WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Last week, Marvel grabbed a ladder. They were at the bottom of a very deep hole after the first three episodes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but gave themselves leverage to temporarily salvage both its reputation and potential. This week, they dug themselves a few inches deeper.
Let me get this out of the way; there were some brilliant aspects to this episode. The problem was that they were few and far between.
John Walker’s troublesome journey as a replacement to Steve Rogers continued to be excellently explored. Wyatt Russell put in another strong performance as an increasingly unhinged character, beautifully switching between unsuppressed rage and silent contemplation. He has been far more compelling than any of the Flag-Smashers, and with his now apparent villainous turn coming to fruition (see Episode 5’s mid-credits scene) we can be hopeful there will be at least one exciting antagonist come the season finale.
The racial issues raised were important and built on that dimension of the show, so Marvel do deserve credit for that. However, I just can’t escape the feeling that they could have done things better; Isaiah Bradley’s story as a black super-soldier was compelling, but it doesn’t seem to have actually served the plot in any way. He warns titular character Sam Wilson against becoming Captain America (given that Wilson had already stated his unwillingness to take the title) and then, all of a sudden, he goes against that advice and begins training with the shield.
This has been a problem with Falcon and the Winter Soldier right from the get-go; the writing has been all over the place. We jump around, spending a few minutes in one location before hopping to the next without any real plot progression having taken place. It has felt like filler, as though Marvel were unable to find sustainable ways to satisfy their run-times.
On top of that, the number of ex-machinas in place are ridiculous. Characters continued to appear in different locations with absolutely no hint as to how they got there; how does Karli Moregnthau, a fugitive and terrorist wanted by a variety of worldwide governments, suddenly pop up in New York (in Central Park, no less) with the liberty to lounge around, in the open, with no repercussions? Wilson’s sister, Sarah, spent the entirety of Episode One refusing to budge on her decision to sell the family boat, but now does so at the scribble of a pen so Marvel can include some ‘inspirational’ dialogue from Wilson about protecting what is his.
Episode Five, Truth, actually suffers from a new problem; the plot slows down right at the wrong time, forcing us into a dragged out boat-mending expedition. I did moan after earlier episodes that this idea seemed to have been forgotten entirely, so at least it resumed. The issue was that, having reached the penultimate episode of an action series, we didn’t want things to pause. We wanted them to speed up, gathering pace until we were left quivering with anticipation for this week’s finale. I didn’t get that feeling at all.
We spent far too long in this portion of the show. Bucky Barnes’ apparent flirting with Sarah Wison was forced and a poor attempt at the kind of cheap humour that has hindered this show, and the latter’s two children are perhaps the most annoying minor characters to have graced a television screen.
That’s without getting started on the Falcon’s training regime as he begins his apparent transformation into a new Captain America. This looked like a 2021 attempt at a Rocky Balboa montage, and I honestly believe it was among the worst scenes I’ve watched.
We had just spent around five minutes watching Wilson effortlessly throwing the vibranium shield around, catching it with unerring ability. Cue the training and he had apparently lost that ability in a matter of minutes, dropping the shield left, right and centre. By the end, he has once again mastered his capabilities and proceeds to celebrate with multiple front flips and cartwheels (Anthony Mackie’s stunt double getting an oh-so-obvious cameo) to add a cherry of cringe worthiness. Please, Marvel, don’t try this again.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier looks to have left itself too much to do come its season finale. We have to tie up our titular characters’ story arcs, with both having personal issues on top of their professional battles. Although Helmut Zemo’s story arc looks to have been (crushingly underwhelmingly) wrapped up, we still have the Flag-Smashers and John Walker to deal with in terms of villains. That’s before we even get to Bucky’s redemption therapy – and don’t forget about the boat!
These concerns could have been properly fleshed out in Truth, giving Marvel ample time in their finale to wrap things up. Instead, the pacing was slowed right down and we effectively pressed pause. This, in all honesty, felt like a waste of an episode. Everything outwith of John Walker’s character development could probably have been squeezed into earlier installments, freeing up space for further progression.
Instead, the hole remains as deep as ever. The ladder Marvel found last week is no longer long enough to climb out. It will take a miracle this Friday to salvage any credibility Falcon and the Winter Soldier has left.
Feature Image Credit: Mashable India