Julien Neaves, Editor
The curtain has come down on Disney+’s second MCU series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TFATWS, because that name is too dang long) and I’m just gonna come out and say it—I preferred it to WandaVision. While I thought WandaVision started strongly, with its unique and avant garde storytelling, in the end the show played it very safe, didn’t do the side characters justice, and the finale fell somewhat flat for me. TFATWS, however, started slowly but improved with every episode, reaching its zenith in the excellent fourth episode The Whole World is Watching.
While the final two episodes did not reach the heights of Episode 4 they still provide a fitting and satisfying end to this thoroughly entertaining superhero series with surprising depth. With a vibranium shield-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s review Episode 5 and then the finale.
Episode 5: Truth
After the breathtaking experience of The World is Watching the Powers That Be decided to let audiences catch their breath with the next episode, Truth. There was still some action courtesy of Sam and Bucky vs John Walker aka Captain America aka Faux Cap. And it felt like a callback to the Cap and Bucky vs Iron Man fight in the climax of Captain America: Civil War, which is fitting as TFATWS has served mostly as a sequel series to that film as much as Endgame. It was quite the visceral, action-packed brawl and showcased the three different fighting styles well. And I can still remember Faux Cap “clipping” Sam’s wings and feel the crunch of Sam and Bucky breaking Walker’s arm. Ouch.
Wyatt Russell delivers his best performance of the series in that riveting court scene. I actually felt sorry for the guy, which is shocking because he’s been quite the douche so far. And I really was not expecting to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine) as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (man that’s a mouthful). I’m not familiar with the character from the comics (I read up that she is also Madame Hydra) but I thought Louis-Dreyfus was quirky and fun. And I am interested to seeing more from her in the MCU.
This episode also did some wrapping up of the Zemo storyline with Bucky handing him over to the Dora Milaje. And come on, I don’t know what tension they were trying to build up there but we all knew that Bucky wasn’t going to shoot Zemo. Not only is he a major villain but Daniel Brühl is easily the breakout star of TFATWS.
We also got to see Bucky and Sam winding down and bonding while fixing Sam’s boat, and that was cool. And I loved Bucky flirting with Sam’s sister. What’s Bucky’s favourite ice cream flavour? Chocolate. It’s chocolate.
In this episode Sam finally embraces the shield and we get a decent training montage. I know some people were wondering about his ability to wield the shield (nice rhyme there) without super powers like Cap, but it was never explicitly stated that Cap needed his enhanced strength and agility to use it, so I had no problem with it. The episode ends with Sam opening a box from Wakanda and yes, we all knew it was going to be a new suit.
This episode was fine and served mostly to tie up some things and set up some more. Not great but not bad. Just a nudge above okay.
Episode Score: 6.5 out of 10
Episode 6/Finale: One World, One People
And now on to the grand finale, which hit (almost) all the right notes for me. I’ll get to the new suit a little later on but let’s chat about some other stuff first. The Flag Smashers decide to up their game and kidnap the leaders of the GRC, with Karli at one point considering killing them. When she said “One World” and the other Flag Smashers hesitated in responding “One People” you just knew they were thinking, “This woman gone crazy!” I know not everyone is a fan of the Karli character, and I admit she could used some more development, but overall I was pleased with Erin Kellyman’s performance. She felt like a real, believable character willing to do anything for the cause, including die (which she eventually did). And I will take that any day over a generic, over-the-top, one-dimensional bad guy. And I must give a shout out to my boy Zemo who blows up the remaining super-powered Flag Smashers courtesy the butler dude even though he is stuck on The Raft. Zemo wins. Fatalities!
Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 also shows up and surprise surprise (it wasn’t a surprise) she is the Power Broker. I haven’t been less shocked then when I found out Miranda Tate was Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. Yeah, this just didn’t work for me at all. I can see her becoming a high-powered hustler and operating outside the law to survive but I don’t get her as the arms-dealing Power Broker who will now use US assets to further her criminal empire. Sorry, but they didn’t sell it well enough, so I’m not buying it.
