This episode feels the most like an overlong section of a movie, as heroes Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie have to break bad guy Daniel Brühl out of prison so Brühl can help them. The show’s quick about the breakout, then slow about everything else. Including having multiple expository dumps for supporting cast members to give them something to do—otherwise new Captain America and fascist thug Wyatt Russell (sidekick Clé Bennett is starting to notice him breaking under the stress) and hippie revolutionary Erin Kellyman (who goes from feeding refugees to mass murder faster than a Thanos snap) wouldn’t have anything to do this episode.
Of course, while Mackie and Stan are in the episode the entire time, they’re just there to give Brühl someone to out act. Show’s called “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (admittedly, Stan gets a whole bunch more than Mackie here) but it’s the Brühl hour, with asides to also returning to the franchise Emily VanCamp.
The boys have to go to a lawless twenty-first century pirate’s paradise, Madripoor (from the X-Men comics, but they don’t spend the entire episode pretending Hugh Jackman’s going to show up at least), where they find VanCamp’s been living since her last outing (Captain America 3, also where Brühl showed up).
There’s a lot of action for VanCamp, there’s a very happening party, there’s Brühl lecturing Mackie about what it means to be a Black man in America, there’s a surprise guest star at the end. It’s fine. Nothing about it seems like they needed to make a six episode series. The episode’s got a couple action beats you could keep, the rest is just filler and promise of eventual (not this episode or maybe even this season) “payoff.”
Director Kari Skogland does well with all the action, but really she just sets the shot and lets Brühl walk through the scene and away with the show. If he was always going to be this compelling a guest star, they should’ve brought him in earlier. He and VanCamp bring a decisiveness the show’s been lacking. Not to fault Mackie or Stan, of course; it’s the script. Derek Kolstad’s script very definitely centers on Brühl, centers on VanCamp. It’s like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is trying to prove the case Mackie and Stan shouldn’t have their own show, let alone movie.
Maybe it’ll change next episode.
Again, whatever, it’s fine. But it’s also pretty lazy.
Also, there’s a very strange, very pointless supervillain mask moment; it’s pointless in the narrative, it’s pointless for the character, really doesn’t belong. It’s just for the trailers. Actually, there are a number of made-for-the-trailer shots this episode. But they usually aren’t pointless. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is overly verbose as is, the show doesn’t need to add any more padding.