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TV Review: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

30 April 21 words: Michael Vince

This Captain America spin-off series is a welcome return to the excitement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, writes Michael Vince...

Director: Kari Skogland
Starring: Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell
Series length: 6 episodes

If you thought there wasn’t quite enough Marvel content out there already, fear not! On Disney Investor Day in December 2020, it was announced that fast approaching were a number of live-action series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first, WandaVision, was a bizarre and subversive success. The second, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is neither bizarre nor particularly subversive, but still an undeniable success.

It starts in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, in a world less thankful for the return of all its missing people than you would think. With a number of people—um, disgruntled, shall we say—at having to make way for the returned, we also see the adjustment on a lower scale, Sam (Falcon) and Bucky (Winter Soldier) coming to terms with the loss of hero Steve Rogers.

This provides the emotional through line of the show, with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan conveying brilliantly the buddy-cop dynamic of the duo whilst making it convincing that these two do not get along, brought together purely by a mutual friend.  All the hallmarks of an MCU feature are here, thrilling action scenes, moments of great levity but also deep introspection and of course cameos to tease comic book fans into a frenzy.

The usual markings of what sets the current decade-long MCU run apart from superhero contemporaries is its ability to make you even remotely interested in the heroes simply talking. A lot of superhero films—sadly a lot of the recent DC run—perform admirably in the high-octane thrills department but each conversation ranges between actually painful and an acceptable stopgap until the next fight. 

Sam and Bucky’s dynamic in TFATWS is a joy to watch and at times saddening. Without too many spoilers, there are also some seriously poignant conversations about race and the legacy of that iconic shield’s relationship to a government with a less than stellar record on such a subject.

The finale delivers pitch perfectly in the emotional department

My only gripe with the series is a rather inconsequential one—assumedly caused by budget constraints—but the way the super-powered beings run is a far cry from Steve and T’Challa running towards Thanos’ army in Infinity War

A good TV show has to stick the landing, and TFATWS does this in a finale that delivers pitch perfectly in the emotional department. We get some wholesome moments, together with some challenging, deeply introspective moments for all involved in a perfect culmination to another stellar Marvel project. 

Alongside the old favourites, there were a number of new faces that delivered big time. Wyatt Russell and Erin Kellyman were excellent supporting the leads and the performance of the season comes through Carl Lumbly in an iconic comic book role which I shall leave unspoiled.

If you have watched any of the trailers you will know that we see the return of Helmut Zemo, fresh from his Avengers-disbanding antics in Captain America: Civil War. More Zemo, means more Daniel Brühl, which can only be a good thing. Brühl is a ridiculously charismatic actor and steals virtually every scene he inhabits. 

So, in conclusion, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gave fans what they wanted. There were signature MCU choreographed fights, well-written dialogue and banter, together with important conversations about displacement and racism. This series lived up to the hype and then some.

Did you know? Director Kari Skogland cited The Intouchables as a major influence on her approach to the series. “I was very inspired by the vulnerability the characters showed,” she said of the film. “I think that helped me feel secure in exploring some of the vulnerabilities with Bucky and Sam.”

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available on Disney+

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