In the premiere episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Sam gave up the shield and Bucky went to therapy; two things we never thought would happen. Joaquín Torres made his debut by getting his face smashed in by the anarchist group the Flag-Smashers, and then the U.S. government thought that Steve Rogers was an easily replaceable symbol and put that other guy in the role, which made Sam (and literally everyone) a little upset. Oh, and the Avengers heroes are broke.
John Walker, the new Captain America, is back at his old stomping grounds — his high school. His partner, Hoskins, gives him a pep talk, it’s time to go to work. The big introduction interview has John taking to the football field, the stands packed, to make his big debut … to a familiar tune.
Walker has quite an illustrious career, to the point where his body was being researched at MIT. Bucky watches the interview in disgust and horror, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. This wasn’t what Steve wanted.
Sam is setting out on another mission to Munich, Germany to find the Flag-Smashers, Torres at his side, but he’s confronted by Bucky about the shield. Bucky doesn’t understand what could be bigger than Steve’s legacy being handed to someone else, but Sam shows him the evidence Torres had gotten on the Flag-Smashers and it’s got to be one of the Big Three — aliens, androids, and wizards. After a little back and forth on the details of what exactly a wizard is, and if they exist, Bucky invites himself along on the mission.
Sam has a plan, a plan that doesn’t account for Bucky being there. And he doesn’t care. He goes through with what he intended to do, leaving Bucky to fend for himself. And he does, hurtling himself 200 feet to the ground below. Sam seemingly appreciates Bucky’s dedication and tells him to head north.
The co-workers meet up at an abandoned building and Sam sends Redwing in to do some reconnaissance. There’s two men seemingly smuggling weapons. Bucky knows they can take them and takes to the shadows in a very Winter Soldier-like manner to get a closer look.
Sam: Look at you, all stealthy. A little time in Wakanda and you come out White Panther.
Bucky: It’s actually White Wolf.
Bucky argues again that there’s two people, he’s got a vibranium arm, they can take them. But Sam holds him back, instead opting to gain more intel before starting a fight. Sam, as always, was right. Redwing finds a hoard of other people behind the walls and now they’re outnumbered. And, they’re lifting massive pieces of equipment with ease; these people are clearly enhanced in some way. Oh, and they have a hostage.
Sam and Bucky take off, Bucky heading into the truck Redwing had seen the hostage in. Inside, he finds the girl and the medicines or vaccines that the Flag-Smashers are transporting. Oh, she’s not a hostage, and she’s very much enhanced. With one blow she sends Bucky flying out of the truck.
A fight ensues between Bucky, Sam, and the Flag-Smashers and one of our fearless warriors is lost; rest in peace Redwing. Sam and Bucky aren’t doing too great against their enhanced foes, and a very familiar piece of equipment comes flying in — Steve’s shield. Captain America, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins have come to help. Even with the four of them fighting together it’s a struggle, and Sam grabs Bucky from the underside of the truck he’s stuck beneath and gets them out of dodge.
“Those were all Super Soldiers, Sam,” Bucky tells Sam. He knows. Walker and Hoskins also don’t make much progress against the Flag-Smashers either, and the rebels get away.
As Bucky and Sam make their way back to the airport, they discuss where these Super Soldiers might have come from and then a horn sounds from a vehicle behind them. It’s Walker, and he thinks they’ve got to be one of the Big Three. He offers them a ride, and for some reason thinks Sam and Bucky want to work with him.
Just because you carry that shield doesn’t mean you’re Captain America. -Bucky Barnes
They reluctantly accept the ride back to the airport, and Sam fills Walker in on the pieces of the Flag-Smashers background he knows. Sam wants to know how they tracked the Flag-Smashers here to Munich, but Hoskins tells him they didn’t track the Flag-Smashers, they tracked Sam through Redwing.
Another piece of the Post-Blip reality is revealed when Walker, Hoskins, and Sam discuss the Global Repatriation Council. The GRC has handled reactivating citizenship, social security and healthcare and “managing resources for the refugees displaced by the return.” A small detail into why John Walker was hired comes out as well, violent revolutionaries aren’t good for the cause; the cause of getting life back to normal. Someone has to take care of them.
