Shit is starting to get real and everything has shades of grey. In a true 70s film style, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is the one good man surrounded by conspiracy. Even the now reformed Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is skating close to the edge. But unlike the great conspiracy thrillers, here there is no clearly defined villain.
You have two candidates for lead villain. Firstly, there are the Flag Smashers lead by Karli Morganthau (Erin Kellyman). A terrorist group in the eyes of World Governments but freedom fighters in the eyes of displaced people. They are fighting for the rights of all the people who have been made homeless or nationless by the Blip. Essentially what they have been doing can be seen as right but now they have gone to far by killing people. Plus they are in possession of the super-soldier serum which would be highly dangerous in the wrong hands.
Then there is Baron Zemo. Daniel Brühl is stealing this show and making it his own. Last week he was dancing and this week he’s lounging around in his dressing gown and offering Turkish delight to children like he is the Queen of Narnia. Zemo is your classic comicbook supervillain. Rich and power, and all the self-belief in the world. He has destroyed a city and defeated the Avengers. Zemo wants to rid the world of superpowers and for that reason Bucky has sprung him from prison to help track down the serum. Zemo argues that superpowers create supremacists and he has a valid argument. When Sam and Bucky are trying to get answers and failing it is Zemo’s kindness to children that gets results. If there isn’t a ‘Thunderbolts’ show spinning out of this then Marvel are missing a trick.
But he is a villain and did kill the King of Wakanda and the Dora Milaje want him to pay. When Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and her team arrive on the scene it starts a ticking clock. There are divided loyalties here as they helped Bucky break his Winter Soldier programming and Bucky working with Zemo is seen as a betrayal. They give the heroes eight hours with Zemo and then they are going to come for him.
Working behind the scenes there is Sharon Carter and the mysterious Power Broker, who we haven’t seen yet but may or may not be someone we have met. Carter is working for Sam and Bucky, keeping track of everyone’s movements. The Power Broker, on the other hand, is out for blood and wants the super-serum back from the Flag Smashers. Again this is adding more layers as Sam is trying to protect Karli from both the authorities and the bad guys and trying to solve this peaceful. But Karli has lost her faith in authority and she threatens Sam’s family to lure him into a trap knowing that Captain America will come. Her endgame is to make a statement by killing the new Captain America.
And then we come to the Captain America of it all. John Walker is a patriot trying to do his job. But, unlike Steve Rogers, he’s not jacked up on super-serum. When Ayo and her team come for Zemo they completely wipe the floor with him and they don’t even have any powers. He’s playing a game where he just can’t compete and he lost his confidence. When he comes across a vile of super-serum temptation is put in his way. When Karli springs her trap he can now compete but his sidekick and friend Battlestar is still just a normal soldier. When Battlestar gets pancaked into a wall by Karli a switch gets flicked inside Walker. His friend is dead and he needs vengeance. He chases down and catches one of the Flag Smashers in the town square and in a scene reminiscent of Steve’s fight with Tony in ‘Civil War’ starts pounding the terrorists with the shield. But unlike Steve, he doesn’t stop. We are presented with one of most striking images Marvel has given us with blood dripping from Captain America’s shield all done with the whole world watching. This is greater than the statement that Karli was hoping for.
For all it’s whizz bang action, this show has become a layer character piece. No one is right and no one is wrong. Even Walker’s actions can be argued as he was eliminating a perceived terrorists threat. Sam is stuck in the middle as he has experiences of both sides of the argument. With two episodes to go you get the feeling that there aren’t going to be any winners in this story. Very 70s.