The Falcon and The Winter Soldier just wrapped a solid season last week and is available to binge on Disney+ Hotstar Premium. I called it at the very beginning that TFAWS was going to be a fun, layered superhero action saga in the vein of the Captain America trilogy – and it did deliver on its promise.
Now, that Season 1 is done, plot twists have been revealed, and we have a new Captain America, I got a chance to interview showrunner and director Kari Skogland, and dig deeper into what made the show so layered and great.
That was an action packed and emotional finale. With the pressure of tying together all the themes, arcs and fan moments together in one last episode– how difficult or easy was it to pull it all off?
With The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, we worked on the scripts, worked on the characters and went the distance – so we already knew where we were going with the finale. Therefore, I can't say it was tough, but to us the challenge, or the goal perhaps, was to not just tie up the storylines, but also leave them open for discussion. We didn't want it to feel like we had completely wrapped up this entire world.
The new Captain America Sam Wilson's speech is great representation of this approach. Sam does not talk about all the problems being solved instantly. He starts by saying, 'You can do better.' He asks the Global Repatriation Council and the others, 'What are you going to do with that power?' To me, that speech was the real highlight of the finale, and Malcom Spellman, who did a brilliant job of writing that speech, worked with Anthony Mackie for months to get it right.
So that is where our real finale challenge was, to ensure we that left some doors open while tying up the main arcs, topics and themes we had been layering throughout in the series.
There is constant thread of redemption in the show – and you can see that with the character arcs of John Walker, Bucky, Sam and Isaiah Bradley. How did you evolve these while creating the show?
You forgot Karli. She represents that theme of redemption more than anything else. At the end Karli says, 'I'm sorry' and that pretty much implies, 'You were right, I got it wrong – and it cost me everything.' Redemption lives in the world of hope and that is why in TFATWS, redemption is such an important aspect.
Sam Wilson is not only trying to save the world, but also his family. With him there's a macro and micro aspect to his fight. He's not only fighting for the world at large, but also for a group of people who have been disenfranchised. That is very resonant of what is going on in the world as we know. We tried to bring in real-world issues into these storylines, to make the redemption arcs more grounded.
And Bucky, we finally see him redeem himself for his time as The Winter Soldier.
Yes. Of course Bucky will always have to be responsible for his past. But for him, his redemption is that he could take responsibility for his actions and allow himself the guilt. He allowed himself to own that and say, 'I did that.' and admit that he cannot always hide behind his lack of control. Each of these characters have their own lane, their own journey. Hopefully, we covered a spectrum that lets the fans and the audience feel that their own story is represented.
Which brings me back to Karli and the other strong female characters in the show – including Sharon and Valentina. What was your approach going in?
First of all, we thought it would be great to mix up the idea of a villain. What if the villain was a strong woman with a face of an angel? What if her goal was noble? That is how you got Karli Morgenthau. We also wanted to explore the aspect of radicalism, and how someone gets radicalized. It's a slippery slope, and I wanted to represent that slope. It is easy to buy into the rhetoric and in the show, the Flag Smashers do just that. They are willing to go a step further perhaps – and you can see why, since the overall goal still remains noble. It was important to represent a villain who looked like the opposite (of the villain stereotype) and had diametrically opposite goals. Not just someone who wanted power for power's sake.
Let's talk about Sharon Carter and that big reveal.
Yes, again with Emily VanCamp's Sharon Carter, we wanted to have this character who had a face of an angel, but the heart of a devil. Sharon's motivations, however, come from survival – so again, is she really all that bad? No, I don't think so. Her goals are certainly less noble than Karli's, sure. But she was a cornered animal who had to hide out when abandoned by Steve Rogers and SHIELD. So, she became a force to be reckoned with. Maybe she has some retribution on the cards? I can't say right now, but that's what it feels like for me.
Let's talk about the secret casting of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valantina De Fontaine.
Well, Valentina de Fontaine is just a fun character, born straight out of the comics and Julia did a great job of adding all the conundrums, the shadows and the wackiness to her. That's why all these female leads are each in their own distinct lanes and to us that was the most important thing. We wanted these key characters to compete in their own space.
I cannot wrap up this interview without talking about that Baron Zemo scene. How did that come about? Did you think it would go viral?
Oh we had no idea. When we shot it, it was Daniel Brühl all the way. When you have six hours to tell a story like we did in the series, you get a lot more real estate to take the character to different places. From the beginning, I wanted us to see all the main characters, including Bucky, Sam and Zemo, have a little downtime. I wanted the audience to get to know them without the heaviness of having to save the world. I also wanted them to look great, with their tuxedos and casualwear, so that we see them as people, not just superheroes. In that scene at the night club, they are off the grid at that moment, and they can let their hair down. So there they were, and the music was going, and Daniel just thought it would be fun to dance. So that was completely his move, his genius.