Does The Falcon &The Winter Soldier Soar Or Freeze?

After last week’s freestyle toy rant breather, it’s back to reviewing stuff the general public cares about. The Falcon & The Winter Soldier was intended to be the first of of Marvel’s Disney+ series but covid prevented that. (Rumors has it a pandemic storyline was scrapped due to an actual pandemic happening. I’m unsure how much credence to give this since this series already has enough percolating without that.) TFATWS isn’t an elegant acronym. Since WandaVision is named for the main character’s ship name, why isn’t this titled Falucky? (This show put their unresolved sexual tension into couples therapy!) Or it could’ve been updated to Captain America & White Wolf. (It’s so odd Marvel dragged out the reveal of Wanda’s supranym for so long while they cavalierly gave Bucky a new codename he didn’t use in the comics.)

This was the series I was least excited about because I’m one of those people who insists Bucky should’ve stayed dead! (I don’t care much about Hawkeye either aside from the new supporting cast.) It’s only thanks to Sebastian Stan that I can bear to tolerate him as a co-lead. He furrows his brow most intensely! Anthony Mackie’s Falcon remains endearing. For better & worse, Disney+’s second MCU series isn’t as ambitious as WandaVision. There are curious parallels to The Boys in content but not tone. Now begin the SPOILERS for Toucan Sam & The Frosted Flake!

Falcon got paid in exposure. It’s possible Stark was paying the Avengers but cut off any that were on Steve’s side of the schism. If Sam watched The Boys he could learn how to merchandise himself. It’s not as if there isn’t licensed superhero swag in the MCU. If Sam’s gear is government tech, why doesn’t the Air Force have a whole squadron of Falcons? How does Sam withstand complex maneuvers in High-G without an air supply helmet?

Batroc the Leaper really needs his pomaded moustache, but at least he’s still rocking maroon & mustard. (I don’t think anyone ever calls him just The Leaper. It’s either Batroc or both. He’s still cooler than The Tumbler.) He still lacks the swashbuckling panache. Instead of being a fun Frenchmen, he’s a brutishly murderous Algerian played by a Canadian. (If good Captain America movies had been made in the 90’s, Jean Claude Van Damme could’ve been Batroc.) He had a ton of contingency helicopters for Sam to explode.

Therapy sessions for heroes who’ve been brainwashed & traumatized is actually a great idea. Somebody get Scarlet Witch in on this. (“I’m grieving! That makes it okay for me to take a town hostage for days & psychologically torture its citizens!”) Kudos to Dr. Raynor not being evil. Unfortunately she is unprofessional, which is sadly realistic for veterans. She insists Bucky make amends to the families of the Winter Soldier’s victims, which would be apt if he was an addict. Since he killed under mindcontrol orders, it just ramps up his guilt while confusing his autonomy.

Bucky’s new jacket finally has two sleeves. Oddly he detached the left sleeve before the first team-up mission. So he’ll always have one pristine left sleeve to go with countless damaged jackets? Are single left sleeves really that much pricier compared to the rest of the coat? Bucky has a very dignified way of departing airplanes. Stopping a Maneki Neko from waving is bad luck, Bucky!

The US government tricked Sam into relinquishing the shield Steve Rogers gave him & then appoints a discount facsimile the new Captain America. That’s low. (Was the Captain America shield lawfully the property of the US government, Wakandan government, Stark Industries, or Steve Rogers?) John Walker was actually a captain unlike Steve Rogers. Wyatt Russell as US Agent is a reminder that everyone needs to watch Lodge 49 on Hulu & demand it gets revived for two more seasons! The MCU is only a small part of the much larger L49MMV (Lodge 49 Metaphysical Multi-Verse). (It’s peculiar how L. Marvin Metz’s penchant for smashing his head through stuff didn’t carry over to his tenure as Rhino.)

Just about everyone hates John “not whisky” Walker even though he’s introduced more sympathetically than he’s typically portrayed. People just love Steve Rogers so much they loathe his replacement on sight. Wyatt Russell’s face looks extra punchable beardless, & the helmet looks (intentionally) wrong on him. (His comics counterpart could use that A-star to tie his costume together.) This version is tragic. He’s ashamed of getting medals for what he did in Afghanistan & hopes to redeem himself through this high profile promotion. Although he’s US Agent, that doesn’t make him a gent.

