Despite The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's admirable message, the finale was superheroes-by-numbers
Wyatt Russell as John Walker - Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel
The wonderfully shaky WandaVision has proven that the Marvel Universe has more to offer than overwhelming lunks made of shrink-wrapped spandex. But after that series' flight in a mind-boggling whimsy, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the second of Marvel's Disney + shows, was a somewhat daunting reminder that Marvel is still essentially about overpowering lunks in shrink-wrapped spandex.
That remained the case in a finale that featured some insightful comments on racism in America, but ultimately let itself down due to a charismatic lack of The Avengers.
The big reveal in the last of six episodes was Sam Wilson's new Captain America suit (there's no word on a second season, but as the top-rated Disney + debut to date, more help is certainly inevitable).
The Falcon and Winter Soldier's emotional core has focused on Sam (Anthony Mackie's) struggles to balance his experience as a Black person in the United States with his calling as Captain America. After a long search, he had finally made peace with becoming a symbol of truth, justice, and the American way (a "way" that apparently contained centuries of institutionalized prejudice).
But if the superhero, formerly known as the Falcon, had a shiny new outfit - think the old Captain America costume with Icarus wings - his first foray into the Clobber was more dumb than fatal.
Adepero Oduye, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan - Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel
He took on the Flag Smashers. This was an anarcho-syndicalist community that seemed happier to hold an illegal rave or debate the merits of collectivization in the fraternity building than to be the main antagonist in a Captain America spin-off.
And there was a surprise when he was joined by the other Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn and former goalkeeper for the Groningen Grizzlies ice hockey team). Walker's "Cap" is a kind of European Super League of superheroes in that nobody wanted him and his big vision fell apart as soon as he stepped on the picture.
He had also broken up during a tricky European tie and earned an instant point deduction and relegation after losing his cool a few weeks ago and beheading one of the flag smashers in Latvia. His short-lived career as a superhero seemed to be over.
But now he was back to help Sam and "Winter Soldier" Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in their extension with the Flag Smashers in New York. Unfortunately, Marvel was the big problem on the autopilot when Sam whizzed through the air, Bucky and Fake Captain America letting their fists do the talking.
Amid the angry fists, there was a medium-sized shock when it was revealed that the infamous power broker who pulled the strings behind the scenes was Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), a former ally of our heroes. John Walker has now been upgraded to the new character of "US Agent" with the support of the Machiavellian Madame Hydra (played by Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter - Marvel
Hearts were worn all over the sleeves. "The only power I have is that I think we can do better," Sam said after beating the Flag Smashers - a line that stood out amid the quick-witted self-esteem that has long been an MCU -Signature is.
Sam's address was related to Captain America's troubled coat. Marvel and Disney, of course, should be commended for re-using their multi-billion dollar franchise to talk about the stain of racism and its corrosive effect on American self-esteem. And this was most movingly concretized with the back story of Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly). Here, a black man was treated with the same super soldier serum as the original Captain America, only to be struck from history (and jailed).
It was written out of superhero lore, but this historical injustice was corrected by Sam in the end. The new captain had memorialized Bradley and his achievements in the Superhero Museum in Washington DC. It was a moment with a lump in my throat. The final asked for more of the same.
The news was admirable, but it was a shame the last episode was about superheroes by numbers. It may have been worthy, but in the end the hawk and winter soldier were also more than a little boring.
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