There have been a lot of ups and downs for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” at times surpassing the likes of “WandaVision” both in action, scale, themes and character development, while also falling well short of that show on multiple occasions. Looking back, and I agree that FAWS could have greatly benefitted from at least an additional two episodes, but what we got was still pretty rad.
Episode 6 sees Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who has finally donned the mantle of Captain America with an all-new suit, confront the Flag Smashers led by Karli Mogenthau (Erin Kellyman), who have successfully stopped a vote that would resettle millions of people who returned to Earth via the Blip. With him are Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and later John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the former Captain America who is determined to take revenge on Morgenthau.
First things first, Sam looks great in the new Captain America suit, which closely resembled the comic book suit found in 2015’s “Captain America: Sam Wilson.” And a lot of the action in this episode is great, showing that Sam can do things Steve Rogers couldn’t, making full use of his vibranium shield and Captain America wings, and it’s clear that Marvel has just scratched the tip of the iceberg with what to do with Sam Wilson’s Cap from an action perspective. Sam as a whole is a great character, and Anthony Mackie has done a consistently great job of bringing the character to life, showing that, while his take on the character is very different from the Chris Evans/Steve Rogers version, he is no less worthy of the mantle of Captain America.
I also liked Bucky and Walker’s arcs, as well, though I found Walkers to be a little stronger. As expected, Bucky eventually finishes his book of people he needs to make amends to, allowing him to finally move on with his life to new things. Walker, meanwhile, redeems himself by helping to defeat Morgenthau — there’s a particularly good moment when he chooses to save a truck full of hostages over killing Morgenthau — and while it doesn’t make any sense for Sam and Bucky to accept his help after almost getting killed by Walker in their last interaction, Walker finally accepts who he is. He is no Captain America, but he was never suited for that role. Walker was always an antihero, and as such, he embraces a new title that suits him better: U.S. Agent.
I really like where the finale takes us, but I also acknowledge that it has its flaws. For one, while there are a lot of great action moments, the action as a whole feels like it lacks a strong sense of direction, as the full context of the Flag Smasher’s plans and the overall sense of scale to the fight remains vague, something the Russo brothers-directed Cap films never struggled with.
Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers’ demise also feels incredibly half-baked and vague, which is also a criticism I have of them both in general. Morgenthau and her cause have some valid points about the treatment of people who returned from the Blip, but the show never shows us why she so casually goes to extremes to accomplish her mission, why people follow her, and the nature of her movement beyond surface-level details. She claims that the movement is strong enough to continue without any of them, but we never see why that is. Morgenthau and her movement are a big reason why this show really needed a few extra episodes dedicated to fleshing her out and her cause, especially because several episodes have her juxtaposed right next to Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who is one of the MCU’s best villains.
As a whole, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is a bumpy ride, but it sticks the landing. It’s not flawless, but what is memorable and great about this show far outweighs what is mediocre and forgettable about it, and much of what doesn’t work in this show would have easily been fixed had it adopted the standard Netflix format of 8 hour-long episodes. I get that Disney Plus wanted to try out their own format and all, but time and time again, 8 just seems to be that magic number for streaming shows.
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Season 1: Episode 6 “One World, One People” gets an 8/10