Review: ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ Proves that Marvel Can Make Cameos Work

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In the third episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Marvel leaves no potential character connection untapped as Sam and Bucky track down the origins of the super serum. 

Following the second episode’s cliffhanger, “The Power Broker” picks up with Sam and Bucky visiting a German prison to meet with Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) to get information and Bucky takes a more unconventional approach by assisting in his prison break. Zemo becomes a natural third wheel to Sam and Bucky’s buddy-cop routine, adding the perfect amount of snide yet insightful quips into their banter.

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(L-R): Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Zemo (Daniel Brühl) from Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier | Photo by Chuck Zlotnick

And because this series really is checking off every buddy-cop trope — Sam, Bucky, and Zemo go undercover in the cyber-punk-inspired city of Madripoor. 

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Proves that Marvel Can Make Cameos Work

While Sam has been the center point of the emotional plot up to this point, Bucky is pushed to the front as he assumes his Winter Soldier persona to really sell Baron Zemo and the Smiling Tiger’s persona as they meet with Selby, one of the leaders of Madripoor’s underground scene. We know that Bucky takes no pleasure in being used as a weapon, but he slides back into that role with surprising ease. 

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A view of Madripoor from Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier | Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Of course, the series would be over quickly if things went easily for them. A phone call from Sam’s sister Sarah blows their cover and, following the death of Selby, the three of them are the target of every bounty hunter in the lawless Madripoor. Fortunately, they are rescued by a familiar face — Sharon Carter. 

The Falcon and Winter Soldier paved the way for Sharon’s appearance when she was mentioned in passing last week. While Sam rejoined the Avengers and Bucky was offered a pardon, Sharon was not and she made a home for herself among the criminals and grandeur in Madripoor. Mostly because Madripoor doesn’t allow for extradition and she is still very much wanted by the United States government following the events of Captain America: Civil War

In return for helping them track down the scientist working for the Power Brokers, Sam promises Sharon that he will get a pardon for her. It didn’t seem like Sharon believed that he had the power to make that happen, but she agrees to help them nevertheless. 

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Sharon Carter/Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) in Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier | Courtesy of Marvel Studios

For the sake of this review, a lot is getting skimmed over. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how brilliant the blocking and dialogue was for the scene between Sharon, Bucky, Sam, and Zemo at her house. Now at the halfway point, I feel comfortable making the claim that director Kari Skogland and cinematographer P.J. Dillon have created some of the best scenes to date in Marvel. They build the tension through uncomfortable up-close shots, allow the characters to move through the scenes, and create visually engaging blocking that keeps everything on the screen feeling fresh. 

Once they get the information they needed, they find Dr. Nagel’s lab in a shipping container (because of course, it’s in a shipping container). What follows the reveal that the Power Brokers had twenty vials of super serum stolen by the Flag Smashers is a lot of high-octane action sequences, explosions, and Sharon Carter kicking ass. 

On Zemo’s private jet, Sam and Bucky discuss the shield — which is the source of the bad blood between them. Sam reflects on what Sharon had to go through and the way that Dr. Nagel referred to Isaiah as if he wasn’t even a person. He goes so far as to say that he should have destroyed the shield, rather than put it in a museum, which prompts Bucky to vow that he’s going to take the shield back from Walker himself. 

If the series were longer than six episodes, I would have assumed that this scene was setting up Bucky’s brief stint as Captain America, especially since Zemo is part of that plotline in the comics. What I think this scene is actually setting up is Bucky’s own emotional arc. He has to rectify his past as the Winter Soldier and discover who he is without Steve. This seems even more likely with the surprise appearance of another familiar face once the trio arrives in Latvia. 

In a full-circle moment with Sam and Bucky’s discussion earlier in the episode, Bucky discovers that Wakanda has not forgotten what Baron Zemo did (killing King T’Chaka and framing Bucky for it). Bucky comes face-to-face with T’Challa’s former bodyguard Ayo (Florence Kasumba). Perhaps this is setting up further emotional payoff for the Black Panther post-credit scene that saw Bucky as “the white wolf” in Wakanda. 

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(L-R): Dovich (Desmond Chiam) and Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) in Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

While the newfound trio’s story was the driving force of the third episode, we were also provided more information about the Flag Smashers along the way. If The Falcon and The Winter Soldier are setting the Flag Smashers up to be the “big bad,” I’m going to take serious issue with that. Karli Morgenthau and her fellow Flag Smashers are essentially trying to provide aid to those not receiving the GRC’s promised aid. Sure, they might hurt people in the process, but it’s pretty clear the governmental agencies do not care. Not to mention, why is the United States government so actively involved in a situation playing out throughout Eastern Europe? Overreach much? 

With the ever-punchable “Captain America” going rogue in his own pursuit of the Flag Smashers, I feel very nervous about where the next three episodes may take this plotline. 

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