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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)

It’s been eight months since the events of Avengers: Endgame and Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier/James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) are still dealing with the fact that their close friend, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is no longer with them. Both on different trajectories through the rough world, the two superheroes must find their own ways to cope with the realities in which they both reside. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes the fan favorite heroes on a journey around the world as they face new threats and unforeseen obstacles.


Episode 1: New World Order:

Sam Wilson contemplates what life after Captain America means, and struggles to come to definitive conclusions regarding his shield. Bucky struggles to come to terms with his past and seeks professional help in order to make amends and straighten out his life. A new terrorist organization known as the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morganthau (Erin Kellyman), begins causing issues around the globe. The New World Order is something that requires an immediate response, can Bucky and Sam save the day once again?


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes it a point to start fast and cram as much action into the first episode as possible without watering down the rest of the content. As New World Order plays out, however, the action becomes less and less important, and the human-level struggles of the famed superheroes rises to the forefront of the episode. The life that Bucky has led has always evoked emotion, but Sam finally demands a similar emotional draw as well. As the two move uncomfortably through the new world, a world after the blip, viewers can’t help but to identify with all that the two have to say.


Family, as well as love and loss, have been themes that have played well throughout the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but New World Order takes these ideas to a new level–a far more personal level than ever before. Creator Malcolm Spellman and director Kari Skogland make it a point to appeal to their viewers in this emotional regard, and they are successful. With a bang at the start and a swift shift into something more personal it’s hard for anyone to turn their nose up to New World Order or the idea of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.


Episode 2: The Star-Spangled Man:

With the reveal of the new Captain America–John Walker (Wyatt Russell)–things are stranger than ever, upsetting both Sam and Bucky as they find themselves in uncharted territory. While they struggle with this revelation they must sideline their emotions and track down the treacherous Flag Smashers before more chaos ensues. However, with new heroes in the mix, saving the world proves to be more difficult than ever.


The Star-Spangled Man makes a sharp left turn, and for the first time ever, race relations and politics take the stage as the prominent motivators of an MCU entity. While these themes will surely attract a large audience given the climate of the United States at the time of its release, the reality is that while film reflecting reality in some ways allows viewers to connect to the content in front of them, film is often used as an escape as well. Forcing these ideas down the throats of audiences makes it difficult for said viewers to swallow all that is being thrown at them, and in many ways becomes frustrating.


Even with the clear political agenda The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still manages to entertain as new, interesting characters are given the opportunity to shine for the first time. In addition to some wonderfully-scripted breakout roles, the long overdue reunion between Sam and Bucky acts as the glue that holds this action-packed episode together. With just minimal glimpses at Bucky and Sam’s relationship throughout films such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War the world has been craving a Falcon and Winter Soldier team up full of sarcasm and corny jokes–jokes just like the ones that grace the screen in The Star-Spangled Man.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes a dangerous turn in The Star-Spangled Man as it begins to rely on politics as its driving force. This misstep throws the show off-kilter a bit. While there’s enough to keep the series progressing forward, what occurs throughout this particular episode threatens a rocky future.


Episode 3: Power Broker:

Bucky and Sam aren’t entirely sure of how to proceed after aggravating John Walker, and decide they must lean on an old foe to guide them in the right direction. Re-enter Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), Hydra historian (of sorts) and the Yoko Ono to the Avengers, to help figure out who and what Karli is, and how to fix the global issue that is sure to ensue. With should-be allies at odds and should-be enemies seemingly ready to help the good fight, things are sure to get wild.


Zemo, while playing a significant role in Captain America: Civil War, had limited screen time for a villain and wasn’t provided the opportunity to develop as many had hoped. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier allows him that ability, and Power Broker is the first step in this development. The nagging questions, however, are how does Brühl’s Zemo fit into this story and will the necessary chemistry between him, Bucky, and Sam be all that it needs to be in order to find the series success? The second question is answered immediately, and that answer is yes. The three mesh beautifully and create a series of humor and drama that drives this episode into something far better than the first two installments of the series.


Like the series that was released just weeks before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, light plays a significant role in how viewers receive this show. Much of the first two episodes occur during the day, in fairly well-lit areas, but Power Broker takes a turn and takes place in dark, much more unassuming locations. This darkness drags viewers through a treacherous tunnel that leads to far more drama than viewers have yet seen in the series (even more than the gut-wrenching struggles both Bucky and Sam face in New World Order), and this wonderfully executed turn is for the better. A necessary drama, something far more serious and worldly than before rises to the surface and begins connecting with viewers on new levels.


While Power Broker touches briefly on the race issues discussed in the previous episode, it veers greatly from that narrative and focuses far more on the characters and the story needed to make The Falcon and the Winter Soldier work. What threatened to unhinge the series in The Star-Spangled Man seems to have been pushed aside for something more enthralling and entertaining, exciting viewers and promising something better from the series in the future.


Episode 4: The Whole World is Watching:

The Dora Milaje have come to claim Zemo after his encounter with the former King T'Chaka (John Kani). In addition to the new issue with the Milaje, Karli and the Flag Smashers, as well as Walker and his cohorts, are closing in on domination of sorts, forcing our ragtag team of friends’ hands, causing them to make less-than-ideal decisions. The conclusion of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is slowly approaching, and the heroes have their plates full.


As The Whole World is Watching opens, possibly the greatest scene in MCU history plays out and emotions run wild, nearly impossible to control. Without giving too much away, Bucky is seen back in Wakanda, at the height of his struggles as the Winter Soldier, and life for him will never be the same.


