I have to give it to Marvel here: they really pulled a fast one here. While it would have been easy to make John Walker an awful human being and completely undeserving of the shield, they did the complete opposite—presenting him not only as a man trying to do his best and fulfil the role of Captain America, but one who genuinely seems to be a good man, not so different from Steve Rogers.
This flipping of the script places our heroes in an interesting predicament. While it’s clear that John Walker is not a bad man implicitly, and he is simply trying to fulfil his responsibilities and do his best to follow in Steve’s footsteps, Sam and Bucky can’t help but not like the guy. After all, Steve chose Sam, and not this John Walker bloke.
There were a lot of interesting elements on show in this episode, but the crux of the episode is the reunion and newfound partnership of Sam and Bucky—who both decide to team up together to investigate the Flag Smashers. We see a bit of a skirmish with the Flag Smashers and meet their leader, a girl named Karli, all while getting a bit more of an understanding into their ideology.
What Bucky and Sam come to realise is that the Flag Smashers have some how been “enhanced” like super-soldiers; this leads them down the path of investigating other people who had been made into super-soldiers in the past. This is where we meet Isaiah Bradley, who had scuffled with Bucky (as the Winter Soldier) during the Korean War. Isaiah was ultimately screwed over by the very same people who made him and is not too pleased to see Bucky again. The interesting thing, however, is that it appears the super-soldier program never really stopped, putting into question how many other super-soldiers are out there.
Throughout the episode, John Walker and his good buddy Battlestar try repeatedly to get on the good side of Sam and Bucky, to no avail. John seems to be a man who is driven by duty, and he is a true agent of the United States government. He wants to do things by the book and follow his orders, as the good soldier that he is. This just doesn’t jive with Sam and Bucky, who prefer to skip the red tape and bureaucracy—much like how Steve had handled things in the past. Their final rejection of John seems to have an ominous air to it: John warns them not to get in his way. Something tells me that things won’t end well when that inevitably happens.
Running out of clues, Bucky and Sam decide they need to turn to someone who knows the history and inner workings of Hydra better than anyone. This leads them to the cliffhanger ending of the episode, as it seems to imply they will be seeking the help of none other than Baron Zemo—who remains, in this writer’s opinion, the best villain ever in the MCU (sorry, not sorry, Thanos).
Overall, this was an awesome episode—with the show fully kicking into gear here. There are many moving pieces to this story, and I’m sure they are bound to collide in the coming weeks in glorious fashion.