Review: Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Does the second Disney+ series in the MCU justify more than just a movie?


The new Disney+series featuring Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell, premiered on March 19.

As far as the Marvel series go, I didn’t think that Falcon and the Winter Soldier would quite match Wandavision, the first MCU series on Disney+. After nearly an entire year of no MCU content, Wandavision brought an entirely unique premise that could only be done through an episodic series.

 Now, only weeks after Wandavision concluded, Falcon and the Winter Soldier appeared to merely be a standard Marvel affair, striking a similar tone and plot structure as the movies. After a complete viewing of the series, however, this isn’t the case. Not only does the series use its extended runtime to give the characters more in-depth development and interaction with each other, but it also has a surprising amount of political commentary and themes- much of which could easily be missed.

One unique aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, due to how many movies and years have passed, stories can continue to build on each other for years, building a very complex and unique universe. As a result, however, watching or reading about this series on its own is less enjoyable or understandable without some prior knowledge.

Because so many prior events require explanation, this review is written under the assumption that the reader has already seen most of the prior MCU movies, especially the Captain America trilogy and Avengers movies. There are also spoilers for both the series as well as the prior movies, so be warned.

As you may expect from a longer, slightly lower-budget series, the stakes in Falcon and the Winter Soldier aren’t nearly as high as most of the movies. Instead, as a primary antagonist, we get the Flag Smashers, a “terrorist” group that believes the world was better when half of the universe was killed in “The Snap.” 

These Flag Smashers are a force to be reckoned with, yes, but with more humble goals and methods than antagonists prior. They aren’t the only force that Sam and Bucky face off against, however. At the end of the first episode, John Walker is titled by the US government as the new Captain America.

John Walker is a rather unique opposing force throughout the series; while he also fights against the Flag Smashers and attempts to work with Sam and Bucky several times, he’s much more flawed than Steve Rogers before him, and both Sam and Bucky believe him unfit for the title of Captain America. Throughout the series, Walker is shown to have a particularly short temper, which is only exaggerated after injecting himself with the Super Soldier serum.

Marvel live-action content isn’t known for its surprising, unexpected plots, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier does little to change that. Most people could guess from the get-go that Falcon reclaims the shield from Walker and becomes the new Captain America. What makes that journey worthwhile, however, is the character interaction. 

Bucky Barnes, formerly the Winter Soldier, has the most personality he’s had since The First Avenger; he’s got a sense of deadpan sarcasm and pessimism, which conflict perfectly with Sam Wilson’s more earnest optimism. Both actors have plenty of charisma, and after four movies together they bounce off of each other perfectly.

Walker, with his headstrong attitude and short temper, leaves a feeling of tension every time he interacts with Bucky and Sam. Zimo has a sense of calm opposition which gives him a uniquely threatening vibe. The flag smashers, despite what they do throughout the story, are made likable through their overall meek disposition when alone.

There are, however, two very wasted opportunities with characters by the end; Sharon Carter, being so suddenly changed in character and motivation, feels like a strange direction for the character–unless she’s revealed as a Skrull in the upcoming Secret Wars, which would actually be perfect.

The worst of the two, Walker as Captain America was great for most of the series, but his sudden redemption in the final episode feels unearned, to say the least. He’s made so well to be hated, you don’t want him to be redeemed.

Despite its flaws, and the huge wasted potential with John Walker in the finale, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a rather solid show, and worth a watch for any MCU fans out there.