Things got dark this week on Falcon and The Winter Soldier, as the hunt for the Flag Smashers reached a fever pitch and everyone was forced to confront exactly how far they would go. For Sam and Bucky, this meant putting more trust into Zemo, and even defending him from those who would bring him back to justice. For Karli and the Flag Smashers, this meant calling in threats to innocent civilians. For John and Lemar–well, let’s just say the two of them were pushed the furthest of the bunch (and paid the heaviest price).
There were fewer direct nods and references to the comics in this episode compared to the last three, but there are still plenty to parse out.
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Whole World Is Watching”
Back in Wakanda
Bucky’s brainwashing was cured before the start of Infinity War–but the actual details of just how Shuri was able to do it were handled off-screen in a movie tie-in comic book called Avengers: Infinity War Prelude. It amounted to Shuri basically hacking Bucky’s brain like a computer and deleting the stubborn HYDRA programming.
Zemo mentions Ultron as the fault of a supremacist/superhero mindset which is true in two ways–his creation by Tony and Bruce, which can be read as an act of superheroic hubris, and his eventual sentience and attempt at world domination via clones of himself.
“My son’s favorite”
The retcon of MCU Zemo into a Baron, rather than a Sokovian military officer, makes his origin story a little murky, but apparently it’s being mostly left intact. Back in Civil War, Zemo’s motivation was the loss of his wife and child because of the Avengers’ actions in Age of Ultron.
“I used to counsel soldiers”
Sam’s job before becoming the Falcon was working for the VA as a counselor, a job he kept only through Winter Soldier before going full time as a hero.
There’s history with Cap and Wakanda
The context is drastically different here in the show but there is some precedent for a major conflict between Captain America and the country of Wakanda–in the comics, Steve Rogers actually gets the vibranium for his shield as a gift from Azzuri the Wise, T’Challa’s grandfather, after they met (and had it out) during the ’40s.
“More of themselves”
Remember Doctor Erskine’s famous explanation of the serum back in The First Avenger where he said “bad becomes worse, good becomes great.” During the conversation between Lemar and John, Lemar asserts that John won’t be corrupted by the serum, because it just makes the recipient into “more” of themselves.
The Knife Fight
Bucky’s infamous knife skills (as seen in The Winter Soldier) are finally back on full display–and the Flag Smashers seem to favor knives, too, much to John Walker’s chagrin.
Losing a “Bucky”
This is a rough one to unpack–it’s clearly an attempt to emulate the loss of Bucky back in WWII and contrast Steve’s reaction with John’s unhinged mania, but killing Lemar for this particular moment feels like the equivalent of fridging him for a villain’s character development, not to mention the death of a Black character serving to propel a white character’s story forward. Suffice to say, none of this happened in the comics. We’ll have to see how this plays out next week.
Season 1, Episode 3: “Power Broker”
WandaVision isn’t the only Disney+ MCU show that can do in-universe commercials, apparently–though this one is decidedly a lot less surreal than the ones from Westview.
Bucky and Zemo have history
Bucky and Zemo have history in the MCU, but there’s a bit more to their dynamic in the comics. While Steve has the Red Skull as his archnemesis, Bucky has Zemo–their bad blood is so extensive that Zemo was even responsible for launching a multifaceted smear campaign that got Bucky sent to a Russian gulag for a time. Bucky later retaliated by taking over Zemo’s pet team of anti-heroes, the Thunderbolts.
In case you forgot about Civil War’s biggest meme, the codewords to activate the Winter Soldier, here they are again, complete with that movie’s flashback score.
The ski mask
Zemo’s iconic ski mask may look a little silly in live-action, but it’s nothing compared to how goofy it looks in some versions of the comics, where he was forced to wear it after becoming disfigured by a chemical called Adhesive X. (His dad suffered basically the same fate–a family tradition!)
“I’m a Baron”
Zemo’s never formally been known as a Baron in the MCU, but that changed in this episode. Apparently, he’s been absolutely loaded this whole time, which is a bit of a retcon from his Civil War introduction which seemed to imply he was a relatively normal, if slightly high ranking, member of the Sokovian military. We’ll give it to them.
“Oh, that’s right, you do.”
Zemo is taking a shot at Sam’s time spent in the Raft prison after Civil War.
Bucky’s list of names really is the same notebook that Steve kept at the beginning of Winter Soldier. Sam recalls his recommendation of the Trouble Man soundtrack, which bookended that movie.
