Falcon & Winter Soldier Review: A Bumpy Take-Off for MCU’s 2nd Generation


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — Marvel Studios’ second TV collection that ended its run Friday — was a high-octane providing that turned too predictable at occasions. From the second Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) handed over his Captain America protect to Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie) on the finish of Avengers: Endgame, it has been clear the place the Marvel Cinematic Universe was headed. You knew that the Falcon goes to finish up as the brand new Captain America finally. Spoilers forward. Even after we acquired a brand new Cap in John Walker (Wyatt Russell), you knew he could not final within the position as a result of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a six-episode miniseries. There was no actual suspense about what Walker being Captain America would possibly imply for the bigger MCU. He was only a tiny US Agent-shaped bump on the highway.

To me, the scenario with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier dropped at thoughts the phrases of George R.R. Martin, the creator behind the unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire collection of novels that have been tailored into the HBO epic Game of Thrones. Back when there have been a number of Thrones spin-offs in growth, Martin had stated that they might by no means do a prequel centred on Robert’s Rebellion, the warfare instantly previous to the ascension of Robert Baratheon as King of the Seven Kingdoms. Martin wrote: “There would be no surprises or revelations left in such a show, just the acting out of conflicts whose resolutions you already know.” It’s not an apples-to-apples comparability, I do know, however watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been a bit just like the equal of watching Robert’s Rebellion.

The solely fascinating factor about this side of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was the Marvel collection’ exploration of what it meant for an African-American man to take up the Captain America protect. It was one thing The Falcon and the Winter Soldier creator Malcolm Spellman and star Mackie repeatedly emphasised in interviews previous to premiere, noting that Sam is caught questioning why he ought to battle for his nation when the nation by no means fought for individuals like him. This has been argued by African-American students and activists all through American historical past. Black males have died in wars — from World War II to the continuing Afghanistan invasion — they are saying, perpetrated by white males. And whereas they’ve risked their lives for flag and nation, their form have been discriminated towards and killed again house.

Carly Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

But The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did not actually discover this angle properly sufficient. Most of it was accomplished by way of the story of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) — launched early on in episode 2 — who was among the many subsequent batch of “Super Soldiers” made by the US navy after the unique Cap, Steve, was thought-about KIA in the course of the many years he spent in ice. Isaiah, Bucky Barnes/ White Wolf/ Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) tells us, was one of many few feared by HYDRA. And he was a hero in his personal proper, even rescuing his fellow Super Soldiers who had been captured. But in return he was imprisoned, tortured, and experimented upon for 30 years by the American authorities because it sought to re-create its serum to make much more Super Soldiers.

The story of Isaiah was meant to be a warning for Sam. “Look, this is how America treats Black heroes, let alone regular folk.” The story of Isaiah reiterated Sam’s largest fears over selecting up the mantle. After all, even earlier than he met Isaiah, he understood that the US wouldn’t settle for a Black Captain America. It was, in elements, tied to Sam’s momentous resolution at the beginning of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. As Sam says in episode 1 when he provides Cap’s protect to a museum: “Symbols are nothing without the men and women that give them meaning.” The Marvel collection was basically about Sam determining his place and id — however the journey of him embracing his future, so to talk, felt half-baked and lacking the depth that I craved. And at wits finish, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tasked Mackie to ship all of this by way of a monologue within the finale.

Instead, what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier explored higher was the opposite facet of that coin: how the world sees Captain America. At the top of episode 4, Walker brutally killed somebody with the Captain America protect in full public view. It got here throughout as a illustration of how the US has behaved ever because it turned a superpower post-World War II, waging numerous wars around the globe within the title of peace and freedom. This is partly why Steve was towards the Sokovia Accords — as a result of it will imply governments would resolve what battle to sort out or not. Governments have a tendency to think about nationwide pursuits forward of human ones. And Captain America, regardless of the title, should not be somebody who works on the behest of a rustic.

Walker was simply that — a soldier who believed would possibly is correct. And by affiliation, the Captain America title and protect stand for the navy and never a hero for the entire world. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spent lots much less time navigating this aspect of Captain America, however that one aforementioned episode Four scene conveyed extra for me than the remainder of the Marvel collection did in its makes an attempt to discover what it means to have a Black Captain America.

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Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Photo Credit: Julie Vrabelová/Marvel Studios

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had one other avenue to discover what Captain America meant to these exterior the US, nevertheless it bungled that completely. The Flag Smashers, an anti-patriotic group led by Super Soldier Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), have been the first instigators and antagonists on the present. But if you consider it, they don’t seem to be villains actually. Sam understood this and he instructed everybody as a lot in the sixth and final episode, nevertheless it did not cease The Falcon and the Winter Soldier from making an attempt to color them as such.

