Welcome back to our episode-by-episode examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. As always, spoilers abound; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the third episode (and optimally Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War for good measure).
Ostensibly titled for the oft-mentioned but as yet unseen Power Broker (proper noun), episode 3 of Falcon and the Winter Soldier brims with would-be power brokers (common noun) and grasping intermediaries. There’s hardly a person in this episode who isn’t intent on using someone or something else to get what they really want. Throw in the strong possibility that a good many of them might well want something other than what they claim they really want, and hijinx ensue. It’s a lot of fun, but, as we’ll see, labors mightily to hold up to even the most casual scrutiny.
As they stated at the end of last episode, John Walker and his partner Lemar Hoskins are attempting to track down the Flag Smashers by targeting the civilians who’ve been providing them with shelter and assistance. A weirdly sedate raid on an underground internet operation in Munich yields nothing but defiance and contempt from the operator. Out of options and out of leads, Walker thinks that maybe he’ll have better luck tracking Sam and Bucky’s trail to his targets. The camera at one point is briefly out of focus and off-kilter when close in on Walker, suggesting disorientation or a loss of control on his part.
Sam and Bucky visit Zemo in Berlin, where he’s been imprisoned since the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War (2016). Bucky reasons that Zemo’s extensive knowledge of Hydra infrastructure can help them track down the super soldier serum. It’s a little surprising to me that Sam can’t get a bank loan in his own home town, but apparently has little trouble in swinging an impromptu interview with Zemo in some kind of Berlin supermax. It’s even more surprising, given recent history, that no one seems to have any issues with putting Zemo and the Winter Soldier together in the same room, but what do I know?
Zemo is played to snarky smug perfection by Daniel Bruhl, and comes across as dangerous and funny, all at the same time. I think people often assume that I take exception to MCU characters’ lack of fidelity to their comic versions, but Zemo is one of those instances where I find the motives and personality of the movie version preferable to what we see in the comics. He’s the MVP of this episode. Zemo claims he has some ideas about where to begin searching for whoever’s behind the super-soldier serum but of course he can’t do it from inside a prison cell.
And so, the ink on his pardon hardly dry, Bucky Barnes unilaterally determines to engineer a prison break for Zemo, the logic and logistics of which elude me entirely.
For starters, as of this point in the show, what exactly are the Flag Smashers guilty of? They’re enhanced super-humans, sure, and their lack of being registered as such might be illegal (though merely being super-human isn’t). They’ve robbed a bank, and stolen a few truckloads of medical supplies, which they intend to distribute for free to desperate refugees. Definitely illegal, but still…breaking Zemo out of prison — a guy who bombed a UN assembly and killed 12 people, including Wakanda’s King T’Chaka — to help find and apprehend some thieving idealists? That’s disproportionate crazy sauce, like deciding to treat common cold symptoms with open heart surgery. And that’s assuming you can trust Zemo, which you can’t. At all. He’s as slippery and snake-like as anyone the MCU has on offer.
More, how on earth did Bucky and Zemo coordinate all this? Surely the goings-on in Zemo’s cell are monitored and recorded. Did Bucky give Zemo the keycard we see in Zemo’s copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince? If so, where did Bucky get it, and how’d he get it to Zemo? If not, where did Zemo get it, and why on earth would he show it to Bucky Barnes, of all people? The plan seems to hinge on Bucky having the opportunity to drop a message to specific inmates that he doesn’t know and has never seen, and then having those inmates react in a specific way at a specific time.
Just saying, it’s a plan with a lot of moving parts that would seem to require not just an unreasonable amount of luck, but also maybe telepathy, teleportation, and clairvoyance for it to work.
Whatever the case, Zemo manages to free himself from prison, and rendezvous with Sam and Bucky at a garage I presume he owns. If Sam has any objections to Bucky making him an accomplice to springing the most infamous terrorist on earth from prison, he keeps them to himself. Zemo collects a snazzy leather coat and his purple mask from the comics, and tells Sam and Bucky that to track the source of the super-soldier serum, they’ll “have to scale a ladder of lowlifes,” with the first stop being a “mid-level fence” named Selby.
