The latest miniseries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has hit Disney+, furthering the franchise’s story past Avengers: Endgame. Sam, Bucky, Sharon Carter, and Baron Zemo return as they and the world around them have evolved. It’s nice checking up on familiar faces, but does this Captain America adventure stay afloat without Steve Rogers, or does it soar as high as the Falcon? Let’s investigate further to find out.
Both Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan give outstanding, emotional performances now that they finally get their chance in the spotlight. This adds a lot of depth to each of their characters. Both of their characters, Sam and Bucky, receive necessary and organic character development throughout the six episodes. They both come to terms with the roles they must take in order to move forward in their lives and to better the world around them. The new character of John Walker has especially interesting character development as he falls from grace.
The series touches on very real and important political themes, which is nice to see Marvel use their popular platform to showcase. Not only is discussing the issues within our society important, but it also fits the essence of the Captain America comics perfectly. Discussing topics such as race, how the U.S. government makes countless unethical choices to help those on top more than those on the bottom, and what responsibilities those with power have is both interesting to see and crucial to get viewers to think about them in the context of the world we live in.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier proves that Marvel can still do well with having darker tones and not relying on goofy humor. This series is dark, gritty, and bold. The writers clearly weren’t afraid to showcase serious conversations and their characters struggling with real problems. When humorous scenes do happen, there’s well-timed sarcasm and wit that all feel organic.
This is still an action series, and the fights are each riveting to experience. Like Captain America: the Winter Soldier, the combat is mostly focused on well-choreographed hand-to-hand fights which are both exciting and visually stunning. Yes, the Falcon flies and there’s plenty of gunfire, but it’s not all laser beams and explosions that hit nothing. There’s bloodshed and broken bones. Plus, throwing in a cool motorcycle or helicopter stunt here and there for good measure doesn’t hurt the action in the slightest.
One of the biggest feats the show’s writers accomplished was moving the MCU’s story forward while also touching on the outcome of “the Blip.” We see what’s next for some major characters and the world they live in while also getting a taste of what the world went through both during the five years of “the Blip” and the following months. There are actual repercussions following a major event in the franchise’s canon rather than things simply going back to normal after Avengers: Endgame. It’s a bold move, and it’ll be exciting how things further play out.
The Flag Smashers are clearly meant to be sympathetic villains, however, we don’t learn enough about what they went through during “the Blip” or after it, or what exactly they are trying to accomplish to care enough about them or see things from their point of view. There are hints and brief comments about how people were displaced by the vanished people reappearing, but it’s mostly generalizations. We never learn if their leader, Karli, went through anything more traumatizing than any of the others. I’m interested in their backstories, but it’s a little hard to really get where they are coming from, especially since they’re committing mass murder.
The earlier episodes in the series have a bit too much unnecessary padding. There’s definitely some great scenes, action, and setup, but the series doesn’t truly take off until about halfway through. Some of the dull or more pointless moments could have been removed, and this would have been a solid 2 and a half hour or so movie.
It’s not super clear what Sharon Carter is up to with her “Power Broker” subplot. Is she a villain now? What is she capable of as the Power Broker? How did she rise to power in a criminal society in just 5 years? Who is she working with? Is any of it actually important to the rest of the plot? None of these are answered. She definitely should have been included in the show since she’s a vital Captain America character, but she could have been there to help take down the villains. Instead, they’re making her pointlessly edgy. She’s back to where she wants to be at the end of the series, but she still hints at her being more of a villain now, which feels forced.
In true Marvel fashion, the series ends by setting up more to come without wrapping up quite enough. Hopefully we see more of where things go in the fourth Captain America film or other future installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier provides a necessary stepping stone to further the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the events of Avengers: Endgame while also focusing on an emotional story about Sam and Bucky. The action is exciting, the character interactions are fun, and the political undertones are powerful.
It’s held back from being as great as it could be by not showing enough of important subplots or explaining certain things. Plus, there are plot points set up that don’t receive the payoff they deserve just so they have something to save for later. That being said, this shows how entertaining Marvel can still be entertaining while getting a little darker and a little more real with its messages.