Now let’s tone down the estrogen and pump up the testosterone. Oh yeah! John Walker aka Ex-Captain America aka Faux Cap returns to get revenge on Karli and co. No surprise there. But was anybody else surprised by how much punishment his do-it-yourself shield took from a bunch of people hopped up on super soldier serum? What the heck was that thing made of? Because it clearly wasn’t vibranium. I was also surprised that they went the redemption arc with him saving those people in the van instead of pursuing his revenge, which I do think was an inspired choice. But as Sommer pointed out in a Beers, Beats and Bailey podcast we recorded yesterday him being all chummy with Bucky afterwards was a little weird. I mean, he did brutally murder that Flag Smasher guy and you all were beating the crap each other like one episode ago. #justsaying
Later in the episode he gets his new suit and new moniker “US Agent” which is his comic book handle. I am really interested in seeing where they take the character though. Yeah he did end relatively well but he still has some serious anger issues. I have a feeling they will do some kind of Punisher, anti-hero thing with him. We’ll see. But overall a strong performance from Wyatt Russell. And I do hope the weirdos have stopped sending him death threats. Not cool people. Not cool.
Now on to my man Bucky, who goes where no ordinary formerly brainwashed assassin would dare. A little 90s cartoon theme song humour there. I think Sebastian Stan acted the hell out of Bucky Barnes in this series and delivered on the wit, charm, and emotion. But as time progressed it was clear that this was not his story; this was all about Sam. Sure we got the whole “making amends” arc but it felt like they could have done much more with it. And the ending with him sending the book to the therapist strongly implies he is done with therapy. I certainly hope not, as Sommer rightly pointed out that you are not just “cured” from PTSD and he still needs some type of therapy after the hell he went through.
I also felt that Bucky never got to fully shine in the action scenes. Sure he got some licks in but there was no one scene where you were like, “Dang Bucky. You still got it” outside of The Winter Soldier flashback scene in the first episode. In fact, his most memorable fight scenes are the embarrassing ones, namely when he was hanging under a truck in Episode 2 and when the Dora Milaje literally disarmed him in Episode 4. So while Stan was very good I think the character needed some more time and more development. With the lack of focus on Bucky, they probably should have called this series The Falcon Featuring The Winter Solider or something. And shouldn’t the alternate title at the end be “Captain America and Bucky” seeing that old James has put the Winter Soldier part of his life behind him? #justsayingagain
And now for the man of the hour, our new Captain America. What did I think of the new suit? I liked it. It looked sleek and cool and was very comic-book accurate, and I appreciate that. There is a bit too much white in it, though, but other than that a very good job. And New Cap looked pretty sweet flying around in it and fighting with Batroc (pour out some wine for him) and the helicopter pilot Flag Smasher. We also saw him not-fighting with Karli, which another reviewer rightly pointed out echoed Cap refusing to fight Bucky at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (aka the best MCU film to date, feel free to @ and/or fight me on that). The scene with him flying down with the dead Karli in his arms was just missing some soft lighting and a heavenly choir, but I didn’t mind it too much.
Now I am not the biggest fan of Anthony Mackie’s acting and I find him usually best when he is bouncing off more talented actors or in an ensemble piece. But I will say his performance got better episode to episode here, and he did some of his best work in his one-on-one scenes with Kellyman as Karli and veteran actor Carl Lumbly as former super soldier Isaiah Bradley (more on him in a bit). I did find his big emotional speech to the GRC leaders went on a little too long and started to feel preachy but I didn’t hate it. And overall I thought they did a good job of showing his arc from rejecting the mantle of Captain America to embracing it while acknowledging there are some people who will hate him for it simply because he is a black man. And that is some heavy themes for a superhero show.
And speaking of heavy, that scene with Isaiah Bradley in the Captain America museum means a lot more than what appears on the surface. Firstly, it is a beautiful, heartstring pulling scene thanks to Lumbly again knocking his performance out of the park and Mackie providing some support as well. But it must also be noted that while Isaiah is a fictional character he represents some very real historical events. There were black people who were experimented on including the infamous Tuskegee Syphillis Study and the case of Henrietta Lacks (you can read about both in this article by atlantablackstar.com) and the US also has a history of ignoring/removing the historical contributions of African Americans. So yeah, heavy stuff here.
For me the contemplation on racism and politics (see the Flag Smashers) is one aspect that truly elevates TFATWS above your average superhero series. And we still had some very sweet action sequences and some pretty good laughs to entertain us as well. So while the series had its flaws overall I was very impressed and I am especially glad that they stuck the landing in the finale.
Episode Score: 7.5 out of 10
So that’s my reviews. So did you like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (sorry, Captain America and The Winter Soldier) more than WandaVision, or did the Scarlet Witch bewitch your fan heart more? For my Top 10 Moments from TFATWS Episodes 2-4 you can click here, and for my review of the first episode you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.