During the five-year Blip interval within the wake of Thanos’ Snap that took away half of Earth’s inhabitants, the wealthy nations opened the gates and allowed individuals from different nations to come back in — a pointed reference to the European refugee disaster. In a means, the world got here collectively to assist each other. But then everybody got here again instantly due to the Avengers’ actions. And the world returned to its us-first nature as nations drew their borders again up. Now with the assistance of the Global Repatriation Council — a physique serving to put issues again to regular launched on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — the wealthy nations need to expel the migrants again to the place they got here from.

Karli’s Flag Smashers rally alongside the truth that the very individuals who helped have been being thrown out on the road due to the GRC’s “Patch Act”. They weren’t comfortable about this — and why ought to they be? During the Blip, tens of millions of survivors left their house nations, migrated to a international land, and helped construct the longer term. They have been dwelling the place they’re for 5 complete years now. But now that everybody has returned, they’re being dumped again, as a result of the GRC was extra involved about those that returned, as Karli stated.

But what’s completely clear from that is that the Flag Smashers do not sound like villains in any respect. Which is why The Falcon and the Winter Soldier needed to work time beyond regulation to painting them as such. It’s why their chief Karli resorted to unnecessarily violent acts, together with blowing up civilians in episode 3 and threatening to kill all GRC officers in episode 6. Because if she does not, then how do you persuade audiences to not root for them? After all, they regarded like heroes for what they have been doing. They helped the downtrodden with shelter and medication, whereas combating a militarised GRC — no marvel Karli was dubbed Robin Hood by some. It’s additionally why the refugees wished nothing to do with the Avengers.

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Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier additionally failed its different title character. Bucky was second within the title, and really a lot secondary as a story focus. He’s concerned in most scenes throughout The Falcon and the Winter Soldier however his story nonetheless revolves round him transferring past his Winter Soldier previous. Hasn’t he been doing this because the finish of Captain America: Civil War? Even if he made no progress up to now since he is been thrown from one warfare into the following — due to Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame — it is annoying how little time is dedicated to that arc even on his personal present. It all basically boils all the way down to names in a guide to whom he should make amends for his brainwashed HYDRA days. As Bucky notes, regardless that he was being managed, part of him was at all times there.

His journey sees him briefly reunited with Baron Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), the Civil War villain who was introduced again due to his hyperlinks to Bucky’s darkish previous. But if you consider it for greater than two seconds, Zemo barely had any function past that in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Yes, you would possibly argue that he helped Sam and Bucky by taking them to Madripoor and giving them a brand new lead on Super Soldier Serum, nevertheless it’s finally the Power Broker/ Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) who exhibits up out of the blue and leads them to it. And simply once you suppose Zemo’s return may need meant one thing extra after his escape in episode 4, it boiled all the way down to nothing. Bucky follows Zemo to Sokovia solely at hand him over to Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, who then took him to the Raft.

Zemo is wasted by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, until you depend the Zemo dance meme through which case he has properly and actually served his function. The MCU Disney+ collection’ finest elements normally tended to be these tiny moments. Like the time the Dora Milaje kicked Walker’s butt and dislodged Bucky’s vibranium arm with a few touches. Or when Julia Louis-Dreyfus joined the MCU as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, a scene-stealing purple-clad baddie who’s clearly acquired greater plans. But the place it mattered most, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was discovered wanting. I loved the episodes as I watched them as a result of there was lots taking place, nevertheless it does not really feel prefer it amounted to lots now that it is over.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Gabrielle Byndloss as Olivia Walker, Wyatt Russell as John Walker in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Overall, it simply felt like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had little function, aside from to cross the Captain America baton. This is the primary generational passing within the MCU — and it won’t be the last. Along the way in which, it launched new antagonists whose future seems to be promising. Valentina is highest on that record for me, largely as a result of Louis-Dreyfus is superb. And then there’s US Agent and Power Broker. Walker looks as if a device for Valentina to get issues accomplished, however we’ll hopefully see his arc evolve. And I’m intrigued to see what the MCU does with this new take on Sharon — she’s by no means turned to the darkish facet within the comics. This is all fertile floor for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2 as properly, however Marvel has been very quiet on that entrance.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was initially meant to be the primary MCU Disney+ collection, however then the continuing pandemic disrupted the present’s manufacturing — because it has accomplished with practically every part in our lives — and pushed it to second. In a means, that labored out for the perfect — WandaVision confirmed what the MCU was able to on TV. It was a lot extra intriguing and felt extra emotional regardless of being episodic. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier alternatively was totally serialised — its creators described it as a six-hour film — however had not one of the spark that made WandaVision such a delight. Can Loki, the following MCU collection, enhance on this?

All six episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are streaming on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

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