Selby runs the Princess Bar in Madripoor, a (fictional) rogue state island nation in the Indonesian archipelago, so it’s fortunate that, in addition to the well-stocked garage full of classic cars and small arms, Zemo also owns a private jet, that comes complete with a white-gloved man-servant, Oeznik.
“So all this time you’ve been rich?” says an incredulous Sam Wilson.
“I’m a baron, Sam. My family was rich until your friends destroyed my country.”
Looks like he’s still rich, and commands the loyalty of some very capable accountants and executors to keep all these cars and jet planes out of asset forfeiture, but I digress.
On the long flight to Madripoor, Zemo strains at the leash, testing the limits of what he can get away with. He taunts Bucky about the little book with the victims of the Winter Soldier written in it, taunts Sam about Marvin Gaye’s ‘Trouble Man,’ and taunts both heroes about the legacy of Captain America they’re each struggling to live up to or escape out from under. Really, for a character who doesn’t appear at all in the series, there’s an argument to be made that at its heart, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a story about competing (and conflicting) ideas about Captain America: Sam’s, Bucky’s, Walker’s, Karli’s, even Zemo’s.
“You must have really looked up to Steve,” Zemo tells Sam. “But I realized something when I met him. The danger with people like him, America’s super-soldiers, is that we put them on pedestals.”
“Watch your step, Zemo.”
“They become symbols. Icons. And then we start to forget about their flaws. From there, cities fly, innocent people die. Movements are formed, wars are fought.” To Bucky: “You remember that, right? As a young soldier sent to Germany to stop a mad icon. Do we want to live in a world full of people like the Red Skull?”
The conversation goes another direction from that point — the latest in a long and unfortunate MCU tradition of dropping the pursuit of interesting ideas pretty much the moment they’re introduced — though we’re probably safe in assuming that no one sane wants to live in a world full of people like the Red Skull. I think it likely Sam and Bucky would insist that there’s a world of difference between Steve Rogers and the Skull, while Zemo might point to his vanished country and his long-dead family and say the difference in motive isn’t enough to make up for the similarities in result. Would that we could’ve heard that conversation instead of spending time on the nonsensical details of an impossible prison escape.
The first act of the episode ends with Karli Morgenthau attending the death of an elder or relative — we learn her name is Donya Madani, ‘Mama Donya’ to Karli — in a crowded infirmary in a Latvian Global Repatriation Council (GRC) camp.
Zemo’s Madripoor plan involves Zemo playing himself, Bucky playing his mind-controlled Winter Soldier role, and Sam masquerading as “a sophisticated, charming African rake named Conrad Mack, a.k.a. the Smiling Tiger.” When Sam laments that he’s the only one dressed like a pimp, Zemo says that only an American would assume that a fashion-forward black man looks like a pimp. Zemo warns Sam and Bucky that no matter what happens, they have to stay in character (and never mind that the handsome, very obviously American Sam Wilson doesn’t look, sound, or act continentally African in the least).
The trio crosses an empty bridge into Madripoor, and are met by a car mid-span. I had questions: Presumably Madripoor has an airport; they couldn’t have just flown in? The car couldn’t have met them wherever they landed? Where or what does this bridge connect to, and why isn’t there any traffic on it? The bridge does look cool — in real life, it’s the Troja Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, spanning the Vltava River — so there’s that, I guess. But why not have Sam in his Falcon suit flying around the area, while Zemo and Bucky make it happen on the ground? And hey, while we’re at it, where does Sam keep his Falcon suit when he’s not using it?
Unanswered questions notwithstanding, the showrunners hit a home run with the look and feel of Madripoor. From the boats in the harbor to the glass and steel high-rises of High Town to the ubiquitous graffiti covering every available surface in Low Town, it’s a depraved Blade Runner-ish carnival of sleaze, neon, drugs, piles of cash, heavy weapons, and scary-looking people. It’s better than I imagined it from the comics.
