Falcon and the Winter Soldier Review: The Legacy of Steve Rogers


Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame

In April of 2018, Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters and was an instant classic. The film saw superheroes like Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and many more team up to take down the mad Titan Thanos, who wanted to wipe out half of the universe with the infinity stones. This movie was a unique one, as it saw the villain achieve his goal at the expense of the heroes’ loss. Thanos was successful in his goal as he snapped away half of the universe before going to watch the sunrise in his peaceful world. A year later in 2019, Avengers: Endgame came out and was even more successful than Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Endgame saw the remaining heroes team up to reverse the actions of Thanos. This required going back in time and later ended up in a massive battle. The battle was won by the heroes, but not without major losses. The beloved Tony Stark sacrificed himself to save the planet and take down Thanos, snapping his own fingers to finish off Thanos. Tony Stark (Iron Man) was not the only major Avenger that was lost either as Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow) sacrificed herself as well. There was one more Avenger that was lost but in a different way. The end of the film saw Steve Rogers age into an elderly man, clearly in no shape to be the courageous Captain America anymore. Steve gave the shield to his dear friend Sam, leaving the future of Captain America in his hands. This raised many questions for fans, questions like “What is going to happen to the shield?” or “Who is going to be the new Captain America?”. After two years, we see some of these questions answered in the Disney Plus original The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The first episode of the show aired on March 19, 2021, and recently reached its conclusion on April 23, 2021. So, is the series worth watching? 


Located Below are MAJOR Spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier


Trigger Warning for the Content of the Show: On-screen heavy violence, blood, audio gore, usage of guns, mature themes


In short, yes. If you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this series adds to the development of key characters like Sam and Bucky (as the title suggests). The series also explores mature themes like terrorism, trauma, and perhaps most importantly, racism. While it is not the perfect series as many took issue with its pacing and formulaic writing, there is a strong message to be taken from the show, as well as strong action sequences that make it worth a watch even for a casual fan. 


The series starts off with a high-action aerial fight sequence featuring The Falcon as he attempts to save a U.S. soldier. The titular hero is successful and this is just the first of the many exhilarating action sequences the show has to offer. One of these scenes comes very soon where we see The Winter Soldier (Bucky) in an action sequence that turns out to be a dream remembering his haunted past, where he was brainwashed and controlled by the authoritarian organization known as HYDRA. In the dream, we see Bucky kill a seemingly innocent man who would become more important later on.


Also in the first episode, we see Sam give the shield away as he struggles with the idea of becoming Captain America, Bucky befriend Yori⁠, the father of the man he killed, and the introduction of the anti-nationalist organization known as The Flag Smasher⁠s⁠—⁠a group of soldiers who want things to return to the way they were during the “blip” when half of the universe was erased. One of the most important events of the first episode was the ending when the audience sees a familiar costume worn by an unfamiliar face. There was a new Captain America as, to the dismay of Sam and Bucky, Steve had been replaced by an Afghanistan veteran named John Walker. 


Most of the show focuses on Sam, Bucky, and John Walker chasing down the aforementioned “Flag Smashers” who are all super-soldiers. The group is led by Karli Morgenthau, a mixed-race teenager who has been injected with the super-soldier serum that first gave Steve his powers. Karli and the Flag Smashers want governments and international organizations to provide more housing and help to the many who were displaced after the events of Endgame. While these intentions may be pure, the group often is too extreme in achieving their goals. This results in the deaths of many people, including John Walker’s best friend Lemar Hoskins. Lemar dies immediately when he is kicked into a pillar by Karli, who ignores the efforts of those that are trying to keep her level-headed. 


After Lemar’s death, John chases down a Flag-Smasher (Karli’s friend) in one of the most unforgettable sequences in the series. Upon catching the man, Walker strikes him with the shield, before striking him again. And again. And again. Ultimately John Walker, while wielding the iconic shield of Captain America, beats the man to death. The same red, white, and blue shield wielded by Steve Rogers that stood for resilience and inspiration was now stained by blood in an act of violence and anger. To make matters worse, a crowd of people surrounded Walker as he did this horrific act, something that Steve would never have done. In this scene, the imagery of the American flag is not representative of freedom or liberty. It is representative of the violence and death that has plagued both the country and the world for centuries. 


