[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 3, “Power Broker.”]
A superhero story is only as good as its villain — and Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) was one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best. He wasn’t trying to destroy the world: he just wanted to destroy the Avengers, because they (unknowingly!) caused the deaths of his family members during the battle of Sokovia. Surprisingly, he wasn’t killed at the end of Civil War… and, as with any villain that survives the end of a superhero story, it was only a matter of time until he resurfaced.
This time, though, Zemo’s kind of, maybe on the good side — think Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Thor: The Dark World. Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam (Anthony Mackie) are forced to work with him to find out who’s behind the super-soldier serum. In the process, they make plenty of enemies and run into an old friend — and things are about to get even more complicated for Bucky.
Bucky, unbeknownst to Sam, breaks Zemo (Bruhl) out of prison; Sam becomes aware of this when Zemo casually walks into the room. Obviously, Sam is against this, but Bucky makes a good point: no one knows Hydra better than Zemo, and there’s a good chance the super-soldier serum is connected to them. “I really think I’m invaluable,” Zemo smirks, and eventually, Sam agrees to involving him. For now.
From there, they head to Madripoor, a place Bucky describes as a “pirate’s sanctuary from the 1800s.” (Think Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean, but all neon lights, dubstep music and bounty hunters). Zemo says they won’t be able to walk in as themselves — Sam becomes a man called “Smiling Tiger,” and Bucky must pretend he’s still the Winter Soldier. They go to see a woman named Selby (Imelda Corcoran), and Zemo makes a deal with her to get information about the serum.
She tells him the Power Broker, who controls everything in Madripoor, had a man called Dr. William Nagel (Olli Haaskivi) working on it. Only she, she claims, can get them to Nagel… and then Sam’s phone goes off. It’s his sister. “Answer it,” Selby commands. “On speaker.” The call itself goes well until the end, when Sarah calls her brother by his name and Selby realizes he’s not “Smiling Tiger.” The situation escalates, but Selby is suddenly shot through the window, and it’s not clear who did it.
Friends in High Places
Almost immediately, Zemo gets a message about a massive bounty for the people who killed Selby. Everyone in Madripoor will assume it was them. They narrowly escape with their lives thanks to Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who has also been in Madripoor and had been looking out for them since they arrived. She’s had a tough time since Civil War, when she stole Cap’s (Chris Evans) shield and gave Falcon back his wings, going directly against the Sokovia Accords. (Her awkward almost-relationship with Steve Rogers? Never addressed here.)
Since then she’s become a criminal art dealer, and she lives in a luxurious apartment in Madripoor’s lavish High Town. She’s not a fan of Sam and Bucky, pointing out the hypocrisy in that Sam aided Cap during the events of Civil War and is now fine, but she still can’t even call her family. This leads Sam to make a deal with her: if she helps them find Nagel, he’ll ensure her name is cleared.
A Narrow Escape
Sharon agrees to help, which leads them to a lot full of shipping containers. They find him working in a camouflaged lab, and while every bounty hunter in the city descends on the lot, they get him to talk. He’d been part of Hydra’s winter soldier program, but when Hydra fell, he was recruited by the CIA. He almost recreated the serum for them, but he disappeared during the Blip, and when he came back, the program had been abandoned. “The Power Broker was more than happy to fund the re-creation of my work,” he says. Oh, and Karli stole the serum he was making, which has made her, and the Flag Smashers, a target for the Power Broker.
Sharon, who’s been single-handedly taking on the bounty hunters, barges into the lab and says they’re out of time. Zemo shoots Nagel, and then a bounty hunter fires an explosive at the lab, setting everything on fire around them. They fight their way out, but Sharon won’t come with them; she just asks Sam to get her that pardon she asked for.
Here for Zemo
If you’re wondering what Walker has been up to this whole episode, he’s slowly descending into villain territory. He punches the man who harbored the Flag-Smashers last episode for not telling him where they are now, and Hoskins has to talk him down. They also go to the prison where Zemo was being held, and the implication is that they’re not going to discover what happened there by entirely straight-and-narrow means… but Walker doesn’t care. He says that as long as they get the job done, no one will care how it happened. How distinctly un-Captain America-like of him!
Bucky, Sam and Zemo’s next stop is Riga, where Karli was last seen. Before they enter a building, Bucky says he’s going to go for a walk. He follows a series of planted devices to Ayo (Florence Kasumba) a member of the Wakandan Dora Milaje, who says she’s there for Zemo (in Civil War, Zemo killed King T’Chaka). This lands Bucky in an awkward spot, since he’s on good terms with Wakanda, but his team really, really needs Zemo. What’s the “White Wolf” to do?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Fridays, Disney+