In many ways Zemo takes the stage not just as a sidekick but as a primary player in the grand scheme of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, shifting gears a bit and shedding a somewhat familiar light on the scope of the MCU. Antagonist such as Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Ultron (James Spader) were wonderfully crafted, and viewers, regardless of how demented their plans were, were able to appreciate those villains’ visions in some capacity. Zemo, while his narrative shifts greatly here, remains in the eyes of many the villain from Captain America: Civil War. So, seeing him in a mysterious light once again, one that mirrors his role in the aforementioned film, but with a twist that outlines him in something that resembles silver, opens viewers’ eyes to the reality that Zemo, maybe better than any other villain in the past, is multidimensional.


The world craves a hero, almost perpetually. Regardless of the situation at hand humans require someone to guide them, to look up to, to save the day (whether literally or figuratively). Here, in The Whole World is Watching, there are effectively four individuals who possess the potential to be the next Captain America. Sam Wilson, Karli Morganthau, Bucky Barnes, and John Walker, in one way or another, fight for the right to take up the mantle of one of the most highly regarded individuals in history.


The narrative has officially been blown wide open, and the world has no idea what to expect from this point forward. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has officially begun traveling down roads untraveled, in ways that viewers couldn’t have anticipated, but immediately fall in love with, making this the best episode of the entire series.


Episode 5: Truth:

After the events of The Whole World is Watching the heroes and the villains must deal with the consequences of their actions, changing the fate of the world and the mantle of Captain America forever. Walker continues to struggle with his emotions and his role in the world, and while he contemplates his future, Sam and Bucky must do all they can to steer him in the right direction.


Not to outdo themselves, but Truth begins even stronger than its predecessor, completely immersing viewers in a world of badassery and unparalleled action. Surely there will never be another fight sequence that measures up to the closing events of Avengers: Endgame, but on a smaller scale it’s hard to say that what occurs at the beginning of this episode isn’t as good or better than any other smaller-scale fight in the MCU. This opening sequence promises beauty throughout the rest of the episode, however, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier quickly sinks back down into the murky depths of race and politics that the show so desperately needed to avoid.


What the world expected The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to be comes to fruition in Truth and while I can understand that some (honestly, probably more than some) viewers appreciate the sentiment behind Skogland and Spellman’s message, it simply waters down the overarching narrative of the MCU and all that fans have come to love about this cinematic universe.


With potentially the greatest upside, Truth becomes possibly the most disappointing episode of the series as it takes viewers down unpleasant paths that lead to nothing but annoyance and frustration. The ship needs to be righted in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s final episode or the series is all for naught, and the first disappointment of the MCU in a long time.


Episode 6: One World, One People:

The end is near and Karli Morganthau’s plan begins to play out. The heroes come together one more time in a fight that will shape the future of the world for everyone. However, even the biggest players can’t predict what form the results of Karli’s masterplan will take, shaking things up and bringing The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to a close in epic fashion.


One World, One People acts as a segue into the future of the MCU as well as each of the characters involved in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s story. From beginning to end this episode is action packed and full of fun, but as the episode comes to an end and the reality of what has occurred over the course of six episodes comes to a head and eventually a conclusion, viewers hope that something massive lies ahead for the show’s heroes; this hope seems to shift into the promise of a bright future.


All things converge here at the conclusion of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier including choreography, dialogue, acting, metaphor, etc. Each and every aspect of the show plays out beautifully together like a symphony of cinema, managing to breathe life into a show that flirted with failure from time to time. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gets back on track here and concludes in a fashion that allows viewers to deal with the frustrations of the political narrative and appreciate everything else the show has to offer.

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While the mystery and the show-stopping moments exist throughout The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, they don’t happen as often as fans of the MCU have come to expect. There is something missing within this limited series, and even though overall it does entertain, it doesn’t live up to expectations.


Obviously so much goes into writing, directing, and developing a series of this nature, but what seemingly goes unnoticed is the CGI. Sure, giving Bucky a vibranium arm, allowing Sam to fly, and giving a series of individuals superstrength are understood as a grand task when it comes to creating this series, but, after having watched Marvel Studios: Assembled I appreciate just how much work went into bringing some of the more zealous scenes to life.


It’s impossible to say that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t enjoyable, because that couldn’t be further from the truth, but aspects of what the show is trying to say take away from the charming nature of what Stan, Mackie, and the others bring to the table. Coming out just after the conclusion of WandaVision prepared viewers for something just as colorful, vibrant, and entertaining, but that mark is missed, even if just slightly. However, missing the mark just slightly is still missing the mark, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier leaves viewers disappointed and hoping Marvel had more to offer.


Directed by Kari Skogland.


Written by Ed Brubaker, Gene Colan, Steve Epting, Jack Kirby, Malcolm Spellman, Stan Lee, Joe Simon, etc.


Starring Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Erin Kellyman, Desmond Chiam, Dani Deetté, Indya Bussey, Daniel Brühl, Danny Ramirez, Adepero Oduye, Renes Rivera, Tyler Dean Flores, Emily VanCamp, Clé Bennett, Noah Mills, Carl Lumbly, Florence Kasumba, Georges St-Pierre, Amy Aquino, Chase River McGhee, Aaron Haynes, Elijah Richardson, Gabrielle Byndloss, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, etc.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/10



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