Review: The Falcon & The Winter Soldier episode 5 (sort of)

I’m back on my intermittent review of the Disney+payallandeanfoster superhero series. Just like my coverage of it, this series is very inconsistent. Having said that, I liked this episode even though (no, maybe strike that and say ‘because’) it just went with some basic superhero beats and slowed down.

I’ve been very negative about the series, mainly because it keeps thinking about being something better and fumbling around. I’ve said many times about books, films, and other creative efforts, that I’m really forgiving of heroic failures — stories that try to do something and end up being not that good because they attempted to do something difficult. A lot of the time TF&TWS, sort of does the opposite. For example, we’ve had multiple superhero shows looking at historical US racism but this show keeps touching on it and shying away. This episode made much more of an effort, returning to Isaiah Bradley, the forgotten and horribly mistreated super-soldier who was treated as an experimental subject by the US government.

Yeah but…Bradley’s point about how no Black person should be willing to fight under the Stars & Stripes is stated but not examined. Sam is on the path to be the wielder of Cap’s mighty shield regardless and I get that (and yes, I want him to be the new Captain America) but the whole thing with Isaiah feels unresolved.

The superhero training montage is a cliche but fun and cute and exciting and what the heck, cliches can be fun and I liked it. Sam is very likeable and one thing this episode and the previous one has done well is to make it very believable that Sam is somebody who helps and counsels people (specifically military people coping with their experiences).

This episode sort of forgets the whole Karli-is-threatening-Sam’s-family thing but I’ll forgive that minor inconsistency. Putting Sam in the context of somebody with both a family and a community support network was great. Again, story wise the show is still wandering about a lot but fleshing out Sam as a character was done well here.

So is the show actually trying to do anything ambitious and failing? Maybe sort of and the odd closure aspect of this episode (were the previous four episodes come to a sort of end in this fifth one) points at what maybe the show’s intended ambiguity.

Who is the bad guy?

Not ‘who is a bad person’ but who is antagonist to Sam (and Bucky) as he heroes?

We have a few to choose from:

  • Baron Zemo: who got taken off the board by the Wakandans this episode. He’s Baron Zemo though and the show has spent a lot of effort turning the movie version into somebody closer to the comic book version.
  • The Power Broker: who is just a name currently but has that big behind-everything vibe.
  • Sharon Carter: maybe…at least we don’t know what she’s up to. I’m fairly sure this is a red-herring though. By default, she’s The Power Broker because this is the penultimate episode and we’ve run out of characters?
  • Karli Morgenthau: whose characterisation has been all over the place. This looks more intentional in this episode as the plot aligns her with a definite baddy and then shows us that the GRC is planning a ‘send them home’ plan for immigrants that is straight-up far-right/neo-nazi in character. It’s a “she’s gone too far!” v “oh, she’s got a point” moment.
  • The GRC: “let’s deport the foreigners” hmmm [not an actual quote]. I don’t trust this show enough for me to be 100% sure that they get that this makes the GRC absolutely the baddies, so I’m prepared to be disappointed.
  • Elaine from Seinfeld: I’m being very unfair to Julia Louis-Dreyfus who was disturbingly good as the mysterious Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. It was a brilliant cameo, to the extent that she was sort of unrecognisable not because she looked different but because the character was so different from her more famous roles in Seinfeld and VEEP.
  • John Walker: the poor guy is well into the spiral of villainy now, with his own after-credits scene as he makes his own shield.

The second two Captain America films pitched the character against unclear foes. In The Winter Soldier, it was both Bucky and the secret Hydra-element of SHIELD and in Civil War it was Tony Stark, Thaddeus Ross and Zemo. The films try to put Cap through an arc of him facing an ambiguous fight that moves towards revelations of moral clarity. It’s axiomatic that Cap has an almost infallible moral compass but messy reality and malice clouds the situation.

This series is attempting to do the same. That makes sense if we think of Captain America’s superpower being integrity. To that end, it is sort of getting there. We are learning about Sam Wilson as a person who has a lot of wisdom and moral insight. For drama, you place a superhero against villains and forces that place their superpowers at a disadvantage, either by matching the heroes power or by subverting it (or both, in the case of Superman versus Doomsday). Placing Cap in situations where he is being lied to about what the true circumstances are and where duty conflicts with morality makes for drama.

