The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Ep. 3 – Power Broker
Warning: Review contains spoilers!
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been a wild ride so far and this week things get even wilder. After dazzling arial battles, fights on top of moving semi trucks and deep dives into race relations, this week’s episode brings in some familiar faces, explores the criminal underworld and gives viewers their first look at one of Marvel’s most infamous locales. Germany is the place to be as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier kicks off in Power Broker. While John Walker and Lemar Hoskins pursue the Flag Smashers in Munich, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes arrive in Berlin to have a chat with Zemo.
The hunt for Karli Morgenthau is on. Walker and Hoskins track down the Flag Smashers in search of her but come up empty. The reception they receive is less than Walker is expecting, especially when all that he comes away with is a face full of spit. The lack of respect is a deep cut and Walker’s frustration boils to the surface. John Walker is no Steve Rogers and the similarities between the two are becoming starker the more we see him. While carrying on the Captain America mantle is no easy task, the pressure to live up to it hangs over Walker and his short fuse, something we haven’t seen from Steve in even more trying circumstances, is just one example of just how different they are.
Meanwhile in Berlin, Bucky does the one-on-one with Zemo. Reasoning that since Sam is an Avenger and his presence would set Zemo off, Bucky does the heavy lifting on his own. Zemo, ever the welcoming guest goes right after Bucky by uttering the sequence of words that Hydra used to use to control his mind. Bucky shrugs it off and they get down to business. The Bucky/Zemo dynamic is an interesting one. Zemo blew up the UN, framed Bucky for King T’Chaka’s death and helped to break up the Avengers. That’s quite a laundry list of transgressions and even though the Wakandans helped Bucky shake Hydra’s programming and wouldn’t take kindly to him working with Zemo, desperate times call for desperate measures.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, at least for a short time, and Zemo realizing that Bucky was a Hydra pawn actually has some sympathy for him. This softens Zemo’s disposition somewhat and when Bucky reveals that a new set of super soldiers are running around it piques Zemo’s interest. Understanding that Bucky is desperate and needs his help sets off a chain of events that begin with Bucky breaking Zemo out of prison. Sam isn’t thrilled with Bucky’s plan but begrudgingly accepts that Zemo may be more valuable to them out of prison than in it.
Sam and Bucky have their plus 1 when Zemo shows up and things go all Machiavellian. The ends justifies the means but their alliance is a shaky one, the memories of Sokovia’s destruction, and their adversarial past still fresh in everyone’s mind. Zemo hates the Avengers for destroying his country but detests Hydra, the Red Skull and those behind the reconstituted Winter Soldier program even more. The best thing about Zemo is how deep and thoughtful he is. Part Bond villain, and an actual baron, he has his own set of codes and his finger on the pulse of his enemies. Zemo’s analysis of Steve Rogers’ strengths and weaknesses as an icon may rub Sam and Bucky the wrong way but it’s valid. Zemo’s thoughts on icons like Cap and the Red Skull are later shared by Sharon and foreshadow what John Walker is up against.
The scene shifts to Madripoor, a familiar locale for fans of the Marvel Universe. In the comics Madripoor is home to several of Wolverine’s adventures, particularly when he went by the alias of Patch. The trio go undercover to get the information they need and this is when Power Broker really takes off. Melding into Madripoor’s criminal element Zemo and the boys assume new and old identities, resulting in some humorous moments and a return to the darkness for Bucky. Zemo has quite a reputation among the scum and villainy that reside in Madripoor, but with Bucky going all Winter Soldier he is able to keep things in check and eventually negotiates a meeting with Selby. After some initial pleasantries Selby reveals that a Dr. Wilfred Nagel, working with the Power Broker, is behind the new super-soldier serum in Madripoor.
An unexpected phone call from Sam’s sister leads to bullets flying in every direction and a helping hand from a very bitter Sharon Carter. Sharon’s still on the run after stealing Steve’s shield and Sam’s wings from the U.S. government. Unable to see or contact her family she’s been living off the grid as a high end fence in Madripoor’s High Town. Sharon’s jaded view on heroism is well earned after being burned and labelled a fugitive in the U.S. She echoes a lot of what Zemo has been spouting and Sam tries to make amends. Sharon isn’t buying what he’s selling but his offer to help clear her name resonates and she reluctantly agrees to help.
The shipping yard shootout serves several purposes in Power Broker. Not only do we get the backstory on how Karli and the Flag Smashers became super-soldiers, we learn that Isaiah Bradley is the test subject the new serum was derived from. Zemo’s hatred of all things related to the serum is solidified as is his loyalty to Bucky and Sam. Sharon also gets her due with a badass sequence where she goes all John Wick on a group of hired muscle. There’s more going on where she is concerned than she’s willing to reveal at the moment. Sharon’s built up a network of her own and how it connects to everything remains to be seen.
Speaking of connections, Power Broker does a wonderful job of pulling in elements from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Sokovia’s destruction and its aftermath, the lengths Bucky, Sam and Sharon went to at various times to save each other and the Wakandans still holding Zemo to account for killing their king all get major notice. The introduction of the mysterious Power Broker adds some spice and their true identity will no doubt fuel speculation.
Power Broker is probably the best episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so far. The narrative threads being woven are all coming together with some humor, espionage and all out action sprinkled among the intrigue and character development. Being at the midway point of the series, the plot is starting to get a little hard to track but there is ample time left to make it all work. Madripoor is a star in itself and there needs to be a series set there – maybe that’s where we’ll first see Wolverine in the MCU?