I ended up talking about this series in chunks of two, so I naturally feel like I should give some thoughts on the series now that the 5th and 6th episode have aired and the series has concluded. Right at the top, I’ll say the series did eventually win me over. I felt like Sam and Bucky were a little weak as leads, but now I feel a little stronger about them. Well, Sam at least anyway.
Having seen this series in its entirety now, much more so than WandaVision, it does feel more like an extended movie. Whereas WandaVision leant into the television format hard, even using it as core part of its premise, Falcon and Winter Solider is much more cinematic in its approach. You can see why this was originally intended as the first of the series to air.
It’s much more of a transitional series in terms of its style. It feels more like a movie than a T.V. series. Not that they needed to ease fans into serialised versions of these stories, being that they’re based on comic books. But I can see the logic.
So, I’m wondering where to start. And I suppose there’s no better place to start than the main character himself; Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, aka Captain America. After watching the first chunk of episodes of this series I found myself wondering how directly it would address the whole “black man as Captain America” thing. Something that is about a hot a button topic as there is going in America right now.
The series couldn’t have been any more appropriately timed than with the airing coinciding with the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin the other week.
As it turns out, the final couple of episodes of the series lean into the issue hard. Which I’m sure a lot of the viewing audience appreciated. So here’s the thing. I’m really no expert on the whole race issue. I’m a white British dude who mostly grew up in rural(ish) areas. Most of my feelings and personal conclusions have been drawn from listening to people more educated and experienced with the issues than I could ever be. Rather than experiencing it first hand.
So I don’t want to spend too much time talking about something I probably don’t have the knowledge or experience to comment on. I’ll just say I appreciated the stance the series took and hope the MCU continues to draw lines in the sand when it comes to inclusivity, showing people things like black lives do matter.
What I did end the series thinking was that Sam Wilson could be a greater Captain America than even Steve Rogers was. Or at least he could be a much more relevant Captain America for the modern era than Steve could ever hope to be.
I love Steve Rogers, don’t get me wrong. But he was a very different kind of hero than Sam is trying to be. Steve was a hero irrelevent of the world around him. He was a quietly great man, sure he was the public golden boy, showing up to do high school PSAs, but we the audience also knew he would always fight for the moral right thing to do, and it didn’t matter who he was fighting.
Sam, on the other hand, is painfully aware of the world and time he exists in. He doesn’t have the luxury of keeping his head down and fighting the good fight, with the world climate (and specifically the American political climate) he is in a battle constantly justify himself. Because that shield, along with the title of Captain America is a representation of the American desire to maintain the status quo.
Which makes me feel like this entire series was one big dig and the real American government’s attitude towards keeping things the same as they were back when World War II ended. Their unwillingness to change with the times and turn a blind eye to anything outside of their direct interests.
It’s exemplified in how they appointed John Walker as their new Captain America. After Sam handed over the shield to them, they didn’t retire it and allow it to sit in a museum as a literal symbol of what Captain America was. No, they needed a replacement for Steve ASAP. They needed another blonde haired, blue eyed little mascot to keep things ticking over just as they were before.
And as a representation of America, it didn’t take long for Walker to lose control of the situation and start throwing his weight around, bludgeoning his opposition to death and feeling like he could get away with it because he’s covered in the stars and stripes. Am I still talking in metaphor here?
But we can’t paint with a broad brush in the real world. There are a lot of people out there trying to stand against this desire for status quo, and Sam is the face of that movement. Steve was a boomer hero for a boomer generation, he seemed unaware of the social injustices that were happening all around him. Not because he didn’t care, but he just couldn’t comprehend them, he was literally from a different time.
Sam is just about as aware of these issues as any man can be. Outside of obviously being black, he’s a people person. We see that from the moment we first meet him in Winter Solider. He always has time to talk to people and to listen to them. He genuinely wants to help people on their level. Unlike Steve Rogers, I genuinely get the impression that fighting is a last resort for Sam.
Which is why I really appreciate his monologue at the end of the series to the senators and representatives whose lives he just saved. Announcing himself as the new Captain America in about as perfect a way as he possibly could makes it next to impossible for anyone to deny him his platform and allowing him to say what he needed to say. And what he had to say was something that needed to be said. Not just within the context of the MCU, but in the real world too.
I think Sam Wilson could be greater Captain America than Steve Roger was because he truly feels like the hero for the little guy. He recognises and empathises with the other side’s point of view every single time and gives his world he’ll do something to help them. Even following through with all of the promises he made by the time the series was over.
Time will only tell if the real world movie executives and audiences will accept a black Captain America and allow Anthony Mackie to continue growing this character and continuing his story in the same way Chris Evans and Steve Rogers were allowed to do so before him.
It’s layered man.
As an addendum, I want to give a shout out to Wyatt Russell as John Walker. I loved him throughout this series as an eminently more punchable version of Steve Rogers. The series did a great job of representing a good man buckling under the pressure of being expected to be a great man. I related to Walker, as a person thrown into the deep end and finding himself in over his head.
I like seeing him show up to help at the end and get some small amount of redemption in becoming U.S. Agent by the end. He’s the working man’s hero, and I’m glad they didn’t lean into him being unstable or anything after the death of Lamar. Dude didn’t deserve that.
Also, Sharon Carter future MCU villain?