With Disney+ wrapping its first two Marvel television series in WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, both provided their own creative distinctiveness from feeling like the typical origins stories many Marvel Cinematic Universe films fell under. Both had their similarities when their tones are distinctively different. I'll break down what felt fresh about both series and what were disappointments.
How WandaVision Advanced Its Characters
As far as a true origins story is concerned as Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) was already established for four MCU films, the series created by Jac Schaeffer and her creative team did a commendable job focusing on the emergence of the Scarlet Witch and dealing with the character's trauma. The ode to American sitcoms spanning decades felt unique enough to expand on something original. All of its moving parts from the top on down allowed every actor to shine in the limited series including co-stars Paul Bettany, Kat Dennings, Teyonnah Parris, Kathryn Hahn, and Randall Park to shine. The premise of setting up Parris' Monica Rambeau for her upcoming role for Captain Marvel 2 was a nice touch.
The tease of a multiverse crossover with the surprise casting of Evan Peters ended up fizzling as he served more as comic relief than any major cog in the series. In Hahn's Agatha Harkness, we again ended up with an "evil version of hero fights hero." Personally, I'd rather let her get away than leave her to the fate Scarlet Witch did at the end of their fight to give fans the possibility she could end up causing trouble in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Seriously, Hahn deserved better as her Agatha was arguably be as fun as Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who got his own TV series. We're also left wondering what happens to Vision (Bettany) now that his white form flew off into "Who knows what?" when Wanda's conjured version restores his memories. As far as surprises and resolutions go, WandaVision is solid and actually delivered and advanced its characters.
How The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Didn't
You don't really have to be an MCU connoisseur to predict what would be the ending of this series. Quite literally, you could have skipped this series and gone straight to the upcoming fourth film and you wouldn't miss anything. It's that predictable. Let's recap the short version of what lead to the series. Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) left his Captain America shield to Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to carry on his legacy at the end of Avengers: Endgame (2019). That's basically what you got out of this whole series and the Flag Smashers story is just a formality. Sam is the new Cap as he finally embraced his destiny. He just sorted out his own "issues" before accepting.
As far as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), he's been on his personal 12-step program apology tour from his H.Y.D.R.A. assassin days largely since Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Do you know what he does in Falcon and Winter Soldier? The exact same thing, but it's more nuanced. It just feels more personal, because they took the time to provide more fleshed-out victims of his carnage. So yeah, you're really not missing anything other than more of the same action, light-comedy, and similar tension you had in the Captain America films. What did the show accomplish exactly?
Well, you got another superhero origins story in John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a failed Captain America, now US Agent. There's no secret that Falcon and Winter Soldier showrunner Kari Skogland and Malcolm Spellman set him up to be a controversial figure and teased as a potential big bad suffering his own personal tragedy before Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) was revealed to be the Power Broker to the viewers, not the main characters. If she does come back for Captain America 4, viewers will be treated to another "why" scene since the film would demand it. They couldn't even get Karli (Erin Kellyman) in her dying breath in Sam's arms point to Sharon as the "bad guy" cliché. Another inconsequential loose end in Baron Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) was given a useless redemption arc only to return back to where he started originally but in a different prison thanks to Wakanda's Ayo (Florence Kasumba). What did I get from Falcon and Winter Soldier? This is a series that showed us it didn't need to be made and largely didn't advance its principal characters. One positive is the social commentary about American institutional racism within civilian and military circles, but again, it could have also been pulled off in the next film. At the very least, they can give Carl Lumbly an Emmy for his performance as Isaiah Bradley. WandaVision and Falcon and Winter Soldier are available to stream on Disney+.