Russell takes the fan hate in stride as proof he’s portraying the character well. Imagine how detested he’d be if he was an asshole without nuance like the comics! Unlike his MCU counterpart, comics Walker was disappointed the only action he saw after enlisting in the army was peeling potatoes. He was empowered by the Power Broker to become a wrestler called Super-Patriot. (Superpowered pro-wrestling in a thing in Marvel.) Along with his Bold Urban Commando teammates, he tried to discredit Captain America so he’d be replaced. Thanks to Red Skull’s covert meddling with the Commission On Superhuman Activities, Rogers resigns. Upon becoming Captain America, Walker let Battlestar be lynched (he survived) while undercover with the Watchdogs. He beat Professor Power to death on another mission without having witness his partner be murdered. (PP dies & resurrects too often.) After they executed his parents, Walker killed the Watchdogs responsible & immolated the two BUCs that doxed him. The government had to mock assassinate him to restore the public faith in Captain America & gave him the alternate alcohol alias Jack Daniels as US Agent. Marvel keeps insisting on giving him redemption arcs despite this.

The legend of Steve Rogers being infallible looms large. Sam initially doesn’t want the shield because he doesn’t think he can live up to Steve’s legacy. He just knows Walker isn’t worthy of it. Bucky believes Steve must’ve been correct to pass on the shield to Sam otherwise it undermines Steve’s faith in Bucky’s redemption. Government appointee John Walker quickly buckles under the public’s immense expectations for Captain America. All of them are tormented by impostor syndrome. Maybe these three guys wouldn’t have to torture themselves with an impossible standard if the world acknowledged Rogers isn’t perfect either? Send Steve Rogers to the Moon forever!

I’m confused how the military & superheroes interact. Falcon has a field liaison & goes on missions. He calls himself an independent government contractor, so why isn’t he being paid like one? Is Bucky one too? If not, why is he allowed on Sam’s missions? Why wouldn’t Falcon, Bucky, Cap, & Battlestar be dispatched together to thwart Flag Smashers in Germany? Why not send War Machine too? Does Captain America act under authority of the US government or the GRC?

The Flag Smashers want a world free of national borders. They also want the world to revert to how it was before The Blip. Those two goals don’t sound like they dovetail easily. Maybe it’ll make sense if they get around to releasing any media that actually deals with what went down during post-Snap pre-Blip. (Agents Of SHIELD would’ve been ideal for this if it wasn’t caught between TV & film in-fighting.) We don’t know whether their grievances against the Global Repatriation Council are valid since this is the first we’re hearing of them.

Thankfully their motivation becomes less opaque as the series progresses. After The Snapture, international populations were unequally affected by the world’s populations being halved. National borders became porous with extant populations, much of whom were previously refugees or unlawful immigrants, migrating freely to stabilize the situation. Resources suddenly became scarce once half the population returned, especially if Morgan Stark wasn’t the only youngling produced during the interim. The GRC prioritized the returned & began dispossessing the Non-Snapped that had moved. (This is sort of analogous to the women who entered the domestic workforce losing their jobs once men returned from WWII campaigns.) If only there were some globe-trotting movie the MCU could’ve used to establish the upheaval wrought by The Blip & the GRC rather than relying on exposition! I worry this will the only time this massive societal upheaval will be relevant going forward.

This series’ most innovative casting has Erin Kellyman playing Karli Morgenthau, a genderswapped version of the first Flag-Smasher. (Does she still have a slain Swiss diplomat dad?) In the comics, Flag-Smasher’s ULTIMATUM (Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind) underlings are a rare example of henchmen dressing suaver than their leader. Sadly the MCU equivalent doesn’t emulate either sartorial choice. These flashmob costumes are more realistic but who wants realism when we could have Space Ghost cosplayers with maces? Karli seems like the real heroine of the series since she’s shown to be the most compassionate. Stealing medicine for displaced refugees is more constructive than using a fancy hovercar to torch flag factories. Then she blows up a building full of restrained GRC operatives because we can’t have her upstaging the leads. It seems less like adding moral complexity than a cheap way to make viewers not root for revolutionaries. I still stan because only anarchists are pretty! She can have little a murder as a treat. She wields a few blunt weapons in the finale but not Flag-Smasher’s signature mace.

