Falcon and The Winter Soldier : Are Flag-Smashers Superheroes?

We’re halfway through The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and it’s still unclear who the bad guys are. I’m serious. Last week, Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), the murderous villain of Captain America: Civil War, cut a rug on a Madripoor dance floor and helped our heroes out. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) came to Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan)’s rescue, but she also seems to be lying about her work in Madripoor. Finally, the people who were supposed to be the bad guys — the Flag-Smashers — keep doing nice things for people (most of the time).

When The Falcon and The Winter Soldier begins, it’s been six months since the events of Avengers: Endgame brought every one who had been dusted by Thanos (Josh Brolin) back to the world of the living. This development might have been welcomed as a miracle by some, but it displaced many more. As Karli Morganthau (Erin Kellyman) laments in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, “the GRC care more about the people who came back than the ones who never left.” The ones who never left are now refugees living on scraps from that same GRC, or Global Repatriation Council, who are committed to restoring power to the people coming back. So who will stand up for the little guy? The Flag-Smashers, who use their super-strength to steal food, medicine, and vaccines for the refugees.

So are the Flag-Smashers the secret good guys of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier? Or are they still the villains our real heroes — Sam and Bucky — need to bring to heel before the world can work again?

First of all, they’re fighting the good guys, which usually means they’re bad. The Flag-Smashers hurt people, steal from people, and are running clandestine operations (which seem very suspect). They’re on the run with several people, including the new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), on their tails. The Flag-Smashers have beat up heroes like the Falcon, the Winter Soldier and Torres (Danny Ramirez) and destroyed sweet little Redwing. They’re also killers.

Uh…yeah…did you forget that moment in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Episode 3 “Power Broker” where Karli straight up murdered those people? After raiding a GRC site, she and her fellow Flag-Smashers leave the base’s soldiers tied up. As they leave, Karli sets off an explosion that kills the people left inside. We know she’s reeling from the death of her friend, but even Karli’s Flag-Smashing buddy seemed freaked out by it. Murdering people is bad. Ergo Karli and the Flag-Smashers are bad.

Or are they??

Okay, so the evidence is mounting that the Flag-Smashers might not be the evil group of rebels they were first touted as. Sure, they beat the shit out of Bucky. Yes, Karli kneed Redwing into oblivion. And yeah, there was that pesky scene in Episode 3 (that we’ll get to), but it’s becoming more and more obvious that the GRC isn’t the kind charity its billing itself as.

First of all, we know that the GRC is withholding aid from refugees. That’s bad. Also, it sounds like John Walker’s Captain America isn’t working for the U.S. Government per se, but the GRC. As he explains in Episode 2, it’s the GRC’s resources that he is using to hunt the Flag-Smashers. And there’s something not 100% right with this new Cap, right? He was running secret clandestine missions the week before he was the new star-spangled man with a plan. Walker is less a homespun hero and more a ruthless government agent shoehorned into a publicity role.
Add all this to the news that the Flag-Smashers were refugees themselves who found themselves forced into unseemly work in Madripoor (where they ran afoul of a truly villainous figure called only the Power Broker), and it’s starting to look like the Flag-Smashers aren’t bad guys at all. They are vigilante heroes! They steal from the rich and give to the poor! They’re just trying to make sure the kids don’t get polio! They want to feed refugees and will murder GRC agents to make it happen!! Er, wait…

So…the thing about the Flag-Smashers is we don’t know yet if they’re good or bad people. At best, they seem like people with good intentions who are doing bad things. Time will tell if they’re truly the baddies the GRC is making them out to be or if the GRC is just a smokescreen for a familiar antagonist like HYDRA. (I personally think the Power Broker might very well be Thaddeus Ross, but what do I know?)

One thing is for sure, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has three episodes to tell us who our heroes are really fighting so they better clear up all this confusion fast.
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