After a fifth episode that finally felt like the show was finding its feet, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier went out on its lowest note. The Marvel TV shows have thus far been a mixed bag, and while WandaVision felt like something that could only be brought to life via the medium of television, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier often felt like an overly long and poorly paced six-hour movie. That poorly paced movie came to a head in this final episode that really cannot be described as anything other than a mess. Heading into the episode, it was apparent that there was a lot that the show needed to get through, and there were going to be some story points that got the short end of the stick. It's unfortunate that the show decided the best possible way to show that they really have a theme despite not having a theme for six episodes was for Sam to stand there and lecture people in a cheesy speech for several minutes straight.
There are a lot of things wrong with this. The theme and point of your show should be embedded in everything. It should be there in the foundation, the DNA, of what you are putting up on the screen. It's probably one of the worst cases of "show don't tell" that the show has done so far. They literally spend several minutes telling you how you should feel about the things on the screen instead of showing them. The Flagsmashers and Karli are given nothing endings where they are defeated because they are the bad guys, but now Sam is going to make the people in charge feel bad that Karli needed to exist at all. Sam is the first character in this show, and he has spent most of it on the sideline. It would be like if Wanda didn't have anything to do with WandaVision, and she didn't have any place in the story. It's almost an insult to a character that has been around for years now and one that could really have an impact if the Marvel Universe would give him a chance.
Walker is back, and the fact that he isn't immediately treated like the insane murderer that he is hits far too close to home. When Walker murdered Nico, and it was captured in glorious 4k for all to see, the darkest storyline Marvel could go would be for him to get off scot-free. A white man wearing the mantle of Captain America kills a man in cold blood in front of everyone and gets away with it; that would make a statement because it would directly come in line with the real-life police brutality that we see today. Marvel didn't go in that direction in the next episode and did make Walker suffer some consequences, but he turns up here and makes the right decision, so apparently, all is fine. The fact that the show seems more sympathetic to Walker than it does to Karli while standing there trying to take a moral stand is such a bad decision that you have to wonder if anyone thought about the optics of this.
Baffling decisions are more or less the order of the day when it came to the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Again, a show that is named after two characters, there hasn't been any focus on Bucky and Sam's relationship aside from some moments in episode five. Once again, we can compare this to an entire series called WandaVision if their relationship wasn't really touched on. These two characters, at the very least, barely tolerated each other, and we don't really get to see their friendship evolve in any meaningful ways aside from, again, episode five. There should have been moments throughout the entire series where we really get to see them start to like each other and maybe even lean on each other in a meaningful way. The show ends with them seemingly very close, but it doesn't feel like a natural progression in a relationship. Instead, we see two complex characters start to get along just because they need to start to get along.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels more like six hours of set up in a way that WandaVision never really did. WandaVision really seemed to dig into the psyche of the title characters, Wanda specifically, and showed a depiction of grief that we rarely get to see on television. There was plenty of worldbuilding in that show in the form of Monica and other such things, but they never felt like the focus of the show. We were there to explore Wanda as a character and see her come to terms with Vision's loss and level up. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels like nothing but set up with some lip service paid to real-life issues and doesn't even do that good of a job at its worldbuilding.
So far, the Marvel Universe has collectively stayed away from the trauma that is the Blip, and this was really a chance to explore what that would do to the world. Instead, it never really feels like people take the time to explore what would happen if everyone came back after five years. What happens to married couples if one vanished and the other didn't? Five years is enough time to mourn and move on. The show brings up the idea of someone else living in your house and things like that, but they never spend enough time with the displaced people. We don't talk to enough of them; we don't see parents dealing with their children being five years old; the Falcon and the Winter Soldier could have spent some time worldbuilding a life after the Blip, and instead, it just didn't focus on it enough instead only using it as a prop for more super soldiers and Karli muddled mission.
They bring up Isaiah and one of the lone good moments of the entire episode is Sam talking to Isaiah about his decision to take on the mantle of Captain America. Again, as mentioned previously, Isaiah is a fantastic character that deserves more than a few scenes here and there in another show. Why didn't we have a flashback episode showing his story? Sharon is here doing her thing, but she doesn't get much of a resolution, and she's really only here to tease more things down the line. Zemo is still alive, and on the Raft, so he hasn't really changed or done much of anything. We have no more mentions of Wakanda or the fact that Bucky really threw away his relationship with Ay0 and Wakanda when he let Zemo free. Bucky and Sam are just here to move the pieces along, and it makes the show feel like the Iron Man 2 of the Disney TV shows so far; it's an extended trailer for other things, and that became extremely apparent yesterday.
Deadline ran a story that Captain America 4 is reportedly in development with the executive producer of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier writing the script. If there was ever a moment where it became apparent that this was just set up, it was that. Marvel hasn't confirmed that this movie is actually happening but considering how things ended? It would be a surprise if it wasn't.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, unfortunately, leaned into the worst possible scenario for Marvel TV; just an extended way of setting up future movies or projects. Television is a unique medium unto itself, and Marvel could use it to explore characters in new and interesting ways while telling new stories and setting up new aspects of the world. They did that in WandaVision; that show could only have existed as a television show. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could have been a movie which is the wrong way to approach these shows. We don't watch TV the same way we watch movies, and the change in medium should be important because otherwise, it makes the TV feel like they don't actually matter. If you can summarize the important bits on Wikipedia, then you are approaching this storytelling the wrong way.
Loki is the next show in the lineup, and maybe that one will approach things differently. While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn't a bad show overall, it has a pretty weak finale and doesn't come together in the long run. We can hope that this idea of only using TV to lay the groundwork for movies isn't going to reflect the rest of the Marvel Disney+ TV shows going. Marvel can only rely on set pieces and fanservice for so long; if they keep fumbling the ball with their television shows, eventually, people are going to lose patience. And if those shows are important to understand the groundwork of the movies, how long before people lose patience with the movies as well?
EPISODE FINAL SCORE: 6/10
SERIES OVERALL SCORE: 7/10