'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' 1.04 Review: The One With the Unacceptable Narrative Choice

It's 2021, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Yikes.

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
(Image: © Disney+)

What to Watch Verdict

Yikes. The verdict is Yikes.


  • +

    💥Exceptional performance from Sebastian Stan in the flashbacks with Bucky in Wakanda with Ayo.

  • +

    💥The conversation between Sam Wilson and Karli Morgenthau is extremely good.

  • +

    💥Big yes to the Dora Milaje kicking the crap out of everyone.


  • -

    💥Forever laughing at John Walker not being able to cope with losing to the Dora Milaje.

  • -

    💥I know we didn't just kill off [redacted] as motivation for [redacted].

This post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Check out our last review here

Welp. This week’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier started off very strong. Seeing Bucky back in Wakanda with Ayo — someone we were unaware was a part of his healing process prior — was an exciting tidbit. Sebastian Stan gave the scene of his career in that moment without a single word. Meanwhile, Sam Wilson is given more to do both as a voice of reason and as a fully capable human man who doesn't need to be taught about the world by Bucky or Zemo. We were making strong strides in the right direction! Then we got to the last five minutes of the episode. 

We start off right where we left off: Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and the rest of the Dora Milaje are less than thrilled with the White Wolf for both freeing and working with the man who killed their king. Ayo and Bucky's (Sebastian Stan) past grants him eight hours, but it's not a deadline the Winter Soldier meets. 

By the time the women warriors of Wakanda catch up with Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Winter Soldier, John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and Battlestar (Clé Bennett), Sam has already had his chat with Karli (Erin Kellyman) about her methods. Walker and Zemo (Daniel Brühl) are quick to believe that she's a terrorist and a supremacist just like the rest, but Sam sees something else. He knows that the girl's right and her cause is just. His problem is just how she's going about it. She shows no remorse over the 3 she killed and the 11 she injured. It's all just a means to an end. But that's what villains say, right? 

The episode has a clever moment where Karli and one of her soldiers discuss the grey areas in heroism in the modern day. Is there really space for a legacy like Steve Rogers' amongst all the grey? The Flag Smashers don't think so. A lot of detractors of the character would agree. But Sam Wilson isn't so sure just yet — no matter how many times he talks about destroying the shield. 

When the Dora Milaje meet up with the "team" of men, they stumble upon an already frustrated John Walker who managed to snatch the last vial of super soldier serum before Zemo could smash it. Walker, an idiot, decides to try and pull jurisdiction on the fiercest warriors on planet Earth. When it doesn't work, he tries to fight them. And when he loses, he pouts exactly like you'd expect a man like him to after getting his ass handed to him by female warriors.

And that's where things start to get dicey.

Walker confronts his best friend about taking the serum without actually acknowledging he has it. And when he does, Lemar confirms he'd take it in a heartbeat. Not unexpected from the character, but it does give Walker all the inspiration he needs. By the time they head into their next fight with Karli and the Flag Smashers, Walker's an "all American" super soldier (we're just ignoring the week of pain the series has already confirmed that this serum causes). The thing about that serum, whether it's crafted by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) or Dr. Nagel (Olli Haaskivi), is that it enhances whatever's inside a person. A good man (Steve Rogers) becomes great. A bad man? Well... that's how we get murderers. Guess what John Walker is! 

If you're thinking "dicey" couldn't be enough to warrant several "yikes" reactions at the summary portion of this review, you're right. For a series that insists that it's going to "say something," The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sure does seem a-ok with killing a Black man as motivation for a white "patriot" to fall into his destiny. 

Battlestar is, as far as we can tell by the time the credits roll, killed in the battle in an attempt to protect his partner. He's unaware that John's taken the serum, but the real bottom line here is that a team of writers somewhere decided that this was an acceptable and meaningful story in the year of our Lady 2021. Well done on treating Sam Wilson like a person this episode but this ain't a better course of action. 

In response to the apparent death of his best friend, John Walker chases one of the Flag Smashers into the populated square and viciously murders him with the shield he never should have been allowed within a mile of to begin with. For John Walker, the move is expected. For writing on a series that claimed to be so progressive as the teams were doing interviews prior to airing? Wow.

Amelia Emberwing

Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.