The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (2021)
Legacy and Identity Explored
After the success of WandaVision, I was nervous about Marvel’s next MCU series on Disney+. Could they recreate the cult-like fan obsession with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier the way they did with WandaVision? Or was this follow-up series doomed to pale in comparison because of its more grounded subject material? There’s some strength-enhanced individuals and a lot of political commentary here. But the show doesn’t have the witches, body possessions and reality warping of its Disney+ predecessor. Still, Falcon and The Winter Soldier manages to carve out its own niche in the Marvel Universe and stand on its own two feet.
After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson/Falcon has to face the reality of taking on the mantle of Captain America. His decision to retire the shield backfires when the US government finds a replacement Captain America. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes is attempting to make amends for his time as The Winter Soldier. The two must team-up to take on the radical group, the Flag Smashers, that is trying to protect refugees through violent means. Falcon and The Winter Soldier deals with issues of racism, nationalism and PTSD.
Toward the end of WandaVsion, the trailers for Falcon and The Winter Soldier had dropped and I wasn’t too impressed. It looked like a standard MCU movie – but in a series format. Had this been released first (as was the plan prior to COVID-19 lockdowns), I might have been more excited. But after just watching a show with a ton of comic book Easter Eggs, sorcery and literal world building, Falcon and The Winter Soldier felt like a step back. Still, I fully expected all the character development that WandaVision had. And, fortunately, Falcon and The Winter Soldier delivered in this department.
What I liked
Nowadays, it’s difficult to address current social issues without also courting terms like ‘woke’, ‘SJW’ and ‘PC’. It’s a delicate balancing act to talk about such issues without sounding preachy or politically charged. But Falcon and The Winter Soldier does about as decent a job of addressing racism and nationalism with nuance as a show like this can. In fact, the show goes out of its way to present both sides of debates in a respectful and sympathetic manner. In the last episode, when a US Senator refers to the Flag Smashers as terrorists, Sam quickly points out that the other side sees the US Government as terrorists too. It’s one of the poignant moments where the show went out of its way to present perspectives instead of take sides.
After the collective over-theorizing for WandaVision, we all learned to lower our expectations for the Disney+ shows. They aren’t meant to expand the MCU laterally. Instead, they are meant to give depth to those characters that the movies can’t spend time on. Falcon and The Winter Soldier gives Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes some much needed emotional exploration as an added bonus to those Marvel fans who want it. The series doesn’t make itself mandatory viewing. The events of Avengers: Endgame still apply perfectly to these characters.
What I didn’t like
Due to the pandemic, Marvel had to change its release schedule. Among those affected by the release were WandaVision and Falcon and The Winter Soldier. These two shows were suppose to air in reverse order than what we actually got. And after watching Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I suspect that its editing was the main reason why. According to a theory by New Rockstars, there may have been a pandemic storyline that was removed due to the similarities with current real-world events. It’s a great theory that you can check out here. But regardless of whether or not the theory is true, some choppy editing was definitely done to the show. What resulted is characters jumping around the world instantly, the Flag Smashers not having a strong motive, and secondary characters being underwritten.
Another issue I had with Falcon and The Winter Soldier was Sam’s new suit. Usually, when people complain about superhero suits in movies, it’s because they aren’t comics accurate. But my complaint is that it was too comics accurate. By the time we see Sam in his full new suit, it looked cartoonish and cheap. And when a show is saving a reveal like that for its finale, the suit had better be worth it. Unfortunately, Sam’s suit just didn’t cut it. I can only hope that Marvel alters the suit in time for its feature film debut. Fortunately, there are a number of alternate versions to choose from in the comics.
Falcon and The Winter Soldier doesn’t have the magic (pun intended) that WandaVision had. But it does have the depth of character development that the Disney+ MCU shows are leaning towards. It tackles some heavy social issues with a level of balance unexpected from either Marvel or Disney. If you’re a fan of the MCU, this is a show you’ll want to watch. Again, it isn’t mandatory viewing – but an added bonus for the characters. If you’re not familiar with the MCU and want to give the series a shot, I’d suggest watching the three Captain America movies to familiarize yourself with the characters first. It’ll be worth it.
Source: Marvel Studios (2021)