Captain America is gone. So what next? If you’re one of those people who wished WandaVision’s climactic battle had contained a bit more action… well, you’re in luck because the first ten minutes of episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier throw plenty at the audience!
It’s six months since the Blip, the event which brought back all the people that Thanos wiped out. But not everything has changed for the better.
Sam Wilson, the Avenger known as the Falcon and a former soldier, continues to try and make the world a better place by helping the US military combat terrorists. While some people have welcomed those who returned during the Blip, others have seized upon the chaos it’s brought to the world and are seeing it as motivation to challenge the system. And while the Falcon has his hands full battling the LAF and Batroc, a new terrorist group known as the Flag Smashers are building in strength.
Meanwhile, Captain America’s former sidekick Bucky Barnes – the Winter Soldier – struggles to adapt to life in the modern world. Having been a Hydra-brainwashed assassin for decades, he’s plagued with guilt over his actions and continues to seek ways to make amends for what he’s done. But with Captain America gone and Bucky and Sam fighting their own battles, who will take on the mantle of being America’s true hero?
Since Falcon is the star of the show, it won’t be a shock that it involves a furiously paced aerial chase sequence/dogfight, and this time out he gets to battle Captain America: The Winter Soldier villain Georges Batroc (the Leaper) and his henchmen, all while the bad guys play a game of mid-air hot potato with a hostage. Oh, and there are some helicopter gunships thrown in for good measure. Essentially, it’s the kind of dumb, overblown, action-packed sequence that’s on par with many of Marvel’s big screen adventures.
It’s the ideal way to kick off the series and to get the audience’s attention.
The problem is that it’s also a bit misleading.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 1
Much like the aforementioned Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s adrenaline levels drop soon after and the actual storylines of the episode kick in properly… and they’ve got more in common with the Marvel Netflix shows and Cold War thrillers than any Michael Bay-esque action flick.
In other words, viewers should prepare themselves for some serious character introspection as Falcon and Rhodey discuss honouring the legacy of Captain America, while Winter Soldier gets to mope about in therapy and enact his long-term desire for atonement.
Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this. It all makes for solid drama, and fits with their characters perfectly. It’s just that some viewers may not have signed on to this show expecting to be on the edge of their seats as they watch Falcon and his sister applying for a bank loan.
Which is a shame, because that’s also one of the most telling and personal moments of the episode and reflects many of the dreadful truths about the world we live in. Not only is it a perfectly handled (and intentionally awkward) scene, as well as one which also brings up further realities about the Avengers; it also speaks of some of the bigger issues at play which are clearly going to be core themes of the series. After all, what is it that America really stands for in today’s world?
In terms of writing, episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does a solid job bringing viewers back to the heart of the MCU and carefully avoids too much fan service, while still drawing the right inspiration from the source material. The performances of Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are both on point, and their years in the roles have helped them get a feel for what’s needed of them in any given situation. Meanwhile, Kari Skogland’s directing manages to echo the Russo’s first Captain America foray so well that it logically fits as a part of canon.
So, it’s good. In fact, it’s very good – and at times it’s outright impressive.
Unfortunately, at other times it’s just average. Or rather, the sudden downshift from old-school James Bond intro to the more grounded world of bureaucracy, family problems and PTSD is a little too abrupt, leading to things feeling uneven. On their own, they’d be just fine – after all, it isn’t the first time Marvel characters on TV have dealt with the daily grind; but because of the shift, it’s like the brakes got slammed on any sense of fun. It may be fascinating seeing the real-world lives of some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as the plot gradually builds, it’s also not the most rewarding of experiences.
While this is clearly going to be a series which builds, and there’s nothing technically wrong with episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s unlikely to be for everybody. However, there’s plenty of potential and this looks like it could become another impressive instalment in the MCU – as well as one which makes a few necessary points at a time when it’s most needed.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 2
The MCU isn’t messing around here. Let’s be clear about this: episode 2 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is one of the most straightforward, fantastic pieces of storytelling of any MCU show so far.
