“One world, one people.”
This was the phrase coined by the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) latest group of misfits, the Flag Smashers, led by super soldier Karli Morgenthau. Claiming to forge a world with shared resources and open borders, they will lie, cheat, and kill anyone who gets in their way. But fear not, because The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TFATWS) are back in action.
Unlike its earlier Disney+ Phase Four television show, Wandavision, Marvel’s latest small screen offering is gritty, dark, and full of explosions—something more akin to the CGI-fest tentpole projects that cemented the studio as a household name. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on beneath its grungy surface. While fans are left to speculate who will truly take on the mantle of Captain America, the show introduces a multitude of characters from past MCU films and new unexplored storylines—upping the ante in its mere six-episode run.
Life after the Blip
The series picks up in the wake of Avengers: Endgame and Steve Rogers’ exit. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), mononymously known as Falcon, is struggling with the weight of Steve’s legacy, ultimately choosing to surrender the shield to be displayed at the Captain America exhibit. Meanwhile, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), also known as the Winter Soldier, finds himself trying to make amends with those he hurt when he was a brainwashed assassin.
In producing a limited series, there is the uncertainty of not having enough episodes to fully understand the whole premise, and just like Wandavision, unfortunately, TFATWS succumbs to this issue. With how fast the show drifted, it seemed that six episodes were not enough for everyone to catch up.
It left many questions which may or may not be answered by future MCU projects such as: what really happened to Steve?
Nonetheless, TFATWS still delivers a satisfactory storyline that closes the book on Steve Rogers’ arc while opening new ones to get the fans hyped for future MCU releases. Sam and Bucky’s international espionage to find the Flag Shamers is a death-defying voyage, keeping us at the edge of our seats with every unforeseen twist and turn.
Friends or foes?
While Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s dramatic chops are stellar individually, it is their no-nonsense yet lighthearted dynamic that makes the pair unmistakably iconic. The duo is known for their sharp wit and excellent comedic timing, providing a much-needed break from all the action. Despite the playful banter, the series also introduces us to their vulnerable sides. Traditionally, these two have long been sidekicks, so to see them given complex storylines and development—along with enough time to face their own demons—is nothing short of satisfying.
Other superheroes are also added to the mix. The “new Captain America” John Walker (Wyatt Russell), alongside his partner-in-crime Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett), otherwise known as Battlestar, initially provided an interesting foil to the other dynamic duos of the MCU, but quickly became forgettable in the large scheme of things.
Meanwhile, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), and Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) all play important roles as well. Karli exemplifies the ends we’d go for the causes we believe in, while MCU stalwart Sharon returns as a changed woman after being deemed as a traitor. The morally grey Zemo also further complicates things between our heroes and their allies.
This hodgepodge of anti-heroes not only makes viewers question who the real enemies are but also urges us to constantly wonder: who do we root for?
Different times, different measures
Jumping on the technical side of things, the series engulfs viewers in an immersive visual experience with scenic overhead shots of desserts, cityscapes, and jungles. This contrasted the seedy neon-lit Madripoor, giving off the impression that danger lurks everywhere.
Beyond the captivating visuals, the show also gives the leads nuanced storylines years in the making. Finally free from HYDRA’s grasp and the sins of his past, Bucky contends with his trauma and finally gets to have a say in the man he will be.
Similarly, the show also questions what lurks beneath the surface of the patriotism we idealize. We see Walker burdened by the honor of being Captain America—and ultimately blinded by power. But the show becomes even more compelling when it confronts the country that the “star-spangled man with a plan” represents with the racial tensions of America today. It then makes Sam’s decision in the end all the more powerful. With his mantra “we can do better,” Sam chooses to stand for an America that acknowledges its past and is hopeful for a better future.
Captain America and The Winter Soldier
The show leads the audience to realize that becoming Captain America is more than just about the color of one’s skin—it is about embodying the ideals and beliefs that one holds, and the willingness to fight for and protect their country.
While The Falcon and The Winter Soldier brings growth to our beloved heroes, the story is far from over. Whatever mystery or adventure is in store for the crime-fighting duo, one thing’s for sure—Captain America will return.