TV REVIEW: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3 (2021)
Following on from a revelation-filled second episode where Sam and Bucky discovered the existence of a new group of super soldiers, the third episode of the series picks up with Bucky visiting Helmut Zemo, the main antagonist from Captain America Civil War. The duo hope that Zemo will have answers on whether Hydra were behind this new slew of Super Soldier serum and so bust him out of prison in Berlin, where he has been since the events of Civil War.
Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is one of the episode’s absolute standouts, sporting attire similar to his comic counterpart and taking on the Baron title he is often known by. Bruhl gives a different glimpse at Zemo from his previous film appearance, more human and funny but just as unpredictable and dangerous. Zemo has been one of the MCU’s standout film villains and so his return in this series is most certainly a welcome one.
Zemo takes our heroes to Madripoor – a fictitious island nation that would not be out of place in the John Wick franchise. This island is full of some of the world’s most dangerous individuals – from arms dealers to pirates – and the hope is the trio might be able to get some information from some of its nefarious residents. The initial neon lit street sequences heavily evoke Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner. The Madripoor sequences show a far darker side to the MCU and more of its criminal underbelly than we have seen in any projects previously and hopefully future projects can dive into this side in more detail. Particularly intriguing is the often-mentioned Power Broker, a fear-inducing individual, that seems to run the underworld in Madripoor and it will be intriguing to see how much of a role they play later in this series and in the wider MCU.
No sooner have the mismatched trio found a lead on where the serum comes from, then a crime boss is murdered and a substantial bounty is placed on their head. In the ensuing chaos, we are reacquainted with Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter/Agent 13 who has been absent in the MCU since 2016. She appears here battle-hardened and far more cynical, having been on the run in the years since the events of Civil War for stealing Captain America’s shield and Falcon’s wings. Carter’s appearance is a welcome one, as she has had a rough time of things in her two appearances to date, with Civil War in particular offering her a limited role and one can only hope she is given a more substantive part to play in the remainder of this series.
The espionage-driven nature of this episode stands it apart from the previous two ones and it is a tense and gripping half-hour. The action sequences towards the episode’s conclusion as the group looks to escape Madripoor are some of the most hard-hitting in the entire MCU and a great showcase for Sharon in particular, these sequences are more akin in nature to the likes of Atomic Blonde and the aforementioned John Wick.
This episode in many ways acts as a sequel to the events of Civil War, giving the film’s events meaning especially for Sharon and Zemo, showing the impact the subsequent years have had. Its more spy-driven storyline is a credit, if perhaps the episode lacks some scenes of John Walker (our new Captain America) who was more of a prominent presence in the second episode. We do however get occasional brief glimpses of Walker, that again showcase the differences between his mannerisms and ruthlessness when put against those of Steve Rogers.
As we reach the series midpoint, the series has already offered answers to some of its more pressing questions. Namely, where the new group of super soldiers have appeared from and their number. Many of the series’ key parts are now in play and this episode offered some tantalising glimpses at wider antagonists, ending with a surprise link to Black Panther which will likely be developed more in coming episodes.