****There be spoilers being dropped****
This is the episode where the Sam and Bucky meet up in the after-math of John Walker coming onto the scene as the new Captain America in the post blip world of the MCU. The episode starts off with the viewer meeting John before he begins a similar type of propaganda tour that Steve had to do in Captain America The First Avenger. It’s about humanizing John after our initial introduction made many a viewer immediately dislike him.
The government’s Captain America isn’t what this story is about, it is about Falcon’s struggle in figuring out how to take up Cap’s mantle and how does Bucky process his guilt and live with it. The new Cap is simply the spark for their story and our first real deep dive into the post blip world and how the world has changed since. It seems that they are sticking to pretty close to his comic history and that makes me wonder how Sam will get the shield later on, maybe the next episode.
Seeing Sam and Bucky bounce off each other when Bucky goes to Sam about the new Cap and the sheild is just fun. Bucky meets up with Sam to ask why he gave up the shield just has he is heading on his next mission and we get the scene where they talk about the big three, aliens, cyborgs and wizards. This gets into the issue of race and how for Sam giving the shield up was the right thing to do for him in that moment even if what they did with the shield was wrong to both of them. Steve’s shadow looms ever present in this series as it is personified in the shield itself and what it means to each of the characters and to the United States as a symbol more than its worth as a weapon.
This leads into the next big action sequence that we have seen in the trailer where Sam, Bucky and John get their asses handed to them by the Flag Smashers on the trucks. They all get beat and John gives Sam and Bucky a ride where and we can see how they relate to each other and the awkwardness of it all, as they content with someone who has taken the mantle of someone John has never met but Sam and Bucky knew so well. Then it shifts to the Flag Smashers where they are emboldened by their success so far and decide to take it up a notch.
After this we meet Isaiah Bradley whose story about the experiments done on black soldiers to recreate the super soldier serum reflects the real history of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which was a complete unethical failure and continue to undermine trust by the black community in public health that continue today. There is a nuance in how when Sam and Bucky leave Isaiah’s home they are stopped by the cops that reflect the fear about how if you are black or a person of colour, that you have to be so careful out of fear you will end up like George Floyd or countless others.
The issue of race is something Marvel Studios doesn’t deal with in its movies but the fact they are dealing with it here allows them to reflect what society is facing at this very moment. Having a series that shows who Sam is and if he wants to carry the shield is something that makes more sense because now we are seeing him outside of his role as Falcon in a way the movies can’t get too. For Sam this is a series that contends with who he wants to be if and when he takes up the shield as Captain America, not a “black” Captain America but Captain America despite the faults of the nation and the weight of slavery and racism that the country was built on.
For Bucky this series is about is he worth being redeemed, does he deserve the chance he has been given and can he right his wrongs even though it wasn’t him who was doing it. We get the scene with both Sam, Bucky and his psychiatrist where Bucky is forced to admit if Steve was wrong about Sam, does that mean he was wrong about him. Who is Bucky now in a time and a place where he has no one, whereas with Steve in the picture, he had someone that knew him from before he was Hydra and how that is gone, how does he find peace or how does he reconcile what he did as the Winter Soldier.
It is after this where they decide to figure out who the Flag Smasher are and how they got super soldier serum they need to talk to Zemo who knows Hydra’s secrets. They tease Zemo as he plays chess in a prison as they leave the viewer to think what will happen next amid the comic and movie callbacks that underlay the series as a whole.
I enjoy how they are giving us a different look at the world in a way we haven’t seen in the past. With Marvel Studios being in complete control of every narrative front in both the movies and streaming shows. This series even more than WandaVision is giving us a broader view of the MCU as a whole and that is an exciting place to be as we get to know who these characters are outside the movies and their one-liners and to who they are within their own stories.
The hard part about a story like this is that we as the viewer are counting down, hoping they can get everything they want to get done in the time they have. It’s hard to judge at this point which is always an issue in a series but I can’t wait to see where the story goes and if it will have any implications for what will be happening in the future of the MCU.