The Princess Bar is crowded, moody and atmospheric, one part night club, one part prison yard. The presence of the Winter Soldier spreads an uneasy tension through the crowd. Zemo tells the bartender that they have business with Selby, and at the mention of that name, a nearby stranger pulls their hood more closely over their face and makes an unobtrusive exit. The bartender asks “Conrad Mack” if he wants his usual, which apparently involves ingredients freshly cut from the innards of a snake, and if you’re wondering, Gentle Reader, how it is that the bartender knows the Smiling Tiger well enough to keep live snakes on hand for his favorite drink but not well enough to realize that Sam Wilson and Conrad Mack are not the same guy, well…join the club.
A sketchy looking fellow rolls up on Zemo, tells him that word came down from on high: Zemo and his entourage aren’t welcome here. Zemo tells the fellow he’s got no business with the Power Broker, which seems to satisfy him, at least momentarily. “Every kingdom needs its king,” Zemo explains to Bucky. “In Madripoor, he [the Power Broker] is the judge, jury, and executioner.”
Yet another shady denizen of the Princess Bar approaches Zemo, and this time, Zemo orders Bucky to handle things the Winter Soldier way: with the judicious application of devasting, bone-crunching violence. Bucky leans into his work, putting it to half a dozen outmatched opponents, while Sam looks on, shocked and horrified. “It didn’t take much for him to fall back into form,” remarks a sardonic Zemo. He’s not wrong, and it’s worth considering that this — the Winter Soldier, and all the violence and carnage that comes with him — is Bucky’s natural state, his default setting. Viewed from the vantage point of the events in the Princess Bar, the notion that any amount of therapy from a court-ordered psychiatrist could somehow have a positive effect on this lethal instrument of death and mayhem is laughable.
Just before it looks like some shooting is about to start, the bartender tells Zemo that Selby will see them now. A concerned Sam asks Bucky if he’s good, but what is there to say? The unbreachable gulf between who James Buchanan Barnes wants to be (or who he says he wants to be) and who the Winter Soldier is just got shamefully exposed in no uncertain terms. Depending on how you want to look at it, it’s a huge mental health setback for Bucky, or it’s probably the best the Winter Soldier has felt in months or maybe years. Maybe it’s both.
There’s a stylish slow-motion entrance for our heroes into Selby’s backroom den, set to the tune of Edith Piaf’s ‘Le Petit Homme,’ that’s so much fun I don’t even care that it doesn’t seem to connect to anyone or anything going on here. It’s possible that the shot of gambling tables on a bank of video monitors and the French-language song hearkens back to the Princess Bar’s thematic ancestor, Rick’s Cafe from Casablanca (1943). It’s also possible that the showrunners just thought dudes walking in slow-motion while an Edith Piaf tune played would be really cool, and that’s as far as the reasoning went.
The sequence perhaps owes something to this similar slow-motion intro in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), the Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ providing the soundtrack:
And it also put me in mind of O-Ren Iishi and associates arriving at the House of Blue Leaves in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2003), to the rough-as-fuck sounding ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity’ by Tomoyasu Hotei:
(Something cool and subtle here: the first half of this video, O-Ren’s lowest henchmen, members of the Crazy 88’s, are shot at more or less regular speed; O-Ren’s lieutenants, Sophie Fatale and school girl bad-ass Go-Go Yubari, are shot in slow motion; and O-Ren herself shot slowest of all, giving her a floating, regal gravity that the others don’t possess. She’s also the only one who looks directly into the camera, Hannibal Lector style, and the only one dressed all in Japanese funereal white.)
Selby turns out to be a faux-hawked middle-aged woman played with scene-chewing gusto by Imelda Corcoran. In exchange for information from Selby about the super-soldier serum, Zemo is offering the Winter Soldier and the code words to control him. Selby is intrigued — “I’m glad I decided not to kill you immediately.” — and offers a man named Dr. Wilfred Nagel as the culprit behind the serum’s creation, who is or was working for the Power Broker.
