I didn’t think I’d like this show. At all. The trailers made it look indistinguishable from the rest of the MCU’s normal fare. But, honestly, I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this show. It’s not as creative and risky as WandaVision, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is no less fun. If you told me to imagine a somewhat standard MCU story, I’d probably reply with something that sounded similar to this. To be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve seen other reviewers describe Falcon and the Winter Soldier as reminiscent of the second Captain America film, and they’re right. This show is a character-driven political thriller. Its plot is kind of weak, but the character moments are fairly strong. This is the most character development Sam and Bucky have ever seen, and fans of them should be pretty pleased by how the characters are handled—Bucky in therapy was something I didn’t know I needed to see until I saw it. The way the show explores Bucky and Sam—their backstories, their trauma, and who they want to be—is a pretty compelling reason to watch the show, and the show mostly gets their characterizations right (though it stumbles a bit in the third episode).
But the show isn’t perfect. It’s paced reasonably well, unfolding like a well-executed mystery. But sometimes Sam and Bucky do/learn things a little too easily. This is especially noticeable in the third episode, where they’re able to break [spoiler] out of prison, travel to another country, meet several different people, easily obtain necessary information before “narrowly” escaping with their lives, and then moving on to the next location. As a collection of action film tropes, they’re still fun to watch—though none of them are executed as well as they are in the films being riffed on. But as a compelling narrative, it’s a little lacking. The same is true for the show’s villains, the Flag Smashers. They seem like fairly standard MCU-style anarchists. They have a good point, but you just know the show isn’t gonna properly explore the nuance in those characters. They’re going to get painted as purely bad for being anarchists, and it’s getting very boring. Sure, there’s a chance the show doesn’t do that, but given how inconsistently we’re focusing on the villains, I can’t help fearing that’s what will happen. Still, it’s fun enough for the time being and I’m enjoying it. We’ll see where it goes.
Episode 1: 4.5 out of 5 wands
Episode 2: 4 out of 5 wands
Episode 3: 3.5 out of 5 wands