There’s some thrilling action setpieces, lots of tension, a little comedy to lighten the mood at all the right moments, some genuine chemistry between the actors, and a plot which goes exactly where it needs to without creating any confusion. Essentially, it ticks every box it needs to in terms of it being good, and with ease.
It also delivers enough backstory on the new Captain America in the first few minutes just to convey the point that, sure, there’s technically nothing wrong with the guy; of course not, and any issues we have with him simply stem from personal bias. It doesn’t matter that we all know that Sam is the guy who should take the mantle, so much so that all others are going to look lousy by comparison.
This new guy in particular. Captain Chinstrap? Ugh. No thank you.
That’s some sneaky work from them.
As for sly references, such as the jazzed-up Captain America theme song from The First Avenger, well-placed lines of subtle dialogue and callbacks, Easter eggs, references and so many other tiny details, they’ve loaded this episode full of them right from the start. Almost every scene has some blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moment.
So, basically, if you’re a fan of the MCU – or even just solid superhero-based dramas – then you should watch episode 2 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. No questions asked, it’s that good.
It’s what’s beyond all of that where this episode really shines. Because there’s a lot going on here, and plenty of it happens on an emotional level.
John Walker is the all-new Captain America. He’s got the shield, he’s got the costume, and he’s even got his own sidekick and remixed theme tune. He’s the star-spangled man with the plan.
But what he doesn’t have is the support of the former Captain America’s closest friends, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes – the Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
When Sam and Bucky investigate leads on the terrorist group known as the Flag Smashers, it’s a chance for them to gain more information about the organisation’s schemes. With the group’s members potentially linked to old Hydra research, the duo may need all the help they can get. But does the new Captain America meet their standards?
Meanwhile, Bucky reveals the awful truth that there’s another super-soldier out there, one long since forgotten…
As with the previous episode, episode 2 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier one touches on some highly sensitive real-world topics, both in the USA and many other countries. Once again we see inherent racism in the system being called out, and it’s the portrayal of incidents like the one in this episode which make this story so relevant and timely. It’s hard to watch because moments like these feel so genuine (as they should)… and that’s exactly why they need to be presented. It’s astonishing to see this MCU show presenting material in an almost Netflix-like adult fashion, but it’s also important.
On a story level, away from the real-world awful truth, it also reinforces exactly why Sam should take the mantle in the first place. At several points, we’re given a glimpse at the street-level realities of daily life which Captain America is meant to address, even with small glimpses and comments. The point is made abundantly clear that what’s needed right now is a little bit of old-fashioned… and a fresh perspective.
Meanwhile, for comic book fans, in particular, the introduction of a long-lost super-soldier and what it means (even in this slightly altered form) is massively important. Reinforcing the bigger unseen picture of the MCU which was hinted at back in the Incredible Hulk film, there’s a lot of worldbuilding being done here.
One of the benefits of Marvel’s on-screen universe, thanks to having the traction of 13 years, over twenty films and a dozen TV shows’ worth of interlinked storylines and developed history, is that it can mine previously unexplored elements from the original source material… with many of their connections already pre-built.
And this time around, they’ve hit paydirt – especially in terms of what it symbolises. Because this character represents the truth, as hard as it may be to hear.
All of this sounds probably sounds ridiculously vague and rather meaningless. Fair enough. It has to, without giving away spoilers.
So let’s simply take a step back to that the initial assessment, which still stands: this is a very good episode, one which takes a more serious approach to the MCU. That may not be what everybody wants, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 3
In episode 3 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Karli Morgenthau continues to lead the Flag Smashers in their crusade. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are forced to take desperate tactics in order to find the terrorist group. Discovering the source of the new super-soldier serum means talking with their most hated foe: the man who orchestrated the Avengers’ Civil War, the imprisoned Baron Helmut Zemo.
