When these Marvel Cinematic Universe streaming shows were first announced, I didn’t quite know what to think but I was interested. As a concept The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was the show that I was the most excited about. But several months ago when we got the teasers for this show, WandaVision and Loki, the later became the one that I wanted the most. So how did this show fair? From being my most anticipated to my least before it even premiered. Well the answer is easy, I always figured that a show starring The Falcon and The Winter Soldier would be more grounded than the others. And given the year I’ve had, I wanted more fantasy but it was always a show I was going to check out.
I suspected it would highlight real world issues, in a heightened way but still kind of address them. The Premiere prove me right, and I didn’t even know who the show runner was then. Malcolm Spellman worked on shows like Empire and Truth Be Told, I’ve never watched more than the pilot of the former but I’m aware of the conversations around it. As for the director, Kari Skogland, again not a name that I knew but a body of work that I’ve seen for the most part. Like many I was focused on the cast. I was happy for Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon, Black Mirror)and Sebastian Stan (The Devil, The Martian), they have great chemistry, but I was ecstatic to see Daniel Brühl, George St-Pierre, and Emily VanCamp back. I was on the lookout for who would join them Wyatt Russell (The Good Lord Bird) was a surprise, Erin Kellyman (Solo, Les Misérables), Danny Ramirez (On My Block, The Gifted) were intriguing but interesting choices.
Premise: Six months after being handed the mantle of Captain America at the end of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Sam Wilson teams up with Bucky Barnes in a worldwide adventure that tests their abilities and their patience.
Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier accomplished a lot in six hours. We got a lot of character development for Sam and Bucky of course but also John Walker, Zemo, Sharon, and Isaiah. They went where I doubted they would go with the series, tackling important real word issues in a very nuanced and more in depth way that I would have imagined.
The show gave Sam Wilson his blackness, not that it wasn’t there before but I guess it was muted. It was made palatable not to offend the less tolerant in our society, who it seems are also in need entertainment and might have been distracted by the man’s skin color if he wasn’t presented in a colorblind way. Anyway they gave Sam his blackness, he wasn’t only portrayed as a happy go lucky guy with funny quips, who can help in a pinch and just happens to be black. Sam was portrayed as a well rounded black man; not just as who he is but also as how he’s seen, the positives and the negatives. In my pilot review I mentioned how he was treated in and out of uniform – to this day that scene at the bank bothers me but I like that it’s there – it showed that not everything is peachy for Sam.
They’ve also contrasted Sam’s struggles with Isaiah Bradley’s that came before him, and John Walker’s that is his contemporary. It could have been very black and white, instead it was chuck full of nuances. Because all three struggle(d), some of these struggles are somewhat similar but they all have them. This gives us three point of view from three service men, from two eras, and two races. In fact, all the main characters in this show mirror and/or contrast each other in some way, not just because most of them served or are serving their country but they’ve all had different experiences and difficult moments because of it. Whether it’s Sharon and Isaiah who have both suffered for acts that were arguably the right thing to do. Or Walker that shares similarities with Sam in some ways, Bucky in others, and even to Sharon. These characters are complex and nuanced, they have understandable motivations and they’re all doing what they think is right.
Speaking of each character’s experiences with serving their country, the series tackles an issue that a lot of people – service men and women included – have, mental health problems. Bucky and John Walker illustrate that well, with one taking care of it and the other clearly in need of some counseling but ignoring it or somewhat unaware of the problem – I’m not sure which one. There’s a quote from Bucky in the first hour that says more than you’d think:
“I didn’t have a moment to deal with everything.”
It shows how Bucky is trying to get better. He’s a veteran who’s been through some heavy things – mind controlled, used to kill a lot of people – and I love him for voicing that. It contrasts so well with Walker who has physical tells but still bottles it up.
Going back to the series giving Sam his full identity as a black man. I distinctly remember after Avengers: Endgame thinking about other fans not accepting Sam Wilson as Captain America – his skin tone being one of the main reasons – and not even considering why he is the right choice regardless of it being comic accurate. Since in the comics Bucky also becomes Captain America, seeing Sam getting that shield I knew that Bucky would be more readily accepted as Cap than Sam would be. When thinking that, I was fully aware Bucky was still at the time on the run and considered a criminal – because he was, mind controlled or not. I suspected him to be mentally unstable but I was still convinced that more people wanted him as Cap. This show showed us why a mentally stable man with good morals, experience in the work being Cap entails is preferable to tortured super soldier Bucky Barnes or a decorated soldier like John Walker – we saw how that turned out.
I commend the show for making that case, even if we already had ample reasons why Sam is the right man. It was smart to make Sam the one wary of carrying that shield but I still feel like they kept a safety net or coped out a bit in keeping Walker around AND redeeming him. I love the actor, he did an amazing job – top notch. I also understand some of the logic in redeeming him a bit but one it doesn’t feel like there were much consequences to his actions – I don’t want to spoil just in case – and the second thing is the cop out. Whether it is again comics accurate – I feel the comics is guilty of the same thing. I felt like Marvel is trying to have its cake and eat it too. By introducing and somewhat redeeming Walker, they’re giving those who still have a problem with Sam carrying the shield an alternate “Captain America” to root for. He even has the same costume – it’s in the comics I know – and to add insult to injury I think he’s probably getting paid while I’m not sure that Sam is.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier feels like a film, a modern political thriller with a superb production quality, great acting and no unnecessary drama. While at first I thought that the show was an open and shut case on Sam as captain America, I now realize that Walker is meant to be the naysayers’ saving grace.
I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who feels like that, how do you see the show now?
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