After last week's diversion to Madripoor so Zemo could get his dance on, this week's episode comes back into the furrow it's been ploughing since the first episode.
Namely, what happens when you no longer have the calming presence of Steve Rogers in the world. If John Walker is anything to go by, it ends up with him performing police brutality on a super-soldier and murdering a guy with the shield of Captain America. The final image of this week's episode is a powerful one; John Walker, standing triumphantly over the dead body of a Flag Smasher with a bloody shield, as bystanders video the whole thing.
There's a wider discussion to be had about how police in the US have co-opted the iconography of the Punisher, not Captain America, but that's for another time. In this episode though, what is being driven at is the fact that John Walker is not only inadequate against super-soldiers, he's just plain inadequate. When he's beaten pretty roundly by the Dorae Milaje, he huffs and puffs, complaining that they're not even super-soldiers. The fact that they're warriors trained from birth and trained to be the best fighters in the world doesn't even enter into his mind. They may as well be super-soldiers, but in John Walker's eyes, he can't compete and that leads him to steal the serum and give himself the edge he feels he needs. There's a line in the first 'Captain America' that talks about how the serum simply heightens what's already inside.
This is laid bare when we see Red Skull turn into a monstrous creature, while Steve Rogers turns into a buffed-up. Here, it's John Walker overcompensating for his inadequacies by murdering a Flag Smasher and being proud of doing so. To him, the serum means he's right and everybody else is wrong. He truly believes what he's doing is the right thing, and when he talks about his service in Afghanistan, he differentiates it from his service as Captain America.
Karli Morgenthau, it must be said, feels like the weak link of the whole series. The idea of a villain you can commiserate with isn't anything new in comic-book movies, or even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 'Black Panther' had Killmonger, but in Karli Morgenthau, it feels far less convincing. Even when she and Sam Wilson have a little back and forth, it doesn't feel remotely as compelling as, say, when Daredevil and Punisher debate the use of force.
Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba, yet again steals every scene she's in, which begs the question as to why Disney+ hasn't put together a series of the Dora Milaje going around beating the crap out of people. Meanwhile, Daniel Bruhl further cements himself in the role of Zemo, the suave supervillain.
Going back to the final scene in this week's episode, the question we're now left with is what's going to happen to Captain America? Will John Walker be stripped of the title, or simply downgraded to US Agent? Who IS the Power Broker? Is it Mephisto? Actually, don't answer that.
- Star of the week is Florence Kasumba as Ayo - Disney+, stop wasting time and greenlight the Dora Milaje miniseries already
- How much does Wyatt Russell sound like his dad, Kurt Russell?
- Yes, an extended scene from last week's episode of Zemo dancing is online and it's just great
- Twenty quid says you'll never see the Power Broker's face by the end of all this