The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 6 (Disney+)
Written by Malcolm Spellman & Josef Sawyer
Directed by Kari Skogland
So the second MCU mini-series on Disney+ has come to an end, and I was severely underwhelmed by this one. If you have been following my reviews here, you already know I have had significant problems with the show on character & thematic level. All of my dislikes sort of came together in this disappointing final episode which goes back to well-tread moral territory that Marvel has trafficked in since they became filmmakers. There is the illusion that progress is being made, but any rudimentary look at what actually happens in this episode affirms that nothing has really changed.
Sam Wilson is now Captain America, and he swoops into action to stop the Flag Smashers’ latest attempt to stop those in power. Bucky is there to assist while Sharon Carter pops up as well, and the whole affair is very action-oriented. Karli Morgenthau and her people operate in disguise as security forces and kidnap a host of world leaders, and the heroes chase them around New York City. John Walker shows up with his DIY shield and suddenly acts like a good guy, assisting Bucky. The whole episode ends with Sam Wilson giving a cringey speech that is so on the nose it makes Marvel’s previous theme sledgehammering come across as quaint. All of this setting up the fourth Captain America movie, coming to a theater near you if we don’t collapse under the pandemic.
I follow many Black leftists & socialists on Twitter, and it’s been interesting reading their reactions to the show. Almost all of them aren’t buying the show’s very half-hearted and muddled message. Instead, they have been quick to point out the common trope in Marvel movies where anyone who wants to change the status quo is portrayed as a murderous lunatic. We saw it in Black Panther with Killmonger, Thanos in Infinity War, and now the Flag Smashers in this series.
The villains in each of those stories have identified a significant problem that creates inequality, but the writers ultimately have to make them murderous so the audience won’t sympathize with them by the end of the movie. The heroes in these stories don’t really do anything to fix the actual problem. In Black Panther, T’Challa essentially builds a charter school in the U.S., the issue of resources is never resolved in the Infinity War/Endgame movies, and there’s literally no oversight if the leaders in Falcon are going through with anything other than a news report at the end.
Marvel heroes are defenders of the status quo and institutions. They refuse to effect change for the better. Steve Rogers is about the only character to come close to that. Marvel tells us heroes are tech billionaires and soldiers. They might throw in some secondary attribute like Sam Wilson having a background in counseling, but that skill certainly doesn’t come into play as often as the punchy-punchy stuff. His speech in this episode made me roll my eyes, and I agreed with a tweet I saw asking if Aaron Sorkin wrote it. It’s such ham-fisted junk that assumes these people in leadership positions are unaware of the deeper problems. I assure you, in reality, those with power know precisely what harm they cause; they simply don’t care because they are at the top of the heap and want to stay there.
By becoming Captain America, Sam basically ignores everything Isaiah Bradley told him. It also shows what a waste of time the series was because there literally was a conversation about Sam’s worth in the conclusion of Endgame where Steve assures him he wants Sam to be the next Captain. Then we spend six episodes only to have Sam end up exactly where he was at the end of that film. Shift over to Bucky, and you don’t really have much of a satisfying character arc either. He basically ends up where he started in episode one, and I’m not sure how anything that happened during the series led him to make amends with that last person on his list. John Walker didn’t even have an arc; he was introduced, went crazy, then decided to be a good guy, and is now working for Madame Hydra as USAgent? I just don’t understand what the point of that character was at all.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier is visually ugly; those fight scenes are just unwatchable and thematically so muddled I’m not sure what the point of the whole damn thing was. I was happy just to see the thing finally end, and I am certainly not interested in Captain America 4, though I will probably watch it so I can tell you why it’s terrible. It’s a series that suffered from too many characters and would have done much better to pare down the cast and give them space to breathe. Ultimately, it is just another piece of pro-status quo propaganda telling the audience really heroes protect the institutions of power that already exist at the cost of vulnerable people.