Before she and Zemo can get deep into the nuts and bolts of their deal, however, Sam Wilson gets an inopportune call on his cell phone. Selby insists he answer it, on speaker, no less. It turns out to be Sam’s sister Sarah, last seen in episode 1, calling to talk about the family’s boat situation. Sam tries to bluff his way through it, but his sister makes short work of Sam’s cover as a charming, sophisticated African rake.
Selby orders her henchmen to kill her visitors, but before any of that can happen, a shot from outside punches through and takes out Selby. Sam and Bucky easily overwhelm her remaining henchmen. Sam worries that Selby’s death will be pinned on them, perhaps not realizing that neither the legal framework nor the moral will exist in Madripoor to pin anything on anyone. Zemo advises Sam and Bucky to leave their weapons — why? who knows? — and follow him, but hardly are they out the door before a general message goes out, like a criminal amber alert, that Selby is dead and there’s a thousand bit coin bounty offered for her killers. According to what I’ve read, that translates to something like $58 million dollars,https://cointelegraph.com/news/latest-episode-of-the-falcon-and-the-winter-soldier-involves-massive-bitcoin-bounty which is a preposterous sum in retaliation for the killing of a “mid-level fence.” If anyone cared $58 million worth about Selby’s well-being, she’d still be alive. Also, if the MCU’s Madripoor is anything like the comics’ Madripoor, there’s not a soul in this part of town who wouldn’t cheerfully feed our heroes feet first through a wood chipper for the price of a round of drinks and a Groupon for Uber Deluxe.
Sam, Bucky, and Zemo are quickly recognized and marked out on the street, and general gunfire quickly breaks out. Chased to an alleyway, the three are saved by an unknown sniper who then makes their way down to the street. It’s the figure in the hood from the Princess Bar, who turns out to be none other than Sharon Carter (Emily Vancamp), last seen in Captain America: Civil War (2016).
According to Sharon, she’s been on the run since the events of Civil War. Unlike Sam and even Bucky, Sharon says she didn’t have the Avengers to back her up, so here she is, off the grid (sort of) in Madripoor. (There’s some reason to think that Sharon’s tale is a hot n’ stinky bowl of brazen lies and outright fiction; more on that momentarily.) Since they seem to have some common interests and shared history, Sharon offers to hide Sam, Bucky, and Zemo at a place she has in High Town.
Sharon has picked up the life and demeanor of a dealer of high-priced stolen art — “At some point I thought if I had to hustle, I might as well enjoy the life of a real hustler.” — with a side-line in deep cynicism.
When Sam attempts to apologize for her current circumstances, Sharon says, “Look, you know the whole hero thing is a joke, right? I mean, the way you gave up that shield, deep down, you must know it’s all hypocrisy.”
“He knows,” says Zemo, “and not so deep down.” Say what you will about Baron Zemo, he never misses a chance to stir the turd.
Sharon asks how the new Captain America is, and Bucky tells her not to get him started. “Please,” she says, “you buy into all that stars and stripes bullshit. Before you were his [Zemo’s] pet psychopath, you were Mister America. Cap’s best friend.”
“Wow. She’s kind of awful now,” Bucky tells Sam.
Sharon has heard of Nagel, and knows he works for the Power Broker. Sam asks for her help, and says he can get her name cleared. Myself, considering his role in Zemo’s escape, I rather doubt Sam’s going to manage to get his own name cleared, never mind Sharon’s, but that’s the pitch.
