The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV REVIEW)
Creator: Malcolm Spellman
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan. Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman
After Avengers: Endgame brought an end to the Infinity Saga in 2019, it was admittedly quite refreshing to take a nice solid break from the MCU after ten continuous years of world building and character growth in what is perhaps one of the most ambitious movie franchises in the modern cinema world. Despite everything that has escalated due to the pandemic, Disney had launched a brand new streaming service in that time and now in 2021, Marvel is back in full force providing us with 3 individual miniseries set within the MCU to tide us over before the return of the films. WandaVision made its debut early on in January was a real hit, mainly thanks to its experimental nature and quirky take on parodying sitcoms new and old, even if the plot did slightly derail toward the end. In stark contrast now with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, going almost immediately from a cerebral and experimental sitcom parody to what is otherwise a very traditional Marvel storylines was a little jarring. But regardless of that, despite a slow opening episode, what we have with Sam and Bucky’s newest worldwide adventure might not be anything terribly new within the MCU canon, but the impeccable action and timely themes on display make it a thoroughly enjoyable and meaningful series.
Similarly to WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and serves as a depiction of the aftermath of events that comprised the Blip. Sam Wilson, after being offered by Steve his iconic Captain America shield, decides to not take the mantle and leaves the shield behind as a way to honour his legacy rather than live up to it. Meanwhile, Bucky is struggling to find a genuine purpose in life as he tries to leave behind his dark past as the Winter Soldier even though his PTSD is making it difficult for him to move past such trauma. When a gang of superhuman terrorists come onto the scene known as the Flag Smashers (lead by Erin Kellyman’s Karli Morgenthau), Sam and Bucky reluctantly team up and go on a worldwide trek to stop them. The only thing making things more difficult however is John Walker, named by the government as the new Captain America, who is also tasked in bringing the Flag Smashers down.
The first episode of this show is admittedly quite slow, but for the most part it’s not a bad thing as it is mainly here to set up the show’s main foundations for the plot and reintroduce us to the cast again. One of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s best qualities early on is how it fleshed out Bucky and ESPECIALLY Sam. Both characters are given more depth through having us see more into their ordinary lives and what is most important to them. Sam is just trying to live a mostly normal life aside from his Air Force duties working on his sister’s boat, and Bucky is struggling to come to terms with how he can move on from his past trauma. Both characters have quite contrasting goals in mind with their own individual lives which makes them the perfect foils for each other when the Flag Smashers are brought into the mix. They both have fairly understandable conflict with each other and a lot of it revolves around how Sam decided to leave Steve’s shield behind. Where Sam feels it is more important to honour Steve’s legacy and not live up to the name, Bucky sees it as a personal betrayal because of their lifelong friendship and how Steve really wanted Sam to take the mantle. All of this also comes across as betraying both characters when the shield is put to different uses by the government when John Walker is assigned the new Captain America. All of this makes for a mostly fun roadtrip series, since the conflicting goals and personalities make for a unique dynamic.
And this level of quality in the character writing isn’t just attributed to Sam and Bucky. It is also linked to what could be seen as the show’s more antagonistic roles with John Walker and Karli Morgenthau. But even then, calling them antagonists is a bit of a stretch since both of these characters and so layered with their motivations that their actions are somewhat justified. John Walker is an interesting character since he is an army veteran who has been assigned the role of Captain America after Sam backed out on the offer. You can tell his intentions are good with his past as a soldier making a force of justice to the general public, but you can also tell his heart isn’t truly in it either. Throughout the show, he typically isn’t willing to negotiate or look for peaceful ways to figure out conflicting problems. If there is a way he can stop things quickly and by force, he’ll take that route and it's here where you can tell he lacks the compassion that Steve Rogers had. To his peers, Steve was a friend first and a loyal soldier second, and John lacks that heart that makes him a true hero. Later conflicts that arise later on in the show also display his darker side and it makes him one of the most interesting MCU characters out of late. In the end, he's just a guy with immense pressure with a name to live up to. He's very flawed, but he isn't without redeemable qualities. The show’s main antagonist, Karli Morgenthau is also quite interesting though nowhere near as fleshed out as the writers most likely believe her to be. Coming from a poverty ridden family background and with a firm belief that the world was better during the Blip, she fights for what she believes to be justice in a world that has constantly belittled her. Her motivations aren’t made terribly concrete for the most part which makes it a bit hard to connect with her, but on the whole, you do get the feeling of where she is coming from. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a show aside from being a fun road trip show also serves as the MCU’s pedestal to speak up about much of the world’s current issues. This is a very political series in a lot of ways and Karli acts as the representation of much of the world’s flaws. Later episodes go more in depth to her past and what makes her great as a villain is how she is undeniably sympathetic. Her heart is in the right place for her people deep down, but her flaws stem in how she makes herself heard. The only way to get the world’s attention is through rioting and violence and it’s admirable that Sam and Bucky do share similar sympathy towards her. It’s her approach to seeking justice that is the problem more than anything since the violence she's provoking is proving more harm than good.
One more thing that should be mentioned about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is how it approaches racism. With Sam as the main character of this series and his personal journey to becoming the brand new Captain America, it also brings aspects into question to how people are going to react to him taking the mantle. There’s a really great scene in Episode 5 in particular where Sam interacts with Isaiah Bradley, a black war veteran who was experimented on with super serum where so many of the show’s timely aspects come into play with how racism still plays a part in how people like to view heroes. Isaiah’s history was wiped out of history books even so much to the point where Steve never knew of him and it brings home the point of why he feels so much initial disdain to Sam and the whole concept of Captain America. All of it leads to a climactic finale which might not be as satisfying and conclusive as it could have been, but the morals introduced and the really heart warming ending help to make this show one of the most timely and arguably important in the MCU. The themes of racial injustice in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are handled so tastefully and in a lot of ways, it’s what it will be remembered most for in the Marvel canon.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier may strive to be a way more traditional Marvel story than what was previously established in WandaVision, but it definitely doesn’t stop it from being both a very entertaining and timely show. Sam and Bucky’s dynamic and respective arcs are nothing short of spectacular and even brushing them aside, the amount of layers put into the supporting cast also deserve commendation for bringing home the themes of legacy and injustice with taste and grace. The series is slow to start and isn’t quite as well balanced with some other supporting characters as it might have wanted to be, but when this show gets it right, it does so marvellously. It’s the perfect companion piece with the story events of Winter Soldier and Civil War, so to see this area of the MCU still serving high quality stories in Steve Roger’s absence is awesome. Give this series a look and experience it for yourself.
FINAL RATING:- 8/10 (GREAT)