Last Friday, the final episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Marvel Studios’ second limited series to be released on Disney+, was aired. Spoilers to follow. You have been warned.
Set about six months after the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” the show deals primarily with the fallout from the Avengers reversing Thanos’s “snap,” which erased half of humanity for five years. This reversal leaves many people adrift without family or homes, and the government is forced into the awkward position of figuring out where everyone belongs. The impact of this event is made very present, and in fact sets the stage for the antagonists to arise.
The primary antagonists are the Flag Smashers, a group of terrorist supersoldiers who believe that the world governments are not fairly treating those who remained after “the snap,” as well as those that disappeared. They are all fanatical towards this cause, but it is not at all impossible to relate with their desires as an audience member.
The other primary antagonist is John Walker. Walker becomes Captain America for a while. Walker is the best soldier one could ask for, and is given the mantle and shield of Captain America. The show shows him progressively bend until he breaks. He is brought to his lowest and, ultimately, has a moving redemption moment when he puts aside his own vendetta to save the lives of innocent people put at risk.
In terms of cinematography, director Kari Skogland seems to be quite lacking in certain departments. Most scenes in the show that depict emotional interactions or conversations―Bucky’s therapy scenes come especially to mind―are shot awkwardly close to the actors; it is rare that two characters having a conversation are shown in the same frame. There are also times when the music overpowers the dialogue in a way that makes it impossible to decipher what is said.
One area in which Skogland did not fall short, however, is the fight choreography. In general, Marvel has a weakness in producing fight scenes, and relies on a huge amount of cuts. In comparison, most of the fights in this show are entirely coherent, and the use of the flight suit is exceptional, especially when Sam begins using the shield and the suit. The show is decently acted, with Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo and Wyatt Russell’s John Walker standing out especially.
The show drips with metaphor and social commentary, with Captain America’s shield being a thinly veiled image for the American legacy. The introduction of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), the old African-American supersoldier who was abused and mistreated by the American government, serves to symbolically represent how the shield holds very different memories for different groups.
Another example is the trial where Walker is stripped of his rank, and he snaps at the senator passing the verdict: “You built me.” This seems to be gesturing towards the trials of the cops who used unnecessary force against unarmed Black Americans―pointing out that the issue is with the system, not the individual.
There are many other such moments, which are for the most part encouraging of unity over discord. The issue of race for the purpose of commentary is brought up in just about every episode, but it is for the most part rather artfully done and enhances the story.
In summary, while the show could have been a little more finely tuned, it was overall a decent action series in the same vein as the previous “Captain America” movies. While nowhere near the best Marvel has offered, it has set up several interesting threads that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things.