At the same time, we have to give huge props to the writers and even to Wyatt Russell in the role for bringing the controversial comic book character to life with the most authentic portrayal. He's a huge jerk, but he is absolutely recognizable in all his complexity for longtime fans.
At the same time, it would be nice if the powers that be maybe did a more thorough job of vetting the next guy they were going to hand the shield to than they did with John Walker. Sometimes medals and commendations don't tell the whole story. In fact, they almost never do.
One of the through-lines for this series is that there is no one else like Steve Rogers. It comes up when Baron Zemo is trying to argue that no Super Soldier should be allowed to live because anyone who is a Super Soldier is inherently a supremacist.
When Sam challenged him that Steve wasn't, even Zemo had to acknowledge that Steve is a special breed. He also never allowed his power to corrupt him, nor did he allow his insecurities and emotional issues to interfere with his effectiveness in the field.
Sometimes it's easy to forget there is a whole other villain and storyline going on in this show, and by "sometimes" we mean every time John Walker is in the scene. Seriously, he is absolutely the worst -- and we say that when he's standing in the same room as Helmut Zemo.
But seriously, he's hot-headed, overcompensating his insecurities by being cocky and overconfident and way too self-assured. And in being all of those terrible traits in someone who's supposed to be the symbol of all that is good about the American ideal, he is perhaps our worst representative, both in the field and (gulp) on camera.
Sam, who is the voice of reason and compassion in this series, was actually making headway in trying to talk down Flag Smasher terrorist Karli (or is she a revolutionary?) but John got impatient. John didn't like not being in control, so he stormed in and ruined everything.
Later, after getting his handed to him by the Dora Milaje -- how great was it to see them in action again? -- John's insecurities began to creep out more and more. And unfortunately, he now had something to soothe his wounded ego and feelings of inadequacy carrying the shield.
Earlier in the episode, amid the chaos John created when he crashed Sam's impromptu therapy session with Karli, Zemo managed to get the jump on Karli by shooting her. Repeatedly. In so being shot, Karli spilled out her last vials of Super Soldier serum, and being the fanatic he is about supremacy, Zoom proceeded to stomp them all into oblivion.
Well, almost all of them. John showed up on the scene as Karli fled and he knocked the Baron out, spying a single vial Zemo had missed. At some point between the Dora Milaje making him look like an amateur and seeing him later fighting Karli's men, he'd clearly injected himself with the serum.
Now, his journey toward becoming the U.S. Agent is nearly complete! He's got the serum in his veins, and he's an unhinged lunatic. Yes, he slams Karli's people around like rag dolls, seemingly not caring if they have powers or not, but it's what happened later that's really going to have huge consequences.
In that epic last battle, John's right-hand man and friend, Lemar Hoskins, took a hard kick from Karli (herself a Super Soldier), slamming him into a pillar and knocking him out. She may have even killed him, though we're not shown that definitively.
Nevertheless, it's serious enough that John absolutely snapped, slamming through a window in his efforts to get to her. She's lucky he didn't, too, as one of her men wasn't fast enough and John took him down hard out in the streets.
With a circle of onlookers and in a world where we start recording the moment something interesting might be happening, John unleashed unholy hell on this man with STEVE'S SHIELD!
We're not sure what's more egregious, the fact that he appears to have bludgeoned this man to bloody death in front of a sea of people with absolutely no self-control (this man had nothing to do directly with what happened to Lemar), or that he did it with Steve's shield.
If ever a moment proved someone unworthy to wield it, it would have to be this one, right?
Did we mention that John is just the worst. And there is no way the entire world isn't going to immediately be aware that America's symbol is in another country beating a man to death in the streets. How could he possibly keep the title now?
And what do you do about the fact that he's now got Super Soldier serum running through his veins? Sure, Bucky has committed more heinous crimes, but he was also conditioned and broken down for decades, only having rebuilt himself slowly through hard work.
