by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Episode 3
The second MCU series on Disney+ hit its halfway mark this week with an engaging, somewhat choppy installment. The third episode, titled Power Broker, sees Sam and Bucky team up with their former nemesis, turned ally Zemo as they continue their investigation into the super-powered Flag Smashers.
Power Broker is the longest episode of The Falcon and the Winter to date, yet it still feels like the pacing of the series is off. A hell of a lot transpires in this third episode, with a prison interview and breakout occuring only within the five minutes before the title card even appears. The pace is breakneck, which, while it is refreshing relative to the slow pilot, doesn’t leave you with much time to really sit with the unfolding plot and characters’ journeys. The characters often hop from one location to the next and so much plot is contained within the 52 minute episode that it made me wish they slowed things down a bit. At times, this just felt jarring. Questions like “Wait, who are they referring to here?”, “Where are they going now?” and “Why did they do that exactly?” often arose, but there simply isn’t enough time to mentally wrap your head around these questions before you’re thrown into the next scene and, in turn, the next bout of questions. This doesn’t mean The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is confusing or convoluted – the plot is actually very straightforward so far. It just seems that the show still struggles with pacing issues.
Easily the standout of this episode is the return of the excellent Daniel Brühl as Zemo, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War. Brühl deftly plays the fine line between friend and foe to our titular characters, an unexpected twist given that Zemo was billed as the series’ big bad. Despite a stellar performance, I couldn’t help but think this was a different character than the Zemo we saw in Captain America: Civil War. The Zemo in that film was an extremely logical and reasonable Sovokian soldier, hardened by the loss of his family at the hands of the Avengers’ battle with Ultron. But the Zemo we see in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is different – he’s lavish, arrogant, a wealthy Baron with connections to the criminal underworld. Something didn’t feel quite right with the continuity of Brühl’s character.
Nonetheless, Power Broker played out like a James Bond spy thriller in the best possible way. Identities are concealed as they travel to the underworld of Madripoor to uncover more information about this new batch of Super Soldiers. The production design of the city, streets, and club was beautiful and, when compared to other settings like Louisiana and Baltimore so far, really add to the global, political thriller aesthetic of the series. Seeing Bucky (a little too easily) get back into the mindset of the Winter Soldier was awesome to see, as was the tension while Sam took the phone call from his sister.
As the plot continues to unfold, we’re introduced to Sharon Carter, played once again by Emily VanCamp. VanCamp always felt a little shortchanged in the films, with appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War before pretty much vanishing from the MCU for five years. It was an interesting twist to see Sharon gone rogue, on the run from the U.S. government and resentful over the consequences of her alliance with Steve. VanCamp also delivers the series’ best action sequence so far as she expertly takes out a myriad of the Power Broker’s goons in true John Wick style.
With the episode winding down, we know a bit more about what’s going on with the Flag Smashers, but not much. Sam and Bucky continue to play detective, picking up crumbs along their way, but not putting the puzzle fully together yet. It seems inevitable that Zemo will turn full bad guy again, while the Flag Smashers will be revealed as well-intentioned. Perhaps the most intriguing moment of the episode was the final moments, featuring the unexpected appearance of Ayo, the second in-command of Dora Milaj played by Florence Kasumba reprising her role from Civil War, Black Panther, and Infinity War. This adds a different spin on things as we’re going to see the aftermath of Zemo’s murder of King T’Chaka. Ayo’s appearance also lays the foundation for a greater exploration of Bucky’s role as the White Wolf. His time in Wakanda has been referenced briefly, but it’ll be interesting to see what effects this sabbatical had on the former HYDRA agent.
Choppy pacing and odd in-universe continuity aside, Power Broker is a thoroughly entertaining, tension-filled, and globe-trotting installment of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Reintroductions to Zemo, Sharon Carter, and Ayo add interesting new angles to explore as the show really embraces its political thriller and spy film roots.
Images courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney+