So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then

The final episode of the Disney+ MCU show dropped and it perfectly encapsulated the show: it was sort of all right. Anthony Mackie dialled up the charisma and there was some exciting superhero action, the plot didn’t make a bit of sense and Sebastian Stan was moody and handsome. There was only a small amount of Baron Zemo who was the best and worst thing about the show but there was just enough in this episode to have to put a spoiler warning here. Which, I don’t think I did on the other posts, mainly because nothing felt like it mattered enough to be a spoiler.

So Karli and the Flag Smashers (great band name, crappy revolutionary vanguard name) set out to kidnap the decision makers of the GRC who were about to vote on whether their ethnic cleansing idea might be a good thing. Sam Wilson, Bucky and (apparently) Sharon Carter, step in to stop her. The big reveal being Sam’s brand new Wakanda-powered stars-and-stripes supersuit — Sam is Captain America but with WINGS! It is a great design but feels at odds with the gritty tone of this series but maybe that’s a good thing as the shows tone was never quite right. The wings mean there are a whole bunch of shots of Sam in an angelic pose but also as he fights the baddies and rescues people around New York, the scenes evoke something more like Superman (in a good way).

Sadly Karli dies despite Sam’s efforts. With the supposed politics of the series an utter mess, we get a speech by Sam to the rescued GRC members to explain who was bad and good. I mean…I liked that they had Captain America straight-up tell them that deporting a whole bunch of people is bad and that they shouldn’t do it and that Karli had a point but…I’m not going to try and unpack it. There isn’t a cohesive whole here and the show really struggled with the fact that if Karli was just marginally less bad then she would be good, which (of course) is why they made her be randomly bad with some pointless murders that made zero sense either as tactics, strategy or propaganda for her campaign.

Talking of making little sense… Sharon Carter is the Power Broker by virtue of her being the only character with the time in her schedule.

Bad Captain America on the other hand gets to be US Agent. Dramatically, last episode had him heading to turn full bad guy but they decided not. This doesn’t even feel like a plot twist and neither did the Sharon Carter reveal. I can’t point out exactly why everything feels so arbitrary about this series but I think it was a lack of clarity about the stakes and the issues from the beginning.

The post-blip politics was a good idea and looking back, you can see how they conceived the issue. Half the world spent five years in a global disaster and then the other half popped back as if nothing had happened. The premise of the show was that there was a significant movement of people during those five years, as people tried to locally increase the population density in some places while leaving other places there weren’t quite viable any more. Info dumps have a bad reputation but an explanation early on would have helped.

I can see why they put all the pieces they did into this show but it couldn’t carry them all.

20 thoughts on “So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then

  1. I liked Falcon and Isaiah Thomas end. Buckys was all right. The rest was just there. I guess they want to keep Carter and Agent for a future series (or movie, but they feel more like series characters) but that results in their end just dangling there (and as you said resulted in lower stakes).
    Karli, oh boy, that was such a lost opportunity! To have to wait until the end to understand what the vote was even about was not great. So Karlis actions were meaningless, because you can’t understand her. So the whole “she has a point, but not her methods” didn’t stick.
    I complained about Zemos abrupt introduction and ending already. It turned out that was quite typical for the show (except Sam who got a good fleshed out arc. Question is: Does he has the rank of a Captain?)

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  2. All in all, I thought it was a bit of a mess…. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the problems I have with the world-building – the way the greatest calamity ever to befall the human race becomes “the blip” – but there does seem to be a underlying attitude, there, that we can explore the problems and issues of the “blip” for the people who matter (the ones in the main credits, basically), but for everyone else, well, they can have their lives switched on and off with no particular consequences. As someone whose name is never going to be on the main credits in an MCU production, I feel a bit miffed about that.

    Beyond that… we had a whole bunch of bad guys with unclear agendas, didn’t we? The Flag-Smashers, the Power Broker, Zemo, Captain America 2.0… arguably the GRC (moving populations around at gunpoint is a Bad Thing in my view), possibly the Contessa too. Now, I think this could be a good set-up for a Captain America story, because the character (whether it’s Steve or Sam behind the shield) is at his best when he can be a straight-up hero leading the way through a tangle of morally-grey complexities… but that wasn’t how they played it, because the story was mostly about Sam Wilson learning to accept the role. (Will he come to terms with becoming a living symbol of American patriotism, despite all the social and racial baggage that entails? Considering his nephews were running around calling him “Uncle Sam” all the time, I think he might get used to it.) So most of the plot seemed to be just hanging fire while Sam Wilson worked through his personal dilemmas. Zemo, for example, was a lot of fun to watch, but you could have cut him out of the story entirely without losing anything important.

    I suppose a follow-up series might address some of the loose ends of the plot, but it doesn’t say much for *this* series that there’s so many loose ends to follow up.

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  3. “…last episode had him heading to turn full bad guy but they decided not”

    I guess it depends on what you mean by full bad guy. Walker doesn’t stop trying to kill all the Flag-Smashers, even when there’s a burning van full of hostages needing his help. Then he makes a brief effort to actually do something useful, and then he manages to stand around and keep his mouth shut for a little while. But at the end I think it’s clear that he’s in a pretty bad place— he’s not on a personal quest to kill Sam or anything, but he’s basically agreed to help some weird shady gangster/spy/whatever the hell “Val” is, without knowing or caring what she wants, as long as she’ll pay him and praise him and call him a badass.

