The second and third Captain America movies are probably the best action movies within the Marvel canon. Steve Roger’s movie incarnation has also become an iconic character within cinema. When Steve Rogers passes off the shield to Sam Wilson at the end of Avengers: Endgame it felt like the perfect passing of the torch. With that said, whatever follow-up that came had a lot to live up to. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has a challenging task ahead of it. Is it the perfect follow-up? Not even close, but it’s still really fun to watch.
Firstly there’s a lot to like about this show. There is some great filmmaking; scenes are expertly edited, the action is fantastically framed, and the special effects are seamlessly applied. The Handmaid’s Tale veteran director, Kari Skogland, handles this project like a master director. Showrunner, Malcolm Spellman, and co can create some rich character moments that provide a lot of emotions. What steals the show is the chemistry between the two leads, Anthony Mackie and Sabastian Stan. These two are absolute gold. While the show might falter in a lot of areas it never does with the pairing of these two. There are some other fun additions. Wyatt Russel is able to pull off a lot and Daniel Brühl’s return as Zemo was surprisingly strong. All in all, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is just fun to watch.
Despite this, there are still a lot of issues. Simply put, this should’ve been a movie. Even during the first episode, it felt like the show was fighting to fill out time. There is so much backstory and character arcs that are introduced in the first episode that don’t carry on from installment to installment. There are multiple things that I had forgotten until the second half of the season (Sam’s boat, Bucky’s book amendments, and a potential love interest for Bucky as well). It doesn’t help that the show chooses to fill time with more action scenes and introducing elements that don’t feel like they matter that much in the end. Madripoor didn’t feel like it mattered that much (it could’ve been any city ultimately) and some action scenes feel like they only exist because that episode needed one. With that said, the action is always entertaining, and can’t say I was ever bored while watching. When I looked back I could identify aspects that didn’t really move the plot along but it was never really a problem while watching. Though I did take a problem with two characters even while watching. I think Sharon Carter’s development and later on twist are a bit of a leap in how she was originally written. I would also argue that how she’s introduced compromises what we believe to be true on some of Marvel’s legacy characters. The second character is the villain, Erin Kellyman does try her best with the villain character but it just doesn’t pay off. I got the impression that she was supposed to come across as a tragic villain but it doesn’t really work. There’s a scene that is clearly meant to be a turning point for the character, where she becomes more violent. This doesn’t have the emotional heft that it wants to because I didn’t really get to see that many of her reservations before. It feels weird that a show that seems like it’s fighting to fill out time has an issue properly developing its villain. This actually does kind of undermine the overall message behind the villain’s cause because she ultimately comes across as a generic bad guy. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to maybe there was no organic way to intercut development for the villain, but this does change the overall impact of the show. Marvel’s had problems with their villains in the past but the fact that this is in six hours of the content does make it worse and this comes back to the movie vs. show issue. Every time I would finish an episode I would wonder if this would’ve worked better as a movie. If the show was distilled to its best part with all of its big character moments closer together I do think it would’ve had more of an impact on me. There’s a lot of strong emotional moments in the final two episodes but maybe there would’ve been more of a response if I didn’t consistently think: “Oh hey, I forgot about that.”
Though the show has some large issues, I still heavily recommend it. There’s a lot to like and it’s fun to watch. I can see myself revisiting the show later on as well. I would also like to see a return of these two leads. If it were my choice it would be a Captain America 4 movie and not The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2, but beggars can’t be choosers. You should watch the show, especially if you’re a long-time Captain America and Marvel fan.