The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Review): A Staggering Disappointment

​Hello Interwebs! The Falcon and The Winter Soldier aired its finale yesterday. I want to share my thoughts on the series as a whole. Let’s dive in!

I’m just gonna get into it: WandaVision spoiled us… That series was so intriguing and well-crafted, whilst also feeling at home with its serialized format. WV was one of the most out-there and amazing concepts the MCU has ever pulled off! So the MCU’s follow-up show had a lot of expectations to overcome and –at least for me– it couldn’t even come close.

For those who don’t know, TFATWS was actually supposed to air before WandaVision but got delayed due to the pandemic. I suppose Marvel planned to give us something more familiar before taking their franchise in a weirder more concept-driven direction. And maybe I would have appreciated TFATWS’ refreshing elements more if it had released when intended but, for what we got, it felt like a step backward for the MCU.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier picks up in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. The world is in disarray after losing half its population 5 years earlier and recently regaining said half without warning. Citizens who had grown accustomed to the new world order are being displaced by “Blip” victims who want to return to business as normal– at least, the normal of five years previous. An organization called “The Flag Smashers” is not OK with that. They prefer the world as it was during the Blip and start an extremist campaign to prove their point.

Meanwhile, our heroes Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes adapt to their new status-quo post-Endgame: Sam re-adjusts to the world after being gone for 5 years, and Bucky undergoes therapy whilst atoning for his time as The Winter Soldier. They soon get themselves sucked into the fight against The Flag Smashers, and we have ourselves a series!

Funny enough, S.H.I.E.L.D has nothing to do with this show…

And here is where I get to my first major complaint: it’s a bad sign when your title characters are the least interesting parts of their own show… For me, the supporting cast stole the spotlight from Sam and Bucky at almost every opportunity! Two characters in particular had me more enthralled than anyone else. I don’t wanna name them because it would spoil big plot points, but they were excellent. Almost every scene with them had me riveted and I demand to see more of them! (OK. Fine. For those in the know, one guy’s initials are J.W and the other likes the color purple).

It’s not that Sam and Bucky were bad so much as under-served by the plot—especially Sam. The titled characters spend so much of the show’s first half acting serious and stoic that they’re somewhat boring to watch. Sam’s story was also pretty weak until the last few episodes, which didn’t help matters. I simply didn’t care about his personal plotline for the longest time. That said– I love the character’s new status-quo at the end of the series and I’m excited to see more from him.

Meanwhile, Bucky’s story hooked me in the pilot, but then his arc lost momentum until the second-last episode. And I wasn’t particularly satisfied with his ending. They resolved his core conflict of the season off screen! I don’t know who made that decision but I disagree with it strongly.

All that said– Sam and Bucky became infinitely more interesting whenever they shared screen-time. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have great chemistry and their ever-bickering partnership is gleefully entertaining. I also appreciate the fact that their relationship is ultimately supportive and therapeutic– especially for Bucky. Somewhere between The Winter Soldier and this series, the MCU appeared to forget that Sam Wilson was a counselor for veterans. Thankfully TFATWS remembered that fact and used it well (particularly in one scene towards the end)!

Falcon’s always got someone on his left, doesn’t he?

Now what about the overall plot? Well it was… OK. It fluctuated between exciting/ entertaining and slow/ a bit of a slog. I like that all the characters had more time to breathe and relax than they would have been given in a movie, but the pacing of the show as a whole felt off. Six hours was too much time for this story. A tightly focused four (or even maybe five) episodes would have hit all the major beats without a lot of the filler. I swear the characters held the same conversations multiple times throughout the series, and such scenes rarely added anything new.

TFATWS has many many great ideas on paper– most of which I can’t talk about because they’re massive spoilers. It had a lot of elements I simultaneously had fun with and felt made sense. But the plot never came together in a satisfying way.

But who cares about plot anyway, right? It’s a Marvel show, so how about the action? Once again, I found it simply OK. The fight choreography was awesome, and the production value was clearly high! My biggest problem was with the editing. Like so many action sequences in entertainment nowadays, the scenes were too damn choppy! So many cuts happen within a short a span of time that it’s tough to understand what we’re seeing. I can tell the action is cool, but I can’t get invested when I’m too concentrated on making sense of the sequence.

“Not flying, but falling with style” as Buzz and Woody would say…“

Come on Joe. Say one nice thing!” Alright. I applaud the show for having more on its mind than most MCU movies. There’s a message behind the mayhem, applicable to our world (multiple messages, actually). The two prominent questions TFATWS explores: should the points of extremists be written off simply because they take their beliefs too far? And would the United States accept a black Captain America?

As to the first point: the series went far out of its way to paint the badguys as redeemable, even though they committed multiple atrocities. I– like some of the characters– could see the Flag Smashers’ point, but they were ultimately terrorists who hurt many innocent people.

A lot of the series tries to make us spend time with the “villains” so we can sympathize with them and hear their side of the story. But I just didn’t care. I couldn’t relate to their plight (except in principle), and I didn’t particularly like any of them enough to root for. I understood what the ultimate message was, and I even agreed with it. But the execution could have been more convincing.

Concerning question 2 (would the US accept a black Cap?): I’d like to believe your average U.S citizen wouldn’t care if Captain America was black. Would adoration be universal? Of course not. Might it even be grudging? Perhaps. But the series nearly makes it seem as if Sam would be rejected outright. And maybe I’m naive about the state of the U.S, but I just don’t buy that argument.

Look how serious they are. This could be a still from one of Zack Snyder’s movies!

Where the show found strength with this angle was when playing up the United States’ history of racial injustice. The plot made it clear that, though there’s been notable progress, our world still has a long way to go before we reach true equality. And whether or not people would accept a black Captain America, the very concept is considered a monumental step forward for African-Americans in the MCU (and in our world too). And that’s pretty sad to me. The fact that a black Captain America is news at all kinda proves the show’s point on that front. It’s not like my eyes were opened to anything I didn’t know, but the argument was strong nonetheless and resonated with me.

Many of the scenes revolving issues of race were handled really well and made me pause to ponder the ideas at hand; yet other moments were preachy and heavy handed and made me feel lectured to. Oftentimes I feel like writers don’t appreciate nuance or leave well enough alone (in this series and many others). It just makes the product look bad when it’s constantly trying to spell out its point, as if we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. Still, it’s an important conversation for our culture to have and I’m glad multiple points landed for me, even if not all of them did.

Ultimately, this show is about the complicated legacy of Captain America– and really of the United States in general. It had a lot of interesting ideas, but they didn’t completely gel together. Having big ideas doesn’t inherently make a product better. Instead of a story which felt like it needed to be serialized, it was basically just a 6 hour cut of Captain America 4 without Steve Rogers. It’s definitely not bad but feels like it’s missing something major.

Far from Marvel’s worst offering, but nowhere near its best, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is entertaining enough to kill the time If You’re Bored.

Does Marvel’s Phase 4 interest you so far? What did you think of TFATWS? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

REVIEW METRIC: Don’t bother; If you’re bored; Worth a watch; Pretty darn good; Must see; Watch it A.S.A.P.

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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