This third episode, unfortunately, is not good. It's mainly a series of strung-together prison breaks, chases, fight scenes, shootouts and explosions, apparently written by the same person who wrote the John Wick movies. Now I have no objection to any of the above in and of themselves, but when those things come at the expense (and in one case, an actual regression) of character development, then...nope.
Let's start with the worst thing: the new Captain America, John Walker, in both of his scenes this episode, is turned into a cliched asshole. Admittedly, this possibility was shown in the last episode, especially when he snapped at Sam and Bucky to stay out of his way when they refused to work with him. But that was also part and parcel of scenes giving the character some genuine nuance. He stated he didn't know if he could live up to the weight of the name and the shield, and reassured Sam and Bucky he wasn't trying to replace Steve Rogers (although that also came with the barb of wanting to get Rogers' "wingmen" on his side). But here? When Walker and Lemar raid the same house we saw Karli and the Flag Smashers hiding out last episode and the owner not only refuses to answer questions but spits in Walker's face, he loses it completely and yells, "Do you know who I am?"
Well. Any number of responses could be made to that, including, "Did you even watch the last episode, clueless writer-dude?" But since Marvel wants to keep this fairly family-friendly, the only thing that should have been said (and wasn't; the actual line in response was, "Yes, I do, and I don't care") was, "Yes, someone pretending to be Captain America." A prime opportunity was lost there, like so many other things in this episode. Where Walker and Lemar later turn up at the prison where Sam and Bucky (mostly Bucky, since he didn't tell Sam anything about it until the plan was already underway) bust Helmut Zemo out of prison, Walker states he knows what they did and he's going to go "off the books" for this one. Which apparently means like the lazy-ass second-rate Captain America he is portrayed in this episode as being, he is going to follow Sam and Bucky around and let them do all the work before swooping in to get the glory. This writing is inconsistent and contradictory, and I don't care if this person also wrote for Keanu Reeves, the showrunners should not have let him do this.
This fundamental misunderstanding of the characters, it seems to me, also bleeds over into the relationship between Sam and Bucky. There was some snarky pissing-match dialogue for them last time out, but their scenes together also showed some real character development. Here, their dialogue is just tiresome macho sniping, and at the worst possible moments, to boot. (Especially when they're in the middle of a shootout and Bucky complains about Sam not going to the left, and Sam shoots something back to the effect of, "It's in all the action movies," which made me roll my eyes. I mean, really? That just came off as, "HEY, LOOK AT [JOHN WICK-WRITER] MEEEEE!!!")
Helnut Zemo (who's revealed to be an actual baron! who still has all his money which hasn't been confiscated by the government after he assassinated a head of state! so Sam and Bucky get to ride around the entire episode in a private jet and/or one of the Baron's collection of classic cars) is actually the best character in this episode, and that's mainly due to the actor, Daniel Bruhl. He makes several interesting observations, as a matter of fact, such as that Bucky fell back into being the Winter Soldier right quick (when the three of them visit Madripoor to hunt down the source of the super soldier serum). He also waxes about the perils of putting superheroes on pedestals and ignoring their flaws. These snippets of dialogue, along with Sam's bitterly noting that he should have kept Steve's shield and destroyed it rather than giving it away and letting Steve's legacy be twisted and perverted, are some deeply buried nuggets of ideas that a PROPER writer, instead of a cheesy, Mission Impossible-style knockoff, would have brought to the surface and fully explored.
But no, instead we have this mess. Bucky comes off the best of all, which is damning with faint praise. Sam, on the other hand, falls prey to Required Plot Stupidity Syndrome. When he, Bucky and Zemo meet with Zemo's contact--and after Zemo warns them, "No matter what happens we have to stay in character; our lives depend on it"; a warning he repeats at least three times--SAM DOESN'T TURN OFF HIS FUCKING PHONE SO HE CAN BE INTERRUPTED BY HIS SISTER AT A CRUCIAL LIFE-THREATENING MOMENT. He also gets to spout such cringeworthy dialogue as, "I can't run in these heels!" (presumably high-heeled boots, to fit in with what he calls "looking like a pimp").
I swear, if I had been Anthony Mackie, I would have thrown an absolute fit.
Karli Morgenthau is similarly cheapened as a character, again after having been given some interesting layers last episode. Someone close to her dies in this episode--either her mother or adoptive mother, although exactly who is never clarified and thus we're given no real reason to care--and she takes the Flag Smashers on another raid, stealing six months' worth of hoarded supplies from a Global Repatriation Center compound with the intent of taking them to a refugee camp. The Flag Smashers all get away with the supplies, and then Karli blows up the building with the tied-up guards inside, and gets to snarl some more cliched dialogue: "That's the only language these people will understand." Argh. Really? This, from a so-called professional screenwriter?
This episode was incredibly disappointing. At the very end, in keeping with the show's tradition of introducing a surprise character in the final scenes, we see one of the Dora Milaje from Wakanda, who has come hunting Zemo. I hope the writer of the next episode is not the same as this one, or that character is going to be wrecked too.