Marvel’s latest leap into the world of streaming brings Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky to the small screen in an action-packed, six-episode adventure across the globe. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, the series gives us a look into how the lives of these two have changed since the “disappearance” of Captain America.
The best thing that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has going for it is that it plays out like a Marvel film, just over the course of almost six hours, giving more time for deep character exploration amongst the action. This extra time is used wonderfully to delve deep into the mids of these two and give us more of their personal lives that we’d have never seen before. The series sheds more light on Falcon’s family life and his day-to-day struggles, as well as Bucky’s efforts to finally put his time as the Winter Soldier firmly in the past. The fact that we get more time to see and explore these characters creates more investment in the overall story and makes this a more compelling series.
Over the course of the six episodes, a lot happens. It really is a global adventure as we see our titular heroes get sent across the globe in an effort to stop a new terrorist threat. There are a couple of villains, some unlikely allies, and it all keeps you on your toes. The action set-pieces are great and spread apart to where there’s never too much and not too little. Overall, the narrative is quite thrilling and keeps you engaged in this story for almost the entire time. Some episodes run a little slower than the rest – for instance, the penultimate episode is an odd tonal shift that slows things down when it feels like things should be ramping up. But, despite some pacing issues and slower sections through the middle of the season, the highs of the series are so high that the lows almost don’t matter that much.
Some of the season is quite predictable and goes how you’d expect, but there are a number of surprises weaved in that propel the story in some unexpected directions. Overall, the dynamic between the main characters makes this feel like a fresh and exciting adventure through the highs and lows.
Speaking of the highs of the season – the presence of Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo is what makes this show go from good to great in so many moments. Sure, Falcon and Bucky may be in the title, but this is the Baron Zemo show for sure. Daniel Brühl’s performance as Zemo is so charismatic that you can’t take your eyes off him. He brings this charm that elevates every single scene he’s in – making him one of the best elements of the series. Of course, the lead performances are as great as you’d expect. Anthony Mackie gets so much more time to shine here than he has in any of the previous Marvel movies. His character has a much more emotional arc and Mackie brings his all in conveying that emotion. There’s a certain speech he has at one point in the season that’s sure to become an instant highlight in the history of the MCU. Sebastian Stan also gets more time to shine and send his character into the next phase of the lengthy journey.
When it comes to the villains, that’s where the series has a slight issue – and surprisingly not an issue that is borrowed from a number of the Marvel movies. It’s not that this series has a bad villain, it’s just that it focuses on the wrong villain. Our titular heroes come up against the Flag Smashers and John Walker in their adventures. The Flag Smashers aren’t that compelling to begin with and they don’t grow over the course of the series, whereas Walker does have some significant growth and is the more interesting of the two. However it feels like Walker is sidelined and the majority of the focus is on the Flag Smashers. I believe all the villains have an important role in the story, it’s just that the Flag Smashers should have played second fiddle to Walker, not the other way around.
Nevertheless, the series ends on a high with a finale that closes out the majority of the arcs of the season in a satisfying way. There’s a character decision or two that comes a little too sudden, but overall it’s a thrilling end to another great series.
In the end, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is another successful series from the MCU on Disney Plus. The narrative is engaging and we get a tonne of time spent fleshing out the titular characters – so we learn more about what they’re dealing with in their personal lives. It creates an emotional attachment that wasn’t there before, elevating the story across every moment. The action is high octane and fast-paced – the same quality as what you’d expect from an MCU film. There are some low-points through the season and some odd character choices, but the highs are so great that it ends up being a thoroughly entertaining run the whole way through. Get out there and binge the latest entry in the MCU.