After the distinctly creative focused approach taken by Wandavision, this author assumed that the next up to bat season within the new brand of MCU TV shows would be more convenient to the franchise formula This is not necessarily a bad thing. Marvel has done a solid job proving that itself over the last 13 years. How does the season turn out?
If Wandavision was more about the journey than the destination its immediate follow up is a case example of the opposite. Falcon and The Winter Soldier is far from awful. That said given the budget and talent on display the path taken to get to some strong final beats is a lot rockier than it should be. Mackie and Stan remain very good in the title roles. Their banter and chemistry do a lot to cover up often overstuffed and clunky writing. Certain action beats are excellent. This is especially true of a particularly bombastic opening sequence. This was obviously intended as some variety of mission statement for these limited seasons. Other moments are very choppily edited and rather poor. That said as an overall package the season is littered with missed opportunities.
Something that quickly becomes obvious is how scatter-brained the narrative feels both from a tonal and plot perspective. Given how these characters have been utilised in previous MCU movies it would not be unfair to go into this expecting a modern espionage show with a certain level of buddy cop antics. The six episodes do deliver some of this. The creative team are also concerned with one of the seasons other villains. An exceedingly dull group of radicals stealing super-soldier serum. This franchise has developed a reputation for utilising a roster of unbelievably forgettable villains. This is right at the bottom of the barrel.
There are also missteps in implementing returning nemesis Baron Zemo. Daniel Bruhl is a great actor. If this show were to utilise him as an effective villain there are all sorts of interesting possibilities. In an unbelievably misjudged decision, he is essentially employed as the comic relief throughout the episodes he is in. Marvel is known for having a certain brand of humour that is very subjective. This can work especially with characters like Star-Lord or the way Thor was rebranded with Ragnarock. Much as Bruhl seems committed to delivering his material in this style. That said taking one of your better villain characters and reducing him to interchangeable comic relief Feels like the tonal equivalent of missing a virtually unmissable goal.
Then there’s Wyatt Russell and his performance as villainous government sanction Captain America John Walker. Russell delivers a very solid performance in the part. That said in 2020 in Amazon’s TV adaptation of The Boys is (deservedly) A breakout smash hit. It’s hard not to look at Russell’s material and see nothing more than a PG-13 friendly version of a Homelander arc. Comparing anyone against Anthony Stars towering and terrifying performance in the show is always going to make whatever is being compared come off worse. All of this contributes to an overall mixed affair. In an age where is the Marvel machine has conditioned fans (pandemic notwithstanding ) for so many new entries a year. It’s very much a case of “Onto the next thing.”
After the fiercely creative-minded Wandavision Falcon and Winter Soldier is a bit of a mess by comparison. There are things to recommend. The chemistry between the two leads is on point. The final story beats in the finale are played pretty much perfectly. They set up an interesting status quo shift in the passing of the shield from Chris Evans to Anthony Mackie. Within the very mixed bag of action sequences, some of them do work. That said the mixed fortunes are a good metaphor for the season as a whole. There are examples of jarring tonal whiplash throughout and the show not knowing what it wants to be. Daniel Bruhl feels aggressively underutilised in the retooling of his role. The Flagsmashes are some of the most underdeveloped and bland villains in Marvel history, That said the good moments are effective enough to paper over some of these cracks. Ultimately Anthony Mackie taking the mantle of Captain America is a good move for a very charismatic actor going forward. It’s worth looking forward to whatever Mackie and Stan do next within the Marvel machine. This showcase piece for them wasn’t everything it should have been.