After reviewing every episode of Wandavision, and subsequently reviewing the season as whole, I had planned to do the same for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. However, one of my biggest takeaways from Wandavision was how much more I would enjoy it had I binged it.
Whilst, I could not binge TFATWS (because social media would not let me wait six weeks without spoilers and I wanted to be apart of the conversation), I waited for the second episode to be released and watched the two of them back to back.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier follows Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as they both simultaneously try and deal with the world they find themselves in and who they want to be in it. A girl named Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) leads a group known as The Flag-Smashers, who attempt to reunite the world back to the prosperous ways of the Blip, and the new Captain America (Wyatt Russell) has the responsibility to stop it.
Marvel very rarely ‘misses’, and so The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a good show, it comes to deliver most of what you wanted to see and adds some well needed and deserved character development to Sam and Bucky whilst also delivering very important social commentary and themes. And, the characters you came to see shine and thrive, and the best part of the show is any moment the two leads share.
However, the show doesn’t come without its flaws, excluding the slow start to the show (which I will get into), the main antagonist is as generic as can be. That does not mean I don’t appreciate what they attempted to do, because having her be fighting (in essence) ‘the good fight’, and highlighting that whilst, drawing comparisons to Sam was very powerful. But, everything about her character was generic, from her arc to, even, her dialogue – constantly reminding Sam “he can’t talk her out of it”.
There is also a third party in the show – the new Captain America, whose character has one of the most impactful scenes of the entire show. Whilst, I’ve just critisiced the show for being generic, what the show does with John Walker is the boldest thing Marvel and Disney have dared to do, and once again – adds so much to the over-arching theme Sam struggles with – which I think was genius.
But with only six episodes, the viewer wants to see more of Bucky and Sam and so, any arc that isn’t directly linked to them almost feels irrelevant, Karli’s arc gets lost for a while in the middle episodes – as Zemo enters (which we will get into), and John Walker’s arc gets very empty after a very strong start as he loses someone close to him who is given zero character development – someone whose name I cannot remember!
The show kicks into next gear with the appearance of Zemo, which begs the question why wasn’t Zemo introduced earlier and have an entire episode dedicated to him escaping and then have the first two episodes condensed into one episode?
I think the problem with the first episode is it relies on the big moment being Sam giving up the shield, which falls slightly short because you expect Sam to get the shield back. The main reason to watch the show is for the dynamic between Sam and Bucky, but they are split for the majority of the two episodes, with little to no interaction with each other, making those first two episodes sluggish to get through.
That isn’t for a lack of action or a lack of excitement per se, because I love character dynamics and character development, and the first episode delivers it in bucket loads (although whether that is because the show does something extraordinary or because Falcon has such little story to begin with is unclear), but after watching the episodes, it will leave you with a sense of disappointment and wanting more.
The ‘new Captain America’ (at least at the very start) seems almost an obstacle no doubt Sam will overcome, meanwhile the ‘real baddies’ are a group known as the ‘Flag Smashers’ so generic, I have no care for them past their dialogue giving an insight into how the world was during the five years of the blip, once again delivering character development and world building – what the early episodes thrive in achieving.
What those first two episodes do, however, is build a strong foundation that will click into place later on in the series as they are integrated into the over-arching story of Sam and Bucky.
Where, The Flag Smashers give Sam food for thought in what was already a very difficult time for him as he tries to balance his personal life with a what he feels is a responsibility of ‘avenging’, he technically no longer needs to do and feels as though he can’t do as he has a different take on what Captain America represents. And, Bucky almost mirrors this, as he is trying to find his place in the world choosing to use his time to make up to those he hurt the most, and seeing Karli as a mirror of himself.
But, like I said, Episode 3 comes around, – and the season thrives from here, and it was the first time I got excited for the show, Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is back and fits seamlessly into the Sam and Bucky dynamic, which really starts to pick up some steam. And everything just clicks into place and works, Sharon Carter’s random appearance, Madripoor, the globe trotting that felt slightly annoying in the first two episodes, all leading to an incredible ending – with a surprise appearance that genuinely leaves you wanting more.
And leads into the best episode of the season with an incredibly powerful ending, and the most memorable image – Episode 4. Episode 5 is proof, that TFATWS can get an slower episode right, as they strip everything back after an incredible, heart-racing open fight sequence and deliver one of the best heart-to-heart conversations between the two leads, that just delivers on all fronts.
And onto the finale, which delivers what you want as you finally get the moment you most likely watched the show for, but that doesn’t take away its satisfaction of seeing it. Throughout the show there is a sub-plot of who is the Power Broker, a completely predictable and uninspired twist, but that doesn’t matter as the main focus of the show is the two leads, and they are enough to carry the episode.
The cast bring their A-game, and I am so happy and excited to see where these characters go next, Anthony Mackie is incredible as Sam Wilson and does a lot of the heavy lifting of the show. He steps up and delivers a speech on par with Chris Evans’ Captain America – and shows that Falcon has more to offer than being a secondary character. Sebastian Stan, also steps up but because of his character, his impact is more nuanced as he deals with personal problems that pulls on the heart-strings as he faces his fears. Their dynamic is incredible and the two of them thrive of each other.
Daniel Bruhl is amazing as Zemo, and gets to thrive and showcase the character as I hope we get to see him again, and I am happy Emily VanCamp is given something to do after sitting out for so long. Wyatt Russell plays John Walker, a character you are supposed to hate whilst also feel sorry for, and his performance is on the money, as I do not like John Walker – but I do sympathise with him, and that is what I am meant to do.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a good TV show, that finds its feet as the show progresses and has some truly breath-taking moments, and delivers everything you wanted. Unfortunately, the show isn’t able to deliver a strong antagonist, but that isn’t necessarily bad, because as a result of who Karli was and what she was fighting for, both Sam’s and Bucky’s arcs gains so much more weight, and allows the two title characters to shine individually as well as having their dynamic be front and centre.