super-soldiers as the Disney Plus series continues. But what's wrong with John Walker?
Forget being a Baron - who knew Zemo was such a dancing queen?
Yes, Daniel Brühl's returning Civil War baddie made quite a splash when he joined the Falcon and the Winter Soldier team last week, showing off his smooth moves in a Madripoor club as Sam and Bucky (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) discovered more about the new super-soldier serum that had empowered the Flag-smashers.
But would this week's fourth episode reveal even more of Zemo's soft-shoe-shuffling? Alas, no – #ReleaseTheZemoCut – though it did shed some more light on Wakanda's involvement in the story, following the surprise appearance of one of the Dora Milajae at the end of the last episode.
In the opening sequence we actually jump back to Bucky's time in the fictional country, where the work of Shuri (Letitia Wright) helped remove his Winter Soldier programming. And it turns out that he also developed a friendship with Ayo (Florence Kasumba) during his time there, making their new clash a little awkward.
Because you see, the Wakandans (and specifically the Dora Milajae) aren't too happy with Bucky's plan to free the guy who killed their king T'Chaka back in Civil War. They give him eight hours to get whatever he needs, but then they're coming for their prize.
And Ayo isn't wrong about Zemo being a wrong 'un. It's not long before he's getting in Sam and Bucky's heads, doing his weird head tilt thing and holding information back from his partners - even if it's just to make sure he keeps his "leverage" over Karli's (Erin Kellyman) location - while also plying children with Turkish delight like a cut-price White Witch. If you're looking for Aslan, well, I have some bad news about Zemo's flashy coat.
Still, eventually he takes them to the funeral where Karli is speaking, with John Walker and his friend Lemar Hoskins (Wyatt Russell and Clé Bennett) in tow, keen to bring Karli in themselves. However, Sam begs a favour - let him talk to Karli alone for 10 minutes, and help her see the error of her ways. Let's say he has... mixed results.
While it's not hard to empathise with Karli - the details about refugees being welcomed into countries when half the population vanished, only to be displaced again once when everyone returned post-Blip - adds an interesting dimension to the events of Avengers: Endgame, and give her a sympathetic backstory. However, she's also killing people - and unless they're soldiers Sam is fighting in episode one, Killing is Wrong. According to Sam, who we saw kill a lot of people before.
It's an odd tension in the series - why is it OK for some people to die, but not others? Is it possibly... ideology? - but not one that's explored for too long before Walker loses his patience and bursts in, ruining Karli and Sam's heart to heart. Zemo also escapes, shooting Karli and destroying her supply of super-soldier serum, before she manages to get away.
Well, all but one vial, picked up by an increasing emasculated John Walker who has clearly been craving some serum himself so he can be a "proper" Captain America. Later, when the Dora Milajae turn up to grab Zemo they wipe the floor with the new Cap and his sidekick (not to mention Bucky and Sam), leaving a rattled Walker to note sadly that they "weren't even super-soldiers." The biggest humiliation of all, one of the Doras takes his shield, though they end up just leaving it behind anyway. Oh, and Zemo escaped down a drain. What is he like?
The stage is set for Walker to take the plunge, only strengthened when Lemar (in a mirror to a conversation Sam had with Zemo earlier in the episode) says that he'd definitely take the serum if he had it, reminding Walker of the good it could have done during their dark days together in Afghanistan. He also notes that power makes people "more themselves," citing Karli and Steve Rogers as two people who changed in different directions thanks to the serum.
Meanwhile, after a vaguely threatening call to Sam's sister (hey, remember her? Felt like she was going to be in this series more) Karli meets with Sam and a tag-along Bucky, noting that she doesn't want to kill Sam as he's "just a tool in the regimes I’m trying to destroy." Her real target? A true symbol of imperialism, aka Captain America, aka John Walker who is lured into a trap that Sam and Bucky race to save him from.
But what if he doesn't want saving? After Lemar goes missing in the house they've wandered into, Walker takes on the Flag-smashers, and it soon becomes clear that he's a little more souped-up (or should that be suped-up?) than he was the last time we saw him. Embedding his shield in walls, bending iron bars and generally kicking ass, he finally has the strength to go toe-to-toe with other super-soldiers, and when Sam and Bucky also turn up it's quite the battle.
In fact, it's a pretty great action scene - there's fun shield tossing, Bucky does some cool stuff with knives while his Winter Soldier theme plays... it's the kind of stunt fighting that this series does really well, even if its story is a little lacklustre from time to time.
And it's also a scene that ends in tragedy. With the Flag-smashers preparing to kill Walker despite his new strength, Lemar manages to escape and save his friend - but in the ruckus Karli throws him against a pillar, apparently killing him instantly. Walker is bereft, but quickly shifts to ruthlessness as he burst through a window and chases after one of Karli's lieutenants, who begs and insists that it wasn't him who hurt Lemar.
But it's no matter to Walker, who now has his own creepy musical theme as he beats the man to death with Steve Rogers' vibranium shield. It's a brutal, shocking moment - and given how many people were around taking photos and videos of the new Captain America's bloodstained shield, it's hard to imagine that Walker is going to easily escape that image.
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With just two episodes to go, it's beginning to look like Zemo is the last of Sam and Bucky's problems. Will Walker go rogue to try and avenge Lemar? Will the Power Broker be revealed and get his revenge for his lost and destroyed serum? And was that the last we saw of the Dora Milajae, or are they still after Zemo?
Frankly, at the moment it's hard to see how it'll all wrap up - but it's sure to be an interesting ride.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues Fridays exclusively on Disney Plus. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out the rest of our Sci-fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.