Sharon tracks Nagel to the docks, where Nagel operates out of a secret lab fronted by a shipping container. She says she’ll watch outside while the three question Nagel. Nagel, a nervous and furtive sort, says that he was brought into Hydra’s Winter Soldier program after the failure of the Siberian subjects seen in Civil War, and then recruited by the CIA after Hydra fell. Nagel says the CIA had super-soldier blood samples from an American test subject (Sam will later assume that Nagel is talking about Isaiah Bradley), and after “much labor,” Nagel was able to isolate the compounds. According to Nagel, not only was he able to recreate the important elements of Professor Erskine’s formula, he was well on his way to improving on it…but before he could complete his work, Nagel became part of the unfortunate half of the universe removed from existence by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). When he returned, five years later, the program had been abandoned, so he came to Madripoor, where the Power Broker was happy to fund the recreation of his work.
Nagel says he made twenty vials of his super-soldier serum, but they were stolen by Karli Morgenthau. He says he doesn’t know where Karli is, but that she contacted him recently, asking if he could help someone named Donya Madani, who was dying of tuberculosis (which we know she succumbed to). Sam asks what happened to Madani, and Nagel shrugs. “Not my pig. Not my farm.” Nice.
While all this interrogating is going on, Sharon is outside, fighting with bounty hunters and mercenaries who have arrived. Zemo has searched the lab and, unknown to Sam and Bucky, procured a pistol for himself.
Bucky asks if there’s any serum in the lab, and Nagel says there isn’t. Sharon arrives, telling the group they’re out of time, and then Zemo up and shoots Nagel in cold blood with the pistol he found. And right after that, some bounty hunting fool with a rocket launcher shoots some heavy duty ordinance at the lab. The group escapes the now-burning lab, and a firefight ensues. It’s Zemo who saves the day, exploding a gas line, going all Lethal Weapon on most of the remaining bounty hunters, and then procuring a cool convertible in which to escape. The group parts ways with Sharon at the docks, with her reminding Sam to get her that pardon he promised her.
Once they’re gone, Sharon meets a woman — fellow agent? employee? — waiting with a car. “We’ve got a big problem,” Sharon tells her. “Actually, a couple of them. I’ll tell you in the car. Let’s go.” Hmm.
The second act ends with Karli again, scouting a GRC supply depot in Vilnius, Lithuania. Karli and one of her fellow Flag Smashers talk a bit about their time in Madripoor. Her companion reminds her that the Power Broker is bound to come looking for them again. Karli tells him it won’t be a problem. She’s heard Nagel was killed in Madripoor, and they’ve got the last of the serum. “The Power Broker’s about to come begging.”
Meanwhile, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins have discovered that Sam and Bucky were at Zemo’s prison the day of his escape. Lemar’s skeptical that springing Zemo is a thing Sam and Bucky would’ve done, but John Walker has no doubts. He proposes again following Sam and Bucky’s trail, reasoning that if he and Lamar get the job done, no one will much care about how they got it done.
Armed with Donya Madani’s name and circumstances, Sam’s friend Lieutenant Torres is able to track her down to Riga, in Latvia. Zemo says he has a place they can go, because of course he does.
On the way, in the plane, Sam considers that maybe he was wrong to give up the shield. Maybe he made a mistake. “You did,” says Bucky, and says that a new Captain America is needed, and it’s not going to be John Walker. Bucky says he’ll take the shield from Walker himself if need be.
Back in Latvia, Karli Morgenthau makes the critical jump from thieving idealist to murdering zealot. After overpowering the guards and stealing supplies from the GRC depot, she detonates an explosive, destroying the building and the half dozen or so guards who were still restrained in it.
“There were still people in there!” her companion says.
“This is the only language these people understand,” says Karli.
In Riga, Zemo tells Sam and Bucky about his now-extinct country of Sokovia, cannibalized by its neighbors and erased from the map. “I don’t suppose any of you bothered visiting the memorial? Of course not. Why would you?”
Arriving at Zemo’s safehouse, a distracted Bucky Barnes tells his companions he’s going on a walk. After Sam and Zemo enter the safehouse, Bucky reaches down, picks up a small metal ball from the ground. He finds another one around a corner, and walks down an empty side street. “You dropped something,” he says, holding up the ball, looking around and finding no one, then: “I was wondering when you’d show up.” He turns around…
…and comes face to face with Ayo of the Wakandan Dora Milaje, last seen in Black Panther (2018). You do remember that King T’Chaka of Wakanda was one of Zemo’s bombing victims, yes? Ayo does.