The price for Zemo’s help is steep, but it’s one which the Falcon and the Winter Soldier must be prepared to pay. As they travel the world uncovering new leads, they learn more about their enemy, themselves, and what’s become of old friends who were left behind.
As the line between hero and villain continues to blur, the past is about to catch up with them in ways they never imagined…
If there’s one MCU villain who never got the credit he deserved, it’s Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo.
For those who don’t recall, he’s the guy who single-handedly defeated the Avengers, back in Civil War. Okay, so to be fair he also had an overly complicated plan which relied too much on pure luck than skill, and he never laid a finger on them… but he did manage to out-smart and manipulate the heroes to the point where their team was ready to kill each other. Technically, he beat them without even having to physically fight them at all. That’s quite an achievement, making him the Hannibal Lecter of Marvel’s on-screen universe.
So why is he so underrated?
Personally, I always figured it was because he never got to wear a purple cloth mask (permanently bonded to his face with Adhesive X) like he did in the comic books. Clothes make the man, as the old saying goes, and this episode pretty much proves it. That’s because a masked Baron Zemo – even more dapper in his classic fur collar coat here – comes across like the coolest cat in town, not just masterminding a prison break and going undercover in the MCU’s version of Mos Eisley but blazing his way through a gunfight with ruthless efficiency.
Oh, and the Falcon and the Winter Soldier do some stuff too. And that’s the problem.
Weirdly, if there’s a major fault with episode 3 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, it’s that the heroes and their chemistry are overwhelmed by this new third wheel they’ve acquired. Yes, they’re still there and are still as entertaining as ever.
But episode 3 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, which shifts style from Netflix-like storytelling to Agents of SHIELD mode, never quite seems to take full advantage of the situation and the undercover nature of their mission hampers the natural back-and-forth which makes the duo so entertaining.
Not that it’s a major problem or anything. Nor is the AoS comparison, because as a spy mission it feels so right that you’d almost expect Agents Coulson and May to enter the fray at some point. But it’s still a shift and, as entertaining as Baron Zemo is, it feels a little clumsy, too join-the-dots, and too slow-burn.
While it understandably needs to take things down a notch to introduce several new characters, re-introduce a couple of old ones, highlight the important location of Madripoor, and to lay down some vital plot elements, as an episode it feels out of pace with what’s gone before. It’s still very good, with some parts of it being fantastic… but on the whole it’s strangely unsatisfying.
Thankfully, there’s more going on under the hood (so to speak) with episode 3 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and enough to still make things interesting. The post-Blip MCU continues to be explored in some fascinating ways, once again highlighting the problems which have followed since everyone returned from Thanos’s snap. Again it makes the last Spider-Man film’s coverage of it look pitifully underdeveloped, and while it deserves even further focus it’s clear that this is going to be a topic which won’t just go away.
There are other elements which shine too; John Walker’s attitude at facing some disrespect is like a warning light going off, while there’s further discussion about the dangers of putting people on pedestals and the perilously fine line between patriotism and nationalism. Likewise, while not exactly being full of Easter eggs, the episode’s introduction of Madripoor and one of its citizens are the closest the MCU has come to introducing its mutant population so far.
On the whole, if this were the Baron Zemo show then it would be just fine. But it isn’t.
This is episode 3 of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this episode, Power Broker is an episode that is more functional than flashy and spends most of its time setting things up rather than paying them off.
It’s solid viewing and clearly essential if you’re invested in the show, but it’s likely that fans will hope for just a little more than this episode delivers.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4
In episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Karli Morgenthau is in possession of twenty vials of the new super-soldier serum, and her group the Flag Smashers are escalating their fight against the system which has discarded them. As the acts of violence threaten to spiral out of control, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes – the Falcon and the Winter Soldier – attempt to track Karli down so they can reason with her.
But can the help of Baron Zemo be trusted?
For Zemo, the clock is ticking before Wakanda’s Dora Milaje warriors begin their hunt to make him pay for assassinating King T’Chaka. Meanwhile, John Walker begins to question if he’s the right man to take the mantle of Captain America.
