WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
After the abomination that was last week’s episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, this was a nice return to mediocrity. Things weren’t as outrightly bad, not quite as cringeworthy, and yet in isolation this was another poor showing. We are now halfway through this series, and we still don’t have a clear idea of where Marvel are trying to take things.
This is a six-episode limited series. We are now three episodes into those scheduled six. To put it plainly, the plot simply doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Power Broker took a few ideas introduced by its predecessors, failed to propel them forwards and introduced very little itself.
We still (!) don’t really know who our main villains are. We still don’t really know what our main characters, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, are actually trying to achieve aside from aimlessly chasing around some antagonists they know very little about. The lack of a coherent plot has been worrying from the very start of this show.
I discussed this in more depth last week, but these worries are clear to see; once again, some plot points continue to be blatantly ignored. Sam’s sister and her boat issues, which played such a prominent role in he pilot? Near enough forgotten. Bucky’s therapy and plan of visiting his ex-victims? Thrown into a dusty attic.
Naturally, this comes from continually lazy writing. Last week, this could be seen when Bucky and Sam were reunited at the blink of an eye after a full episode apart and no link established. This time around, it reared its ugly head in the form of Helmut Xemo’s escape from prison.
The Captain America: Civil War villain was introduced again at the end of Episode Two, with Wilson and Barnes mutually agreeing to track him down. This brought a degree of anticipation; where was he? What had he been doing since the events of that film? What would he be like to interact with?
As it turns out, he was sprung from jail within three minutes of being on screen (with completely unrealistic ease) and reduced to a mainly comedic role in this episode. Daniel Bruhl’s strong performance in his debuting of the character was derived from his menacing acting; the scenes in which he was allowed to imitate this were his strongest. When forced to take part in ‘funny’ sections of dialogue, the aura of his character was diminished.
Then came Xemo’s comic book moment – his famous mask was introduced and finally donned. The power of the moment, however, was non-existent; we didn’t know what the mask was, what it represented or what it meant to Xemo. He put it on for around thirty seconds, took care of a few faceless bad guys and took it off again. What was the point?
Then came something we’re not really accustomed to seeing from Marvel; some indifferent expositional dialogue. Normally, we are informed of background information or given a new plot avenue in clever ways, interwoven into the script in logical fashion. On Friday, what we witnessed strode a long way from those methods.
The scene in question involves Sam, Bucky and Xemo travelling to a previously unknown city to find out more about who is behind the recreation of the ‘super soldier’ serum. Rather than find out more in a natural way, they do the following; arrange a meeting with a new character, trick her into giving them information and then kill her, before embarking on a daring escape.
This felt like (and this is meant in the most critical fashion possible) something from the new Star Wars trilogy. It was something completely out of place, force feeding us key clues and introducing another character out of the blue (again) in the form of Sharon Carter – who just happens to be taking refuge in this particular city.
A lot of people enjoy Disney’s new Star Wars films. For the most part, I’m not one of them – and writing like this is a key reason why. It’s lazy, it’s avoidable and it makes a screenplay a whole lot worse. Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now suffering from the same symptoms.
I mentioned last week that this show was still to solidify a reason for viewers to actually dislike the villains. The ‘Flag-Smashers’, three episodes in, have yet to do anything that really establishes them as dislikeable. The worst thing this week, however, was that Marvel tried to achieve this.
The scene where the leader of the group, Karli Morgenthau, plants explosives and blows up a building containing hostages is supposed to shock us. It’s supposed to make us finally realise that she is ‘evil’. Instead, it’s a pretty laughable scene that does nothing to provoke us. We are still left feeling sympathetic for the group – especially after we just witnessed her discussing her earlier ambitions of becoming a teacher. We still have no reason to dislike our primary villain. On top of that, we still don’t know what her ultimate aim is.
There were some positives. The way the show explored Sharon Carter was interesting; a non-superpowered individual who was a great servant to our heroes in prior films, but had since been mostly forgotten by both them and us viewers. This look inside these lesser character’s lives (which was kicked off by Wilson’s less-than-rosy ordeals in Episode One) is intriguing and should be continued.
Again, I feel like I’m being overly harsh when reviewing this show. However, I’d like to think I’m being reasonably unbiased; as mentioned, we are now halfway through this series and have no clue where it’s going.
There are only three episodes left for these problems to be solved, and that’s not a lot of time. This show still has plenty of boxes to tick; we need to establish a clear villain (along with their motif); give our two main characters distinct arcs, rather than have them embark on continual wild goose chases; improve the ways in which the story is developed, moving away from ex-machinas to progress the plot; and make sure the audience knows what is important.
Is Sam’s sister important? Is Bucky’s list? What of John Walker, the new Captain America? These are all ideas which were introduced before taking a back seat rather quickly. It’s getting a bit confusing, with Marvel seemingly trying to put too many irons in the fire with this show.
With half of Falcon and the Winter Soldier still to come, there is still room for improvement. That room is shrinking more and more with every passing week.
Featured image credit: IGN