Marvel is keeping it going with a second live action show connected to the movies. Following up on WandaVision this one is more of a down to Earth story with two characters still trying to move on after Cap seemingly died or at the very least is super old right now. Personally I’m in the “he’s dead” camp myself but you never know when he might pop out to mess with everyone. This one’s a good show and I would put it above the WandaVision show. As it all takes place in the modern day you can expect a lot of setup for future events.
The show starts with showing us where the two characters are at. Falcon is in a rough spot financially since being an Avenger and a top ranking government agent doesn’t pay very well. (I still have major issues believing this by the way. There’s absolutely no way the government could let this happen. Even without Tony there should be some way he should have a lot of money right now since being a free lance government worker pays really well and with the Avengers press and such that should add up.) He and his sister may even have to sell their boat which is causing a lot of tension between them. Surely Falcon can find a way to get past this but it’s going to be difficult.
Meanwhile the Winter Soldier is trying to deal with his guilt of murdering so many people back when he was a Hydra agent. He is going to mandatory counseling to deal with this and has been working as a vigilante to try and commit a lot of good deeds to overwhelm the negative ones. It hasn’t stopped his nightmares though and he needs something big to take his mind off of things.
Well, they’re in luck. A terrorist organization known as the Flag Smashers have popped up. They go around burning buildings and destroying property to realize their goal of “One People One World” Effectively, they are saying that the world was better during the 5 years when everyone was blinked out of existence and they want everyone to go back to that time. They are led by Karli, a super soldier who is willing to do whatever it takes to get this mission accomplished. Sam and Bucky are going to need to unite forces to stop her.
Right off the bat it was nice to see some pseudo Avengers action here. One of the highlight battles was definitely when they engage the Flagsmashers on the train and get some assistance from the new Captain America, John Walker and his partner. With 4 on 4 effectively you figure the heroes would win but they still get rolled up like a burrito. It just goes to show that they are still lacking that power hitter to win the day but it was a well balanced fight that went back and forth.
All of the battle scenes here are on point. There’s a lot of good choreography throughout. That said, Falcon and John feel incredibly outmatched here since they are normal humans dealing with super soldiers. They should be getting rolled every time they try to fight because the gap is just too huge at this point. Especially as in later films we’ve seen more of what the super soldier serum could really do for Cap. It’s not a level of power that you can easily match.
The show only lasts for 6 episodes but it gets to accomplish a whole lot within that time such as plot setups for the future and different developments that will be relevant to the films coming up. One character who was fleshed out really well here was John. I rather liked the guy and thought that Sam and Bucky were way too harsh on the guy. He really was just trying to help initially but all they had to offer him were insults and a bad attitude. You can see where his character arc is going from there from the start though.
It’s a classic Ironwood kind of path although handled with a lot more subtlety. By the end you can’t even say John is fully evil or anything. The fact that his emotions run away with him is incredibly dangerous though so he’s likely going to end up more like Punisher than the actual Captain America. Still, I look forward to seeing more of him. He’s a versatile fighter who was usually fighting against bad odds and still did well.
His 2 on 1 fight against the other heroes was impressive, so impressive that you could make the case he would have beaten either one of them 1 on 1. That would scale him to possibly being even a little stronger than Steve who was initially getting overpowered by Bucky at times although I suppose since then he had surpassed him. John does have a whole lot of combat experience though so it makes sense. To him the whole thing must feel unfair as two vigilantes are trying to take away the shield he got from the government. Mix that in with the other events from that day and he had a really rough time of it.
On the government crowd we also have Sharon who finally gets to appear in the universe again after being gone for a long while. She’s a fun character and definitely doesn’t seem to have an issue with murdering her opponents though. She has managed to survive for a long while on her own which has definitely had an effect on how she sees things. Sharon will be an interesting character to keep an eye on.
Zemo also gets a big role here. Yes, I do think the heroes busting him free as part of the plan was an extremely risky plan that could have easily backfired. I disagreed with it from the start mainly because of how many innocent people would and probably die die during the escape. It’s glossed over but they had to free a ton of prisoners to keep the guards busy and we see a lot of guards getting knocked out during the chaos. Considering that all of these villains were incredibly dangerous like Zemo, I doubt they would be taking prisoners.
So the benefits didn’t outweigh the dangers there. At that point you could easily be rooting against the heroes for the rest of the show and I wouldn’t blame you. It was pretty shocking how dubious a decision that was. Zemo’s a fun guy though. He’s certainly as villainous as ever but he does agree that the Flagsmashers are a big concern since the guy really doesn’t like the super soldier serum. He’ll be an ally at least for a little while but he’s not someone you can turn your back on.
Joaquin is Falcon’s main army contact and the guy does pretty well for himself. He certainly isn’t someone who is ready to fight with a bunch of super soldiers but he does well when needed and finds out a lot of info. Then there’s Falcon’s sister who is fun enough. She helps to keep him grounded and is doing what she can to stay afloat.
