We’re running a weekly recap of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.

Let’s talk about the Flag Smashers. Last week, we were told they’re a bunch of terrorists who think the world was better during the Blip. Crazy, right? Well, this week, after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier humanized the bad guys a bit more, we learn their motives are a tad more complicated than we were first led to believe.

First, they’re not so much concerned with returning the world to the way it was during the Blip. No, their grievance is more with how the people who were Blipped have been treated as second-tier citizens since their return. In this way, the group comes off less as mindless terrorists, and more as populist revolutionaries in the mold of Robin Hood. 

And while I’m still digging this show a lot (I promise!), I’m struggling to figure out what the big bad deal is with these big bad guys and gals. Apparently they steal “vaccines,” which means our heroes have to fight them, which is weird, because the people from whom the shipments were stolen seem like the kind of people you’d want them stolen from to begin with. What I’m trying to say is, my Spidey Sense (aka Peter Tingle) tells me that whoever’s chasing after the Flag Smashers are probably a hundred times worse than the Flag Smashers themselves. 

If Steve was wrong about Bucky, then it means all the hard work of amending for his former murderous self has been a waste. And it’s only a matter of time before Bucky snaps again. 

I have mixed feelings that Sam and Bucky are getting themselves thrown into this fight, especially when we’re not even certain they’re on the right side.

Oh, and one more thing. No big deal, but the Flag Smashers are all super soldiers! 

That’s important, because up until now, the only guys who ever gave the Winter Soldier a solid beating were Captain America and Iron Man, and even then it was pretty close. But now, James Buchanan Barnes finally met his match, because one super soldier is no match for half a dozen, as was clear during the semi truck fight. 

TIME OUT. That’s not true anymore, is it? No. 

Because ackchyually, there was another guy who handed the Winter Soldier’s Winter Butt back to him. We learned this week that man is named Isaiah Bradley, a Black super soldier who fought for America during the Korean War. And for helping the United States gain the upper hand over the Hydra’s deadliest assassin, Bradley’s reward was thirty year’s imprisonment and experimentation. Sadly, this would be the kind of fantasy relegated to comic books were it not a near-perfect echo of how America built much of its wealth and security with the free labor and lives of Black people.  

If that makes you sick to your stomach, you’re not alone. Last week I shared how in turning over Captain America’s shield to the United States government, Sam realized something Steve Rogers never could. As a Black man, it remains an open question whether the nation to whom Sam pledges himself would pledge itself in return to Sam. After meeting Isaiah, and learning of the abusive experimentation and confinement he suffered, I don’t think there’s any doubt left in Sam’s mind. 

But if there was, I’m sure the argument between Sam and Bucky outside Isaiah’s house took care of it. No sooner had they walked half a block from the house, two squad cars rolled up to ask Bucky if Sam was bothering him. This being in Baltimore, Maryland, a majority Black city for whom the white police “serve” a citizenry that looks like Sam more than it looks like Buck. Of course they want to know if Bucky is doing okay. 

Subtlety was not this episode’s strong suit. 

Changing gears a bit, the banter between Sam and Bucky seems little more than bickering at this point. I find myself more annoyed than entertained by it. I realize this show wants to set up a buddy cop relationship, which means the payoff will eventually be how these two men find their love and loyalty to one another. But so far, the constant back and forth feels forced and not at all earned, with one notable exception: the therapy scene. 

And while it wasn’t a perfect scene, I think it did finally articulate a level of resentment that Bucky is harboring after Sam gave up the shield. In one sense, Bucky is upset that Sam was disloyal to their friend Steve. (An accusation Sam disputes.)

But more importantly, “Maybe he was wrong about you,” Buck tells Sam. “And if he was wrong about you, then he was wrong about me.” If Steve was wrong about Bucky, then it means all the hard work of amending for his former murderous self has been a waste. And it’s only a matter of time before Bucky snaps again. 

I can relate. Can you? 

There’s a worship song that always gets me. It’s a line from “I Need You More” by Kim Walker Smith:

Lord, as the time goes by
I’ll be by your side
‘Cause I never want to go back to my old life

I think back on my “old life” and I’ve definitely got some skeletons buried back there. There’re a hundred different things I’d do differently if I knew then what I know now; if I had the spiritual and emotional eyes to see the consequences of my actions, to see the graves I was digging. Heck, I’m sure in another five and ten years, I could say the same thing about today. 

The prayer, “I never want to go back to my old life,” is two-fold. First, it’s a prayer that I not fall into my old ways of being, the sinful habits and patterns that ensnared my heart. But “my old life” also means the graves themselves. And by that I mean the parts of me that have already been crucified and buried with Christ, the conquered sins for which Christ has given victory, but for which I continue to re-litigate and re-hash in my mind, punishing myself anew with guilt and shame. And in that sense, my “old life” isn’t just the bad things themselves, but the guilt associated with the bad things. 

So I sing it loud. I don’t want to go back. But as wretched as I can feel, at least I never killed Tony Stark’s mom. Just imagine what it’s like living in Bucky’s head every day. 

So in that sense, yeah. I would want to know Steve didn’t waste his friendship on me. And I’d be justifiably upset at Sam for making me doubt it.