Themes about government and military were touched upon in an action heavy new episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier last night. The fourth episode of the series, "The Whole World is Watching" is the second from John Wick creator Derek Kolstad and was a big improvement on his previous episode.
It seems Bucky's (Sebastian Stan) first impression of Karli (Erin Kellyman) wasn't so wrong after all. He first assumed she was an innocent hostage on the basis of her physical appearance--a young girl with a perpetually worried expression. Now, Sam (Anthony Mackie) gets an interview with her and she turns out to be a young girl who doesn't have a clear idea of what she's doing and why. She knows there are big, powerful forces she sees as her enemy but she doesn't really have a good idea of how to fight them effectively so she uses violence.
I just realised Erin Kellyman also played a leader of ragtag renegades in Solo: A Star Wars Story, too. She only briefly appears in that movie and her eyebrows help quickly establish her as a troubled, innocent soul. Meanwhile, Wyatt Russell as John Walker has a perpetual grimace/smirk. The two have resting hero and villain faces. They also mirror each other--John Walker also chooses violence as a solution because he can't see any rational way forward. The difference is that John is older than Karli and should know better.
One wonders if there was any psychological testing before the U.S. chose its new Captain America. There must have been and it mustn't have been terribly competent. The chip on John's shoulder isn't just the frustration he and Lemar (Cle Bennett) felt about being unable to save more lives in Afghanistan. When the Dora Milaje quickly beat him, he bitterly observes that they weren't even super soldiers. If he'd been thinking rationally, he'd have realised that he was one man fighting against a team of Wakada's elite military. Of course he was going to lose.
I like how he talks about being Captain America as the first thing that's actually felt good. The frustration he feels about not being able to solve problems is more than just lives he can't save, it's his inability to breathe life into a symbol he believes in. Ironically, the episode ends with him tarnishing that symbol when he beats to death one of the terrorists. Once again, I was reminded of Dark of the Sun and without getting into spoilers for that movie, plot points in this episode closely mirror the climax of that film.
Ultimately, the message of the episode is that might only makes right if the person wielding it knows what they're doing. Once again, Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is shown to be the most effective player because he understands his own goals and he understands people. Only he thinks to talk to the kids--and he knows how to talk to them--and his decision to execute Karli is much swifter than John's because he knows that the power of creating super soldiers is too dangerous to take any chances on the caprices of volatile people, something John demonstrates all too clearly.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available on Disney+.