As entertaining as the first episode of Marvel’s The Falcon And The Winter Soldier was, it kept its two titular characters separate for the entire runtime – with Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes each adjusting to post-Blip life, nary a hint of them actually teaming up. If Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm was watching, he might have asked: “Now eventually you do plan to have The Falcon and The Winter Soldier together in your… in your Falcon And The Winter Soldier show, right?”

Enter Episode 2, aka ‘The Star-Spangled Man’ – which not only united Sam and Bucky at last, but also followed up on that massive cliffhanger about the MCU’s new (if likely short-lived) Captain America, John Walker. It was an instalment that set our heroes on the trail of the super-strong Flag-Smashers, clashed them against the initially nervous but increasingly smug Walker, and taught Sam some covered-up history about the super-soldier serum – which brings us neatly to this week’s Big Question.

The Big Question: Who is Isaiah Bradley?

After having their arses handed back to them by Karli Morgenthau and her Flag-Smashing pals, Bucky and Sam head to Baltimore to see a mysterious former acquaintance of Bucky’s: Isaiah Bradley. For Barnes it’s a reunion of sorts, having fought the man back in 1951 as the Winter Soldier in Goyang, Korea, but for Sam it’s a first introduction – and a moment in which he realises that Steve Rogers wasn’t the only one to receive the super-soldier serum back in the day. If the duo’s meeting with Isaiah is short (and not exactly sweet), we do get a hint of what happened – he was beefed up by the military and deployed by the government for combat missions, becoming “one of the ones that HYDRA feared the most”. But unlike Steve, Bradley wasn’t a poster-boy for the USA – and instead of being celebrated, he was jailed for 30 years and poked and prodded by scientists.

Truth: Red, White And Black

In the show, that’s about all we’ve learned so far in terms of the MCU’s Isaiah Bradley – but the character originates in the 2003 comic book run Truth: Red, White & Black. There, it’s established that Bradley was one of many unwilling African-American test subjects who were experimented on in an attempt to recreate Steve’s super-soldier serum. The tests leave most of the subjects mutated or dead, and Bradley is the only survivor. Stay tuned to see if Isaiah reappears later in the series, and if more of that (very dark, and inspired by true events) comics backstory becomes official MCU canon. Either way, we want a flashback where we see Isaiah tearing off Bucky’s metal arm in his heroic prime in 1951.

Keep a watchful eye, too, on Isaiah’s grandson Eli, who’s also present in that scene – in the comics, he becomes Patriot, a member of the Young Avengers. And since WandaVision introduced Wiccan and Speed, the Hawkeye series is about to bring in Kate Bishop, and America Chavez (aka Miss America) is about to be introduced in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the smart bet would be that we’ll see a screen team-up of the Young Avengers in the not-too-distant future.

That’s the Big Question covered, but there was plenty elsewhere in the episode to discuss – with new allies introduced, and teases of a bigger baddie in the shadows. Here’s what you need to know:

Where has Zemo been?

Captain America: Civil War

Our closing tease this week? Zemo is about to re-enter the game, with Sam and Bucky deciding to pay their old foe a visit. He was, of course, the villain in Captain America: Civil War who pulled Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s strings, gained knowledge of how to flip the switch in Bucky’s brain and awaken The Winter Soldier, and framed him for terrorist acts. Yikes.

So where’s Zemo been all this time? Well, if you remember he was locked up by Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross at the end of that film in a little plastic prison, and he’s been captive ever since – which, since two years passed in between Civil War and Infinity War and the Blip accounts for five more years, means he’s been sitting, waiting, and thinking for seven years. That’s if he was snapped, of course – he may have spent five of those years as swirling cosmic dust. Either way, we know we’ll be seeing Zemo don his purple comics mask in the very near future.

What’s the deal with the Power Broker?

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

If the first episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier suggested that the Flag-Smashers will be Sam and Bucky’s antagonists, there’s a good chance they’re not really the villains of the piece. Stay on the lookout for the mysterious ‘Power Broker’ who was mentioned briefly in this episode, and who seems to be the murderous person seeking vengeance on Karli after she jacked those medical supplies. In the comics, the Power Broker is able to supply people with super-serums (and other more nefarious substances) – so there’s a good chance that’s where the Flag-Smashers got their super-strength from in the first place. Could it even lead to Sam getting a super-serum boost of his own? That’s pure speculation, but stay tuned to future episodes when the Power Broker will surely become a bigger player.

Who is Battlestar?

Not only do we have a new Captain America (pah!) in John Walker, but there was another new arrival this week – Walker’s own co-hero, Lemar Hoskins, aka Battlestar. If he’s partly there as a reflection of the roles Sam and Bucky have played in relation to Steve (Hoskins was even formerly known as ‘Bucky’ and ‘Buck’ in the comics, before his name was changed due to racist associations of calling Black men ‘Bucks’, a phrase originating in the slave trade), the character has his own comic book legacy. Notably, he’s has super-strength on the page – and gained that ability from none other than the Power Broker…

Everyone up to speed? Great. See you next week where we’ll tackle The Big Question from The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 3.

Empire May 2021 cover – The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

In the meantime, if you want more The Falcon And The Winter Soldier breakdowns you can listen to our episode-by-episode Spoiler Special podcasts by subscribing here – plus, read our magazine cover story featuring director Kari Skogland, head writer Malcolm Spellman, Marvel boss Kevin Feige, and stars Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp and Daniel Brühl in the latest issue of Empire, on sale now and available to order online here.

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