After the bait-and-switch of the first episode, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s second episode was more in line with the trailer. It was a more humorous, buddy-comedy whilst still keeping the spy-thriller story.
John Walker (Wyatt Russell) has been revealed to the world as the new Captain America. This shocks Bucky who believed that Sam has betrayed Steve Rogers’ wishes. As well as bickering like children, Sam and Bucky go off to Europe to investigate the Flag Smashers and discover the terrorists have super soldier powers.
“New World Order” did a decent job at setting up the personal positions of the main characters, “The Star-Spangled Man” was focused on the story and world building. The previous episode already showed some of the changes in the post-Blip world, like the formation of terrorist groups and changes to society. This episode states that the reversal of the Blip has led to loads of societal upheaval with people being displaced – although the episode only said this, not showing it. This change made The Flag Smashers’ views understandable because many people were affected by the emergence of the people who disappeared.
“The Star-Spangled Man” showed some of the members of the Flag-Smashers. There was a particular focus on Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), the leader of the terrorist cell, and shocked Sam and Bucky with her superpowers. She tried to justify her actions and beliefs and she was genuinely cut up when one of her team was willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause.
Showing The Flag Smashers having superpowers was a surprise and not just for Sam and Bucky. It leads to the questions, where did they get their superpowers from and who gave them to the group? Sam and Bucky go investigating and Bucky reveals that there were more people who were given supersoldier abilities. There was an emotional moment when Sam and Bucky meet Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) and he reveals all the pain and suffering he received from the American government,
The theme of the series is the legacy of Captain America. Sam doubted he could live up to the legacy and refused to become the next Captain. John does take up the mantle, but he also has doubts because of all that Steve had achieved and stood for. The episode opened with John in the changing rooms of his old high school and needing reassurance from his wife and friend. It humanized the character and showed that he wasn’t just going to be a grunt who would do the American government’s bidding without question. His tenure as Captain America started off a bit like Steve’s because he had to go on a publicity tour. However, unlike Steve, John was allowed to go into action. Whilst John tries to win over Sam and Bucky, his last line in the episode hints at something darker.
This episode saw Sam and Bucky work together for the first time in the series. There was animosity between the pair and this was where most of the humor in the episode came from. The most humorous part of the episode was when Sam and Bucky had to go into couple counseling and acted passive-aggressively toward each other. Sam stated the three usual threats are “Androids, Aliens, or Wizards” which is a classic Marvel joke.
“The Star-Spangled Man” offered up a great bit of intrigue that will be interesting to see how it plays out. It also did a good job at introducing the new characters and setting up the new Marvel world.