‘Power Broker’ gave me the complex antagonists that I’ve been seeking since the beginning, and I’m feeling pretty confident in the over-arching story.
Up until ‘Power Broker,’ I’ve felt the Flag Smashers have been falling pretty flat. They’ve been fairly generic villains with a name and description that felt fairly lazy. But these were people driven to the edge, left with very little resources and no justice for the unfair circumstances they were given. Obviously killing innocent bystanders is awful – I’m not at all justifying it – but seeing what drove them to that point and how the individual members of the group have different lines they don’t want to cross as they seek justice adds something to them that was lacking before. Karli is proving herself to be the most willing to go to the extremes of all of them so far. But even she has a reason for doing what she does, and isn’t some comically flat bad guy.
On the other side of the villain situation we have Zemo. Baron Zemo has always been a complex villain, but Sam and Bucky’s decision to team up with him to complete their goals adds a depth to the story that I very much appreciate. The world is not black and white, and sometimes you need the help of someone who is clearly a villain to work towards a greater good. Working within the gray area of these types of situations can sometimes turn a lot of fans off. They want things to remain black and white. The good guys are good. The bad guys are bad. But I prefer this middle ground where things require us to confront uncomfortable situations and consider what’s most important in the long run. It’s an uneasy thing to experience, but that’s why it’s worth the effort.
Sam is more reluctant than Bucky to work in this between space, but he eventually does so. The reluctance and eventual acceptance of their situation is a powerful thing to explore, and I think the writing for this episode absolutely nailed just how difficult this type of decision can be. It was absolutely well done and I’m incredibly happy to see my concerns about a potentially flat black and white setup has been for naught. I hope it maintains this level of complexity and I’m excited to see where it leads.
Speaking of Zemo, holy heck, y’all, I’m in awe. I’ve always thought he was an interesting villain with an incredibly sympathetic origin story, but seeing glimpses of the lavish life he lived before the incident in Sokovia makes me view him in a completely different light. I haven’t read the comics so I was unaware that he was a Baron, but now that I know that, I know he could have easily just escaped with his money and mourned the loss of his family and nation in peace – but he didn’t. His emotions were so powerful that he was willing to lose everything to seek revenge.
I pretty much got everything I asked for this episode, so I’m feeling pretty damn good about the prospects going forward for the next few weeks.
Seeing Bucky have to pretend to still be the Winter Soldier was heartbreaking, however, and I can only imagine what’s going on in his head right now. This can’t at all be an easy situation, despite him maintaining a cool outward expression during the whole situation. In fact, I’ll take a fanfic exploring his inner monologue during this entire episode, please and thank you. If nobody else steps up to explore that topic, maybe I will. I’ve never written any Bucky fic before, but there’s a first time for everything!
‘Power Broker’ also gave all of us John Walker haters a real reason to hate the guy. Up until now our anger was rooted in the fact that he’s ‘Not Steve.’ But his ‘do you know who I am?’ statement and his punch in retaliation for being spit on shows that he doesn’t have the disposition to be Captain America. We were all right and we should stop feeling so guilty. Or… am I the only one feeling so guilty about my hatred of Walker? Like, he wasn’t a jerk until now, really. He was just Not Steve, and now he’s Not Steve AND a jerk.
The real powerhouses of ‘Power Broker,’ however, are the badass women. First, let’s talk about Sharon Carter, who has been less than a fan favorite for many reasons. People had issues with her relationship with Steve due to the fact she’s related to Peggy Carter. No matter what Steve ship you shipped, though, she was an unneeded complexity. And it really wasn’t her fault. She’s always been badass, but shipping is a serious business and she suffered from the blowback of broken ships and uncomfortable blood relations.
But in ‘Power Broker,’ Sharon is free from the shipping baggage and dealing with her own trauma from the SHIELD fallout. She’s living in a darker space between good and evil now, and the rougher edges to her personality are on full display. And you know what? I kinda like it! If this ends up being all we see of her in this space, I’ll be seriously bummed out.
The other standout woman was only present for, like five seconds, but was still a major highlight. The episode concludes with Bucky finding Ayo, a a Wakandan Dora Milaje, who is tracking Zemo and demands him from Bucky. Once again, things are complicated and messy and I’m enjoying every minute of this uncomfortable gray area. Bucky was sheltered by Wakandans when he needed a safe haven, but now he’s working with someone who killed their king and he may not be so keen on handing him over. I hope they can come to an agreement, but I’m looking forward to the messy interpersonal feuds that we’ll have to go through to get there. Bring on the angst!
I’ll leave this review with praise for my favorite moment of the episode. When they jump in the escape car, Bucky takes shot gun and Sam gets in the back. Sam quips, “You aren’t going to move your seat up are you?” Bucky replies, “No.” This throwback to the reversed scene from Civil War was spectacular. I just about lost my mind laughing at it.
This was an incredible episode and I can’t wait for next week.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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