IMDb Link: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
Director: Kari Skogland
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell
Synopsis: Following the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities – and their patience.
When it comes to the Marvel franchise, there is one clear favourite character and group of films for me: Captain America. I have gone to the triple-bill midnight showing of the Captain America series, I have given each of those films a minimum of 9/10 and it has a special place in my heart. When I heard that there was going to be a mini-series focusing directly on the characters of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I was extremely excited.
At the core of the TV series, there is an important story to be told. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, it really felt like many fans needed a moment to see the impact of Captain America’s legacy passed down to his two closest friends. Not only so, but the disgusting remarks from several viewers saying that there couldn’t be a black Captain America simply needed to be proven wrong, and to be shown that Sam Wilson is the perfect person to be that next hero.
This series certainly had a promising start with an incredible opening episode. If fans were worried that Marvel wasn’t providing enough familiar content for their fans with WandaVision, that certainly wasn’t a worry here. The action sequence to open up is spectacular, whilst Marvel continues to prove right at the end that they know how to create a cliffhanger, introducing John Walker as the new Captain America.
Throughout the show, there was one storyline that I loved and continually wanted to go back to. This show goes deep into the racism that still exists within America to this day, and explores it through the relationship that Sam makes with Isaiah Bradley – played wonderfully by Carl Lumbly. These quieter moments within the storyline help flesh out these ideas and characters, and really help create something for the audience to see progress throughout.
Sebastian Stan has always been a fan favourite within the MCU as Bucky Barnes, and fans will be happy to see him return here. Stan does a great job with the material he is given, particularly in the first half of the show. Whilst his character arc does fade in the second half to give Sam his moment to tell his story, both characters are vital to this story and it is important to see both of them grow from their previous events in the MCU.
With that opening episode, we are introduced to a new character in the name of John Walker, the new Captain America. It is clear from the start that this is not somebody that we should like, and Wyatt Russell does a fantastic job of selling that even from a smile. This is another strong storyline within the series, and one that is necessary for Sam Wilson’s journey to acceptance and learning what sort of hero he wants to be.
This isn’t just a show filled with men, as there are women old and new who come in to help shape the story. However, I found the writing of these women to be extremely poor. Sharon Carter returns after the events of Captain America: Civil War and yet she is extremely underused, not given any real chance to flesh her character out since the last time we saw her. We also have a storyline involving an anti-patriotism group called the Flag Smashers, which is led by a young girl named Karli. This is a storyline that quite simply I did not care about, and that also included the writing of Karli.
The tone is quite consistent throughout the series, with a clear focus on keeping the same sort of energy that the films in the Captain America series have. It also has its fair share of action sequences, some of which are incredible. There are some weaker action sequences, particularly in episode two where the cinematography and choreography were poor for Marvel’s standard, but the scenes are there and they will entertain fans for the most part. They certainly were a lot of fun for me to watch.
As you may gather from the number of characters and subplots that I listed, there is a lot that is covered in these six episodes. There is a lot to enjoy within these stories, but there are simply too much to keep a track of and some of them feel rushed or forced in to make the narrative flow. I could have done without the Flag Smashers storyline, instead making it a story about Sam and Bucky’s journey and perhaps encountering John Walker in the process. Having it focus on that specifically would have made the show feel less cluttered, giving us more breathing room.
The show suffers from pacing issues, and part of that comes with the change in the quality of each episode. Episode one is fantastic and really sets up the premise and main characters of the show, but the action and lack of direction in episodes two and three throws that off the pace. With the number of storylines to follow, the continuous jumping back and forth does get confusing and it is frustrating to leave such a good scene to then be given a bad action sequence or trying to understand a certain character’s motive.
WandaVision is a TV series that completely works in the episodic format because there are clear structures and focus points within each episode. I did not get that with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and it might be that episodic formula that also disrupts the pace of the story. This is one case where I wonder if this would have worked better as a film, having a tight two-hour story focusing on one or two storylines and giving us that clear journey that Falcon and the Winter Soldier go on to discover themselves and where they are going in the future.
I will say, however, that the show does regain momentum in the final few episodes, particularly episode five. When this show gives us these intimate moments with Isaiah or these learning moments with Sam Wilson, there is a lot to enjoy within it. The final few episodes do a good job of tying up the loose ends and creating an ending that gives us hope for the future of the MCU, even if I wish we could have gotten more of a closure with the John Walker character.
Once again, Marvel has created a show which has divided fans on whether the quality was up to scratch. Whilst I would say that I prefer WandaVision out of the two, there is still plenty to enjoy with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I definitely hope we get to see a lot more of Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in the near future, because they may just be one of the great partnerships in any franchise. Even when the show loses focus or drops in quality, there is plenty of good to keep you entertained for the six episodes.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to watch on Disney+.