Looking back, when all is said and done, what Marvel has created that started in 2008 with Iron Man up until now cannot and never will be duplicated. It’s a cinematic event that has been a part of our lives for 13 years and counting. The question that popped up the most when coming toward the release of Avengers: Endgame was where does Marvel go from here? The acquisition of 20 Century Fox opened the door even wider for Kevin Feige given the number of characters that were “coming home” the possibilities are endless.
And then, the pandemic hit. There was no Marvel property released in 2020 which eased a lot of the fatigue many were probably feeling. Release schedules changed, productions were halted, and the industry had to adapt or get lost in the shuffle.
Wandavision was the first phase 4 project to be released on Disney Plus (originally it was slated to be the 3rd). Not hearing that Michael Giacchino Marvel Studios theme for an entire year gave more of an appreciation to it when Wandavision premiered earlier this year. Finally – the MCU is back and bigger than ever. Of course, nothing will be quite as big as Endgame (for the foreseeable future) but nonetheless, the shift in direction in creating series for the new streaming service is the way tides are changing.
What Wandavision started The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or should I say Captain America and the Winter Solder would capitalize on. By contrast – the two series are vastly different from one another. Where Wandavision is more episodic that created so much mystery sounding the titular characters in a sitcom inspired show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has the DNA and structure of a feature film. A 6-hour feature film. And while the two shows have their differences, in a way, they are similar. Both shows center around supporting characters that weren’t necessarily the main focus of previous films, but their presence was still there, we still grew to love these characters.
“I’m a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people out there who are going to hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it. The stares, the judgement. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet, I’m still here. No super serum, no blond hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.”
Now, it’s their time to shine in the spotlight – Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes/ Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are at the forefront, which is exactly where they deserve to be. Just like Wandavision where Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s chemistry drew you in, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have that same palpable chemistry and energy together that pops off the screen. Both find their groove early on which one performance elevates the other. Their mismatched personalities are that of a buddy cop duo. They’re great together even if they never see eye to eye. Their characters being at the forefront allows for much more development that makes sense to their respective characters. Their storylines make sense as a natural progression to who Sam and Bucky are.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier picks up 3 months after the events of Endgame and the handoff of the Shield from old man Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson. With half of the population returning from the snap, the world is in chaos which allows for the underground group known as the Flag Smashers to seize an opportunity. Led by Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), the Flag Smashers believe the world was better in the five years that half the population was erased from existence. They believe in a world without borders and at times, their motivations aren’t necessarily explained or thought out. As the show moves forward Karli’s development and motivations become clearer but the Flag Smashers as a whole doesn’t have a full purpose – they are just a group of super soldiers with no real, clear cut objective.
Sam giving up the shield that Steve trusted him with serves as the shows foundation for which everything else is built around. Can a black man be Captain America? Will he be looked at and respected the same way everyone looked at and respected Steve? Disney goes there – especially with the introduction of Isiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) a black super soldier who had everything taken from him, was experimented on, thrown in jail, and was made to be forgotten. Series creator Malcolm Spellman grounds these characters so well in the reality they live in. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier deals with real world issues surrounding Sam and Bucky.
We see America through Sam’s eyes and what the shield represents to him. In his head the shield doesn’t belong to him, which, given America’s history he is absolutely justified in feeling that way same as Isiah. This was something Bucky and Steve couldn’t understand in deciding who gets the shield. It adds more depth to Sam as a character since he is the only option to succeed Steve. Sam is compassionate, selfless, patient and empathetic just like Steve which proves Dr. Erskine’s point in Captain America: The First Avenger. Bucky is an entirely different story, his reality deals with making amends with the people he’s hurt, mostly Yori (Ken Takemoto) the father of one of the Winter Soldier’s unfortunate victims when brainwashed as the Winter Soldier. He’s in therapy as a part of his pardon from the government.
“When Steve told me what he was planning, I don’t think either of us really understood what it felt like for a Black man to be handed the shield. How could we? I owe you and apology. I’m sorry.”
Even though what Sam thought he was doing was the right thing, the US government had their own agenda in giving the shield to someone new in John Walker (Wyatt Russell). An argument can be made that Wyatt Russell gives the overall best performance out of everyone. It’s easy to hate John Walker while at the same time being able to sympathize with him in his quest to be Captain America. Additionally, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan both give career performances. The simultaneous emotions of pain and relief in Bucky’s face when Ayo (Florence Kasumba) releases him of the Winter Soldier is the scene that defines his character. While Sam and Isiah depict the reality of being person of color – their scenes together define the show as a whole.
One can’t ignore the realism that embodies the MCU. These characters are people first, avengers second. they have burdens that are much heavier than avenging that they deal with on a daily basis. As much as we love to see the avenging, that’s not the only aspect of these characters that we should care about. Sam and Sarah (Adepero Oduye) can’t even get a loan from a bank, yet the loan officer is quick to ask for a selfie. Maybe now that Sam is Captain America it’s a different story but despite being the symbol, people of color still get treated a certain way and Disney isn’t afraid to go there.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a show of two halves. Episodes 4, 5 and 6 are clearly stronger than the previous three but as a whole each episode is solid that it lays out character, backstory, development and motivations. Being that its only 6 episodes raises some questions as to why this episode length was decided upon. A lot more could have been added if there was a 7th episode. At times, it feels like so much is being compacted in such a short amount of time that the pacing of the series is mishandled a bit. The mix of action and drama is still at a high enough level that rivals a feature film. Action wise, the comparison to Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits you right in the face – the choreography and sequences are brutal and brilliant.
Not all characters in the show feel complete or had enough attention paid to them. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) to be exact. Both characters are underutilized and yet, Sharon is now this big-time player in the criminal underground. Her character arc doesn’t feel whole in that sense – she’s just there to be there. Same can be said about Lemar Hoskins (Cle Bennett) – there is zero development behind his character leading to believe his only purpose was to push John Walker past the point of no return.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier serves its purpose and is a solid follow up behind Wandavision and entry in the MCU. We have a new Cap that the world can get behind that elevates the characters that we have gotten to know on a more personal level. WHAT THE SHIELD MEANS AND HOW DIFFERENT CHARACTERS VIEW ITS SYMBOLISM IS AT THE HEART OF THE STORY. Kari Skogland’s direction, Henry Jackman’s heart pounding score and the incredible cinematography by P. J. Dillon make The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a near perfect show but with glaring flaws that cannot be ignored. It was many peoples most anticipated series (mine included) that gets its main characters right in every sense of the word – motivation and development, since they are the backbone of the series.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiered on March 19, 2021 and can be streamed on Disney Plus. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 87%. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was created for TV by Malcolm Spellman, directed by Kari Skogland, was based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan and Joe Simon and stars Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Daniel Bruhl, Emily VanCamp, Danny Ramirez, Florence Kasumba & Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 4 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.