Lots and lots of action this episode. None of it particularly special until then end, when director Kari Skogland brings some Orson Welles suspense to it before completely eschewing said suspense, but it’s sort of enough. Especially since the episode goes for a very big, very consequential soft but bloody cliffhanger (which I think is straight out of the comics).
After a flashback, the episode starts with “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” still being the Daniel Brühl show. I wonder if they can somehow swing it to make Brühl Doctor Doom… while he’s great at Zemo (seriously, how can “Alienist” not get the same level of exposition dumping majesty as here—or even really hint at it), but Zemo’s presumably got a limited franchise lifespan. Because not only is the new Captain America—a better than ever before but still not as good as anyone else with more than three lines in the episode Wyatt Russell (Clé Bennett deserves an Emmy for holding up their scenes together)—on Brühl’s trail, the warriors from Black Panther want him for Captain America 3 crimes. Florence Kasumba plays the warrior who gets to talk.
She’s really good but with almost nothing to do (acting-wise, there’s a great fight scene). The opening flashback is her and Sebastian Stan; they’re “give them a spin-off” great together.
Though once Brühl steps out, it’s not Stan’s episode. It’s finally Anthony Mackie’s episode. Yes, he has to share too much of it with Russell and there’s a narratively suspect but obvious and inevitable threat to Mackie’s sister, Adepero Oduye. I guess the lighting’s at least good (courtesy cinematographer P.J. Dillon).
But there’s an actual “let’s try to talk it out” moment with Mackie and main villain until next episode or maybe last Erin Kellyman. Kellyman does really well in the scenes opposite Mackie. Though her master plan is pretty silly. Unfortunately, “Falcon and Winter Soldier” doesn’t really have its scale right, not to mention its narrative distance. Because right after Skogland’s excellent action suspense sequence, there’s the chance to scale it up and do something great. And the show doesn’t. It manages to be effective, but of course it’s effective, it’s the reveal of the villain the show’s been hinting at since episode one, with blood-soaked iconography. If it weren’t effective, there’d be a problem.
It’s the best episode of the series so far. But it might just be the first once with any real tension. Not to mention the fight scene with the Panther warriors is unproblematically entertaining, at least until the show suggests the real reason Russell starts to crack is because a Black female warrior beat him up. The episode says a lot about Captain America as an icon you’d think no one would want to verbalize, actually. It’s intentional enough it seems like foreshadowing for a cop out finish. Though the show cops out on so much what’s one more thing.