The Marvel Comics universe is full of imaginary locations and Madripoor is one of them. Madripoor is a principality that actually became one of Wolverine’s hangouts for a while. Sam compares it to “Skull Island,” the home of King Kong–pretty topical, considering Godzilla Vs. Kong just started streaming.
Sam’s alter ego during the Madripoor escapade, Conrad Mack AKA Smiling Tiger, is based on a real Marvel supervillain. In the comics, he was also a Thunderbolt for some time–a team originated by Zemo himself.
Madripoor gangster Selby in the show bears no resemblance to Selby from the comics, but the name is clearly a reference. In the comics, Selby was a member of the Mutant Liberation Front.
The Power Broker
The Power Broker has been a mysterious force in the show that many fans have anticipated–but now we’re getting closer to actually meeting them face to face. Apparently, they’ve been working in Madripoor trying to recreate the super soldier serum, which makes sense–the Power Broker’s whole job is basically in their name. They grant superpowers to people who want them, usually for a high price.
Return of the soundtrack
This episode has been full of musical callbacks, and this might be the most obvious–it’s the eerie Winter Soldier theme as Bucky plays his part.
Dr. Wilfred Nagel
Dr. Nagel is another Marvel Comics reference, this time a nod to one of the characters introduced in the same limited series that introduced Isaiah Bradley.
You last saw her in Captain America: Civil War, when she put her life and career on the line to help wanted fugitives Steve Rogers, Bucky, and Sam–and also steal Cap’s shield and Sam’s wings from the government to hand them over. While ultimately the Avengers were hailed as heroes, we learn Sharon has become an enemy of the state and can’t set foot in the United States. It makes you wonder if she knows Steve–who kissed her the last time we saw her–went back in time to marry her aunt.
Here’s a callback to Stanley Tucci’s character in The First Avenger, and the original creator of the super soldier serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine.
“You’re not going to move your seat up”
The eternal struggle for legroom between Bucky and Sam came full circle in this episode. It was back in Captain America: Civil War when Sam refused to move up the car seat he was sitting in to give Bucky a little room. Now, Bucky returns the favor and makes sure Sam is cramped in the backseat of Zemo’s car. Still, it looks like there’s more legroom in it than the Volkswagen Beetle they were stuffed in during Civil War.
Upon arriving at Zemo’s safehouse, Bucky sees a Kimoyo bead. These beads are Wakandan technology and made from Vibranium. In the movies, they do a number of things. At one point they’re used to scan Vision’s body, at another they are used for communication between Wakandans during a battle. Here, Bucky recognizes them (most likely from his time in Wakanda) and follows a trail of them until he sees a familiar face.
She’s here for Zemo
After following a trail of Kimoyo beans, Bucky comes face-to-face with Ayo (Florence Kasumba), the Wakandan Dora Milaje member that was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War and was next seen in Black Panther. She offers a simple message to Bucky: “I’m here for Zemo.” Let us not forget that Zemo is the one behind the bombing that killed King T’Chaka in Civil War.
Episode 2, “The Star-Spangled Man”
We could surmise this back in Episode 1 but here’s your absolute confirmation–the new Captain America is none other than John Walker, otherwise known as US Agent in the comics, who took up the mantle when Steve briefly quit.
Lemar Hoskins is another character from John Walker’s comic book history who became a “Bold Urban Commando” (AKA a “Bucky”) when John first became the Super-Patriot (the name he used prior to his temporary debut as Captain America).
John’s pre-show anxiety
John’s pre-debut anxiety echoes Steve’s back during his days as a USO performer.
Star Spangled Man With A Plan
Who could forget Steve’s vintage theme song? It’s never sounded quite like this, but it’s certainly timeless.
The new uniform
John’s personalized Captain America uniform was designed to mimic his comic book US Agent outfit.
Meet the new Cap
Interestingly, in the comics, Steve Rogers had a secret identity until 2001, so when John Walker first took over as Captain America, he did it without a big public proclamation. In fact, Walker was one of many pretenders to the throne who tried to stealthily step in and claim that they were in fact the “real” Cap.
Good morning, America
The new Cap’s coming out party happens on–what else–Good Morning, America, with GMA correspondent Sara Haines and The View co-host doing the interview. The morning show is a long-running staple of the ABC programming lineup and is owned by Disney. It also happens to be the place most MCU movie and TV show trailers debut.
