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‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ packs big punch

The newest Marvel adventure on Disney+ features everyone’s favorite man with wings and his acquaintance with a metal arm. While this six-episode miniseries has its faults, it surely packs a punch that is a joy to watch.

Let’s start with some of the good. The chemistry between lead actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan as Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) is really great. Since their debut together in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans have been demanding they get more on-screen time together. Those fans certainly got what they asked for as these two characters have some great banter and character building.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” series finale aired April 23 on Disney+. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

The buddy-cop dynamic is certainly present, and sometimes to a fault. There are sudden tone shifts that happen all for the sake of quippy lines between the duo, but this has been a common problem within the MCU.

While these two characters have the most screen time, the series introduces us to some very intriguing characters, the most prominent being John Walker. As the government’s newly appointed Captain America, Walker is instantly unlikable as he is clearly meant to be. While being incredibly problematic as a person, he is a well written character. His arc is a good foil to Sam Wilson as they both have differing ideas of justice and how it should be served, providing the audience with subtle and impactful reasoning as to why Wilson should be carrying the iconic Captain America shield instead of Walker.

Actor Wyatt Russell walks the line between good, all-American man and corrupted agent, and it’s so intriguing to watch Walker slowly lose his grip on what it means to be a figure like Captain America. However, all of this greatly paced development kind of rushes too fast in the very last episode. There is an attempt to redeem his character that doesn’t quite feel like it was earned. Some quippy one-liners are not enough to get the audience on his side after everything that he has done within the series.

The MCU has always had a boring villain problem. The Flag Smashers, the series’ main villains, are not an exception. Their leader, Karli Morgenthou, is able to elicit sympathy from the audience — all thanks to Erin Kellyman’s wonderful performance — but the other group members of this terrorist organization fall flat.

Sharon Carter also makes her reappearance in the MCU and she is, for the most part, entertaining. She kicks a lot of butt and has a completely new outlook on life that is interesting to see. However, her motivations go unexplained and she is largely underwritten.

“Aside from some great and not-so-great characters, Sam Wilson is really the highlight of this series. His character growth is so well done as he prepares himself to be the next true Captain America and what that means for him, as a black man, to represent the United States.”

In addition to Sharon Carter, Helmut Zemo also comes back, and he honestly steals the show. He is definitely one of the more comedic and entertaining aspects of this show, and you can’t help but wish that he would stick around longer. He became a meme for a reason.

Aside from some great and not-so-great characters, Sam Wilson is really the highlight of this series. His character growth is so well done as he prepares himself to be the next true Captain America and what that means for him, as a black man, to represent the United States. This show does not shy away from difficult conversations, which is great to see from the MCU, since it’s typically all about the spectacle. We see Wilson at his best here and it only makes us love him even more.

There is also a lot of great worldbuilding that will make local MCU fans very excited, and there are some minor characters that make their MCU debuts, too. According to the comic books, they are sure to have bigger and brighter roles in the future. The MCU just got some more great characters with some potentially great stories.

All of that being said, this series could have benefited from another episode or two. It starts off very slow for the first two episodes and then rushes through the finale. There are a few storylines and characters arcs that are simply cut short, rushed through, or just not explained.  The pacing feels a little weird at times, too. Some things just take way too long and at other times the audience wonders how we got to this point so fast. The show tries to pack in a lot of story in just six hour-long episodes.

This show is at its best midway through its run, especially episode five. Overall, the show is well executed, while some things fall a little flat. Marvel does deserve some credit for developing its well-loved characters and handling some very difficult topics.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual. 

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