The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is starting to pick up the pace and after the exhilarating thrills of ‘Power Broker’, the hunt for Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers moves into overdrive for Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes and Baron Helmut Zemo. But this is in no way a fair fight, and Episode 4 ‘The Whole World Is Watching’ takes a sudden turn that we couldn’t see coming and it is guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
Having tracked down wanted revolutionary Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and her anti-patriotism cell the Flag Smashers in Latvia, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Baron Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) move to intercept her. But while Sam calls for a diplomatic approach, the arrival of Captain America himself, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), threatens Sam’s non-confrontational plan, and soon things go wrong very quickly for all involved.
The heat is dialled all the way up in the ‘The World World Is Watching’, the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and director Kari Skogland takes us into some very heavy drama in this episode. After a devasting bombing campaign in the previous episode, Karli Morgenthau has now moved from freedom fighter to terrorist and this is where Skogland places her attention in this latest episode. Her focus in the narrative moves to perspective and she takes audiences into the mindset of both Karli and John Walker, and these are two characters who are on total opposite spectrums. And stuck in the middle of it all are Sam and Bucky.
Episode by episode we have seen the actions of Karli Morgenthau escalate, while she began stealing food and medicine to help those who had become undone by the ‘blip’, she has now stepped it up a whole new level and is actively engaging in terrorist activity to build her new world. But Karli is not a straight-up villain, but instead, a complicated lost girl who is just trying to do the best she can. But she’s beginning to cross the line, and her newfound power is moving her to make radical decisions that have dire consequences. A strong sense of belief and radical optimism shape Kellyman’s performance and this makes her very interesting to watch in the events that unfold.
Playing off against Karli’s anarchist dreams is Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, the new Captain America and the pressure is starting to get straining for this appointed defender of truth and freedom. Russell plays into Walker’s military leanings and the discomfort he feels with the pressure that comes from his newfound celebrity. Added to this are some frustrating events that mar him in a bad light and even this hero isn’t immune from the consequences of ego and hubris. There’s a subtleness to Russell’s performance and this helps to sell the complexity that this character is feeling and Skogland uses this to her advantage in this episode to great effect.
With Morgenthau and Walker facing off against one another, and Sam and Bucky stuck in the middle, Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Helmut Zemo comes into his own…and he’s having a lot of fun in the chaos that is erupting. As the ‘fly in the ointment’, he’s using the complexity that is unfolding around him to his own advantage, and we see his Machieveillain scheming come into play. Bruhl has terrific composure as Zemo, and you never know what he is going to do next, keeping things very interesting in the process. He also has an explosive interaction with Morgenthau, and the consequences of his actions lead into the episode’s shocking revelation.
Also making a notable presence in ‘The World World Is Watching’ is the character of Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba, a member of the Wakandan warrior elite The Dora Milaje, who has a strong relationship with Bucky Barnes, having helped him recover from the Winter Soldier into the White Wolf. And this is a very real test for where Bucky’s loyalties lie. Not only do we see the re-introduction of Wakanda, but we also get a stronger bond between both the films of the MCU and this new long-form episodic storytelling on Disney+ and the result is one giant canvas. The presence of the Dora Milaje also leads to one of the episode’s most exciting action scenes that proves that there is no equal to their combat skills.
‘The Whole World Is Watching’ is the most complex episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to date, and director Kari Skogland uses its ongoing narrative to explore further ideas of right and wrong, anarchy versus the status quo, and the consequences of unchecked power. The idea of the ‘super-soldier’ is of key importance to this episode and the concept of choice of whether to accept its power or not. Skogland is playing with a lot of heavy ideas in this episode, and it’s clear that repeated viewings of this episode will be needed to get at the heart of what she is exploring as there is so much complexity to unravel.
The action and intensity of ‘The Whole World Is Watching’ doesn’t let up for a moment and it’s very clear that in the hero game no one is innocent. Wilson. Barnes. Walker. Morgenthau. Zemo. All of them have blood on their hands, and it’s clear that we’re no longer in a world where the rules of black and white apply. This isn’t 1944 with Captain America fighting the Red Skull in a battle between good and evil, but a grey world where the forces of patriotism, anarchy, freedom and totalitarianism are all smashing together. All of these forces lead to a shocking conclusion that will send a cold shiver of dread down the back of your spine, and things are about to get very bad from here in the MCU.
‘The Whole World Is Watching’ will go down as one of the most defining moments for the character of Captain America within the MCU, and where this series goes is anyone’s guess now. With so much unchecked power, and raw emotion leading the series it’s clear that things are about to get a whole lot worse for our heroes of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. The match has been lit….and the explosion is imminent.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to stream on Disney+
Image: Walt Disney Pictures