To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the second of many Disney+ limited series and shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Meaning it shares continuity with the films of the franchise. Produced by Kevin Feige with Malcolm Spellman serving as head writer and directing, the series stars Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Danny Ramirez, Georges St-Pierre, Adepero Oduye, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Florence Kasumba, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The story follows Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier and Sam Wilson/Falcon six months after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame as they deal with the repercussions of Steve passing the mantle of Captain America along with his shield onto Sam. As well as dealing with a new threat in the Flag Smashers who wish to keep the world the way it was during the Blip. To properly review a series such as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, some spoilers must be discussed so if you have not finished the show do not read any further.
The series starts with Sam and Bucky living separate lives post Blip with no information on what has happened to the Avengers as a unit. Sam has been operating as a free agent with government contracts that allow him to make ends meet while Bucky is helping the government take down anyone he helped gain power while he was a pawn for HYDRA as a condition of his pardon. We are soon shown that Sam has decided not to take up the mantle of Captain America feeling that nobody can fill Steve’s shoes and has the shield put in a museum. The government, on the other hand, feels differently and quickly gives the shield to John Walker, dubbing him the new Captain America.
It is great to see the lives of the smaller MCU characters fleshed out in these shows. We get to see Sam spending time with his family, learn more about his relationship with his sister, and see where he grew up. We also get to see Bucky adjusting to civilian life, dating, and going to therapy realizing he’s been basically going from one battle to the next for nearly 60 years. Being a miniseries, we are treated to increased screen time for some of the fan-favorite smaller characters in the MCU such as the return of Georges Batroc who hasn’t been seen since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter, and Helmut Zemo last seen in Captain America: Civil War, and Ayo from Black Panther. We learn that Sharon was labeled a traitor for helping Steve and Sam save Bucky and was not given a pardon like the other Avengers. Also, we learn that on top of being a former Colonel with the Sokovian Armed Forces and a commander of EKO Scorpion, Zemo is also a Baron, hailing from a royal Sokovian family.
There’s also the introduction of new characters like John Walker/Captain America and his partner Lemar Hoskins/Battlestar. John Walker might perfectly represent white people who don’t understand systemic racism. His best friend is Black, his girlfriend is Black, and judging by his high school is probably from a predominately Black area in Georgia. While John is shown as a good soldier and ideal candidate for the government to use but clearly not cut out for the mantle of Captain America. This becomes more evident after he takes the super-soldier serum. There’s also Karli Morgenthau who is the leader of the Flag Smashers. She’s trying to get life back to the way it was during the Blip. A world without borders where everyone was united. While her heart is in the right place her methods become more erratic as the show goes on.
The MCU rarely deals with real-world problems. Iron Man touched on the War in Afghanistan, while Captain America: The First Avenger dabbled in World War II. This is the second MCU title after Black Panther to touch on current race relations in the USA as well as the history of racism against African-Americans throughout the country’s history. Our key to this history comes when Bucky introduces Sam to Isaiah Bradley, a Black super-soldier created during the Korean War. Bradley was part of a team of super-soldiers created by the US government while trying to recreate and perfect the super-soldier serum derived from Steve Rogers’ blood. When Bradley’s unit is captured, the government wanted to destroy the POW camp where they were located to hide the evidence. Instead, Bradley went in to save his unit, similar to how Steve saved Bucky’s unit in Captain America: The First Avenger. Instead of being dubbed a hero he was imprisoned for 30 years and experimented on. Kept from his wife and child he grew bitter and disillusioned with his government and country.
Being presented with this information brings a good amount of realism to the MCU. Makes the viewer question certain events that happened in the past as we do not know how many characters knew about what happened to Bradley or if they did know how they felt about how he was treated. The only character we can assume knew anything was Thaddeus Ross as he was put in charge of the Bio-Tech Force Enhancement Project when he was Lieutenant General of the United States Army. A character surprisingly nowhere to be seen during the entire season.
In terms of visuals, everything seen is on par with a theatrically released MCU film. In line with WandaVision, the show is vastly better looking than previous Marvel television shows. With a reported budget of around $150 million, it looks like the money was used very well. The scenes where Sam is flying through the air taking out enemies are amazing. The fight choreography is also pretty well done with the editing allowing for viewers to see the entire room when fights take place. The only negatives to take away are that some things felt rushed and unresolved as if the show could have used a few more episodes. No other heroes arrive to help during the final confrontation in New York. How or when Sharon became the Power Broker and how she kept it a secret is never explained. John Walker’s fall and redemption arc happen fairly quickly. Also, the actual plan of the Flag Smashers is a bit muddy as they are helping people as well as hurting others and not a lot of time is spent on their backstory so the viewers don’t care as much when one of them is killed off.
Overall, it was a very informative season that asked heavy questions. Even going as far as to explain that there isn’t an easy answer and everyone doesn’t have to fully agree on everything, but the conversations are worth having. I give The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 a Good 4.25/5. It does leave a few too many questions to be resolved in the end to my liking. Such as why didn’t Sam go to Pepper for a loan? How did Sharon become the Power Broker? Why was Zemo not already on the Raft? Who was and wasn’t blipped? How come no other Avengers showed up to help in New York? (Looking at you Spider-Man) Where is Steve Rogers? Maybe these questions will be answered in a Season 2 or the recently announced untitled fourth Captain America film.