    This is not a self-directed guy, he badly needs goals and validation, that’s part of his pathology. So this is what going full villain would look like for him, and I like that they presented it with kind of an upbeat tone, like he and his wife have talked themselves into seeing this as a good opportunity even though it’s obviously super creepy.

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    1. Yes, he’s always looked for external motivation and validation. The *first time* we see him, he’s peeling off the new guy’s name on his old locker so he can look at his own. At his old high school, which… I mean, at his age and with his accomplishments, he’s still so hung up on that?

      Then he *really enjoys* having all those Medals of Honor (and stripes on his sleeve) — even putting them onto his FakeCap shield. And he sure didn’t seem to mind all the adulation at the high school, being on TV, and having his face plastered everywhere.

      And when he started visibly unraveling, his reaction was the classic “Do you know who I am?!” I like that the guy said “Yes, and I don’t care”, although we would have also accepted “Not Steve Rogers” or “Some asshole cosplaying Cap.”

      Then despite beating a guy to death with the shield on live TV/streaming, and getting off without any jail time, he tried to blame it all on his bosses. I mean, “society is to blame” is a lame excuse for both him and Karli being straight-up murderers, but she had much better justification. “I murdered a guy because I was angry” is a lot less justifiable than “Millions of people are about to get ethnically cleansed, after months of suffering in camps”.

      You could practically see him do the math about saving the van of GRC bigwigs vs. killing Karli in revenge for Lemar (and Walker SO did NOT deserve Lamar). He knew there was media watching, and that saving all those powerful people would make him look good again, and he could cash in favors from them. With minimum effort — he basically towed a truck, while Sam was swooping around saving everyone (without any super serum) and Bucky was motorcycling bad guys left and right.

      And at the end, we see don’t-call-me-Val bonding with his wife over dead people while he’s putting on his brand new cosplay outfit, ready to do whatever she asks, free of any accountability.

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    2. Classic toxic masculinity.

      Sam worked with/through his issues, and even Bucky the formerly brainwashed stone cold killer did too.

      Bucky didn’t kill Zemo. Bucky finally told the old guy he was the one who’d killed his son, and presumably dealt similarly with all the other names on his list, which I’m sure was agonizing. And he called Sam “Cap”, which really is the highest praise of all.

      I can’t see Walker suddenly turning up at his friend’s sister’s house to quietly help fix the family boat, then go back for shrimp boil and being a jungle gym for children. Not without making a big deal out of it.

      Walker is the guy who screams “do you know who I am?” and will punch you in the face with his medals and a football so you’ll know.

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  4. I feel like it’s unsuccessful for sort of the opposite reason that WandaVision was unsuccessful. WV started out brilliant and then collapsed in on itself and became Typical MCU Product. Falcon & Winter Soldier started out as Typical MCU Product but wanted to deal with something real, futzed around its issues inconsequentially and tried to patch it all together with a big expositional speech from Sam that laid out their grand thesis for F&WS which was pretty much just the cinematic equivalent of an “In this essay I will” style argument, but all the threads didn’t really pull together into a tapestry.

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  5. I was almost right last week about what the name of the show would change to. 🙂

    Because it did change to Captain America, and he was Paul and Darlene’s Boy.

    It was very good to see Isaiah get his due, and despite the fact that Zemo wasn’t on screen much, that one smirk was enough. I’m sure we’ll see him again soon. He’s probably going after Walker once he escapes, or else send his Killer Butler (who also has a good line in smirk).

    And it was so nice to see Bucky smiling, relaxed, playing with the kids (and probably flirting with all the women).

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  6. I felt like the scene of Bucky finally telling his elderly friend that “oh, by the way, I murdered your son” was dealt with utterly ham-handedly, I really hope there was a lot more conversation afterwards because what we were shown would be the opposite of useful closure. And we were cheated of any reaction besides the grief we already knew about.

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    1. The shot of him smiling at the sushi place and the waitress nodding to Bucky that the guy wasn’t a wreck and had gone on with his life was it. The old guy got his closure and Bucky saw that.

      I’m not sure there is any more conversation to be usefully had after “I murdered your son”, anyway. Pretty sure the old man never wants to set eyes on Bucky again, closure or no.

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      1. I’d have wanted some story besides “I had no choice”. I’d have also been shouting that reply at the top of my lungs. “You had NO CHOICE? WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN, YOU JERK? Most people can choose not to murder.” I mean, the person he’s talking to doesn’t know abut the Winter Soldier as brainwashing.

        I also wouldn’t ever want to see that killer again but I would have a different time processing “Dude who killed my son is walking free and yanked me around for months on purpose for the lolz.” vs “My son’s killer literally was programmed, and has been deprogrammed, so he won’t be doing that again. He wasn’t trying to be a dick to me, he was struggling with learning how to human. Still was a dick, though.”

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      2. The guy was around for the whole deal of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, so even though he didn’t recognize Bucky, he certainly either remembers that or can look it up. It was kind of a big deal.

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