This show frequently deals with the casual institutionalized racism even superheroes face. Carl “Martian Manhunter” Lumbly plays Isaiah Bradley from Truth: Red, White, & Black. He’s not officially a Captain America here, but he makes very compelling arguments about being a national mascot is a thankless endeavor. His grandson, Elijah “Patriot” Bradley, doesn’t do as half much as his Young Avengers teammates, Speed & Wiccan.

The super-soldier serum went from being a rare commodity to being the new fad, just like Kryptonians whenever writers can’t think of anything novel for Superman. The new concoction doesn’t increase the recipient’s muscle mass so they don’t need to get Erin Kellyman on HGH for infiltration purposes. Can you imagine how Captain America would’ve looked if emaciated Steve Rogers was given this variety? Winter Soldier got a version of super soldier serum at some point (I’m still unclear whether it while he was Zola’s prisoner or after he fell off a train.) without getting significantly swoler. (Was it just because he didn’t get the additional vita rays?) So why is this new formula treated as a groundbreaking gamechanger? It’s like how in The Boys season two, Vought was trying to learn how to do something it’s known for decades. (Ironically the Power Broker became a caricature of Liefeldian proportions.) It’s already tricky enough telling whether someone does improbable stunts because they’re an extremely main character or if they’re on performance enhancers.

Dr. Erskine said the Super Soldier Serum reveals rather than corrupts to explain why Johann Schmidt’s face turned into a red skull after taking a trial formula. It’s also possible that’s just something Erskine made up to inspire Steve. Unless the Super Soldier Serum is somehow sentient & chooses whether recipients are worthier of having their positive or negative traits amplified. Steroids only have health consequences for people of subjectively lesser moral fiber?

This buddy cop mini-series doesn’t skimp on the homoeroticism between Sam & Bucky. It’s not even unintentional. Perhaps they’re overcompensating for Captain America brashly endangering the space-time continuum to get with Peggy Carter rather than romancing Bucky in the present? As amusing as all the Samucky moments are, it’d be nice if the MCU gave some gay couples spotlight. I guess we have to see if Thor 4 delivers on its hints or if we have to wait on Hulking being introduced to date Wiccan.

Flag Smashers are less of a laughingstock than their comics inspiration tend to be. Despite that, the still don’t seem like that big of a threat. They certainly don’t justify Bucky unilaterally springs Baron Zemo. You don’t have to get crazy desperate if they only whupped you the first time because you underestimated them. Even if the their real concern was supersoldiers being churned out in secret, the duo’s ex-SHIELD contacts seem like a better source for current intel than someone who’s been in prison for years. Surely Sam & Bucky could’ve tried Madripoor by themselves since it’s not a secret in the MCU. This gambit is out of character for Bucky, who’s a dumbass just for the sake of getting Zemo back in action. They don’t even plant a tracker in his boots in case of his inevitable escape.

Zemo is presented like Hannibal Lecter. Busting him out of the slammer surely isn’t going to bite you in the butt, Bucky! The retcon that he’s been a baron all along is less confusing than the one about his fellow Sokovian’s superpower source, although it could’ve easily been worked into his debut. I would’ve expected Herzog Helmut to brag about his noble lineage. Daniel Brühl plays him so modest about his wealth that it somehow circles back to smugness. At least we know how a seemingly regular commando bankrolled his anti-Avengers scheme. (Or maybe not, since there are plenty of penniless nobles. Maybe the Zemos made a fortune patenting Adhesive X?) “Get in losers, we’re going super soldier hunting!” He gives out Turkish delights like The White Witch of Narnia.

Zemo just puts on the iconic purple mask. It’s that easy! I still would’ve like some backstory for the mask as part of his legacy rather than it being something random he found in the back of Jay Gatsby’s car. Does it have surveillance-blocking tech installed? Sadly it’s just for one episode & it doesn’t get glued to his face with Adhesive X. His outfit looks like the least amount of effort was put into it, making him resemble The Rose. (The MCU is never going to adapt him.) I thought the era of throwing a trenchcoat atop an uninspired supervillain costume was over? Zemo should be the fanciest lad like my comics custom.