“I’m here for Zemo.”
I’ve got a raging fever and the only cure is more cowbell.
- The principality of Madripoor first appeared in New Mutants #32 (Oct 1985), created by Chris Claremont and Steve Leialoha. The Princess Bar first appeared in Marvel Comics Presents #1 (Sep 1988), created by Chris Claremont and John Buscema.
- Madripoor’s skyline here is all CGI, modeled on the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore. On a semi-related note, it struck me how much the Madripoor section of this episode looks like Ridley Scott set and art design with Tony Scott cinematography — that color-saturated look — with maybe just a hint of Michael Mann thrown in for good measure. The main movies that spring to mind for the look and feel of Madripoor are Blade Runner (1982, d. R. Scott), Man on Fire (2004, d. T. Scott), and Collateral (2004, d. M. Mann), though I’m sure we could point to others by each of these directors and to the many people they’ve influenced.
- There is a Conrad Mack in the comics, and he is indeed known as the Smiling Tiger, but he’s neither charming nor sophisticated nor African. He first appeared in New Warriors #19 (Jan 1992) created by Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley.
- During the fight in the bar, dig the Winter Soldier music / sound effect from Captain America: Winter Soldier (2016), deployed at roughly the 20:25 and 20:35 – 40 marks!
- Sharon Carter, a.k.a. Agent 13 of SHIELD, first appeared in Tales of Suspense #75 (Mar 1966), created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers. The Sharon Carter of the comics shares some of the cynical pragmatism of the Sharon we see here. A get it done whatever it takes type of person. As played by Emily Vancamp in the movies, she made her first appearance in Winter Soldier.
- Ayo of Wakanda is primarily a character in the movies — she first appeared in Captain America: Civil War — but was backdated to an unnamed character in the comics. I believe her first real, named appearance was Black Panther #1 (Jun 2016); she was created by Ta-Nahesi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze.
Speaking of Sharon Carter, let’s address Sharon and her Madripoor story for a moment, and consider the strong possiblity that the whole thing is complete bullshit.
- Exhibit A: Bucky Barnes is going to get a pardon for the events of Civil War and Sharon Carter isn’t? That sounds weird right off the bat. I think it’s far more likely that Sharon’s outlaw status and Madripoor’s lack of extradition buys her some cover to work her craft. She’s smart enough, capable enough, and fierce enough to survive and even thrive in Madripoor…exactly the sort of person any self-respecting spy agency would want to run a plausibly deniable operation on their behalf in a foreign locale. Independent enough to go deep cover as a way of life, but (probably) dedicated and principled enough not to go completely off the reservation.
- Exhibit B: Nagel admits to working with Hydra, and following their dissolution / rebranding, for the CIA. The CIA operates on foreign soil, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that they’d have some interest in a super-soldier program. They’d certainly have the clout and the funding to run it. And who do we see working for the CIA at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier?
- Exhibit C: Who shot Selby? At first glance, an agent of the Power Broker seems like the most likely culprit, but if so, why shoot Selby, and not the far more dangerous Zemo or Bucky Barnes? Take out Zemo or Bucky, that’s the end of the investigation. Sharon seems surprised by Selby’s death, or at least acts like she’s just learned of it, but if it wasn’t an agent of the Power Broker who shot Selby, Sharon would be the next most likely suspect. We know she was in the area, we know she can shoot, know she had the weapon on hand to do it with, and would have had good reason to shoot Selby instead of Sam or Bucky, who are friends, after all, or are at least as friendly with Sharon as anyone is likely to get. But what about Zemo? Good question.