Desperate to get the job done and bring the Flag Smashers to justice, the new Captain America won’t let anybody get in his way… even Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Let’s get serious for a moment.
Just like real life, the MCU is full of great moments. You know the ones I mean.
They’re ones so powerful that they create snapshot images in the memories of the audience. It’s hard to forget the sight of a thawed-out Captain America, straight from WW2, looking overwhelmed as he stands in 21st century Times Square; the Avengers, truly assembling for the first time in New York; a dejected Thor, failing to lift Mjolnir in the rain; Captain America and Iron Man’s teams facing off in an airport showdown; Thomas the Tank Engine being involved in Ant-Man’s battle; and, of course, the return of the heroes in Endgame.
There are plenty, far more than I’ve mentioned. And episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier adds another to the list.
And it’s terrifying.
It’s a bloody, visceral depiction of so many of the points the show has been trying to make all along. The timing of it couldn’t be any more jarringly perfect, too. Last week, the world (or at least the world’s social media) was lulled into a false sense of security, becoming obsessed with a lighthearted, meme-worthy dancing Baron Zemo. Well, let’s see what they make of this nightmarish sight, because this is as much about our reaction to it (and what it says about us individually) as it is about the image itself.
Assuming you know your history, episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier title (“The Whole World is Watching”) is significant.
Being an old rallying cry to highlight the abuse of power, that alone should tell you everything. We get a decent lecture from Zemo about supremacy, and how its parallel paths can lead to the same place. Zemo reminds us that Steve Rogers was an exception, not the rule, to never taking advantage of his power – and we know that he’s right.
However, episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s visual demonstrations to prove his point are far more efficient.
With Karli Morganthau fighting for refugee’s rights through crime and terrorism, and John Walker – the all-new Captain America – masking his own shortcomings through his determination to succeed at all costs, we see matters more clearly than ever. And while Steve Rogers was unique, even the most grudging observers must now realise who his natural successor is… and, more importantly, why.
It’s all intelligently handled, and it continues the trend of matching the pace, style and tone of the Winter Soldier and Civil War films with its more mature take on the MCU. When this show was first announced, one of the questions surrounding it was whether this show would fit in. The answer is that it absolutely does, as it once again offers up a spectacular piece of quality cinematic storytelling.
Even with a few impressive fight scenes thrown in to lend the show plenty of thrilling action, it’s the sleek writing and character development which manages to keep your attention focused and ratchet up the tension. It’s hard to pick out any actual complaints with this episode, even if it won’t be for everybody. Meanwhile, each actor brings their character to life naturally and the chemistry between the cast is apparent.
All of that makes episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sound incredibly serious, probably because for the most part it is.
It also makes it sound like it isn’t much fun… which is a tricky one, because there are still a few moments of levity and it’s certainly entertaining. But on a more emotional note, it’s simply brilliant stuff – from the emotional empathy of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson to the fun-and-games ass-kicking with the Dora Milaje.
As for the end of episode 4 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it gives us that shocking image which kicks like a mule. Best to not let the kids see it.
This is top-class stuff from Marvel, proving that they’re still telling stories which matter even as they enter their next phase.
Now please, give the shield to the man who truly deserves it.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5
With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5, it’s time to ease up, step back and take a deep breath.
After the events of the previous episode, we all deserve it.
Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an introspective episode with powerful performances.
John Walker – the new Captain America – has crossed the line.
With the whole world watching, Walker has brutally executed one of the Flag Smashers and is now a wanted man. With the Falcon and the Winter Soldier chasing him down, Walker reflects on the events which have driven him to such extremes before he’s finally confronted. However, his obsession with being the new Captain America means that he won’t hand the shield over peacefully.