The problem is that for this to work, the writers also need an infallible moral compass. So we end up with messy nonsense e.g. the Sokovia Accords being fairly sensible or the GRC’s plans being so obviously bad that there really shouldn’t be much of a moral dilemma for Sam. Unlike laser vision or super-strength, moral integrity isn’t a super-power that can be simulated with CGI.

Anyway…I haven’t been bored by this series. It has had entertaining bits. When they let the Sam/Bucky partnership role along, it is entertaining. That was another nice bit of this slower episode.

17 thoughts on “Review: The Falcon & The Winter Soldier episode 5 (sort of)

      1. She also was involved in Hydra, but it’s a bit murky as to whether she was a double agent for Hydra or a triple agent for SHIELD. In the t.v. show, she seems to maybe be not SHIELD and something more problematic which may tie in to up-coming movies.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. From what I understand (and that may be nothing at all) she’s roughly the equivalent of DC’s Amanda Waller. She assembles a team of villains to do some good (or good as she sees it). Reportedly her first appearance was supposed to be in the delayed Black Widow film with speculation being she shows up to offer Florence Pugh’s character a job (possibly in a post credit scene).

        IP control is no longer an issue except for: Spider-Man (and all directly associated heroes and villains), Namor (Universal & Marvel co-own), & Hulk (Universal + Marvel again). Obviously Marvel has some leeway with Hulk as they use him often (they do need Universal if they want to make another solo film). She-Hulk falls under the “associated with Hulk” category, but Disney+ is going ahead with a TV series so that may be another “Universal has rights for solo films only” situation.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I had an epiphany this episode about what I think the writers are going for, and it retroactively made the rest of the show much better (if the 6th episode doesn’t flub it). This is a story about men who are capable of admitting error, and men who are not. (Some women too, but mostly men.) I think this is an important sort of story to tell right now. And, it’s a story that absolutely would not work with Steve Rogers as the lead, since he basically never *made* mistakes (on a moral level).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Makes sense. A lot rests on how they tie this altogether – which is sort of the opposite of WandaVision. That was a fun, wacky ride and the final episode sort of didn’t matter in terms of evaluating the whole thing.

      Like

  2. “Don’t flirt with my sister.”

    Sam is clearly the hero. He encourages people to work together (the whole town fixing the boat), encourages them to examine and work through their toxic mental stuff — which we see Walker never did, and it turned him into a monster. He’s tough but forgiving. And Karli did say she wouldn’t really hurt his family, it was just an excuse to connect with him. Which I believe — while the Flag Smashers are ready and willing to hurt people, they believe in family and especially kids.

    I don’t think Bucky had a nightmare when he was asleep on the couch! He looked pretty out of it till the boys playing with the shield woke him up.

    The expression on Zemo’s face changing from smug to WTF as Bucky *didn’t* shoot him was great. As was his resigned but suave “Ladies…” Obviously they are setting him up for future villainy in the movies (Black Panther 2: Sister of Black Panther?), and I am here for it as Bruhl is so charming even when he’s evil.

    They do seem to be setting up for Walker to be in something in the future with Julia-Louis Dreyfus (who brought the funny as always), but frankly I’d be happy if he got a bad batch of the serum like Isaiah’s friends did and just died messily. On live TV. His obviously isn’t as strong since Bucky and Sam were able to take him down. I wonder if they took his super-suit along with the shield? And the MCU has been going on long enough now we have second-generation actor/villains in it…!

    Looks like Torres gets to be New Falcon since Sam’s becoming Captain America, and I don’t know what Bucky ends up as. Maybe he gets a spiffy White Wolf outfit and the next show/movie is called “Captain America and the White Wolf (Plus The Falcon)”.

    Either Sharon or the Contessa is the Power Broker. Seems more Contessa’s style.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speaking of Sharon – I thinks its an omission that they didnt give any indication that Sam spoke on her behalf. Just mentioning her to Torres would be enough. If she really sets up the french guy to kill Sam, its because he forgot her – again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The hair was TERRIBLE. I guess Hydra/USSR didn’t bother giving him a stylist.

        Stan is one of those people whose good looks depend on angle. And haircut.

        But gosh, when he turned the smile and charm on Sarah, no wonder she had the vapors for a second.

        Since he’s from Romania and Austria, filming in Prague must have seemed pretty comfortable to him.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.