“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” soars onto Disney+


Photo Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The Falcon and the Winter Solider is the new featured show on Disney+. The show tackles racism, legacy, and continues the narrative for one of the oldest Avengers – Captain America.

Sam Heyman, Reporter

When people ask me what my favorite Avenger is, I always have one answer – Captain America. Captain America always stands resolute in his beliefs, even when they clash with those of the country which he represents. He left the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the end of Avengers: Endgame, passing his shield down to his close friend, Sam Wilson.

I was incredibly excited to see what Marvel would do with the idea of passing down the mantle of my favorite character to another Avenger. So, when Marvel released its television and film slate for the foreseeable future in 2019, there was one show which stood out to me: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now that the series is completed, it does not disappoint.

Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackey, struggles to move forward after the events of Endgame. He now lives in a world without Captain America or the Avengers, and from the beginning it is clear that he does not have it easy. He has no money to his name, and is only able to get by through his name recognition as an Avenger. His situation is perfectly encapsulated when, despite saving the world multiple times, the bank denies Sam’s request for a loan.

Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan, struggles in different ways. The only relationship he could truly count on was the one he shared with his best friend Steve Rogers. Now, he struggles with depression and PTSD in a world in which he is woefully out of place. His past as the Winter Soldier haunts him in his dreams and his everyday life, where he must make amends with everyone who he hurt while brainwashed in the past. In a bold move for superhero media, the series actively shows scenes of Bucky visiting a therapist. In an age where mental health issues are becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s important to show that even our heroes struggle with mental illness. The show also does not belittle the issue – it is an unwanted facet of Bucky’s life that affects him every day.

The series is also among the first in superhero media to attack the issue of systemic racism within the United States. White individuals regularly fail to recognize Sam, with one even mistaking him for a college football player. At one point, he is even stopped by police – simply for having a verbal argument with Bucky in public. The situation is only defused when one of them actually identifies him as Falcon. Despite being a superhero, Sam still faces the same issues Black Americans face on a daily basis – the first time this issue is actually addressed by Marvel.

Seeing himself as unable to fill the large hole left by Steve Rogers, he rejects the mantle of Captain America. Those in the government support his decision, stating that it was the right thing to do. However, they almost immediately introduce John Walker, played by Wyatt Russell, as the new Captain America. The government rejects the idea of a black man being Captain America and instead grants the title to a white man. Ignoring the wishes of the old Captain America himself, the government creates a figure who represents their idea of the perfect American, a mold which Sam Wilson does not fit, despite being the right man for the job.

At its core, the series is about legacy. Sam gives up the shield because he cannot fathom being able to be as good a man as Steve was. Bucky is scared that he will never be able to atone for the violent acts that he committed while brainwashed, and that everything Steve sacrificed to save him would be for nothing. The introduction of John Walker muddles things even more. John never even met Steve, and seemingly has little in common with him. Whereas Steve consistently served his own moral ideals, John blindly serves the government.

Steve was chosen to be Captain America because was a good man, not a perfect soldier. John was chosen specifically because he was the most accomplished soldier the military had.

Sam must realize that he deserves to be Captain America not because he is a good fighter or because he’s exactly like Steve, but because he is a good man – which is why Steve chose him in the first place.

The series is not without flaws, however. Despite the amazing complexity its heroes have, its villains are incredibly lackluster. They are an enigmatic organization called the “Flag Smashers” with a murky political ideology. Their only true goal we hear about is that they want “a world without borders”. Despite committing violent acts, we later see them delivering vaccines to people who desperately need them. Their goals are muddled, and the audience roots against them purely because they are told that the Flag Smashers are bad.

Because their goals and motives are unclear, they represent nothing – meaning the audience has no emotional connection to their fights with Bucky and Sam. Beyond this, choosing an anti-government entity as a villain is an odd choice for a series which deals with Steve Rogers’ legacy. Both The Winter Soldier and Civil War explicitly showed that Captain America had become disillusioned with the United States government, and served to help the world beyond its jurisdiction. Having the two people who would continue his legacy fight with the government which he rejected seems as though the show is ignoring key parts of what Steve’s legacy truly means.

Despite these flaws, the show has two incredible main characters and a compelling storyline. It tackles issues I have yet to be seen properly addressed in superhero media and has poignant observations about America itself. I highly recommend the show to anyone.