Madripoor had a death of Southeast Asians. Had they walked into the Princess Bar rather than the Brass Monkey, they could’ve met Wolverine Patch! Sam’s disguise was fly, but I want to see the real Smiling Tiger costume too!

 Steve Rogers forgot to get Sharon Carter a pardon for helping him. He’s dead to me. Wasn’t it bad enough that all the other shipper factions united against her for kissing Cap? (Steggy won out because it sounds like stegosaurus. Why wasn’t Steve x Sam called Captain Falcon?) She has to do all the murder for the dude trio whilst they collect exposition. Sharon goes from glamorous stolen art fence to hoodrat assassin. Get a girl who can do both! (Apparently there’s a show called Revenge Body, yet it’s not about Emily VanCamp doing crunches?) Why was Sharon the only numbered SHIELD agent?

Sam gets through to Karli by reasoning with her. Then Walker barges in to ruin everything. Zemo stomps on her Triple S ampules because he’s not a hypocrite. Walker nabs the last one for himself. Before taking it, he gets delightfully slapped down by the Dora Milaje.

The Flag Smashers spend a lot of time in Latvia, the real nation most likely to be confused with the fictitious Latveria. (These scenes were filmed in The Czech Republic.) The Sokovia memorial is reachable from Riga, so does that mean it was a contiguous country? (According to maps placing Sokovia more southerly they shouldn’t be.),

Karli accidentally kills Battlestar on her way to murder Walker. Why’d Lemar have to ruin that for everyone? Now he can’t escape Walker’s shadow & upgrade to Silver Sable’s Wild Pack! An enraged Walker decapitates one of her compatriots with the shield. Unfortunately it wasn’t Baron Blood & everyone got it on camera. WHOOPSIE! That’s an international PR nightmare! None of this would’ve happened if Flag Smasher had just executed the new Captain America like everyone wanted! At least Walker formally apologized for abusing his power, unlike a certain Sokovian.

I don’t want to be in the position of defending Walker, but he did kill a superpowered terrorist right after they killed his best friend while attempting to murder him. The MCU previously portrayed killing both powered & non-powered terrorists as heroic. Captain America got bonus points for shooting Nazis. The MCU Avengers never had a no-kill policy. Even when they don’t show show the enemy extras as definitively dead, the Avengers usually defeat them with reckless disregard for their safety that would realistically leave humans unalive. Thor beheaded Thanos for revenge after he no longer posed an imminent threat. (Them being aliens shouldn’t put them in a different standard even if fiction often treats extraterrestrials & sentient robots as safe cannon fodder.) So do the Avengers get passes on their kills because they’re more likable & have their names in the the title? (The moral double standard is why the final season of Jessica Jones also felt unsatisfying.) Or is Billy Butcher Baron Zemo right that all superhumans are bastards?

After slipping away, Zemo anticlimactically allows himself to be apprehended at the Sokovia memorial. Why’d he suddenly decide to stop personally murdering super soldiers? He’s supposed to be the most determined supervillain! It seems like a waste to get him back at liberty to do villainous stuff just to lock him up again so soon. Ayo says he’ll be incarcerated at The Raft. Why aren’t they jailing him in Wakanda for regicide? Why wasn’t Zemo locked up in The Raft in the first place?

This show emphasizes Sam’s role as a trauma counselor, which is something that hasn’t been touched since his debut. His empathy is what cements him as the worthiest successor to Rogers. Bucky’s arc had gotten more attention in the films. This time we see him rediscover his autonomy. The flashback where Ayo shows he’s brainwashing-free was quite moving. Sam finally gets Bucky to open up, unlike Dr. Raynor. If only Sam had mediated Steve & Tony that German airport could’ve been spared!

