Marvel steps it up on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 2.
"The Star Spangled-Man" has nonstop action, convoluted backstory, and witty banter from start to finish.
Plus, we get a glimpse of two things we are curious about -- John Walker as Captain America and Sam and the Flag Smashers.
Let us begin with John Walker, the new Captain America. It is safe to say none of us were particularly thrilled with the announcement on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1.
Steve Rogers is not necessarily irreplaceable, but the person who steps into Captain America's shoes should deserve it.
We hardly know John, but it is difficult to believe that another ordinary military white man is the best option.
We find out there is more to John Walker than meets the eye, and theoretically, he is qualified for the job. But being Captain America requires more than just military honors and impressive stamina.
Captain America is a symbol of hope against hatred, fascism, bigotry, and evil. Captain America always does what he believes is right and good, even if it is against the government's interest.
There is a reason Steve gave Sam the shield. Sam has the experience of fighting as an Avenger.
If someone has only fought on behalf of a modern imperialist military and is government-compliant, they will not truly embody Captain America's essence when the time comes.
Sam not only has the experience, but he also knows when he must go against the grain and fight for what is right. As we see on "The Star-Spangled Man," he experiences racism and bigotry, so he precisely knows what he is fighting.
But Sam and Bucky are not upset because they passed over Sam when searching for a new Captain America. Bucky is angry with Sam for giving up the shield, and Sam is upset with himself for not seeing through the government's plans.
And while Bucky is vocal about his anger, Sam refuses to acknowledge his emotions. Not even a government-mandated therapy session could force Sam to confront his feelings.
Bucky: Why did you give up that shield?
Sam: Why are you making such a big deal out of something that has nothing to do with you?
Bucky: Steve believed in you. He trusted you. He gave you that shield for a reason. That shield that is — that is everything he stood for. That is his legacy. He gave you that shield, and you threw it away like it was nothing.
Sam: Shut up.
Bucky: So maybe he was wrong about you. And if he was wrong about you, then he was wrong about me.
It is heartbreaking to witness all the pent-up emotions Sam has. We know he is still grieving for Steve, even if he does not officially allow himself to do so. Bucky blaming him does not help, especially since Sam blames himself.
We can only imagine what it will be like when Sam finally confronts his feelings and deals with his grief. And the more he pushes it away, the more it will blow up in his face when he cannot hold back anymore.
John: Okay, look, you know, things have gotten kind of, uh...
John: Yeah, well, The GRC, they're doing the best they can to get things up and running smoothly, post Blip.
Lemar: Reactivating citizenship, social security, healthcare. Basically, just managing resources for the refugees who were displaced by the return.
Sam: The Global Repatriation Council does all that. I get that. So why exactly are you two here?
Lemar: Well, they provide the resources, and we keep things stable.
John: Yeah, violent revolutionaries aren't usually good for anyone's cause.
Sam: Usually said by the people with the resources.
However, this was only one aspect of the episode. Most of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 2 involves playful banter between Bucky and Sam as they track down the Flag-Smashers in Munich, Germany.
As a result, we learn more about the Flag-Smashers and what they wish to accomplish. We have to say: we are incredibly relieved that Marvel is not painting this situation as a black-and-white, good vs. evil case.
The Flag-Smashers are profoundly hurting. Despite the broken world that Earth became during The Blip, those left behind sought comfort with one another. There was a lot more unity and kindness.
But since everyone returned after The Blip, the people who were already there got lost amongst all the chaos.
Medical supplies, food, shelter -- all resources went to the people who suddenly reappeared, leaving the others forgotten in the dust.
Naturally, this would anger the people who did not disappear. They lived in a broken world, but it was a united world. Of course, they do not want those who reappeared to disappear again.
They just do not want to see society return to the status quo, with the same governments, the same systems, and the same national borders.
While terror is not the way to go about things, revolutionary groups like the Flag-Smashers generally resort to it as a last-ditch option.
They want society to realize how much better life can be if everyone unites past nationality. If people come together, they can share resources fairly -- by giving more to those who need it more.
But for the most part, the Flag-Smashers are not smuggling weapons or terrorizing innocent civilians. They are gathering resources and distributing them to those in need, which is why they have a decently sized following.
It is safe to say that this group does not consist of villains, nor are they violently evil.
Portraying how different the Flag-Smashers are from government propaganda is a deliberate and intelligent move on the writers' part. Instead of going down the usual "there is a clear distinction between good and evil" path Marvel usually takes, they changed the game, effectively blurring those lines.
We hope The Falcon and The Winter Soldier continues down this route. Not only does it add more complexity, dimension, and drama to the show, but it also means the writers will not use the show as a method for nationalist propaganda.
Lennox: Karli, we can't stay here for long. Six months ago, would you have imagined people supporting the cause like this?
Karli: We're not playing no more. We can't let the same assholes who were put back in power after The Blip win. The GRC care more about the people who came back than the ones who never left. We got a glimpse of how things could be. I need to know that you're all committed because, after tomorrow, there's no going back.
Matias: Yeah. One World.
Soldiers: One People.
Matias: One World.
Soldiers: One People.
Matias: One World!
Soldiers: One People!
But the Flag-Smashers are not just revolutionary -- they are Super Soldiers, injected with the same serum that Steve Rogers had.
This discovery prompts more questions and a new mystery. How did they get enough serum to inject multiple people? And what is the government hiding?
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier certainly raises the stakes on "The Star-Spangled Man," as their creative decisions demonstrate that they are willing to take bold risks, turn tropes upside down, and complicate any situation.
We cannot wait to see how the remainder of the show will unfold.
Bucky: I'm not a killer anymore.
Isaiah: You think you can wake up one day and decide who you wanna be? It doesn't work like that. Well, maybe it does for folks like you.
Over to you, Fanatics!
What did you think of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 2?
How do you feel about John Walker's Captain America?
Do you think he deserves to wear the suit?
What do you think of the Flag Smashers and their goals?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can watch The Falcon and The Winter Soldier online right here, at TV Fanatic!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.