‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Series Review—A Thrilling Blast
The newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes in the Disney+ original miniseries, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This buddy cop action series stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan as Sam Wilson/Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier.
This series follows the mismatched duo as they must team up to take on a group of terrorists called the Flag Smashers. I am going to go episode by episode and give thoughts on each one with SPOILERS.
Episode 1: New World Order
This was a wonderful way to kick off the series. The action sequence with Falcon on the plane is thrilling, and it’s one of the finest MCU setpieces in recent memory. I love how the episode establishes Sam and Bucky as characters before getting into the buddy cop stuff.
We see Falcon grapple with honoring Captain America's legacy as Bucky deals with the demons of his past. The reveal that his friendship with Mr. Nakasima is his way of paying him back after killing his son as the Winter Soldier was a great reveal, and I love how we’re getting more of Sam’s family and what he does after saving the world.
Read my in-depth review here.
Episode 2: The Star-Spangled Man
I was fascinated by this episode and how it brings together Sam and Bucky. This episode sets up their dynamic and how different they are and their main conflict with Bucky being angry with Sam for giving up Captain America’s shield.
This leads to some great moments of banter and comedy, but it also has a lot more than that. The action setpiece on the truck is fantastic, as is the episode around it with the reveal of more super soldiers with Isaiah Bradley and the subplot with John Walker trying to take on Captain America's mantle.
It’s interesting to see where this character will go from here, and I love the balance between exciting action sequences and a lot of character drama and conflict.
Episode 3: Power Broker
This episode tops the previous two, stringing together Sam, Bucky, and Zemo together as they must team up to find the source of the Super Soldier Serum. We get a lot of insight into every character, and some wonderful callbacks to the Captain America trilogy, with Bucky using Steve’s notebook from The Winter Soldier and the reference to the Marvin Gaye exchange.
In this episode, we have a ton of action with the return of Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, who kicks serious ass in this episode. The action is fun, but the way it’s combined with this fascinating spy story with these characters is wonderful.
And, of course, Bucky wasn’t gonna move his seat up. I love how Ayo returns at the ending, and all in all, this really is a fantastic episode.
Episode 4: The Whole World Is Watching
I love how this episode slows down the pace a bit by developing the characters a lot more. The story doesn’t have too much special for the most part, but I love how the show depicts how Ayo and the Dora Milaje are still after Zemo after he killed their king.
This episode sets up the characters’ motivations in fascinating ways, and the line between hero and villain is blurry, as we have Karli, a “villain” doing bad things for the right reasons, and Walker, who is supposed to be a symbol of hope but ends the episode by murdering a man in cold blood.
It’s such a fascinating episode with an ending that leaves audiences in shock. We understand why everyone does what they do, even if we disagree with them.
Episode 5: Truth
This is definitely one of the stronger episodes of the series. I love how it begins with the Falcon and the Winter Soldier taking on John Walker to get the shield from him. Wyatt Russell continues to do a fantastic job of making the audience hate his character, and he deserves praise.
It’s a very character-driven episode, and there’s so much to love. We have Julia Louis-Dreyfus appearing as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Sam Wilson training with Cap’s shield. Honestly, I love how they explore the implications of a black man picking up the mantle of Captain America.
Where the episode falters is that the Flag Smashers don’t have much to do until the very end, and they haven’t had enough of a villainous presence in the series.
Episode 6: One World, One People
This finale may be a bit polarizing for people. The episode doesn’t do much in setting up what the Flag Smashers are going to do to the GRC and what will happen if they succeed. Still, much of the episode is an incredible action setpiece with an amazing reveal of Sam Wilson taking on the mantle of Captain America.
I love everything about how Captain America can fly now, and the action with the helicopter and the fight with Batroc is incredible. We have Bucky on the motorcycle fighting the Flag Smashers, and I love what they did with John Walker in this episode.
We spent the series hating Walker, but this episode proves that he’s not a villain; he’s a flawed hero fighting for the right cause, and his decision to save the people in the truck showed that. Captain America’s speech felt a little too on-the-nose about what the show’s themes were going for, though.
The idea of Sharon Carter as the Power Broker could have been fleshed out more, but in terms of where they go with Bucky telling Mr. Nakasima what he did and Sam giving Isaiah the memorialization he deserves, this finale really stuck the landing.
I loved this series. It isn’t easy to compare it to Marvel’s first miniseries, WandaVision, given how different the shows are. I think the episode-by-episode story for WandaVision was more compelling, as this series doesn’t offer too much to make the Flag Smashers feel like a dangerous presence.
This series was a pretty safe bet for Marvel’s next step, but it feels very much in the vein of the Captain America trilogy. There are incredible action sequences in this show, especially in the finale. We have many mature character explorations in this show as we go into Sam and Bucky’s personal lives.
I like how we understand every character's motivations, and I like how there are a few threads that are left unresolved, such as the U.S. Agent teaming up with de Fontaine and Carter as the Power Broker. Overall, the show has its issues, but it’s a thrilling blast.
Grade: ★★★★☆ [8/10, B+]
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.