Friday, April 2, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' - Sam and Bucky Recruit Familiar Faces for Their Mission in 'Power Broker'

Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - Episode 1.03 "Power Broker"

Sam and Bucky go to a criminal safe haven to find information about the Super Soldier serum.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

"Power Broker" was written by Derek Kolstad and directed by Kari Skogland

Disney+'s WandaVision was a successful and entertaining extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe through a new medium. It adapted itself well to the conventions of television while never limiting itself with its scope and ambition. After three episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has increasingly felt like a slog with no real urgency or drive. The scope is as massive as what the audience has come to expect in this world. However, it's also hoping that jumping from one action sequence to the next while featuring familiar faces from a number of the feature films is enough to keep the audience engaged. It isn't. It lacks the depth to actually tell a challenging and rewarding story with these particular characters. Sam and Bucky are driving the narrative. The personal stories they have seem quite simple. Bucky regrets the past actions he took as the Winter Soldier. He struggles with how to make it up to those he has wronged. Meanwhile, Sam naively gave away Captain America's shield not acknowledging and understanding the burden of that visual. These concepts were introduced in the first episode where these two heroes were separated. Since coming together, these ideas haven't really expanded or grown. They were stated simply in the beginning. Now, Sam and Bucky are teaming up to stop the Flag-Smashers before the group does even more harm. They are bonded together through their friendship and reverence for Steve Rogers. They also fear the threat of new super-soldiers after a serum was successfully reproduced. But the show basically amounts to these characters being dropped in one location for a little while as things explode and grow intense before going to the next for the exact same behavior. And yes, this episode features some character returns that do add some excitement. Bucky helps Zemo break out of prison in Germany. The insights he potentially brings to the investigation can hopefully prevent this threat from doing more harm in the region. Of course, not a whole lot of progress is made in that regard. Karli is even given a personal connection where a loved one is dying because of the lack of resources to treat those returning following the Blip. But she still doesn't come across as an engaging antagonist for this story. The series appears to be highlighting the many easy ways for people to be radicalized. Karli once aspired to be a teacher. And now, she is committing terrorist attacks against those who selfishly hoard resources while many more are meant to suffer. That's an easy justification for her now. It doesn't make her a complex or compelling figure in this world or story though. The same applies to John Walker carrying forward the Captain America mantle with no respect for the visual. It's just a job he is hired to do while expecting everyone else to do whatever he demands. He is encouraged and supported in that regard. That includes spying and tracking Bucky and Sam because they are the ones actually making some progress in dealing with the threats that currently exist. Once more though, it's all about the violence that has now dominated the geopolitical aftermath of the world returning to normal. That's all that the show wants to be. And yes, it's splashy and gets the energy pumping. It doesn't say anything about what it means for these characters to always be thrown into these situations. It's simply something they are capable of doing. It's dangerous for anyone to trust Zemo after his actions contributed to the destruction of the Avengers. It's also necessary for Wakanda to seek justice for him killing their king. That is a thread that must be explored as well. The show has all of these interesting ideas. It wants to follow up on the true aftermath that is so often ignored in the superhero genre. That's a noble ambition. The execution continues to be severely lacking. References and shocking character returns aren't enough to suggest something of true understanding and depth occurring by the end of this journey. It's simply one event inspiring the next with nothing happening in between. Sam starts to see the error of his ways. That doesn't particularly provide any insight into him though. It shouldn't have taken him seeing the numerous ways the American government has taken advantage of people of color. It had to be personal for him to care. That's a really forced development that doesn't enhance anything in the overall story. It was a mistake that may ultimately prevent this show from actually doing anything of value across its remaining three episodes. That's a profound disappointment in a universe that usually does well with each of its bold experiments.