ethxn🏴☠️’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I’m not gonna let anybody tell me I can’t fight for it.”
One of the greatest results that could’ve come about with the production of Disney+ Marvel Studios series is exactly what we end up receiving in The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. It feels like a direct continuation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), except now it’s entirely Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ time to shine. We’ve seen Sam since 2014 and we’ve seen Bucky since 2011, but haven’t been able to really learn about Sam Wilson’s history besides that he had lost his wingman. This series gives us more of Sam Wilson’s life story as well as an enormous amount of character development for Bucky Barnes following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019).
The Falcon & The Winter Soldier is full of outstanding writing. Important themes are woven between each scene in a masterful way and it isn’t like they aren’t topical subjects. It’s not overdone and it’s reflecting the reality of our current events in the United States in a way I’m truly shocked it has. Marvel Studios has outdone themselves again and again, but this time it’s reached a new height regarding social issues our nation faces. This series shines a bright light on the hypocrisy of our government, the crimes and injustices that have occurred at the hands of those in power and the oppression that is inflicted on minorities daily. We see how Sam Wilson is uncertain about taking up the mantle of Captain America and we learn why throughout the series. Some may wonder why he doesn’t just take the shield and be who Steve Rogers believes he can be? Well, there’s more to it than that and showrunner Malcolm Spellman outlines why it’s not so simple for a man like Sam Wilson to be Captain America.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe reveals a dark history of the Captain America mantle and it directly reflects real life as experiments on people of color is no fantasy, namely Tuskegee, which the series’ plot takes inspiration from. We learn about the existence of a second Captain America, the first black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley, performed by the sensational Carl Lumbly. His story is heartbreakingly gripping and I can’t praise the scenes with Isaiah Bradley enough. His government used him, abused him and cast him aside to rot in a prison cell for 30 years after saving the lives of his teammates during the Korean War. This is no different than how Steve Rogers also disobeyed orders, saving the lives of hundreds of American soldiers during World War 2, and yet he was praised for his actions while just a decade later, Isaiah Bradley was thrown into prison and his history completely erased for the exact same actions. There is a clear line differentiating the life of a black man in service to his country and the life of the white man. The series doesn’t blame Steve Rogers for what happened to Isaiah Bradley, the series clearly points out that the government and their unjust actions are to blame.
Director Kari Skogland delivers one of my favorite television series to date. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does not lack incredible action sequences and quiet character driven human moments that reveal the more intimate life of an everyday hero. The struggles we see them face are so real and so very relatable. Anthony Mackie portrays Sam Wilson in such a charismatic and graceful way, mirroring the qualities of Steve Rogers and it’s clear to us why this man was chosen to continue the legacy of the shield. I noted that he was patient and understanding of the antagonists mindset, he isn’t quick to dismiss their campaign for a better world, but explains that how they’re doing it isn’t right. Erin Kellyman is phenomenal as Karli Morgenthau and I loved every moment we saw of her and her fellow Flagsmashers on screen.
Sebastian Stan gives a chilling performance as James “Bucky” Barnes. For Bucky, the series focuses on the confrontation of past sins and the importance of handling ones mental health. I can’t stress how much I appreciate the writing of this series enough, because the subject of male mental health is one that has been neglected forever. Bucky is the perfect opportunity to bring this issue to attention and Stan’s performance is easily one of my favorites in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We learn about how Ayo of the Dora Milaje from Wakanda rooted out Hydra’s brainwashing and manipulation from Bucky, setting him on a path of healing from his curse as the Winter Soldier. I absolutely appreciate this scene and Sebastian Stan’s moving performance. Throughout the series we learn about how Bucky has continued to heal, though not without needing a necessary push here and there. His growth beyond Steve is so important and this series absolutely nails it. Bucky also comes to terms with the fact that Sam Wilson felt he couldn’t take up the shield at first, that there was more than meets the eye to the situation in which Bucky and Steve couldn’t have understood at first. Everything about Bucky and Sam’s relationship and the writing between the two of them regarding taking up the shield is amazing. Their healthy communication and conversation is just another part of the series that deserves the utmost praise.
Daniel Brühl returns for the first time since his previous appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016). He had been sitting in prison after dismantling the Avengers from within and killing the King of Wakanda. His escape and presence is quickly ascertained by Wakanda and the Dora Milaje are not happy about it. Florence Kasumba returns leading the Dora Milaje and their performances are striking, firm and powerful especially against Sam, Bucky and Wyatt Russel’s John Walker. Daniel Brühl’s Zemo is given so many great character moments throughout the series and quickly elevated his villain to a GOAT’d status. I cannot wait to see him again in the future, perhaps related to an appearance by The Thunderbolts.
Emily VanCamp also returns since her last appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Personally I believe this character has been somewhat neglected in the universe and should’ve certainly been apart of more Avengers skirmishes, but that’s just my opinion. I love seeing Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter and I know that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will not be the final time we see her. She has a lot of great character moments and an interesting explanation of where she’s been since the dismantling of the Avengers. We meet her again in the city of Madripoor, a new location to the MCU that is popular with criminals, shady organizations and the like. We see that she has seemingly worked her way up in the underworld and made somewhat of a name for herself.
Now, the main antagonist of this series is portrayed by Wyatt Russel. John Walker, the government’s choice for the mantle of Captain America who takes on the shield just shortly after Sam Wilson was heavily encouraged to relinquish his ownership. Walker is the exact definition of an American soldier through and through. Fighting alongside Lemar Hoskins, also known as Battlestar played by Clé Bennett. The two of them combine to become essentially the government mandated Captain America & Bucky. They’re restricted to following the rules set by the government and this causes issue with Walker later in the series because he can’t get what he wants to get done without breaking a few rules and laws. This ultimately leads to the shocking events involving him, the shield, and the whole world as they watch the legacy of Captain America unnecessarily stained in blood and aggression. John Walker admits that no one understands what it takes to be Captain America, to try and live up to Steve Rogers’ legacy. Now imagine how difficult it would be for Sam Wilson. That’s what this series is all about.
Wyatt Russel is incredible as John Walker, his character arc in the series is very on-brand compared to his comic counterpart. He’s not entirely a villain but only, a hero in his own eyes and I can’t wait to see more of him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He isn’t the only character I’m excited to see more of though. Joaquin Torres played by Danny Ramirez has seemingly been set up to take on the mantle of the Falcon. I really hope we get to see him again soon in whatever possible corner of the MCU. Perhaps alongside Sam Wilson. That would be epic. Captain America, Sam Wilson is my favorite MCU character right now, no contest. This series tells an incredible story and the finale blew me away. I’m so damn happy and I really hope everyone likes his new suit and the series overall. I’m praying we get a sequel series.
I adored Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes before this, but now I love them even more. With the hope for a sequel series, tentatively named Captain America and the White Wolf or something similar, I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see my guys Sam and Bucky again. Perhaps Bucky will star in his own series as a nomad... or at least, I hope so.
I am beyond thankful to exist during a time when stories as wonderful as The Falcon & the Winter Soldier exist, apart of a much larger ever-growing universe.