TV REVIEW: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Episode 6 (2021)
After what has been a somewhat up and down series this week’s episode saw the conclusion of the MCU’s second Disney + series with the most action packed episode of the series. With the cliff-hanger at the end of the last episode and the Flag Smashers moving in to attack a repatriation meeting the opening salvo of the episode involves Sam, sporting a new Captain America costume to accompany his shield and Bucky fending off the super soldiers and preventing widespread chaos. The action sequences are, as ever, terrific and these have proved some of the series highlights.
Early on we are dropped perhaps not the biggest bombshell of all time, that Sharon Carter is the mysterious Power Broker. This adds an interesting dynamic to the character but does feel a bit anti-climatic and a waste of her development across her previous film appearances. Although the episode certainly sets Emily VanCamp up to be a mainstay in the MCU going forward, whether that is in a future film appearance or a series like Armour Wars seeming a more likely bet.
A large portion of this episode is dedicated to Sam fully accepting the mantel of Captain America following the rather unsuccessful stint in the role from John Walker. Mackie manages to pull this off and Falcon’s speech to the Senators towards the episode’s climax certainly hammers home a few home truths and the episode succeeds at showing the gravity of having a Black Captain America. This is a storyline the series has largely succeeded in depicting, with Sam’s interactions with Isaiah adding depth, some heartfelt scenes and a shared sense of experience. It is a shame that with a number of storylines at play and perhaps the 6 episode length of the series, that this wasn’t pushed front and centre for more of the series, but it certainly seems this won’t be the last time this is a focus in the MCU.
While this episode does wrap up some of its story threads, particularly the Flag Smasher narrative, it feels like there is an awful lot left unexplained and while this is exciting for the wider MCU and the arcs of some of the characters, it certainly makes events here feel like they lack purpose and narrative heft. Sharon is pardoned but we now know she is the Power Broker, so she will likely be a thorn in the side of the Avengers down the line. Likewise John Walker is repositioned as a US Agent with his newfound ally Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and so he looks set to feature in further material, especially if the rumours of Valentina as a new major antagonist in Phase 4 of the MCU are anything to go by.
One of the series’ more frustrating plot narratives revolves around Batroc the French Mercenary, here he is shown to be more than a match for Sam and has some fun moments, but he is given such little development and ultimately appears to be a pawn in Sharon’s game, so his demise seems a waste of the character’s potential. While we don’t see his death onscreen, it would seem a stretch for him to return in future projects, although any return wouldn’t be an unwelcome one.
This episode gives Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie a chance to shine and the pair, throughout the series, have conveyed the chemistry and developing friendship between the Sam and Bucky. It is however, frustrating that some of the series’ other aspects haven’t matched the quality the two actors bring to screen, furthering the legacy of the characters far more than their film appearances to date and making them feel worthy of having their own series.
Over all this series certainly hasn’t left as much of an impression as WandaVision. Its action spectacle and performances are obvious highs, but a lack of a clear narrative direction (perhaps brought about by cutting a pandemic-related subplot for the Flag Smashers) and an overabundance of antagonists mean that the highpoints are cancelled out somewhat. This results in something that can, at times, be a frustrating watch. It is certainly worth the time of MCU fans and does set up a number of interesting subplots that will be paid off, no doubt in the months and years to follow. However, the series could perhaps have cut some its numerous subplots to focus more on the areas it excelled at and the shorter number of episodes appears to have hamstrung it in this regard.