Back before all this pandemic nonsense threw everything we know and hold hear into utter disarray, there was a very different version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe planned for us. There is an alternate reality in which we have already seen both Black Widow and The Eternals at cinemas and it wasn’t Wandavision that kicked off the MCU’s foray into the world of premium television, but this series.
And it makes me wonder if things really would have been better if they’d remained the other way around. I am almost definitely jumping the gun when saying his but after the incredibly high concept behind Wandavision, especially in those first handful of episodes, Falcon and Winter Solider is underwhelming by comparison.
Even putting the unique premise aside, there’s just something a little less dynamic about our leads when you compare them as well. On paper, the entire concept for the show is great in my opinion. Sam struggling with the loss of Steve Rogers and his battle within himself to accept the loss of his friend and take up the mantle. Bucky’s distain for Sam’s… cowardice, I suppose. Along with the bumps along the road coming from the man being handed the shield without either Sam nor Bucky knowing about it.
The problem is, with no disrespect to either of them, Anthony Mackie nor Sebastian Stan have carried the same charisma into their series as Elizabeth Olsen or Paul Bettany did. Mackie and Stan really feel like side characters being thrust into a leading role, where as the leads of Wandavison both seemed like they were born to lead their own series/movie.
As of the first two episodes, I’m finding it difficult to connect to either Sam or Bucky. I feel like the series has struggled to split its time between their personal problems and their superhero problems. Sam and Bucky are both men riddled with self doubt and these problems are preventing them from both moving on with their lives. Which means the beginning of this story shows both of the leads acting very restrained.
In my mind, this series is very much a continuation of the Captain America movie series, which were undoubtedly the strongest of the movies named for a single character. In no small part due to how attractive I find Captain America as a character, due to his uncompromising character and his utter belief in doing what he believes is right. By comparison, Sam and Bucky are characters weighted down by that legacy and their own pasts.
My main hope is that as the series goes on, they really discover what it was that made Captain America the symbol he was, regardless of any super solider serum or not. Hoping they can both arrive closer to that place themselves.
It makes me wonder if the series really is going to go in that squeaky clean direction though. Already the series has leant into ideas of race and the inherent racism of America. While it hasn’t gone and said it outright, yet, there is subtext to Sam’s refusal to take on the mantle because he believes America won’t accept a black Captain America.
I do hope the series deals with this subject a little more overtly as it goes on though, as the scenes of the police pulling their guns on Sam while he argues with Bucky in the street seemed a little heavy handed to me. While it’s a scene that undoubtedly mirrors events that happen to people the real world, I’m a little worn out by the series dancing around the issue rather than addressing it directly.
Maybe it will get there though, there’s no doubt that the introduction of Wyatt Russell as the government’s newly appointed Captain America is the series pointed effort to make a dime store knockoff of Steve Roger and shove him into the role he has no business trying to embody. There’s just something off-putting about the way he looks, almost like Steve himself, but dirtier somehow. Which I imagine it totally intentional.
And he’ll undoubtedly contribute towards Sam learning what it is to be Captain America. It makes me wonder how much they’re going to lean into the whole race issue, or if they’ll just continue to have it be subtext rather than address is directly. I really hope they have the balls to just deal with the issue and not fear the backlash of the anti-BLM crew.
I feel like, as I’ve written this post, I’ve been trying to talk myself into liking this series more through what it could potentially do. And while saying I dislike the series would be very strong, I don’t have any strong feelings about either as the series sits one third through its entire series. I’m kind of indifferent to it all.
It really makes me wonder if it coming out after Wandavision really has been something of a detriment to is making a name for itself. Wandavision was so big, taking such a big swing at something utterly new and different for the MCU, to fantastic commercial success. Falcon and Winter Soldier by comparison just seems unambitious.
But that’s the problem with comparison. It’s apples to oranges in many ways. Right now, I’m not on the edge of my seat to see the next instalment of this series as I was during Wandavision, but there’s no doubt I’ll still be there as soon as I can. And I will return to talking about this series in the coming weeks, and I’ll happily admit my wrongness if that ends up being the case.