The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tactfully explores the lives of Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (played by Sebastian Stan) in a post-Blip world. The deeper view into their lives is paired with performances by a host of other much-awaited characters. The MCU miniseries with its 6-part episodes offers a smorgasbord of heroes and villains, all waiting to be rooted for and rooted against. Time and again, the series attempts to answer one question- who is the worthy heir to the legendary, indestructible shield? Who is fit to fill the shoes of Steve Rogers? Action-packed like most movies delivered by Disney/Marvel, the series is carefully curated with nuances of real-world issues, tackling them with fervour and wit all too familiar for Avenger fans. Ultimately, the message of love, faith, and the power of acceptance is explored with resolved sublimity. The depth of the Marvel universe is enhanced by the series’ take on socio-political issues. Intriguingly, the show does not shy away from strong thematic and realistic subjects that are personally relatable yet conflicting—crucial themes surrounding racism are seamlessly discussed. Creating layers of complexity much like real-world issues, begging the question, “What does it take to be Captain America?”
Messages of growth, progress and human betterment are served with perfectly paired sides of comedy and action. The show develops the story arc carefully, giving importance to the emotional aspects of the Avengers. It deals with painful pasts and the appealing future all at once, never overlooking the difficult ways they must come to terms with their evolving lives in the wake of changes. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally meant to be released before WandaVision, but the pandemic disrupted the production schedule. Some apprehensive fans were questioning if the show would live up to the hype brought in by the latter. Will this be as tear-jerking, charming, and bitter-sweet? Perhaps it is from all the extra production time, but suffice to say, the fans were not let down. The wonderful chemistry between Mackie and Stan is the cherry on top for those who were eagerly waiting for individual character development. Stan does an impeccable job portraying struggles with trauma, guilt, and grief. Perhaps this is what makes the show so compelling—if not more worthwhile— its bold and authentic take on problems perhaps unfamiliar to WandaVision.
The slow-burn role of the antagonist
Viewers are never eased into the story of the Flag Smashers. Even until the 4th episode, their aims and goals remain ill-defined and unexplored. Although some fans complain that little thought was given to truly letting the fans empathize with the primary antagonist Karli Morgenthau (played by Erin Kellyman), the group of anarchists kicks off the action from the first episode. The fight scenes stand testament to the excellent cinematography and camera skills of the director Kari Skogland. They are a new type of enemies, unfamiliar to the MCU, proposing ideologies and using the internet to spread them. The exploration of a new type of antagonist is suspected to be Marvels’ attempt at expanding its territories beyond “the Big Three.”
Without wasting any time, we find out who Captain America is within the first episode. One might argue since Steve Rogers had Bucky Barnes and the Avengers by his side, who should accompany the latest Captain America? No superhero is complete without their trusty sidekick, and Lemar Hoskins (played by Clé Bennett) plays his role with the right amount of anger towards the bad guys and loyalty to the Captain. Apart from his combat style and proof of extensive military knowledge from his service years, not much history is revealed about this new right-hand man of the Captain.
Sadness and grief hang heavy with his introduction. Captain America is gone, and Sam becomes its constant reminder, Mackie’s deep-set eyes giving away the looming troubles the show will explore. He is a man of honour and pride. He hangs on to his family’s past and tries to forget other aspects of it, struggling to make sense of a new world without Steve Rogers. From the first episode, the show tries to pick up the pieces, along with Sam, by showing how Rogers is now being honoured, attempting to enthral the viewers into questioning, “What would become of the next Captain America?”
Bucky’s role is pivotal to the show. He is not the loyal sidekick anymore, nor is his story streamlined to fit the Captain. Staying true to how the show wants to explore new fourth-wall breakages and dealing with the losses after the Blip, Bucky’s interactions with his therapist (yes, an Avenger faces court-mandated therapy) act as painful recollections for the viewers. But it is not all sadness for the winter soldier, proven by sharp character development and his progressive plotlines intertwining with Sam’s. “I had a little calm in Wakanda,” he confesses to his therapist. Fans can take this as a cue to a surprise character introduction mid-series.
While Endgame served as a perfect conclusion to a captivating and tear-jerking era of the MCU, shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier promise there is more to come— more characters to obsess over and root for, more Avengers to make history. The show makes sure to stay true to its realistic themes, even going as far as including a scene where Sam goes to the bank to request a loan, making the viewers wonder how do the Avengers make an income anyway? Such realistic and commonsensical aspects make it truly admirable.
While no promise of a second season has been made, the show’s title is perfectly adequate in declaring its focus on the two central characters who outline it. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an excellent comeback, promising new importance to old characters. The show manages to bring in a different perspective on the superhero-villain dynamic. War is but a loss, and the show tries to explore the grey areas of such a conflict, reeling in various aspects of the consequences of one.
Written by Aishwarya Sabarinath for MTTN
Edited by Lavya Joshi for MTTN
Featured image by Swagat Sarkar for MTTN