John “doesn’t have super strength”
Based on the fight scene later in the episode, it certainly seems like John is telling the truth here about not having super powers–which is a bit ironic considering the sheer volume of super soldiers we later learn exist in the world. But here’s another fun piece of Captain America comic book trivia to keep in mind–during certain eras in the comics, Steve canonically didn’t have any superpowers himself, he was just an incredibly athletic but ultimately regular guy. The actual extent of the super serum’s abilities and effects on Steve weren’t nailed down in a way we’d recognize today until much later.
“The Big Three”
According to Sam, most of the world’s ills boil down to what he calls “the big three”–androids, aliens, and wizards. Given everything he’s seen in his role as an Avenger, it’s not a surprising conclusion to jump to. That said, he now has a fourth to throw in there: super soldiers.
Gandalf in 1937
Bucky executes a stealthy literary dig at Sam when he says he read the Hobbit in 1937, which was the date of its first edition print run, exclusive to Europe. It wasn’t printed in America until 1938.
Jumping out of a plane in Germany (without a parachute)
Seems like just yesterday that Steve Rogers himself was getting into trouble by leaping from a plane in German airspace–or, even more recently, leaping out of a plane without a parachute, like we see Bucky do here.
When Bucky quietly infiltrates the warehouse where vaccines are being stolen, Sam quips that he’s the White Panther after his time in Wakanda. Bucky quickly corrects him, admitting that he was branded the White Wolf during his time there. In the comics, White Wolf is the moniker used by a man named Hunter, who was adopted by King T’Chaka as a child after his parents died in an airplane crash near Wakanda. After the birth of T’Challa, Hunter grew jealous and was ultimately put in charge of Wakanda’s secret police, which T’Challa disbanded when he became king.
“Jump on top of a grenade”
Steve’s iconic test of courage back at Camp Lehigh was jumping on a dummy grenade (that he didn’t know was a dummy grenade at the time). This move helped convince the SSR that he was worthy of the serum.
GRC – Global Repatriation Council
An interesting piece of post-Snap world building was very casually dropped in this episode. Apparently, after the Blip, an organization called the GRC was formed to help people who had returned to find themselves displaced by their 5 year hiatus from existence, answering some burning questions about the logistics of things like rent, mortgages, and social security for people who were snapped away. Though, from the sound of it, the GRC is not doing a great job at picking up the pieces.
Sure, Redwing will probably be back but Sam’s been annoying his friends and fellow Avengers with his drone friend ever since Captain America: Civil War. Clearly, Bucky was pleased with it getting destroyed.
We clocked her name in the credits of Episode 1 but here we actually get to meet Karli Morganthau, the leader of the Flag-Smashers. Her name is a direct reference to Karl Morganthau, one of the men to hold the name in the comics.
Karli’s ominous text
Apparently the Flag-Smashers are pissing off just about everyone–Karli receives an ominous, anonymous text about stealing supplies from someone, and her reaction seems to imply that she’s well aware of who she’s crossing, and trying to keep it a secret from her team.
“Sharon was branded enemy of the state”
Sharon Carter’s post-Civil War status has been a mystery, especially given her betrayal of the CIA in feeding intelligence to Steve, but apparently she was branded an enemy of the state. Ouch.
Isaiah and Eli Bradley
The episode’s biggest reveal was the existence of none other than Isaiah Bradley in the MCU.
Isaiah was a relatively recent addition to Marvel Comics after he was introduced in the miniseries Truth: Red, White & Black back in 2003, but his impact had a major retroactive effect on the Captain America legacy. It was revealed that Isaiah was one of over 300 Black soldiers who had been experimented on in an attempt to recreate the super soldier serum, a project kept entirely secret from the public.
Also, he wasn’t named in the episode but the young man who answered the door was Eli Bradley, Isiah’s grandson who, in the comics, becomes a Young Avenger named Patriot.
“Too valuable of an asset”
Remember when Bucky was known only as “the Asset”? John Walker probably doesn’t, but pointedly used the word to describe why Bucky needed to get out of his court mandated therapy.
We’ve known about Zemo’s return for quite some time, but we finally get to see him here in Episode 2, complete with an extremely Silence of the Lambs-flavored introduction. Apparently he’s been kept in a supermax prison since T’Challa refused to kill him back in Civil War, which makes sense, but now he’s one of the only people with knowledge of HYDRA’s schemes that could help clue Bucky in on the origins of the super serum knock off.