John Walker is stripped of his title as Captain America because of his actions, and it seems as if the position needs to be replaced again. Likely candidate Sam Wilson still does not want the shield nor the burden of being Captain America to rest upon his shoulders. We see Sam go back to visit Isaiah Bradley, a Black man who was used as a test subject for the super-soldier serum in a series of racist medical experiments, clearly an allusion to the infamous Tuskegee Trials. Bradley was a survivor of these experiments, but he was imprisoned for decades after disobeying orders and performing a rescue on his own. Eventually able to escape, Bradley’s heroic actions still went unnoticed and his frustrations with the U.S. justice system and the racism that he has been a victim of his entire life stuck around. These frustrations could not be as clear as when he tells Sam that “they will never let a Black man be Captain America.” This scene is gut-wrenching, as the audience sits by watching with the same horror and sympathy that Sam expresses. Although the scene has sparked controversy as some say that it “felt forced” or “unnecessary”, it is undoubtedly a significant scene for the development of Sam. 


The series also brings back familiar characters such as Zemo, the antagonist of Captain America: Civil War, or Sharon Carter, who first appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Wakandans are also back, specifically the Dora Milaje led by Ayo. There is a “Power Broker” introduced as well, a mysterious crime boss who is running the city of Madripoor. Bucky’s traumatic past is explored as well, as he tries to come to terms with who he is. From the Power Broker to John Walker to Karli, the show covers much more than just the adventures of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Ironically, this is often the problem with the show. 


To only have six episodes, the show tries to cover a lot of different themes and plot points. While some have a concluding end, many do not and this is the issue. Bucky’s trauma and healing did not feel as fleshed out as they should have been, as his confession that he killed Yori’s son was very short. Karli and the Flag Smashers were reduced to misguided killers, with a large portion of their message being ignored. John Walker is forgiven and given redemption very quickly after fighting against Karli, and his redemption did not feel earned. The reveal of the Power Broker did not feel as strong as it should have been, as their motives were somewhat unclear at the end. Although the final episode and conclusion had its moments, there were several things that could have been handled better with more time. 


Part of where the series shined was with Sam’s conclusion. After much inner conflict, we see that Sam has put on his own Captain American suit and taken on the identity of Captain America. With a red, white, and blue suit, the iconic shield, and his signature wings, we see Sam Wilson become the new Captain America. Sam swoops in and saves the day in the final battle as the Flag Smashers are defeated, resulting in the unfortunate death of Karli. He delivers a riveting speech to the public where he addresses the racism he and so many others have faced, saying “I’m here, no super serum, no blonde hair or blue eyes”. He follows this up by saying “The only power I have is I believe we can do better.” This shows how Sam is aware that, to many, he will never live up to the precedent set by Steve. Regardless, he knows that he is a good choice to be Captain America because he is a good man.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is at the very least a decent short series. It is no masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable and quick watch that tackles some very important (and controversial issues). Especially in its final act, there are some pacing issues as some things feel resolved all too quickly. However, the main characters do get a nice send-off as the final screen reads “Captain America and the Winter Soldier”, further emphasizing Sam’s growth and acceptance that has led to him becoming Captain America. 


For many people, especially for the Black community, the image of a Black Captain America is something that is very nice to see because of the racial tensions and injustices we have seen over the past year. One anonymous Carnegie Vanguard Student said that “Seeing someone who looks like me be a symbol for America is a special experience”. Even taking race out of consideration, many fans believe that Sam was the perfect choice to continue on the legacy of Captain America. Carnegie Vanguard Junior Zainab Zaman said, “I like that the Captain America shield is being passed on to Sam Wilson because I believe that he will uphold the values of the shield and honor the legacy of Steve Rogers”. 


The future for the Marvel Cinematic Universe does seem bright with Loki, another Disney+ series, coming very soon. On top of this, other movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and The Eternals to name a few have already been given release dates. In the meanwhile though, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an entertaining series to keep your attention for a while. The full season of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.