Walker again insists that Bucky and Sam join up with them. Lemar formally introduces himself to the team as Battlestar (his comic alias!), John’s partner. Seemingly that nickname is the line for Bucky and he’s heard enough, he wants out. Walker yells to Bucky that he understands the attitude, he gets it, this isn’t where they expected the shield to end up, but he’s not trying to be Steve. When he tells Sam he wants Cap’s wingmen on his side, that’s enough for him as well and takes off after Bucky.
The Flag-Smashers are taking refuge in Germany. They’re clearly gaining some global traction in their mission to not return to a pre-Snap world. An unknown number texts the assumed leader of the group, the decoy hostage from earlier, and it reads:
You took what was mine.
I’m going to find you and kill you.
Interpol already has the group on Wanted lists. Karli Morgenthau (the original comics Flag-Smasher was Karl Morgenthau), the leader, gives the group a pep talk, they want the world back to how it was pre-Blip. They want Thanos’ world. One world. One people.
Bucky is still dwelling on Walker having Steve’s shield, and he wants it back. Sam reminds him of what happened last time they went against the government. Sharon had been branded an enemy of the state and Sam and Steve spent two years on the run. He’s not too keen to do that again.
They head to Baltimore to see someone Bucky says Sam should meet, a man named Isaiah. The boy who answers the door insists no one by that names lives there, they should leave, but Bucky manages to break through when he says “Tell him the guy from the bar in Goyang is here.” Sam wants to know how he knows whoever this is and Bucky tells him they had a skirmish in the Korean War.
When they get inside, Bucky introduces Sam to Isaiah as a hero, a man like Steve, one that HYDRA feared. Isaiah retells the story of ’51 where he fought the Winter Soldier, taking half his metal arm. Bucky is then forced to tell him there’s more of him and Isaiah out there. More Super Soldiers. Bucky learns that Isaiah, despite being a hero after Steve Rogers’ “death,” was imprisoned and tested upon by HYDRA and others. He was never free. He was never known as a hero. He was a prisoner.
Sam is furious that Bucky never told anyone about Isaiah, not even Steve, and that at one point there was a Black Super Soldier and no one knew about it. Then, in the middle of their argument, the police roll up.
At first, the police assume that Sam is bothering Bucky, asking for Sam’s ID, checking in with Bucky. Bucky isn’t having it. He asks the police if they know who Sam is, and the recognition sinks in.
Another car pulls up, someone is under arrest. Bucky. He missed his court ordered therapy session.
Sam is waiting for Bucky at the police station where he meets up with Dr. Raynor. He thanks her for getting Bucky out, but it wasn’t her. It was John Walker. He’s authorized the strict therapy schedule Bucky is confined to be loosened, he needs him. Before he can head off with Walker however, he has to do his condition of release session. And Raynor brings Sam along, too.
The session with the two of them goes exactly as one would expect, terrible. Raynor puts them through the soul-gazing exercise, and despite the walls, sarcasm, and a literal staring contest, Bucky does come out with something that holds some heavy weight. He’s still upset that Sam gave up the shield. Steve had believed in Sam, trusted him. Steve had given Sam the symbol of everything he’d ever stood for, his legacy. So maybe Steve was wrong about Sam. And if Steve was wrong about Sam, then he was wrong about Bucky, too. Sam refutes it, saying he did what he thought was right.
Sam agrees to squash everything between them so they can complete the mission, and then when the mission is done they can go their separate ways. Forever. Bucky likes that plan, too.
Outside, Walker and Hoskins have more info on the Flag-Smashers and Morgenthau. They’re everywhere and she’s taking the medicine she’s stolen to numerous camps around the world. Sam turns down the partnership with Walker again, stating he doesn’t have time to work with the government and all their authorizations. He just wants to get to work. Walker warns them to stay out of his way as they walk away.
In Slovakia, Morgenthau and the Flag-Smashers are loading up a plane with the medicine they stole. One of the soldiers’ phone buzzes. The Power Broker has found them. Karli panics. The Power Brokers men are already here. They throw what they can in the plane, leaving one man behind to give them enough time to take off. They got away.
Bucky has a plan. And it’s not a great one. Sam hates it.
They need to talk to Zemo.
Episode 3 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premieres Friday, April 2 on Disney+.