The legacy of the shield is a complicated one: for some, it’s simply a symbol of always doing the right thing; for others it’s a more complex representation of Captain America, the ideals which people believe he stood for, and the identity of America itself. As the Falcon and the Winter Soldier struggle to come to grips with their own interpretations of what it means, the world and its politics move on. Baron Zemo is still at large, the Flag Smashers are ready to take their fight to Washington, and a new figure arrives on the scene to unveil new plans…
It also makes sense that that episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would take things down a notch and let audiences have a breather before the series finale, and whatever it chooses to throw at us… although after this episode you may have some idea and a few expectations in mind.
This smartly means that all the action is contained in a single impressive fight sequence, one which takes place before the opening credits sequence rolls in.
That makes sense too, getting it out of the way quickly. But don’t let the haste of it fool you.
Fittingly, as you’d expect from three characters with military backgrounds, it’s more of a dirty CQC brawl instead of a graceful piece of art, and it’s enough to get the adrenaline flowing. Full of tiny symbolic moments, it goes far enough to be a satisfying scrap without overwhelming the personal stakes of each character involved in it. It’s typical MCU action of the highest order, no matter how brief it is.
And then it’s over. It’s quiet time.
It’s also awesome.
The fallout of this brawl, and everything else we’ve seen so far, is what pushes the narrative from that point on. Like so much of this show, it’s a fascinating introspective journey for the characters, one which also gives us a glimpse of Marvel’s more serious fictional world beyond the usual superhero shenanigans.
The fate of the world, or at least many of the refugees brought about by the Blip, is important; but it’s also a time for personal growth as each character is given the opportunity to evolve, and what’s the good in helping the world if we can’t help those we love too?
For Bucky, it’s time to learn to deal with his past properly and move on. It’s been a long time coming and it’s not a quick fix or a miracle breakthrough, but at least he finally receives some helpful counselling and even manages to relax and smile a little; Zemo continues to shine, despite his brief screen time here, as he again mourns the loss of his loved ones in a moment of personal reflection; while John Walker, so easy to despise, is also a figure to fear… and to pity.
If Captain America was the American dream, then he’s the American nightmare – the harsh reality, failing to meet those impossible standards set for him and compounding his mistakes.
And then again there’s Sam Wilson, the Falcon.
With so many now questioning if there even should be another Captain America, Sam embarks on a personal journey both to help his sister and to understand exactly what legacy really is. He may have known Steve Rogers and shared many of his ideals, but what Captain America and the shield themselves symbolise is another matter entirely.
The truth can be hard to take, and Sam’s meeting with Isaiah Bradley here delivers a powerful message while echoing some of the darker facts of American history.
It’s hard to not gush over this moment, like so much in episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. From heart-to-heart bonding to jaw-dropping training montages as it sets up the grand finale, it delivers plenty of highlights even when it appears to do very little. Effortlessly delivering perfectly paced scenes in smooth succession, it’s bizarre to imagine that this cooldown episode may possibly be the best one yet.
Oh, and of course there’s a cameo appearance and a bonus scene during the end credits. Because, hey, why not?
Regarding that first, there’s already talk of how it’s been a forced reveal which was meant to come after Black Widow. It may seem like a frivolous, throwaway cameo which comes across as probably a bit too wacky given the circumstances (as well as potentially being meaningless for those not familiar with the old Nick Fury comic books), but it’s a tantalizing teaser of things to come in the MCU’s future.
It’s probably wise to not skip it, because it could be huge.
And that end credits scene?
Unfortunately, that’s probably one of the few letdowns of the episode even though it’s meant to be powerful. But again, it’s all about setting things up so it’s hard to begrudge them this one.
Basically, episode 5 of Disney Plus’ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is another stunning episode of a great show, although it may be a bit too serious and quiet for some people’s tastes.
Now all it needs to do is stick the landing…
In episode 6 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the Global Repatriation Council comes under attack from the Flag Smashers, delaying their vote on forcibly relocating the Blip refugees.
Racing against time, the Winter Soldier and the Falcon – finally willing to embrace the mantle of being the new Captain America – begin their scramble to rescue the GRC members. But with Karli Morganthau and her followers now taking more extreme risks and using increasingly violent tactics, they’re in for a fight unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. With Georges Batroc, Sharon Carter and the highly unpredictable John Walker entering the fray too, the outcome is impossible to predict.