John got mad. He lost his cool, lost his damned mind and lost his right to wear any variation of Steve Rogers' costume, much less carry his shield!
The problem with Karli Morgenthau is that she's not all that different than John Walker in that closing scene. For her, the ends also justify any means she deems necessary. For all her talk that she's a revolutionary and not a terrorist, that she's fighting the good fight for everyone, she also thinks of people as just pawns in the way of her getting what she wants.
Spoken like a true zealot. Even her own people are hesitant at her wholesale slaughter of innocent lives. And that's the tragic part of her story, because her mission is a worthy one created by this fascinating post-Blip world of the MCU today.
The MCU is now a world that saw half of its population absent for five years. In that time, humanity came together like never before, borders became a loose idea as people began to embrace their commonality of just still being alive.
It sounds almost like a paradise -- one we still hope to see someday. But when that other half suddenly returned, things had to quickly go back to the way they were because ... well, that's the way powerful people wanted it.
Karli has suggested that problems like homelessness basically went away in a world with half the population. But when the global population doubled back to normal, those who'd been given homes the past five years were just as unceremoniously dumped back onto the streets.
It's not that anyone did anything inherently evil or wrong, they just found themselves in a difficult position and made a poor decision as to how to handle it. Groups like the Flag Smashers are the inevitable result of dismissing such a large segment of the population out of hand after having valued them for so long.
Hopefully, future projects in the MCU pick up on the complexities of this world, the peoples displaced by the return and how to reintegrate these two sides of the world's population back together.
On the one side, you have people who vanished for five years only to return as if nothing had happened. And yet, so much happened. There's no way we trust that the GRC (Global Repatriation Council) is really working altruistically on their behalf.
And then there are those who spent five years mourning the loss of half the world's population, redefining and rebuilding their lives and the entire world in their absence. And then suddenly, all that work is for naught as they returned just as inexplicably.
Taking out superheroes altogether, this is a rich and fascinating tapestry on which to build a story. Throw superheroes into the mix, and you have lots of cool fight sequences and explosions.
Thankfully, "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" proves the MCU wants to explore the psychological ramifications of Thanos' snap in a nuanced way. Here's hoping we continue to explore the global PTSD that must still be going on everywhere.
And here's hoping someone gets to punch John Walker really, really hard in the face. We don't usually advocate violence, but we're not sure he's ready to listen to one of Sam's uplifting speeches right now.
We're really starting to dig this theory that Sharon Carter might actually be the Power Broker over on Madripoor. She certainly appears to have a lot of high connections there, quickly able to commandeer some satellites and set up surveillance on John Walker for Sam.
If so, we kind of hope she hangs onto this new position. This Sharon is far more interesting than she was as a would-be Steve Rogers lover. She's a much bigger badass, seems even more confident than when we first met her, and she's definitely living a more fulfilled life than she was in the U.S.
On top of that, the U.S. has treated her like absolute garbage. Bucky received a full pardon for everything he's ever done, everyone was able to show up for Tony's big funeral sequence and Sharon Carter is still enemy of the state? Why has no one exonerated her?
Speaking of badass women, the Dora Milaje were every bit as awesome as we'd hoped. Ayo was a delight to see again, but we loved it even more when she showed up with an entire support system behind her.
Their fight sequences are things of beauty, choreographed with lots of energy. That they kicked John's ass (without any powers) that he felt the need to power up afterward says a lot about his masculine insecurity. At the same time, they are one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet, so he should have given himself a break.
In the ruckus, Zemo slipped away into the sewers. As he's the one they're after, we can only assume (and hope) that this won't be the last we see of them. Or if they're trying to tease the possibility of a Dora Milaje TV series where they take on various missions for the crown, we're down.
We even support Ayo's notion that the Dora Milaje have jurisdiction wherever the Dora Milaje are. We're not sure other nations would agree, but the fact that they believe it could certainly make for some fun moments. Let's make this happen!
"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" only has two chapters left, with new episodes dropping Fridays on Disney+.