While the first episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier re-introduced us to the titular heroes separately and the second got them together and expanded on other elements such as Wyatt Russell‘s John Walker, AKA the new Captain America and the motives of the Flag Smashers, now the show is really building out the world.
Episode 3, ‘Power Broker’ doesn’t actually have us meet the titular character, but their fingerprints are all over it. Plus, following on from the revelation that our heroes are going to talk to Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) about tracking down both the Flag Smashers and their super serum supplier, we also learn something new about the troublesome Sokovian – including the fact he has his own take on Jarvis (the human butler version from the comics, not Paul Bettany‘s AI). Oh, and there are mutant references ahoy, which feels like Marvel laying the seeds for the X-Men.
We also finally get to catch up with Emily VanCamp‘s Sharon Carter, the other main character who had yet to make an appearance. She’s not exactly thrilled to see our heroes, but she can certainly still handle herself in a fight…
The Big Question: What Is Madripoor?
Freshly broken out of prison, Zemo – who, it is revealed, is the wealthy son of a Baron (which finally gives him his comic book moniker on screen) – brings our main pair to the island nation of Madripoor. Nestled in Southeast Asia, located in the southern portion of the Strait of Malacca, it’s southwest of Singapore. The capital city, which we see here, is also called Madripoor. It is – to borrow a phrase from the Star Wars universe – a wretched hive of scum and villainy, a lawless place that used to be a popular pirate port, where all kinds of ne’er-do-wells can get away with their less-than-legal business, and nobody is to be trusted at face value. No wonder Zemo fits in so well there. It’s also, we see, a booming party city and the place where an on-the-run Sharon Carter (more on her later) has reinvented herself after becoming one of America’s most-wanted.
In an unsurprising move, Madripoor does of course originate in the comics – the city was created by Chris Claremont and Steve Leialoha, and first appeared in New Mutants #32 in October 1985. As the title suggests, the city has been more closely linked with the X-Men world on the page, ruled by a mutant named Viper. Wolverine also spent a fair amount of time there. Like its paper version, the show’s Madripoor is modeled on Singapore (with a dash of Hong Kong), and features the rich district of Hightown and the impoverished Lowtown.
It’s in Madripoor where the mysterious Power Broker wields their, well, power – and it’s in a hidden lab in the city’s port that scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel has managed to recreate the super-soldier serum.
That’s the Big Question covered, but there was plenty elsewhere in the episode to discuss – with more X-Men references, and the return of a former friend of Cap’s. Let’s get stuck in:
Who is Conrad Mack?
Zemo has Sam impersonate a slick businessman called Conrad Mack (with the nickname of Smiling Tiger, much to Sam’s disappointment). In the MCU, he’s apparently a fan of snake bits in his drink (yuck) and does business in Madripoor.
Comics-wise, Conrad Mack is the son of a Vietnam veteran. He possesses increased strength and agility, heightened senses, and razor-sharp claws. He is also formidable hand-to-hand combatant thanks to his origin with a mystical cult and a Universal Wellspring (find out more here).
How does Selby factor in?
Zemo’s main contact in the city is Selby (Imelda Corcoran), who offers information, and quickly suspects Sam when he takes a call from his sister. But she’s quickly shot by… persons unknown.
The character’s name is a nod to a black male character who originates in issue #104 of Excalibur, a Marvel Comics series consisting of mutants (led by the non-mutant Captain Britain), based in the UK. Selby was a part of the Mutant Liberation Front (MLF), a group of anarchists led by the mutant Stryfe.
There’s no indication yet whether Selby will have any sort of actual mutant connection, and it appears unlikely since she was offed. But does anybody really stay dead in this universe?
What has Sharon Carter been up to?
Obligatory Cap’s Beard is in this episode joke! It’s been a long time since we last saw Sharon Carter in the MCU – Civil War, to be precise. In that film, she was forced to go on the run after illegally providing Cap and Falcon with their super-gear. She’s had a rough ride of it overall – a SHIELD agent who faced the resurgence of Hydra, then an FBI agent who was forced to go on the run, and the whole time the guy she fancied and eventually snogged (a certain Steve Rogers) really had the hots for her elderly aunt. Yikes.
All of that, it seems, has had a toll on Sharon. She’s now living in Madripoor, and has set herself up as a dealer of stolen art and a swanky party host. Despite indications in Endgame that she was zapped away in the Snap, it seems like she’s really just been hiding on that island nation all along, getting her hands dirty with the odd dodgy deal. Since she’s still wanted by the US Government, Sharon’s only hopes of returning to her homeland lie with Sam being able to get a pardon for her – but since he’s already been screwed over by the American authorities in this show, it doesn’t look like he’ll have much sway with them. Not yet, anyway.
Who is Dr Wilfred Nagel?
Nagel, played by Olli Haaskivi, is a scientist who had been working on synthesizing a new version of the super-soldier serum – and though he doesn’t say it explicitly, it seems the sample he’s working with most likely comes from Isaiah Bradley’s blood. He was initially recruited by the CIA, but was snapped away and returned to find his world much changed – he headed to Madripoor to continue working on the serum, this time for the Power Broker.
In the pages of Marvel Comics, Nagel has the codename Dr. Josef Reinstein (a version of the codename Dr. Joseph Reinstein, used by Abraham Erskine – the scientist played by Stanley Tucci in The First Avenger who administered the serum to Steve Rogers). Following Erskine’s death, Nagel took on the development of the super-soldier serum and ‘recruited’ 300 African-American soldiers to use as test subjects, as detailed in the Truth: Red, White & Black comic book series. The only surviving person from those tests? One Isaiah Bradley.
Why is Ayo back?
Here’s our cliffhanger(ish) for the next week: right at the end of the episode, Bucky is surprised to see Ayo (Florence Kasumba, seen in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther), second-in-command of Wakanda’s fearsome fighting force the Dora Milaje, on the streets of Riga in Latvia. She’s turned up with one purpose… to find Zemo. This should prove an interesting wrinkle for the show – since Zemo was responsible for killing King T’Chaka back in Civil War, he’s high on the Wakandan wanted list, and they likely won’t be impressed when they learn that Bucky (who received some top-notch rehab in Wakanda to remove the brainwashing and fix him up a new metal arm) was the person who sprung him from prison. Stay tuned to see if we might have some crossover with Black Panther 2 or, more likely, the Wakanda-set series in development for Disney+.
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.