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The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 2 Ending Explained

Contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 — "The Star-Spangled Man"

When The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted on Disney+ last week, it came out swinging. The premiere took some time to explain what Sam "Falcon" Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) have been up to since their return to the land of the living in Avengers: Endgame. Between financial and social struggles, in addition to the retirement of their dear friend Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), they're both fighting their own personal battles. 

But their troubles are only just beginning, as the duo faces all sorts of new threats — from the Flag-Smashers, a group of reactionary anarchists who seek to eradicate patriotism and the concept of separate countries, to John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the U.S.-government-appointed "new Captain America" who will surely be a focal point of the series throughout its run. 

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's second episode, "The Star-Spangled Man," expands on many of these plot elements, and even tosses in a few new ones. Here's what went down in this week's episode, and what it all means.

Falcon and the Winter Soldier, together again

After spending the first episode apart, Sam and Bucky have reunited in a less-than-ideal manner. Upon hearing the news of John Walker replacing Steve Rogers as Captain America, Bucky heads to the United States Air Force base Sam is operating out of to give him a piece of his mind, calling Sam out for turning over Cap's shield in the first place. The two argue for a bit, Sam presents his theory that all enemies they fight are either androids, aliens, or wizards, and then Bucky and Sam team up. Their attempt to scope out a potential Flag-Smasher cell in Germany doesn't go as planned, but that doesn't stop them from continuing to take jabs at one another all the while.

From this point on, Bucky and Sam are practically inseparable, despite their apparent distaste for one another. At the end of the day, they're both invested in stopping the Flag-Smashers by any means necessary, and they have a vested interest in showing up John Walker in hopes of rectifying the damage they think he's doing to the Captain America mantle. They make it known following their messy therapy session that they're going their separate ways once the job is done, but it's pretty much a given they'll become full-fledged allies in the end. If not, surely they'll part with a mutual respect between them.

Getting to know John Walker

The reveal of John Walker as the next Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1 was a surprise both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and for many viewers in the real world. Fans who weren't already aware of the character's impending reveal set social media ablaze with shocked reactions, valid frustrations, and no shortage of memes, even though the character appeared on screen for only a few seconds. This week's episode should break the internet even further now that Walker has spoken, had some of his backstory revealed, and established himself as an antagonist in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's story.

A decorated army veteran and longtime admirer of Steve Rogers, Walker makes no bones about his desire to do right as Captain America. This is seen when he and his partner Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett), the MCU's version of Marvel Comics' Battlestar, drop in to give Sam and Bucky some backup during their first fight against the Flag-Smashers. All four end up on the losing end of the skirmish, but Walker's obliviousness to the disrespect that comes with him taking over for Cap makes it easy to see why. Right away, he seems to lack the leadership skills, self-awareness, and — according to his Good Morning America interview at the top of the episode – the Super-Soldier Serum enhancements of his predecessor. All together, he seems to be kicking off his tenure as the Star-Spangled Man on the wrong foot.

Walker recognizes that he's not Steve, which is a step in the right direction. However, it'll take more than that acknowledgment to prove himself a worthy replacement — not only to himself, but to Sam and Bucky as well.

The hidden legacy of Isaiah Bradley

After suffering defeat at the hands of the Flag-Smashers, Sam and Bucky make their way back to the U.S. There, the former Winter Soldier leads them to a run-down Baltimore neighborhood to introduce Sam to an elderly man named Isaiah (Carl Lumbly), whom Bucky met in 1951 during the Korean War and failed to defeat while under HYDRA's control. Isaiah himself is revealed to be a Super-Soldier, not unlike those in the Flag-Smashers group or the original Captain America. Because of Bucky's time as a HYDRA assassin, it doesn't take long for Isiah to kick them out of his house, compelling Sam interrogate Bucky about this apparently secret Super-Soldier project that neither he nor Steve ever knew about.

To avid comics readers, this tease should ring some bells, as Isaiah Bradley is a Marvel Comics legend. He made his introduction in 2003's Truth: Red, White & Black #1 as an unwitting subject of Project Rebirth's attempts to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum. He survived the experimentation and became Captain America, storming the battlefront during World War II and helping secure a victory for the Allies. Much like the version we meet in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he saw jail time after the fact and has since faded from public consciousness.

It's a tragic story that painfully grounds The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in our reality. Since Isaiah is a Black man, the very system that created him silenced his inspiring and heroic story. He could have become an icon, but instead was left to live in poverty in the shadow of Steve Rogers — and now John Walker, too. Hopefully by the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's six episodes, the MCU world will recognize and appreciate Isaiah Bradley, and maybe even his grandson Elijah, who becomes Patriot in many Marvel Comics stories.

Who is the Power Broker?

As Walker struggles to get on the same page as Sam and Bucky, their enemies continue to move in the shadows. Having bested the dysfunctional heroes, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and her small band of Flag-Smasher members frantically send off supplies with a group of ambiguous enemies hot on their trail. It's revealed that these mysterious enforcers are employed by someone known as the Power Broker, who may become a key figure in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier going forward.

The Power Broker name dates back to Thing Vol. 1 #35 from May 1986, and the sinister plan behind it stays generally the same no matter the incarnation. The Power Broker — either the individual or business going by that name — promises clients that they too can enjoy heightened physical abilities much like those found in the Super-Soldier Serum, oftentimes for a hefty price. This falls in line with the Power Broker's currently vague ties to the Flag-Smashers, but could also point to a future development involving John Walker. 

At one point in the pages of Marvel Comics, Walker, then going by the alias Super-Patriot, visits the Power Broker to gain superhuman strength, speed, durability, and more. Considering how inadequate the seemingly enhancement-free MCU John Walker is beginning to feel after his first big loss, perhaps a trip to the Power Broker for a super-boost is in the cards...if he hasn't already visited him already. We'll have to wait and see what kinds of connections these two will have as the rest of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier unfolds.

Time to visit Zemo

After telling John Walker that they won't work with him to track down the Flag-Smashers, Sam and Bucky try to figure out their own leads. They want to stomp out the Flag-Smashers, but they need to figure out the origins of their Super-Soldier-esque abilities. That means they need to speak to someone who has extensive knowledge of HYDRA's research into the subject: Helmut Zemo (played by Daniel Brühl).

Zemo first arrived in the MCU as the main antagonist of 2016's Captain America: Civil War. In the film, he exacts revenge on the Avengers for their reckless destruction that got his family killed, setting the wheels in motion to fracture the team's seemingly unbreakable bond. With Cap and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) at odds, the Sokovia Accords in full effect, and a brainwashed Bucky as his weapon, Zemo succeeds in his plan. Nevertheless, Black Panther (the late Chadwick Boseman) apprehends him by the end of the film and sends him off to prison to pay for his crimes.

We don't know what exactly Zemo has been up to since we last saw him, but we're going to find out in the next episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — and the meeting is sure to be fraught with tension and possible danger. The series has made it clear that Bucky is having trouble letting go of his past as an assassin, and that he's still fragile from enduring decades of HYDRA experimentation and mind control. It took only a few simple words for Zemo to control Bucky's mind in Civil War, so who's to say he couldn't do it again in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Visiting Zemo is a massive risk for Bucky, but if it means saving the world from yet another major threat, surely it's one that the so-called White Wolf is willing to take.