Playing a small string in the MCU’s orchestra, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier sets more chess pieces in place for phase four. Hitting us in the feels in just the right way, a show with a name like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier strikes a significant melancholy compiled with action to raise some eyebrows. Opening in a short moment that almost felt like a Terrance Malick film, a degree of responsibility weighs on our hero Sam Wilson, also known as Falcon (Anthony Mackie). We soon have an elongated Michael Bay(Esque) chase sequence, then back to the story. I’m never one to compare Marvel to DC since it’s click bate, but having watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League back to back with this, the differences in world-building are inescapable. Marvel movies don’t require anything more than a glance at a familiar character to draw a well-informed audience in; we simply know them, a bit like being acquainted with a well-established comic book character.
Being one of the most considerable money-making blockbusters grants Disney quite a bit of leeway as storytellers. TFATWS feels like a little direct sequel to Endgame, even more so than Wandavision since we’re not dealing in any alternate realities. The events after Endgame hits a bit close to home during a pandemic. How folks have adjusted after “the blip” is rocky, even for some of our central characters. When it comes to the show’s central characters, it’s Bucky, also known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who’s far more interesting than Sam.
Ordinary people are boring, where disturbed people are fascinating to watch. Sam’s life is the culmination of a commoner’s issues except for being an Avenger. Meanwhile, Bucky is still not entirely a changed man continuing to make the audience tense whenever he’s present. Two minutes with Bucky provides me a far more evocative, engrossing tale than five minutes with Sam.
With all my knowledge of the MCU, knowing full well who Sam Wilson is, his journey to becoming the next Captain America is well exercised in structural/emotional execution. How the world affects him post Thanos’ snap as an everyday guy is believable. You can help others but don’t expect to be helped back—a harsh lesson to learn. Once that point is made, please move on with the story. Sam’s struggles feels like filler in Disney’s glass when the writers get stuck.
Thankfully that glass is half full with enough fantastic writing that Marvel implements in its heroes. More so, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a proper televised direct sequel to Endgame. Some people might think that luck drops in Disney’s favor when in reality, it’s their genius creative team working in unison with corporate that’ responsible for their success. Still, the release of Endgame culminated with its plot, and finality almost feels like the cogs of fate turned their gears towards the fortunate. When the Avengers storyline came to a close, where does Disney go after reaching the highest mountain on its top peak? Now living without theaters, Disney can do what they’ve always done best; take it slow.
Heading to television is perfect timing for the MCU. Disney knows that streaming is the future; cineplexes will change, so let’s get folks on board through the tv. One year later, Wandavision is a hit, now The Falcon and The Winter Soldier comes along right after that, Loki. Then bring in the Star Wars shows. Let these televised programs establish newer heroes so we can invest in the next phase of Avengers films. Small groups of comic book fans cared about Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, but most people had no clue who they were. Once the movies for each hero trickled out, Iron Man is as popular as Spider-Man amongst the masses. As an aging man, I can say it sure wasn’t like that in the 90s. Maybe Iron Man would appear in the Spider-Man cartoon I saw on Fox Kids, but that’s as far as his exposure went.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the traditional door into Phase 4. It’s a show where unfamiliar people can hone in on the referenced material by browsing through Disney Plus’s catalog. The plot itself is simple enough to pick up on what’s going on without knowing anything. In short, CATWS is about two men struggling to discover who they are. That’s a beautiful subtext for a series that could easily be action-packed fun for kids with nothing more to add between the explosions. The formula remains the same; the color grading is flat but welcoming, conclusions are often solved with enormous flying fights, and a MacGuffin is hardly treated as such. These shows’ structure may be tiring if not handled correctly where the predictability factor could tip in the audience’s favor if not careful. But my faith in Kevin Feige is strong enough to feel comfortable that audiences will have some surprises ahead of them, invigorating us for the next Marvel long game.