Television

The Casual Marvel Fan’s Guide to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 2

Battlestar, Zemo, Isaiah Bradley, the Power Broker, and more, explained.

A masked white man in a heavy coat stands as a fire blazes in front of him. Over the image, a giant question mark.
Zemo (Daniel Brühl) in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Marvel Studios/Disney +. 

This article contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s first two episodes.

Can we start with all of these new characters? Last week you explained John Walker, Karli Morgenthau, and the Flag-Smashers, but now there’s also “Battlestar”? Is he from the comics?

Yep. Lemar Hoskins, aka Battlestar, played here by Clé Bennett, first appeared in a 1986 issue of the Captain America comics. He and John Walker, our new Captain America in this show, were military vets who took on a Faustian bargain in order to get superpowers. That’s why the two are so closely linked here, with Lemar serving as John’s bestie/sidekick. It’s a pairing that parallels that of Bucky and Sam, which also tracks, as Lemar actually assumed the “Bucky” alias when he received his superpowers in the comics. (That Bucky connection could be why our Winter Soldier seethes when he finds out Lemar Hoskins’ codename, Battlestar; maybe that perked up some old memories.)

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Interesting side note: Lemar was renamed “Battlestar” in the comics when then-Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald learned that buck was often used as a derogatory term for Black men. In the interest of not being racist, Lemar was christened with a far cooler, more unique superhero name, and worked alongside Captain America under his new nom de super. 

What about “the Power Broker”? Is that a capital-P, capital-B villain from the comics? Or just, like, a lower-case power broker, in the sense of someone in charge of resources? Basically I’m hoping this is a crossover from the Robert Caro Cinematic Universe.

Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately!—this Power Broker has nothing to do with Robert Moses. But the comics give us some important clues: In Marvel’s stories, the Power Broker was a man, Curtiss Jackson, as well as the organization he ran (Power Broker Inc.). Basically, that group’s mad scientist, Karl Malus, tried to re-create the superserum that empowered Captain America, but for profit and/or evil. The comics’ John Walker, for example, originally got his own superabilities through Power Broker Inc., as did Battlestar, though in terms of extra powers, we don’t know what the deal is with those two in the show yet. It seems likely that the Flag-Smashers got their own gifts through the MCU’s version of the Power Broker—about whom we’re likely to learn more soon.

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The end of the episode sure made a big deal of “Zemo.” Can you remind me who that is again?

You might remember Helmut Zemo, aka Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), from Captain America: Civil War. (You might also remember Brühl from movies like Inglourious Basterds and Rush, or from his breakout role in the great German movie Good Bye, Lenin!) He’s the shadowy terrorist who precipitates said Civil War by turning Iron Man, Captain America, and their respective allies against one another. He became radicalized against the Avengers when, like a lot of movie fans, he thought that they seemed a little blithe about civilian casualties. In Zemo’s case, however, he lost his family in the Battle of Sokovia, depicted in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In Captain America: Civil War, when Zemo considers his work complete, he puts a gun to his own head, but Black Panther saves him and puts him away, and he’s apparently been in jail ever since.

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And “Sharon”? Bucky and Falcon made a passing reference to a “Sharon.”

That’s Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Sharon is also the niece of Agent Peggy Carter, who was also the lifelong love interest of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka the original Captain America. You might remember her from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and/or Captain America: Civil War, in which she and Captain America shared a kiss and some mildly incestuous sexual tension.

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Is Isaiah, the Black supersoldier we meet in Baltimore, someone I should know? And do we know how he became a supersoldier?

Yes, he is! But don’t feel bad if you don’t: This is the character’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Isaiah Bradley debuted in the Marvel comics in 2003, starring in a limited series about Black American supersoldiers that came to be during World War II. In this storyline, the experiment leads to the re-creation of the formula that had beefed up Steve Rogers into the man we know as Captain America. The men who participated in this trial—and particularly Bradley, the sole survivor of the experiment—lead to a new wave of supersoldiers, with Bradley taking on the mantle of Captain America in Rogers’ stead.

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That means that the second-ever Captain America was a Black man, something that went largely unknown—as Sam angrily points out to Bucky, frustrated that neither he nor Steve ever knew about Isaiah’s existence. Clearly Isaiah wants nothing to do with Bucky in this present-day timeline, having only known Bucky when he was under Hydra’s control back in the day. Fighting the Winter Soldier left Isaiah with some deeply traumatic battle scars, and he even did a stint in jail where he was subjected to more experiments. His time as Captain America was certainly quite different from his predecessor’s, and it’ll take a lot of work to get him to side with our boys.

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What about the kid who opened the door—was that Isaiah’s grandson? Is he someone important?

Good thinking. The credits say that was Eli Bradley, whom comic book readers will recognize as Patriot, one of the Young Avengers. In those stories, Eli didn’t inherit his grandfather Isaiah’s superabilities, because Isaiah had fathered Eli’s mother before the government experimented on him, but later, he shares his blood with Eli when he desperately needs an infusion—granting the younger Bradley powers, too. No idea what Eli’s presence means here, but it feels notable that two other Young Avengers—Speed and Wiccan—just showed up in WandaVision.

Is Redwing smashed for good? I kinda liked the guy.

Really? Not only was he a drone, he was a narc!

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OK, another thing: Why is everyone in this show so freakin’ hot? New Captain America? Hot. New Captain America’s girlfriend and best friend? Hot. Old-man supersoldier …. kinda hot?

It’s better not to ask this question; instead, let’s just be grateful for the wonderful butts and gorgeous babes we are blessed with each week. (That said: Maybe someone a little less beautiful would be nice, for balance.)

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Last question. Are all of the villains in the Marvel movies really aliens, androids, or wizards?

Not quite. In addition to all of the aliens (Thanos, Lee Pace’s hot blue Darth Vader in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree in Captain Marvel), androids (e.g., Ultron), and wizards (Agatha Harkness, Doctor Strange’s Kaecilius), there are also alien androids (Nebula), alien wizards (Loki, Dormammu, Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thanos after he gets his magic stones), and soon, presumably, android wizards. The greatest omission to the Big Three is probably the mad scientists (Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2, Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3, Hugo Weaving in Captain America: The First Avenger, Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-Man: Far From Home … we could go on!), and sometimes, of course, the Greatest Villain of All Is Each Other. Finally, and most crucially, in the comics there are wizards with baby hands.

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