The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a superhero-based television miniseries, based on the Marvel Comics characters, Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and takes place approximately 6 months after the events of the film, Avengers: Endgame. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is exclusive to Disney+.
After the recent success of Marvel series WandaVision, Marvel fans had high expectations for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TFATWS). It’s safe to say those expectations were met with a fantastic 6-part series, but the approach of TFATWS is one which is completely different to WandaVision. Whilst WandaVision adopted a sitcom style, short-episode approach, TFATWS is much more of a cinematic, grown-up adventure.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier take a mature approach to its series, through its violent action scenes, occassional bad language and approach to tackling themes prevalent in the world today. The series tackles themes of racism, suppression and injustice, but none of these theme feels forced or shoehorned into the series. This is still the same Marvel we know and love and there are plenty of superhero references and gags along the way, but TFATWS almost feels like a coming of age for Marvel and I commend them for it.
Speaking of a coming of age, the series does a fantastic job with the character development of the two lead characters. We last saw both the Falcon and The Winter Soldier in Avengers: Endgame, when Captain America stepped down and handed the shield to Sam to pick up the mantle. Across its six episodes, the series covers Sam’s struggles as he initially declines stepping up to the mantle of Captain America and then suffers the consequences of his actions. His character grows episode by episode and by the end of the series, it’s clear to see that he is undoubtedly the right man to be the new Captain America.
Like Sam, Bucky’s character development grows across the series. Whilst Sam’s struggles are with the future and the uncertainty of the shield, Bucky’s struggles are based on his past trauma. Bucky has always been a favourite character of mine and TFATWS does a fantastic job at reaffirming this status. Given both the main characters have effectively been ‘side characters’ in the past, both more than hold their own on-screen and are unique enough to differentiate from generic superheroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a second season in the future or potentially a standalone movie for each character!
There is a whole plethora of a supporting cast, including stars like Emily VanCamp and Daniel Brühl returning to the series, as well as MCU debuts from Wyatt Russell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Wyatt Russell plays arguably the most complex character in the series in the form of John Walker, a former member of the U.S. Army and the man chosen by the U.S. Government to replace Steve Rodgers as Captain America. Wyatt Russell delivers an emotional performance as John Walker and his character goes through a mental battle unlike anything seen in the MCU. Whilst his character taking the mantle of Captain America received an initial frosty reception from fans, no one can argue how interesting of a character he is and the brilliant performance of Wyatt Russell.
My biggest gripe with the series is the series’ main antagonists, the Flag Smashers. The Flag Smashers are a group of anarchists who oppose all forms of nationalism and believe that life was better during the ‘Blip’. We don’t get a huge amount of backstory to the origin of the Flag Smashers, but their cause seems fairly justified. Despite their cause, I really struggled to find the leader of the Flag Smashers convincing. With all due respect to Erin Kellyman, the character who she plays (Karli Morgenthau) is one of the worst Marvel villains we’ve seen to date! Her character feels so unconvincing in her cause and I feel the series does a bit of a messy job in determining whether she is a villain or just in fact misunderstood.
Pause any action sequence within TFATWS and you’d have a hard job distinguishing it from a television series to a Marvel film. I suppose it’s a little unsurprising given the huge budgets used to create each episode (approx. $25 million per episode), but you can’t fault Marvel’s commitment to creating a diverse and complex Marvel universe – heck, they even made a dedicated website for one of the cities in the series! If Marvel can continue to produce these stunning, inventive series’ which intertwine with the MCU, then they are undoubtedly going to continue their domination in the superhero world for a very long time.
With a big-screen feel to it at times, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier combines blockbuster action sequences with compelling characters, all whilst admirably tackling issues prevalent in the world today. Marvel has never been more relevant.