- Exhibit D: It’s Sharon who supplies the location of Nagel’s lab, but it’s Zemo who actually discovers the hidden method to get into it. It’s Zemo who finds the hidden pistol — almost like he knew just where to look — and it’s Zemo who uses it to shoot Nagel (assuming that is Nagel; it’s not like anyone in the room would know if he wasn’t). Right after that, a guy with a rocket launcher destroys the lab. Now, I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy afoot, but…if one were trying to throw off interest in one’s secret operation but wanted to keep the assets of the operation relatively intact and were reluctant to simply kill the people investigating the operation, this might be the way to go about it. Fake the main researcher’s death, destroy a replaceable lab that’s had its genuinely valuable assets moved during the previous night — during a party, say — and there’s a good chance the investigators will simply assume there’s nothing left to investigate and go away. As for Zemo, it’s worth asking here: is it super-human operatives that Zemo objects to? Or is it super-human operatives that don’t work for Zemo that he objects to? Because ideology aside, in terms of his intelligence, capability, and moral flexibility, if you could find something to offer or motivate him, Zemo might make a pretty good partner for someone in the spy business. He knows the game, knows the players, and is able to mix with high and low elements of society with equal facility. All of which is to say, if Sharon is running some sort of operation, Zemo would be an easier and more natural partner for her than the impulsive Winter Soldier or the relatively naive Sam Wilson.Note that all this only applies to the MCU versions of these characters; the comic versions would play out much differently. For one, the brilliant and grandiose Baron Zemo would be more of a rival … Continue reading
My guess is that Hydra-leaning elements within, or cooperating with, the CIA are running the Power Broker operation, and that Sharon is their primary agent. The agency has the money, resources, experience, and motivation to back a program like this, and Madripoor has neither extradition nor oversight. In this scenario, there is no one person acting as the Power Broker; the Power Broker is instead an invisbile, omnipotent figurehead. Let’s note that at no point does anyone admit to having ever actually met the Power Broker. A secondary guess is that Sharon herself is the Power Broker, hiding in plain sight. I don’t see anything that definitely says she is, mind you…but then, I don’t really see anything to say she isn’t.
There are couple problems with my Sharon’s Story is Bullshit theory.
One is that is that it’s difficult for me to untangle here what’s intentional trickery and what’s just narrative laxity, or exercises in style. The Sharon story I’m proposing only makes sense if most of what we’re seeing is purposeful and deliberate, and I’m not entirely convinced it is. I’ll be surprised indeed if we get to the end of Falcon and the Winter Soldier and find nothing but purpose and deliberation in our wake.
Another is that I’ve no answer for the speed or staggering amount of the bounty offered for Sam, Bucky, or Zemo. The bounty is levied quickly enough that I can only assume that the person or agency that shot Selby also put out the bounty. Who else could have done it? Aside from Sam, Bucky, Zemo, and the shooter, who else would even know Selby was dead? People who worked for Selby, yes…but the people who worked for Selby would conceivably have their own immediate problems in this scenario, and if they could afford a $58 million bounty to avenge their boss, they probably wouldn’t be working for Selby or anyone else in the first place. If we assume the Power Broker put out the bounty, again, why not shoot Bucky or Zemo or Sam instead? Solves the investigation problem right quick, and you know Selby’s not going anywhere. You can always get to her later. And if it was Sharon who did the shooting, why put out the bounty?
The bounty hunters at the dock are similarly problematic. If they’re Power Broker-affiliated mercenaries, why blow up the lab? If the bounty hunters are after a bounty Sharon herself created, that seems awfully risky, both for herself and for her allies. Her fight on the docks with the bounty hunters looks real, and I hardly see the point of staging a fight with knives and live rounds if no one’s around to watch it.
It’s a lot to chew on. We’ll see next episode whether or not we’re able to start digesting it.
Comments or questions? Let me know!
|↑2||Note that all this only applies to the MCU versions of these characters; the comic versions would play out much differently. For one, the brilliant and grandiose Baron Zemo would be more of a rival than a partner; he’d be funding his own program. For another, Bucky and Sharon are likely to just up and shoot Zemo on sight, no questions asked. I don’t see Sam willing to work with Zemo under any circumstance.|