Creator: Malcolm Spellman
Director: Kari Skogland
Writers: Malcolm Spellman, Michael Kastelein, Derek Kolstad, Dalan Musson
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Daniel Bruhl
Streaming on: DisneyPlus Hotstar
The show Falcon and The Winter Soldier narrowly succeeds in tying those threads together. Harkening back to its first episode, the finale opens with an action sequence that puts Anthony Mackie's The Falcon (now Captain America!) front and center. There are other players in the game too, as Bucky (Winter Soldier) and Sharon Carter assist in taking on Karli Mogenthau's Flag Smashers, who are attacking a Global Repatriation Council (GRC) meeting. But the action keeps it focused on Mackie, and rightfully so, as we get to see how he moves with the wings, shield and our second-favorite flying AI, Redwing(s). Mackie is given his moments to shine as the new Cap, along with the quintessential MCU beats, and the finale is better for it.
However, Bucky and Sharon are not the only ones back in the finale – former Captain America John Walker is back too – and he is out for Karli's blood. Sharon and Batrock also have their individual scores to settle. Yes, there is a lot going on with sequences, speeches, fights, and plot twists unfolding at linear and breakneck speeds. Hence my surprise that it all manages to come together well enough. Just in the capable hands of show director Kari Skogland and her writers, the finale feels more earned, than rushed.
That leads me to the season's fantastic pacing of episodes. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier earns its week-on-week streaming format, unlike MCU's previous show Wandavision. It builds on the narrative tension over the course of the season and eases it when needed, staying close to the tonality that made the Captain America movie trilogy great. There are moments and sequences in the show – from Isiah Bradley's monologue in Episode 5 "Truth", to John Walker's testimony from the same episode that made me uncomfortable – and that is a good thing. Personally, I am not used to the MCU being so grey, so close to our shared reality. Therefore, the show would mess with my 'willing suspension of disbelief' at times. That is fine, however, as the show ends up delivering more nuance, commentary, depth, and Baron Zemo memes through its six-episode run than it has the right to. The MCU is better for it.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier earns its week-on-week streaming format, unlike MCU's previous show Wandavision. It builds on the narrative tension over the course of the season and eases it when needed, staying close to the tonality that made the Captain America movie trilogy great.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is also a disguised story of redemption – be it Bucky's as the Winter Soldier, Sam's as the man who gave up the Shield, Isiah Bradley's as the forgotten black super soldier, Baron Zemo's as the man who did unspeakable things to prevent an evident threat and finally John Walker's too. The show rushes through some of these redemption arcs, depriving them of the narrative and on-screen possibilities – while some it allows to breathe, delivering them with required poignancy.
The other gripe I have with the show, as a Winter Soldier fan, is that Bucky is shown as severely underpowered in his combat scenes. This is the Winter Soldier we are talking about, the agent who could hold his own (and then some!) against Steve Rogers, Iron Man and Black Panther. To see him have a tough time against Karli's untrained crew, or even John Walker is just criminal. Maybe Bucky, as part of his rehabilitation holds back – and perhaps that is why he is not that effective anymore. Whatever the case may be, it is not adequately explained.
That said Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a worthy entry in the MCU pantheon. It puts the brakes for a bit on the cosmic and galactic MCU we were getting used to and puts us back into a real-world context. Given the year it has been, and the times we are in, that was perhaps needed. Until, of course, we are back to the cosmic, time travel shenanigans with Loki in the next few months.