The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 comes with such jarring changes in tone and theme that it might give some viewers whiplash, but the nature of this story and how in-depth they are planning on going into these themes have become very, very apparent. It doesn't take long for the "and" of the title to become apparent. Not long after we watch Sam and Bucky both react to someone else taking on the mantle of Captain America, do they reunite. Bucky's anger is palpable throughout the entire episode, and disdain toward John Walker, the new Captain America, is about as subtle as a punch to the gut with Bucky's very metal arm. As the episode continues, it becomes more and more unclear as to who Bucky is angrier at; Walker for taking up the shield or Sam for giving it up. Sam, on the other hand, is grappling with the idea that he did give that shield up, thinking that no one would ever try to replace Steve Rogers, and someone just did. It clearly doesn't sit right with him, and all comes to a head in a therapy meeting when both of the characters air out their reasons for why they are both so angry.
The entire episode is full of that harsh juxtaposition, but that therapy session, the staring contest that we've seen in the trailers is the funny part, but there are lines delivered by both Bucky and Sam that are just heartbreaking. Both of these men are feeling the weight of legacy on their shoulders, and neither of them is dealing with it very well. Now they have a whole new enemy to deal with, and the banter that has come to define this relationship is very much on display when they are on a mission. However, any friendship they might have formed isn't quite there anymore, and they still don't really like each other. Walker is just making the problem worse, but it's the slower moments that really make this episode pop. A reveal that won't be spoiled here about halfway through the episode is going to make longtime comic fans lose their minds while also presenting a whole new point-of-view as to how superheroes are treated in this world.
In the first episode, we saw some of how The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to approach the issues of race with Sam Wilson, but this episode is where things were about as subtle as a 2×4 to the face in the best possible way. There is a moment that so horrifically mirrors real-life situations and how badly it could have easily gone wrong that no one is going to be able to miss what this show is trying to say. It's excellent to see another Marvel show exploring these issues since far too few people watched Cloak & Dagger. The show continues to heavily explore the ramifications of the Blip and how half of the world coming back in a second would have serious ramifications on a macro level. Our villains want to get back to that world, and we finally learn more about them, including getting to see more of the Flag Smashers in action. We hear why they are doing what they are doing, including a line about how everyone is so focused on the people that came back that the people who were left behind are being forgotten. So these aren't going to be completely unsympathetic villains.
In terms of people aren't going to be sympathetic and that if social media is anything to go by has a punchable face, it's our new Captain America. He hasn't done anything to merit everyone hating him aside from not being Steve Rogers, but there isn't anything more deadly than a powerful man with a god complex. John Walker is absolutely one of those men and any moments we see of him trying to be humble just fall incredibly flat. While Bucky walks around with an aura of violence, John walks around with an era of smugness. Sam and Bucky are so completely unimpressed by every single thing that he does, and the fact that they aren't telling him how amazing he is clearly bothering him. John wants the validation of the two people closest to Steve Rogers, and he isn't getting it, and it so clearly is getting under his skin. The action scenes also just how out of his depths John really is, and that is going to really bother him the more the show goes on.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 picks up the pace considerably as we learn more about this world and ends with the promise of a really awesome scene next week. The whole cast continues to do a great job bringing these characters to life, and while it remains the more conventional Marvel show, fans of these characters are going to find a lot to like in this second episode.