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Falcon and Winter Soldier episode 4: New Captain America takes extreme option

Recap: John Walker loses patience with Sam, Bucky, Zemo and one unlucky guy.

Sam Wilson, Lemar Hoskins, John Walker, Bucky Barnes

The characters -- Sam Wilson (from left), Lemar Hoskins, John Walker and Bucky Barnes -- are sorta allies.

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

After a trip to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's wretched hive of scum and villainy, episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier -- titled The Whole World Is Watching -- landed on Disney Plus last Friday. The show dives into Captain America's legacy six months after Avengers: Endgame, as the world deals with the unexpected return of billions of people.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and questionable ally Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) are on the hunt for the Super Soldier Serum-empowered antinationalist Flag Smashers. However, Bucky discovers they're being followed by Wakandan special forces member Ayo (Florence Kasumba), who's tracking Zemo -- the man who killed her country's king.

Elsewhere, new Captain America John Walker (Wyatt Russell) realizes that tailing Sam and Bucky is his best bet for reaching the Flag Smashers and their leader, the ruthless Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman).

Let's track some SPOILERS.

Marvel Studios
John Walker with bloodied shield in Falcon and Winter Soldier

This might be a problem.

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

Blood on the shield

The episode ends with Walker, newly empowered after sneakily taking the last of the Super Soldier Serum, flying into a rage after Karli accidentally kills his partner Lemar Hoskins (Cle Bennett), aka Battlestar, with a single super-powered punch to the chest.

Karli manages to slip into the crowd, but Walker runs down her fellow Flag Smasher on the street and publicly kills him with Cap's shield. As you'd expect, most of the crowd record this dark moment and the image of the bloodied shield is broadcast to the world. Uh oh. 

The image of Walker slamming his shield into a fallen enemy harks back to Captain America: Civil War, in which Steve Rogers does the same to Iron Man to disable his armor. The difference is that Steve stopped when his foe was beaten, while Walker gave in to his bloodlust (and maybe decapitated that Flag Smasher).

Path to power

Much of the episode is devoted to getting Walker to this point. From the moment he shows up in Latvia, he's super intense about taking Karli down but clearly frustrated by a sense of powerlessness.

We also learn that he got three Medals of Honor for something he and Lemar did in Afghanistan. But whatever that was, it has left them scarred. They muse about the lives they could've saved if they'd had the serum.

"Power just makes a person more themselves," says Lemar, highlighting what Steve and Karli became, and foreshadowing where Walker is headed.

Walker also stopped shaving since we first saw him. It looks cool, but reinforces his dark edge.

The peaceful approach

By contrast, Sam sees the opportunity to negotiate a bloodless solution with Karli. He empathizes with her sense of loss and cause, but gives her a sense of the harm she's doing. That's until Walker marches in and ruins the moment.

He also tells Zemo he wouldn't have taken the serum if he'd been offered it. It feels inevitable that this show ends with Sam taking up the shield, and this highlights that he won't need superpowers (beyond his flying suit) to do so.

Sam hardly needs to be enhanced anyway; he killed one of Thanos' space trolls with his wings in Endgame.

God complex

"We cannot allow that she and her acolytes become yet another faction of gods among real people," says Zemo of Karli and company. "Super Soldiers cannot be allowed to exist." 

This mission statement comes after he shoots Karli and crushes all but one of the remaining vials of Super Soldier Serum. For the briefest moment, I thought he was gonna knock one back, so kudos to Zemo for sticking to his warped principles.

Zemo with towel

"Don't mind me, just working on my escape."

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by CNET

His superpowers are his piles of money and genius (a bit like Batman) as well as his supply of "irresistible" Turkish delights. He ultimately escapes through a hole under the bath, which Sam refers to as pulling "an El Chapo."

In 2015, Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped his jail cell in Mexico City through an elaborate tunnel dug under the shower. He was recaptured the following year and is serving out his sentence in a Colorado prison. And he apparently exists in the MCU.

Bucky in Wakanda

Bucky passes the test.

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

Wakandan solutions

This episode reveals the moment Bucky knew he was free of Hydra's brainwashing, six years ago in Wakanda.

"Longing. Rusted. Seventeen. Daybreak. Furnace. Nine. Benign. Homecoming. One. Freight car," Ayo says in Russian, uttering the words used to activate his Winter Soldier programming in a final test. They don't work, much to everyone's relief.

Later, the Dora Milaje, Wakanda's all-female special forces group, make an absolute fool of Walker (and Lemar, Bucky and Sam, to a lesser extent) by easily beating them as they come for Zemo. They even have a trick to make Bucky's Wakandan-made vibranium fall right off -- a pretty excellent fail-safe that he had no clue about.

While this is happening, Zemo just chills out with a drink before making his escape. What a cool cat that guy is.

Bucky and Ayo

This shot of Bucky and Ayo's meeting is delightful.

Marvel Studios/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

Observations, WTF questions and Easter eggs

  • The name "Donya" is repeated a whole lot in this episode -- it's hard to connect with this plotline. She was clearly meant to be Karli's moral compass and figurehead for the displaced people, but the show didn't build up her character at all. A flashback to her and a younger Karli would've gone a long way. 
  • Zemo says Turkish Delight was his late son Carl's favorite. His wife and son were killed when Ultron attacked Sokovia's capital city. 
  • Where has Zemo gone? Given his "no more Super Soldiers" notion, he'll likely go after Karli and might even try to kill Bucky.
  • Karli says she wouldn't hurt Sam's sister Sarah, but it feels like she just might go after his family as she becomes more desperate.
  • Power Broker is furious that his source of Super Soldier Serum is gone. He also sends another threatening text to the Flag Smashers, which serves to remind us he's out there.
  • Nico, the Flag Smasher killed by Walker, says he was a Cap fan as a kid. Makes his death even darker.

Join us for more Easter eggs and observations Friday, when episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hits Disney Plus.