The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Explained is our ongoing series delving into Marvel’s grand new bromance between Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. In this entry, we examine The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3 (“Power Broker”) and consider how it connects to the Black Panther universe. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.
Maybe it’s time for the Marvel heroes to take up chess. The villains being the only ones five steps ahead is tiring. After twenty-three films and one television series, you would think these characters would start considering the consequences of their actions. Did Tony Stark and Steve Rogers teach their teammates nothing?
Desperate to uncover the Power Broker from whatever rock they’re hiding under, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) busts Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) from his Berlin prison. He knows Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) won’t go for it, so he doesn’t bother to include him in his plan. Once the deed is done, Sam has two options: return the killer to his cell, or offer him the shotgun seat in their ride. He chooses to kick the can down the road. Let the law and its paperwork be tomorrow’s problem.
Except, tomorrow’s problem is always today’s problem ignored. Freeing Zemo gains more than just the attention of wannabe Captain America John Walker (Wyatt Russell). Wakanda never loses tabs on its enemies. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3 ends with Bucky coming face-to-face with Dora Milaje bodyguard Ayo (Florence Kasumba). She is not amused.
Zemo planted the bomb that killed King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. The assault was designed to frame Bucky as the culprit and bring the Avengers upon his head, forcing Steve Rogers to defend his friend. During that film’s climax, Zemo and Black Panther watch as Iron Man and Captain America tear into each other. As each punch disassembles the franchise, T’Chaka’s son T’Challa lets the hate in his heart slip away. He will not allow vengeance to consume him as it does Tony, as it did Zemo.
Captain America: Civil War ends with the villain smiling in his cell. He won. Zemo’s actions imploded the team, sending Steve Rogers and his co-conspirators to the dark corners of the world, leaving its population vulnerable to Thanos’ inevitable Infinity War raiding party.
And now, Bucky breaks Zemo out in the hopes that somewhere in his crooked mind is enough information to jumpstart their Flag-Smashers investigation? If Bucky had kept in touch with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), he could have relied on her new position as an underworld hustler to connect the dots. But nope. Just as Sam and Bucky haven’t taken two minutes from their day to visit the Sokovian memorial, they hadn’t bothered to follow up with the friend who stole their gear from the CIA when they needed it most. An action that made her a criminal.
In the time between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, when Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Black Widow were operating from the shadows, Sharon Carter snuck off to crime island (the fictional Madripoor, a recurring destination in Marvel Comics) and established herself as a deadly art dealer. Unbeknown to the fellas, Carter has the same connections as Zemo. When Zemo’s gangland buddies turn on Sam and Bucky, Carter comes to the rescue and leads them to the scientist who’s been cooking super-soldier serum.
Dr. Wilfred Nagel (Olli Haaskivi) claims to have perfected the serum that originated with Dr. Erskine. He’s done this using Isaiah Bradley’s blood, and once injected, it does not bulk its subjects into inhuman hulks. This is certainly convenient for actors looking to avoid Chris Evans’ diet.
Before he can reveal any more ties between Hydra, the CIA, and the super-soldier program, Zemo puts a bullet in Nagel’s noggin. Where’d he get the gun? They’re in an evil laboratory. Evil scientists always stash pistols under their desks. It’s a known fact.
With few clues to go on, Zemo, Sam, and Bucky land in Riga, the last known location of a woman named Donya Madani. She died from tuberculosis, but she’s somehow connected to head Flag-Smasher Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). Bucky lets Sam hold Zemo’s leash for a bit, falling back to catch some fresh air and a stroll. Sam seems unbothered by this and lets his bud do his thing.
What Sam and Zemo did not see was the Kimoyo Bead resting on the ground. This advanced Wakandan technology is frequently used for surveillance and communication. In Black Panther, we saw them used to commandeer vehicles and halt paralysis after Everett Ross was shot in the spine during Klaue’s jailbreak. Wakandans are given their first bead upon birth, and they add more as they advance through different jobs. It’s more than a handy-dandy tool.
Bucky circles the building collecting several more beads, and that’s when he encounters Ayo. She’s here for Zemo and not excuses from Bucky. She gives him the same hard stare she gave Black Widow in Captain America: Civil War. What happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force? Nothing good.
We have no idea what will happen now that Zemo is out of his cage. He wants to stop more than super-soldiers. He says idolatry leads to levitating cities and innocent lives lost. Yet, Zemo yanks a purple hood from his family treasure chest. If you can’t beat them, join them. Become your own symbol.
Sam and Bucky suffer from overconfidence. They think they can control the situation. The Wakandans know they cannot.
The unconquerable nation has only recently stepped beyond its borders. They did so because their stranglehold on their technological wonderland stirred fatal retaliation. Wakanda hopes to join the world, but they reach out cautiously. They understand consequence. They understand how one domino topples into another and how Wanda’s choice regarding where to fling an exploding terrorist results in a dozen dead Wakandans. How constructing Ultron leads to the assassination of their king.
Choice demands thought, not gut instinct. Ayo steps into frame, and Bucky better have more to offer than a “Trust me.” He can bend Sam to his will with those words, but not a Dora Milaje, not a Wakandan.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3 should give us pause regarding Sam and Bucky’s headwork. Jumping to Zemo got them a little closer to the Flag-Smashers, but only as close as Sharon Carter could have gotten them if they had bothered to consider her in the first place. Check in on your friends, people!
Couldn’t Bucky have also reached out to the Wakandans first? They didn’t just give him the hookup with that Vibranium arm. They wiped Hydra’s muck from his brain. Wakanda offered him rest and relaxation, and he gave them his body as a soldier when Thanos came knocking. Did he lose their number? Did they lose his?
With Zemo in play, it’s easy to imagine the Black Panther connection increasing as we cross the midway point of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Ayo has been dispatched. If she can’t bring Zemo in quick, more Dora Milaje could follow. Sam and Bucky can bully each other into hair-brained schemes, but no one can budge General Okoye (Danai Gurira). To do so would require a lot more mediation from Sam and Bucky.