Benjamin Wollmuth is a writer who loves to express his opinions on literature, TV, and film.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
We have reached the end of Marvel's and Disney's second Disney+ limited series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a series that sought to delve deep into what being Captain America means to different people. Before I begin, I do want to say that this review contains SPOILERS. If you have not seen the finale or any of the show for that matter, this is not the review for you.
From the start, this series––to me, anyway––lacked the intrigue that WandaVision had. With that show, no one really knew exactly what was happening or why it was happening. With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I at least expected Sam to become the new Captain America, so I had a general idea of how the show would end. I will also say that WandaVision definitely felt more like a TV show. FATWS felt like a movie split into six parts. Now, this isn't a bad thing. I was just more excited to watch new episodes of WandaVision each coming Friday more than I was to watch FATWS. But I did tune in each week, and now I'm here to talk about it.
So, let's get into some details, shall we?
Here is a look at the major characters.
The Titular Heroes
I have no complaints when it comes to Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan's Bucky. Both of their characters are extremely well written, and it was great to see them evolve from who they were when they were first introduced into the franchise. The two characters' chemistry was one of my favorite aspects of the show, so I hope we get to see more of their teamwork in the future. I will also say that I am glad that Sam was given the title of Captain America. He was ultimately the best choice, so I'm glad that Marvel took that route.
The Flagsmashers were the first antagonists we were introduced to in this show, with their goal being to erase borders and help the people put on the streets when everyone returned in the blip. Their flaw, however, was that they did this through acts of terrorism. They are misunderstood villains, but rightfully so. After Karli took a turn for the worst and began to lean towards killing innocent people, my sympathy towards them started to wane. I don't want to blame the writing nor the acting, but I do think they were a bunch of wishy-washy antagonists placed in the show to create a bigger conflict for Sam and Bucky to face. I would not be upset if we never see them again.
Zemo is a character I was actually expecting more villainy from. Instead, he managed to be somewhat of an anti-hero and a very likable character (and not just because of the great GIF he created). While his view on those with the super-soldier serum is a bit harsh, I think he has every right to believe what he believes. He did lose his family, after all. He does manage to do some terrible things, but by the end of the show, I knew I wanted to see more of him in the future. While he is a criminal, I do think he can still take a turn toward the good side if needed in future shows or movies.
John Walker, the new Captain America (for a little bit), was perhaps the best-written character in the show, in my opinion. While he does do some terrible things––including the murder of a mostly innocent man––I could still understand him. He was given the role of Captain America with no super-soldier serum, meaning he could easily get beat by those who had it. The more he gets beaten, the more he starts to become angry because he realizes he isn't as great as Steve Rogers. Taking the serum was him attempting to live up to the Steve Rogers name, even if the intentions were not great at the time. While he does murder a man with the shield, he does get redemption when he chooses to save lives instead of avenging Lemar's death. And now he is U.S. Agent, which includes a dope black suit and a partnership with Julia Louise-Dreyfus. I call that a win. I am excited and curious to see where his character goes next, but I am hoping he doesn't turn totally bad.
The Power Broker
The Power Broker, or Sharon Carter––not to theorists' surprise––was the most interesting inclusion in this series. Her character was wishy-washy from the start, so it's no surprise that so many people guessed she was the infamous Power Broker. She wasn't in the show that much, but I'm glad Marvel is at least doing something more with her character. I do hope we get a better explanation in the future as to why she went down the path she did because right now I'm just slightly confused. I didn't mind her inclusion, but she definitely was not my favorite character of the series, and I think I'm going to have a feeling of ambivalence towards her Power Broker moniker for a while.
The Plot and the Politics
Before the first episode dropped, I had heard about the reshoots because of a plot that was a little too similar to the world's COVID issue. Needless to say, some of the edits made were a little obvious, and at some points, the pacing felt a little off. There was also a lack of explanation when it came to the vaccines the Flagsmashers stole and Donya Madani. Overall, the Flagsmashers' side plot felt a little forced at times, which didn't help in my sympathy towards them. I was personally more attracted to John Walker's state of mind and where his character was going.
In line with the idea of forced plots, I also want to say that Batroc did not need to be in this show. But he's dead now. So it's fine.
The other plot I was a lot more interested in was the main one overall: the history of the super-soldier serum and the symbolism of the stars and stripes. Isaiah Bradley's story was a great inclusion that delved deep into the history of the world of the MCU, and it made Marvel's want to push past Steve Rogers a lot more clear. It's as if Marvel was saying, "Hey, Steve was great, but look at what the world completely neglected while everyone was obsessing over him."
That plot, of course, also deals heavily in real-world politics, especially in the area of racial equality and justice. Some may be a little taken aback by the forced nature of what Marvel is trying to do, but I think it is necessary, especially when you have a character like Sam––a black man––whom Steve trusted dearly. Sam has every right to be Captain America, but his doubts and his concerns were well warranted. Think about it: if Captain America existed in our world, how would people react if he was a black man? To be clear, I don't think making Sam Captain America was a last-minute decision made to aid the BLM movement. I think Kevin Feige had that plan all along. I do, however, think the message needed to be stated. While Steve Rogers was the face of Captain America, it wasn't his looks that defined who Captain America was: it was his actions and his heart. Steve was a good man who was not afraid to disagree with the government when their actions got in the way of people's freedom and safety. Sam is another character who embodies that belief, making him the perfect choice to be the new Captain America. His looks do not matter––it's his heart that matters. And Sam has the heart of an American who wants to see the country as the best it can be.
No, this show is not entirely action-packed, and some may find it boring at times. I did think the pacing was a little off at certain points, and some of the subplots felt forced, but I did enjoy the conversations that were had when action wasn't happening, because they lead to more character development, and I love myself some character development. When there was action, it was well-choreographed and awesome to look at. The show included some of the most brutal fight scenes I have seen in the entirety of the MCU. They definitely pushed boundaries.
No, this show didn't have as much intrigue as WandaVision, but it did manage to dig deep into MCU history long-neglected––and wrongly so––and I am glad they did that. The whole show has a fantastic message––one that sits well in the troubling times our country is in.
No, this show wasn't as good as I was hoping. However, I wouldn't say that I'm disappointed, and I will say that what we got was interesting. I had fun watching the show, for the most part, and I am excited to see where the new Captain America finds himself next. I'm also excited to see what Bucky ends up doing.
With all of that being said, I'm going to give The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a solid 8/10.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth
Dude on April 25, 2021:
I didn’t agree with everything in this article but I liked your perspective. I thought the show overall was underwhelming and anticlimactic. I thought the message they delivered was great, but everything else was just...like I said...underwhelming. Nevertheless, good read!