The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Ep. 4 – The Whole World is Watching
Warning: Review contains spoilers!
The stakes are going through the roof in The Whole World is Watching. Karli Morgenthau is levelling up her status as a big bad after blowing up a GRC depot with people inside causing the dragnet around her to tighten. Meanwhile, John Walker’s patience is wearing thin as he grows more frustrated with Bucky and Sam who are closing in on Karli. The Whole World is Watching, another solid entry in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, illustrates the delicate balance Sam and Bucky must maintain to achieve their goals as their actions aren’t going unnoticed.
A flashback to Wakanda takes us to the final moments of Bucky’s deprogramming of the Winter Soldier directives Hydra had installed in his mind. A flurry of memories littered with all his crimes brings Bucky to tears and he’s visibly relieved when he realizes he’s finally free. The moving and powerful sequence establishes the sense of betrayal held by the Wakandans, especially Ayo when she confronts him six years later on the streets of Riga. Zemo’s freedom stings Ayo and the Wakandans. Ayo is particularly hurt, carrying a fair amount of guilt for not protecting her king’s life. Add to the fact that she played a significant role in Bucky’s rehabilitation it’s easy to see why she isn’t playing now that Zemo is a free man. Her respect for Bucky goes deep though and she gives him 8 hours to execute his plan.
One of the more interesting aspects of The Whole World is Watching is its treatment of Karli and Zemo. They have different world views, but their actions cast them as villains. Zemo is a man of privilege who saw Sokovia literally crumble due to super powered beings running amok across the globe. Anything that has to do with supremacy, particularly where the super soldier serum is concerned, needs to be eradicated before what happened to his country is repeated. Karli on the other hand is the opposite of Zemo, embracing the serum’s ability to level the playing field for those like her. Marginalized until the world deemed them useful after the blip, Karli and thousands like her were then cast out into the wilderness again when things returned to normal. Karli’s vision of a new world order is powered by her sense of injustice and the serum. In a weird way they’re fighting for the same thing it’s just the ideals they hold and paths they’ve chosen that are different.
The funeral for the revered Donya Modani brings everyone together. Karli’s purpose and mission are made clear during her eulogy and like Zemo earns some sympathy. Sam tries to get through to her one-on-one and their candid chat promises a breakthrough, especially when Karli’s words on big business and those who control society echo Sam’s sister’s after being denied by the bank. It’s a subtle, yet effective way to connect all the themes and threads presented in the series so far. In a lot of cases people are fighting the same battles, it’s just the degree to which they are disenfranchised and the hopelessness they face that determines their outlook on things. Even though she doesn’t completely buy what Sam is saying, Karli is aware of this when she acknowledges that she is aligned with people that she was taught to hate now that they share similar struggles.
The irony of The Whole World is Watching is that John Walker, the person chosen to replace Steve Rogers, is anything but a supremacist. In fact, it’s his inferiority complex that blows up any chance Sam had of truly getting through to Karli. It gets worse for him after he gets his ass handed to him by Ayo and the Dora Milaje. The beauty of the episode is that while there are villains none of them are clear cut. As Karli’s fellow Flag Smasher told her at the gravesite, the world used to be a simpler place. There was good and bad and nothing in between. While that is an oversimplification of things, he’s not entirely wrong. Rogers was perhaps the lone example of a paragon of virtue, but as Zemo said, there is only one Steve Rogers. Walker’s failings and misguided sense of duty grants him super soldier status but results in him losing the shield.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and The Whole World is Watching’s final shot does just that. The blood-soaked shield in Walker’s hand crystalizes just how unique Steve Rogers was and why symbols mean nothing, unless accompanied by people that embody what they are meant to represent. It’s a heavy topic but is why The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is so layered and rewarding.
The stars and stripes become tarnished when actions are committed under it that aren’t just. Walker foreshadows this and what will lead to his downfall when he and Lemar question the validity of his military medals considering the things he had to do in the name of war to get them. Karli struggles with this as well and her willingness to kill, culminating in Lemar’s death, is precisely what keeps her movement from being embraced by more than sympathizers. It’s a theme that Zemo has been cautioning against since perhaps Age of Ultron and his words eventually become prophetic.
The Whole World is Watching is great, filled with tension, some entertaining fight scenes and top performances. Although it doesn’t feature anything as glorious as Zemo killing it on the dance floor in Madripoor, there is a lot to consider. Watching the Dora Milaje handling things and literally disarming Bucky and Zemo’s continued brilliance were a couple of the highlights but it’s the episode’s quieter moments that really stand out. The philosophical discussions between Karli and Sam, Karli’s chilling yet informative phone call with Sarah, and the underlying subtext of global power structures and their effect on the common person scream for more camera time. Ultimately though this is a superhero show and while I welcome those types of themes and questions in the genre it can lean towards being preachy if a proper balance isn’t established. Thankfully, The Whole World is Watching doesn’t do that.
With two episodes left there are a load of questions yet to be resolved. The Power Broker’s next move, Sharon’s true role in Madripoor, the fallout from Walker’s viral murder, Karli, the Flag Smashers and Zemo’s fate and Sam’s acceptance of the shield have yet to be played out. That’s a lot of ground to cover but considering how things are going so far, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier shouldn’t disappoint.