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(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)
It definitely feels like the band is finally all together in the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Of course, that band may give ABBA or the Smiths a run for internal animosity. Nevertheless, the group outing to the famed Marvel nation of Madripoor offered a number of surprising revelations about the post-Blip world. And if you want to be charitable with the naming of characters, the episode may even have introduced the first Marvel Cinematic Universe Mutant.
Sure, that might be a reach. But considering how many ideas are suggested in this week’s episode, a Mutant is the least of Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky’s (Sebastian Stan) worries. They are riding with Sokovian royalty, after all.
So let’s take a look at the episode to see what we can glean from its inferences, suggestions, and more direct statements. Plus, we hear from Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman on where their characters — John Walker/Captain America and Flag Smasher leader Karli Morgenthau, respectively — are coming from.
Spoiler alert: The following reveals details of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 3, “Power Broker.” Stop here if you have not watched the episode.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
First debuting in a 1985 issue of New Mutants, the island nation of Madripoor is a favorite stomping ground of Wolverine. In the mainline Marvel Comics universe, it is located off the coast of Singapore. The location shots in this week’s episode definitely suggests the MCU version of the island is in the same spot. For hopeful X-Men fans, the debut of the island is a big step forward as it was unavailable to Marvel Studios until Disney bought the 20th Century Fox assets and regained control of anything tied to the Mutants.
The island is not the exclusive purview of Mutants, however; characters like Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and even the Punisher have spent time there in various comic books, video games, and animated adventures.
And as seen this week, its refusal to extradite persons wanted by other sovereign territories makes it a perfect place for people like the Power Broker and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) to set up shop without intervention from Interpol, the Global Repatriation Council, or American intelligence agencies. Well, presuming Sharon isn’t working already working on someone’s behalf.
Her story of being on the run since Captain America: Civil War sounds credible. But some may recall she was one of the people presumed lost in the Blip. If that is true, then did she really have time to re-establish her art-dealing trade in Madripoor in just a few months? Since Sam and Bucky are unaware of her Blip status anyway, her tale has the ring of truth. Considering the way she regards her bodyguard at the end of the episode, it sure feels like a deep cover for something else. Whether she’s working for the GRC, S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., the CIA, or Interpol is anyone’s guess. Since we’re always looking to see S.H.I.E.L.D. restored in the MCU, we’ll pick that for now.
There is also the possibility she’s assumed the role of Power Broker. Sure, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) gives the impression that he’s met a man who goes by that name, but it would be advantageous for her to let that perception remain. As we mentioned last week, two people have used that identity in the comics: Curtiss Jackson and his unidentified replacement. This second character also identifies as male, but subterfuge is the name of the game on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, so it is possible for her to be in charge on the island.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
This week also gave us a more personal side to Karli’s (Kellyman) motivation in flag-smashing. Sure, we had the rhetoric last week, but now we see the cost of the Blip via her connection to Mama Donya (Veronica Falcón) and her mention of being displaced after people returned. When we spoke to Kellyman earlier this week, she mentioned the character “moved around a lot,” which also suggests her life was probably tough before the Blip.
But it also seems clear her life — and Mama Donya’s life, for that matter — was appreciably better for the five years that half the world’s population was missing. Kellyman told us Karli’s primary goal is to go back to “a world where there is more equality or maybe more unity. [During the Blip] everybody kind of grouped together and that’s the thing that she’s fighting for.” That suggests there were parts of the world where life was not as grim as the New York depicted in Endgame. The sudden return of people would definitely destabilize that and, presumably, whatever home Karli had was returned to its former occupants under GRC guidelines, putting Karli and Mama Donya back on the street.
That hardly seems fair.
Nevertheless, Kellyman is convinced the sense of unity Karli saw during the last five years can be scaled to accommodate the returnees.
“That’s why she’s fighting so hard,” she said. “[Karli] really does think that it’s possible. And that’s why she’s going about it in the way that she is.”
Although, Karli’s increased willingness to cause destruction while grabbing hoarded supplies, as seen this week, suggests she may subscribe to a less extreme version of Thanos’ grim calculus.
“She’s in that middle section where she’s not a hundred percent evil, she’s not a hundred percent good,” Kellyman said. “But then again, what she’s fighting for is good. And I think it’ll be fun how that plays out.”
It still leaves us wondering the true purpose in stealing the 20 vials of the Super Soldier Serum, but they do seem better off with her than, say, the Power Broker.
Our guess that Dr. Karl Malus might be the source of the Super Soldier Serum proved incorrect as Sam, Bucky, Zemo, and Sharon quickly found their way to Dr. Wilfred Nagel (Olli Haaskivi). In The Truth, the character successfully recreated the serum for the experiment conducted on Isaiah Bradley. So, it makes total sense that he would appear here and claim a blood sample from Isaiah (Carl Lumbly) was the key to unlocking the Erksine formula.
