The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 2 review: Marvel wants to Make (Captain) America Great Again

In its second episode, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier unpacks MAGA politics and the refugee crisis, establishing what was teased in episode one — Marvel Studios’ second streaming show is just as fascinated with geopolitics as it is with superheroics.

John Walker, the ‘new’ Captain America gets a large chunk of screen time, and even though he comes across as a jock opportunist, he’s actually just another cog in America’s militaristic machine.

Watch an interview with Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie here

Like episode one, the most engaging moments of the second episode are when the reunited Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) confront their personal demons. Bucky is understandably bitter at Sam, who in the last episode decided to turn in Steve Rogers’ shield to the government. Bucky was, after all, overlooked for the position. And for Sam to just turn his back on his inherited responsibility seems a little unfair to Bucky, who would’ve perhaps given his metal arm for the opportunity to assume the mantle of Captain America.

But the government had other plans. We watch as John Walker is paraded before the public; gives rehearsed statements to the press, and talks about idolising Steve. He doesn’t realise that he is merely a symbol of nationalism; a manifestation of rise of the right-wing.

He offers Sam and Bucky to fill in as his wingmen as they investigate the Flag Smasher cult, a group of radicals who want ‘one world, one people’ — a return to the way of life they’d become accustomed to during The Blip.

The Falcon and the Winter soldier, in addition to being a rollicking adventure series, once again proves that it is at its strongest when it takes a breather from all the action, and walks down storytelling avenues that other superhero shows pass without a second glance.

Anthony Mackie in a still from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

In a particularly good scene towards the second half of the episode — after the customary action sequence is out of the way — Sam and Bucky are walking down a street when the cops pull up behind them. Without as much as a look at Bucky, the white man, they zero in on Sam, and demand that he produce some identification. He refuses; they’ve done nothing wrong. They were minding their own business.

“Is this man bothering you, sir?” one cop asks Bucky, who, having now lost his patience, replies, “Do you know who this man is?” And that’s when the policemen realise what they’ve done. In America, no Black man is safe from the far-reaching arms of the law — even if you’re the comedian Chris Rock, who posts a selfie on social media every time a cop pulls him over, or literally an Avenger. I didn’t expect to see something like this unfold in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Neither did I expect to hear conversations about the repatriation of those, including Sam, who’ve returned after The Blip, and the processes that are being put into motion to help assimilate them into society again — paperwork regarding their citizenship, and social security.

Also read: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1 review: Marvel takes fans back to action-packed roots

The tone has now firmly been established — The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an uncommonly grounded chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is also among the most masculine stories that we’ve seen unfold in the MCU; ironic, considering that it’s directed by a woman. But as we saw in episode one, Kari Skogland is particularly skilled at peeling off the superficial layers of masculinity, and examining these characters’ souls and insecurities. It’s all very compelling.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier airs on Disney+ Hotstar Premium in India.

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