Can the Winter Soldier finally overcome the demons of his past? And will Sam Wilson prove himself to be the hero that America so desperately needs, when the situation has so many shades of grey?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 6 asks the question: Is the world ready for a black Captain America?
So… I need to get personal for a moment.
Back in 2015, I was at my local comic book shop and overheard someone mention that they weren’t going to be buying the new upcoming Captain America comic series. It wasn’t that they weren’t a Marvel reader, because they were, and apparently had been a longtime fan of Captain America – which they bought regularly. But this guy wasn’t looking forward to the new series because the old Captain America, Steve Rogers, was gone. There was a new Captain America: Sam Wilson. And even though this reader was a fan of Falcon too, he simply didn’t like the Falcon being the new Captain America.
My first thought was that maybe it was just old-fashioned gatekeeping; as a lifelong comic book fan myself, I’ve hated seeing some of my own favourites being killed off or replaced over the years. As fans, we can get attached to those characters (which is kind of the point, and all credit to the creators for doing such a great job making that possible), and we tend to despise any serious upheavals to the status quo. We can get pretty vocal about it.
Or maybe, I thought, that guy simply didn’t like the upcoming creative team who was attached to the new Sam Wilson/Captain America comics. Maybe they even had problems with the way Marvel stories were going, or they were tiring of comic books in general. Or maybe…
No. It wasn’t any of those things.
“The new Captain America is a black guy,” the person said, as if that statement alone explained everything… and maybe to them it did. “I’m not buying that,” he continued, “What’s Marvel thinking?”
Hearing that made me feel a lot of emotions, but mostly anger, disappointment and disgust. What they said shocked me at the time, but in hindsight I guess it really shouldn’t have. Because, as was pointed out a couple of times throughout The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, some people just aren’t ready for it.
Which is one of the reasons why it had to happen. First in the comics, and now in episode 6 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
At the time, some made out like this was part of some “woke” conspiracy (and still do, with many of their creative decisions). But the simple fact is that Marvel has always tried to be progressive and representative – even if they haven’t always gotten it right. From the earliest X-Men comics, the mutant struggle was a metaphor for the Civil Rights Movement; Black Panther was the first superhero of African descent; in 1968, Marvel’s Stan Lee wrote one of his Soapbox columns condemning bigotry and racism… and the Falcon was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics.
So, in answer to that guy, I guess that’s what Marvel were thinking.
Now, I don’t know who that guy was or whatever happened to him. But I hope that he’s been watching this wonderful series and enjoying it, and that he got a thrill out of seeing Falcon become the new Captain America – even if it may not be his Captain America. And, more than that, I really hope his opinions have changed over the years and that he understands by now just why it’s right.
Now that’s out of the way…
I could gush about all the positive things about this show and episode 6 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, how it’s progressed and how it ended. There would be a lot to say, but basically it boils down to this being a great Netflix-style MCU finale, wrapping things up with a barrage of satisfying action set-pieces and high-flying stunts. It gives all of the major players some closure, the acting is solid, and the writing lays out some intriguing ideas for the MCU’s future.
It’s basically everything that it needed to be. It’s as simple as that.
Yes, there are some negatives. Episode 6 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels a little rushed, and the Flag Smashers storyline ends far too abruptly. For all the talk of the big picture, we never actually see it, and a few of the sub-plots could have used a few more minutes of attention just to smooth them out or explain away a few gaps in information. It may also disappoint viewers expecting a movie-quality finale with its primary focus on street-level antics, and the traditional Marvel post-credits scene seems underwhelming.
But those negatives really don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, and only a fool would dwell on them too much.
Ultimately, this is a show which is far greater than the sum of its parts, and the destination of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s journey is not only special but feels earned. Regardless of where the MCU is heading, this could be quite the ride ahead of us.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1: “New World Order”