Although, if Nagel is correct and he is the first person to crack Erksine’s code, where did the stable sample used on Isaiah come from? Someone in the 1950s must’ve cracked the code. Our uneasy band may not follow that path, but it would interesting to get some clarity on the matter. If we never get it, we’ll just blame Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
As teased earlier, it is possible that we’ve seen the first Mutant in the MCU. One can make the case Selby (Imelda Cocoran), Zemo’s contact in Madripoor, is based on the Mutant Liberation Front member who appeared in a couple of Excalibur issues in 1996. That character had the ability to speak with computers in binary code. Sure, it’s a rather slim possibility, but it is a fun Easter Egg nonetheless as it means the creative team is at least willing to be playful with X-Men connections.
Also, considering Selby was quickly killed, it could just be a huge false Mutant flag.
More meaningful is the cover identity Zemo gives to Sam. With a name like “Conrad Mack, the Smiling Tiger,” you know you’re dealing with a proper Marvel Comics character — but is he a Mutant? Born to a Vietnam vet and a member of the Dragon’s Breadth cult, the comics’ Conrad (pictured) would use his feral nature and hand-to-hand combat skills as a member of a group called the Folding Circle. They became part of Madripoor’s criminal element after crash landing on the island. So his bona fides in the region are pure Marvel. Curiously, though, Conrad is listed as a “human mutate” — a character who comes by their abilities via some post-utero means; as opposed to Mutants, who are born with powers which unlock when they hit puberty. The character is an oddly deep pull, although fans of the Thunderbolts comics may see this as a possibility that their favorite characters will soon appear in the MCU.
But it also continues the program’s world building as Mack and the Folding Circle have deep ties to Southeast Asia. A subsequent series (or film) could follow up on that.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
As seen in this episode, Russell’s John Walker is still not inspiring confidence as the new Captain America. When we talked to Russell earlier this week, he suggested the superhero rules of engagement — and a lack of command structure — may be putting him on the wrong foot with Sam, Bucky, and the audience.
“It’s like these guys are all kind of independent contractors in a way, and they need to work together,” he explained. “But there’s no system that was in place — or is in place, like the military — to dictate what those terms are. So I think that he’s having a very difficult time leading the way he wants to lead and is finding out that one size does not fit all.”
He may come off more confident when ordering the GRC troops —and why does the GRC have troops? — or conferring with Lemar (Clé Bennett), but it’s clear those situations are more familiar for a career soldier. In terms of working with Sam and Bucky, despite their own military experience, the lack of clear structure will create conflict.
“When you go outside of that and you have to create your own. But, if you don’t amend that to the people that you’re currently working with, you’re going to have a very difficult time being a good leader,” Russell said. “And so you always need to shift your abilities to talk to people and to get the best out of people. And I don’t think he’s quite figured that out yet.”
It seems, in fact, like Walker has figured out that letting The Falcon and the Winter Soldier do the work may be the most efficient means of intercepting the Flag Smashers and, presumably, acquiring the missing serum vials.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
And, as it turns out, Helmut Zemo is a baron. The clarification is useful as it means he has resources and he more closely resembles his comic-book counterpart. Also, by making him Sokovian royalty, the lines of demarcation get further muddled. In his eyes, the superheroes are an emerging aristocracy. Yet, he takes to aristocratic airs quite easily once aboard his private plane. At the same time, we cannot exactly disagree with anything he says in this episode. The muddiness, though, keeps the series fascinating as everyone espouses noble goals. Sure, the Power Broker may just be in it for control and, possibly, the chance to be cruel, but all the characters we’ve seen state ideals which are, on their face, worthy.
Nevertheless, Baron Zemo is an antagonist and unlikely ally. And while it would be interesting to see him remain on Sam and Bucky’s side through the remainder of the series, his betrayal is always just a few moves away. But what sort of goal will he have in the end? Hook up with the Flag Smashers? They certainly express a certain philosophical similarity he could exploit. Does he even want to destroy the serum vials? Bucky is operating under the impression that he wouldn’t want more Super Soldiers in the world, but would that be the case if those troops were loyal to him?
One clue to his ultimate plot: the dissolution of Sokovia. According to Zemo, the country no longer exists. So what is a baron to do when his barony is gone? Maybe the play is to re-establish the country or something very much like it. The Dora Milaje may have a few problems with Zemo being in a position of power, however. They are clearly already mad he escaped custody and sent Ayo (Florence Kasumba) to investigate.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres new episodes on Fridays on Disney+.