Episode 1, “New World Order”
Our good friend Batroc (the Leaper) is back in the MCU for the first time since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ironically, he’s doing basically the same thing he did in that movie–trying to hijack a big top secret military vehicle–but this time he’s graduated from a ship to a plane. Also, he’s wearing a uniform that more closely resembles his comics-based purple and yellow.
Redwing’s also back
Another happy return: “Redwing,” Sam’s robotic helper, has made a comeback. You may remember him from Captain America: Civil War, where he was introduced. This little drone is based on Sam’s literal falcon sidekick in the comics. For a while, he was even afflicted with vampirism despite being a bird. No, we’re not kidding.
Sam’s new pal is Joaquin Torres, who comics readers will recognize as the character who takes up the Falcon mantle after Sam becomes Cap. He’s also a mutated bird hybrid in the books, which we’re guessing will be changed for this version of events, but who knows.
The Flagsmasher organization is based on a Cap villain of the same name, who in the comics was not a cool high tech group of people but rather one (technically two, after a mantle change over) guy who kind of looked like Space Ghost, if we’re being honest. The name Karli Morgenthau (listed in the credits of Episode 1) is a direct reference to the original Flag-Smasher, Karl Morgenthau. Apparently in the MCU, the group believes that the world was better during the Blip.
No, Steve isn’t currently on the moon like a certain percentage of the population seems to believe, but he has commissioned various space station-type bases for the Avengers in the past in the comics. The Secret Avengers used one called The Lighthouse for a time, and there’s also been a deep-space monitoring station (which is admittedly a bit further away than the moon) that was populated for a while.
Oh hey, Rhodey
James Rhodes, AKA War Machine, is like Sam–a career military man who also happens to be a superhero on the side, so naturally he’s the perfect choice to offer Sam some insight in this scene. Unfortunately we don’t get much of a hint about what Rhodey is up to after Endgame outside of working with the government, but there’s an Armor Wars series on the way to fill in those gaps.
The museum exhibit
The Cap exhibit at the Smithsonian has been given a bit of a face lift since we last saw it in Winter Soldier, but it’s still rocking the same artifacts–like the Howling Commando uniforms seen back in The First Avenger.
The exhibit has been updated with the title “Farewell, Steve.” A conversation with Torres in the previous scene lets us know that the general public still doesn’t know what happened to Steve–and, unfortunately, neither do we. Old Steve could be dead, in hiding, or may have gone back into his alternate timeline. All of which is to say it’s probably too early to start counting on a Chris Evans cameo.
Our perspective of Bucky’s time as the Winter Soldier is fairly limited and told exclusively in flashbacks, but one thing is certain–he never left any witnesses, even if they were innocent bystanders.
Sleeping on the floor
Sam and Steve had a conversation about being unable to sleep on a mattress after their time in the military because they felt like they’d sink into the cushions. Here we see Bucky living that reality, sleeping on the floor of his apartment as he suffers through his nightmares.
“A condition of your pardon”
Bucky’s history as a HYDRA operative and wanted terrorist didn’t just go away–he’s currently in therapy as part of his pardon, which we can assume was hard won after the events of Endgame. In the comics, Bucky went through a complicated trial (largely orchestrated by villains) that eventually left him extradited to Russia where he was sent to a gulag.
Remember when Steve kept a list of things to follow up on in pop culture that he missed? Turns out Bucky’s using a similar system–for a much darker reason, however. Bucky’s list includes the memories he can piece together of his time as the Winter Soldier to help track down remaining HYDRA operatives and the families of people he harmed while brainwashed.
Rescuing people in alleyways
There are plenty of parallels between the first episode and the earlier Captain America movies, but this one is a throwback–Bucky was introduced back in The First Avenger rescuing his ornery pal skinny Steve Rogers from an alleyway fight. Here, he’s introduced to the show stepping in between a confrontation in similar circumstances for a new friend with a similar temperament.
Sam’s sister does exist in the comics, though the family fishing business was invented for the show.
“Someone whose kids die”
He isn’t in this episode, but it’s important to remember that Zemo will be back for this show–and while this line isn’t directly referring to him, he’s also a person who lost his kids.
US Agent origins
He’s not actually named in the episode, but we can make an educated guess that the new Captain America is actually John Walker (Wyatt Russell), AKA US Agent, a character from the comics with a tricky and villainous past. As a government-selected Cap imitator, Walker tends to represent dangerous nationalism. We’ll see how he turns out in the MCU.