Now let’s look at the two main characters and the main villain. Falcon leads the title card so as you can imagine he is effectively the main character here. A big part of the story is his character development from giving away the shield to ultimately deciding to take on the mantle. You’ve probably seen certain shots from the final episode between the film announcement and the big deal it got but he will certainly be entering a new status quo going forward.
I would like for Falcon to get a super soldier serum of his own just because I don’t think it’s possible to compete for long without powers but maybe that is coming up. He’s a good character here and there’s a lot of nice banter with Bucky. Falcon does fumble the ball towards the end though with his speech about how Karli wasn’t a terrorist. You can understand the idea behind this and not rushing to conclusions, but he shouldn’t have used her as an example.
Let’s face facts here, she blew up several buildings that still had innocents inside, she was going to blow up a bus of government officials to send a message and she was just getting started. She was getting more and more extreme throughout the show so calling her a terrorist is fair. His main comeback seemed to be that she had a good message but your intentions and goals don’t matter when you cross a certain line.
After all, there are tons of villains who had goals that people may even agree with but the methods are what nullify them. The universe is over populated so you may agree with Thanos on reducing it, just not by destroying people. Adam Taurus fought to help give the Faunus equal rights which everyone agreed with but he wanted to do that by murdering people so it voided the cause. It’s the same thing with Karli. Maybe they can think of a way to make the world better but it doesn’t change the fact that she and her Flagsmashers were absolutely 100% terrorists.
So I think Falcon got caught up in his feelings a bit there with a character who had just threatened to murder his sister an episode ago but otherwise he was a fun lead. It’ll be good to see how he handles the mantle in the next season. Meanwhile Bucky is definitely the more down to Earth guy in the group. I would say it seems like he was nerfed quite a bit to make sure he wouldn’t just outshine the rest of the cast though. Based on how well he fought Captain America he should absolutely be dominating these Flagsmashers. Unless it’s 4 to 1 or something he just has way better combat experience and his arm is on point. There’s a 1 on 1 fight where it’s fairly even near the end and I feel like Bucky should waste the guy.
On a personality level though Bucky is finally getting past his old feelings of guilt so I think we’ll see a more confident version of him if we get a season 2. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a Bucky fan in just about any incarnation but he’s not bad here. At least I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the mind control and such anymore. Now he works pretty well as an anti-hero and the banter with him and Falcon is always a positive. His super rushed romance that doesn’t go anywhere could have been skipped though.
Finally we have Karli. In case you couldn’t guess, I was not a big fan of hers. In part it’s because I don’t exactly see her group having any tangible ways to make the world a better place. Okay, she’s upset that half the world came back and destroyed the world unity that people had. Since she can’t destroy half of the population to bring things back to normal (Although I wonder if that was the plan pre-Covid. If it was, then that changes everything) how does she propose the world make this situation work? She doesn’t offer any solutions throughout the whole show.
Presumably she tried peaceful options earlier based on her dialogue but we never even learn what her proposal is. She always goes right to burning buildings and beating people up so there isn’t even any kind of agenda that you can get behind. Ultimately that’s why I can’t get behind Karli because her group didn’t seem to even have a tangible goal.
There’s also a guest star that shows up here but I won’t go into that here as it’s probably the first guest star from one of these shows that I didn’t even know was in it. So that was a nice surprise and her role is pretty good. She gets to show off her skills rather quickly. Including cameos and guest appearances like this also helps to cement this as something really in the universe which is always nice to see.
As always Marvel delivers with a lot of impressive effects here. The show does really feel like you’re watching an extended movie which is always impressive. TV Shows have certainly come a very long way from how they used to be. It probably helps that this is a mini series. I also like how the events seem really important to the movies. With a show like Agents of Shield no matter how many times they may say it was canon or the show would have references, you suspected that nothing big would ever happen because the execs would worry that people wouldn’t watch it. Sure enough, Shield is basically not cannon to the extent that nothing there mattered if you just watch the movies. While the movies could somehow back out of the events for WandaVision and this show, I find that to be 99% unlikely. There just seems like no way it would be possible. The events here are massive which is nice to see.
Overall, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a pretty good show. We have a solid cast of characters and a lot of interesting plots going on. I do think the two heroes did really overstep their boundaries as heroes and acted like vigilantes quite a bit. Not a problem as I rather enjoy vigilantes but it’s never really portrayed that way which is odd. You’d think they would be full fugitives by the end of the film no matter what results they got. I particularly enjoyed John Walker’s character arc as he tried to use the mantle well and be the best hero he could be. Whenever I see him swinging Cap’s shield around I do wonder how people don’t straight up get murdered though. Never forget that the shield is made up of Vibranium. You feel like a single shot would utterly shatter someone. I think this show has a better chance of getting a season 2 compared to WandaVision but at the same time the odds are still small since this will probably continue on into the movies. If you haven’t seen this show yet then I would definitely recommend checking it out.