Review: “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” hits each note in its penultimate episodes
Emotions run high as heroes Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes tie up loose ends as new dangers arise.
By Matthew Royer, Staff Writer
Can you mend a broken wing?
In Marvel Studios’ “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” fourth and fifth episodes, heroes Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) seek to end the chaos created by the enemies they have encountered while clashing with those they believed to be on their side.
In the fourth episode of the series titled “The Whole World is Watching,” viewers are immediately thrown into a flashback sequence starring Barnes during his stay in Wakanda. A masterclass of acting is put on display as Barnes struggles to grasp with his past and the super soldier he was once programmed to be.
The episode focuses around Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who is helping the duo search for those abusing the serum that made soldiers such as Barnes and Steve Rogers. The help does not come without its hitches, though, as John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and his partner Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett) join the party quickly.
With the addition of Walker and Hoskins to the plot, the audience can sense danger coming to fruition as the tag-team starts butting heads with the titular heroes.
Within the episode, director Kari Skogland is not afraid to push the traditional boundaries of Marvel television when needed. Subjects such as post-traumatic stress in veterans, racial inequality, socioeconomic inequality and the treatment of refugees around the world are all featured prevalently in the hour.
The episode’s ending challenges pre-existing notions of what American exceptionalism looks like and how the country’s footprint can be left on the world, including imagery that is sure to be seen in textbooks for years to come.
The series’ fifth episode “Truth” starts right where the fourth left the viewer off.
Before the title card can be shown to the viewer, a confrontation sparks between Wilson, Barnes and their adversaries that leads to a brilliant sequence of combat. While the scene is what one would expect in its quality from a Marvel Studios product, the meaning and messaging behind the moment was built up perfectly from the beginning of the series, leaving a massive pay-off for those watching.
With the heroes returning to the United States after their adventures throughout Europe, Wilson and Barnes both have to blend back into their so-called normal lives. What at first feels like a step back from the action, this fifth episode allows for emotional depth to be built not just between the characters but within the plot.
Wilson returns home to the South to receive guidance from previously introduced Korean War veteran Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) and help his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), while Barnes is forced to task with his mission to make amends with those he had wronged in his life. The latter journey is presented beautifully to the viewer with a scene that feels like a culmination of the progress the character has made throughout the series and previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While the characters displayed in the series can be seen as damaged — whether physically, emotionally or both — Skogland’s effort to show their journeys have not gone unnoticed, providing viewers across the world with heroes that can show them they are not alone in fighting their own demons.
With Wilson and Barnes back at home, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) — the eccentric leader of the anarchist group the Flagsmashers — starts to craft her master plan that looks to come to a head in the season’s final episode next week. This leaves a grand finale that is sure to tie-in to future projects coming from Marvel and Disney+.
Once again, the acting is sure to be raved about. Performances week-to-week from Mackie, Stan and Russell among others have been top-notch, while in this episode, Kellyman and Lumbly in supporting roles provide gripping monologues presenting the viewer their characters’ intentions and motivations in dramatic fashion.
With only one episode left to go, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has kept its pace from the start and looks to cap-off with a grand finale next Friday.