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And The Valley Screens: The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

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The MCU is back and a little more conventional this time

Disney

Welcome to our latest installment of And The Valley Screens! We will be writing reviews/breakdowns/general thoughts on any media that uses a screen. This review will contain mild spoilers. If you’ve seen the memes on Twitter than nothing major.

For as much criticism the MCU gets for “playing things safe,” they took an awfully big gamble at the end of Avengers: Endgame when they wrote out their two most popular characters. The loss of Tony Stark made sense. His story had been told and it was time to move on.

The same was largely true for Steve Rogers, but his absence leads to many more questions. At the end of the film he gives his iconic shield to Sam Wilson, the man Steve feels is worthy of being the next Captain America. Audiences figured we would next see Sam flying into battle with the shield in tow.

Not quite, and that’s why this show works.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is about Sam Wilson learning to become Captain America. The episodes are about stopping a grassroots terrorist organization, overwrought bureaucracy, institutional racism, dealing with PTSD and recovering from a supernatural global catastrophe. But these are all ingredients in a Sam Wilson Becoming Captain America gumbo.

Lucky for us, that is what the show does best. Unclear motivations and clunky explanations plague the good guy vs bad guy subplot. If this were a Mission: Impossible or Bourne movie it would be near the bottom of the barrel. But unlike those franchise, this show focuses more on character growth and universe building and it’s easy to be far more invested in those aspects.

Two supporting characters steal the show. The first is John Walker, one of the most hated characters in MCU history, exactly by design. Wyatt Russell gives a tremendous performance as the perfect soldier crumbling under expectations. This character is absolutely critical to the story in ways audiences may not immediately recognize.

As previously stated, the focal point of the story is Sam Wilson becoming Captain America. The problem is Steve Rogers is the only Captain America we’ve come to know. How do you prove Sam is worthy of the title? By contrasting him with someone who is not worthy. And it would’ve been so easy to make Walker an arrogant douchebag that doesn’t know what it’s like to lose or be in a struggle, but by showing us he is a seemingly good guy just trying to do the right thing, it drives home just how special Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are. Again, Russell’s delicate balance is terrific.

The other character who steals the show is Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo. Brühl gave an excellent performance in his only previous MCU appearance, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. He is easily in the top half of MCU villains despite no superpowers and not a ton of screen time in that movie.

Then he returns and just chews scenery here. Movies and shows these days are often measured in memes and Zemo is the Meme King of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Ever since Taika Waititi reshaped Thor, Marvel has done a terrific job making amends (if you’ve seen the show you get this reference) to actors who deserved bigger spotlights in past projects. Kat Dennings and Randall Park were some of the brightest spots in WandaVision, Brühl was dynamite here, and we will presumably see a whole new side of Natalie Portman in the next Thor movie.

Despite being the other title character, I still have not mentioned Bucky Barnes, who has had one of the most interesting character arcs among MCU side characters. He’s definitely still second fiddle in this show, but Sebastian Stan gets to flex his acting muscles in a way the Cap or Avengers movies couldn’t allow previously. His character has enough to do and an interesting enough story to be worthy of being a second title character.

Erin Kellyman’s performance as the main antagonist is as moving as it could be despite a confusingly written plot. It’s pretty clear the shooting was affected by COVID and there are rumors a bioweapon subplot was cut, which makes sense. Like I said earlier, it’s easy to not be overly invested in this storyline anyway.

As for the last thing I enjoyed about the show, the MCU went back to Louisiana again. LSU gets name-dropped casually, we get a boat-fixing montage set to Hey Pocky A-Way, and Sam Wilson himself reps LSU later on.

So yeah, this show is absolutely relevant to this site.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is standard MCU. Engaging characters, exciting action and plenty of meme templates. It might not have WandaVision’s mystery or Endgame’s spectacle, but it’s the MCU. There’s no reason to not watch anything they put out at this point.