“The Whole World is Watching” far exceeded expectations. Going in, episode four of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was expected to be a slow-paced episode that would take the time to set up the finale and penultimate episode. While it does those things, it’s masterful in its execution of them. Despite the lack of action, there was no shortage of boredom. The character moments and interactions had me enthralled until the credits rolled.
The episode starts with a great scene set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War in Wakanda where Bucky finally frees himself from the Winter Soldier trigger words with the help of Ayo. It’s an emotional scene for those invested in Bucky’s journey since the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
When the trio of Bucky, Sam and Zemo find out about Karli’s terroristic actions in the destruction of the GRC’s supply depot, they seek information about the funeral of Karli’s mother in hopes of finding her there. Sam and Bucky have no luck with her community of refugees and displaced people. These scenes are a short commentary on refugees and the poor having a lack of trust in the government that’s supposed to be helping them. It attempts to justify Karli’s actions and humanize them, which I would argue it succeeds in, at least partially.
Zemo eventually gives over information about the Flag Smashers’ location, with John Walker and Lemar Hoskins joining in on the mission to bring her in. They eventually devise a plan for Sam to talk to her one-on-one and reason with her. The scene that Anthony Mackie and Erin Kellyman share is one of the series’ best; it proves that Sam should be the next Captain America. He shows compassion, reason and agrees with Karli’s cause, but disagrees with her methods. In these moments, he sounds a lot like Steve Rogers.
John Walker eventually bursts in to ruin the progress and good will Sam made, due to his growing paranoia and fragile mental state. In the action, Karli gets shot by Zemo, dropping the super soldier serum on the ground, which Zemo then quickly smashes before taking a shield to the head, courtesy of Walker. Walker picks up the only dose of serum remaining, saving it for later. Karli and the rest of the Flag Smashers get away.
Walker uses his dose after a fight with the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s royal guard, hitting rock-bottom after not being able to hold his own against non-superpowered people. During that fight, Zemo slips away.
The serum amplifies personalities, that’s why Steve Rogers was so cartoonishly good, Red Skull was so completely bad and now why Walker falls completely in the middle of those two. Walker’s decision to take the serum is backed up by Lemar in another great scene, where the two discuss the serum and its effect on those who take it.
The serum is seen as a means to save more lives by both Walker and Lemar, which makes it sting even more that Walker can’t even save his own partner after taking it. His subsequent mental breakdown, which ends in a public execution, is unsettling, shocking and effective.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no stranger to death and violence, but the blood on display in the final scene is by far the most I can recall from any prior project. It feels like something out of Amazon’s The Boys than from an MCU project. Seeing the blood on the shield feels like sacrilege with the vast importance given to it in this series and in previous films; it contributes massively to the shock.
While episode four starts slow and has no true action set piece like its three predecessors, the ending is worth the wait and has major, though not surprising, consequences for the MCU going forward. I’m really looking forward to the final two episodes; if they can keep the pace going and deliver a satisfying conclusion, we should be in for a treat.