All Falcon needed to let go of his self doubt was for his immediate predecessor to royally screw-up in front of everybody. Having a public Goofus makes it easy for Sam to embrace his inner Gallant. Since Walker proved the world loved Captain America because he was Steve Rogers not vice versa, however, why should Sam bother adopting his mantle? Much like Steve, he doesn’t directly represent the US government or its citizens. Rogers & Walker epitomize extremes of American idealism & realism, yet USA is too diverse for any one superhero to be its synecdoche. Since he’s an international superhero, wearing a national costume is unnecessary at best & offensive at worst. Trying to redeem a symbol representing something that’s infrequently as noble as it boasts seems a fool’s errand. (While it’s generally a good country, the notion that USA must always be regarded as the The Best Nation by everyone is staggeringly arrogant.) A black Captain America is a representation win that’s a Pyrrhic victory. It’s implying that Falcon is an inherently lesser persona than Captain America. Sam will be national propaganda while still having to shoulder all the country’s criticism. Why doesn’t he just keep Cap’s shield while being the best Falcon he can be?

The American government is arguably the big bad of the series. We’re not introduced to any nefarious bureaucrats, which gives the impression it’s thoroughly corrupt. The senator with a speaking part doesn’t even merit a name. For rescuing his compatriots from enemy forces, Isaiah Bradley spent decades being imprisoned & experimented upon by his own country. Sam’s insecurity is preyed upon until he relinquishes Steve’s shield. Walker is assigned the Captain America title with superficial fanfare instead of the genuine support he needs. I expected it would’ve secretly given him Super Soldier Serum from the start, but it didn’t even get get him counseling for his untreated PTSD. After hyping him up, it drops him like a hot potato as soon as he embarrasses his homeland. Due to white privilege, he isn’t imprisoned & has his blood extracted to make more supersoldiers. The US is actively complicit with the GRC’s discrimination against the un-Snapped, which foments the Flag Smasher uprising. (It could be argued the Avengers not retroactively undoing the The Snap is the root cause.) Bucky’s appointed counselor isn’t helping him with his identity issues. It’s nice that the series isn’t jingoistic, but it’s also odd that it presents USA as the underlying problem without directly calling for it to be remedied. When Black Panther highlighted Wakanda’s injustices, it ended with King T’Challa starting to remedy them. This is easier to do with a fictional nation, but the MCU is now far enough away from reality that it could do likewise with real countries. Theodore Gericault’s The Raft Of The Medusa at Sharon’s place is symbolic of the GRC screwing over the Unsnapped, Walker’s incompetence, & the underdog heroism of Sam Wilson.

The costumes of Captain America & related characters never look right. The USA flag is too complicated to wear as costume without abstracting its stars & stripes, but abstraction defeats its state symbolism. Meanwhile national superheros with more streamlined flags like Guardian & Union Jack get more elegant costumes. Proving nothing is made in America anymore, Wakanda made the new Captain America gear. (Ditto Captain America coins.) Sam’s new suit is one of the most comics accurate & gets a great introduction. It’s a pity they didn’t replace his Redwing drone with a living telepathic falcon. I’m glad we saw a montage of Sam learning how to use the shield.

As much as I like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, why wouldn’t they cast Monica Bellucci as la Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine? (I guess Julia Scarlett Elizabeth Louis-Dreyfus Hall is a multi-named heiress, but she’s not Italian.) She was intended to debut in Black Widow. People are speculating that she could be Madame Hydra thanks to Jonathan Hickman’s dumb retcon that she’s a quadruple agent. (Is there no end to his continuity crimes?) I prefer Madame Hydra to be verdant-tressed Viper. Give us the Val & Nick Fury power couple instead!

Walker melts down his medals into a new shield at home. I like characters that make their own gear. Stop trying to trick me into liking US Agent! The most unrealistic thing about the finale was that his shield looked good & didn’t immediately shatter after one punch.

The action is the finale is more reminiscent of Netflix. The biggest spectacle is Captain America recklessly battling a hijacked helicopter instead of just following it to its destination. It’s low on surprises too. US Agent puts aside revenge on the Flag Smashers to save their hostages. I didn’t think he’d go full supervillain, but his redemption feels undercooked. Carter kills Batroc & Karli, wasting another two promising MCU supervillains. Zemo’s butler somehow explodes Karli’s followers for him as soon as they’re arrested.

The new Captain America saves the day & possibly the world by giving an impassioned speech to the GRC. He implores them not to solve a complex problem with a simple solution that’ll hurt so many people. My inner cynic thinks that they believed him not because he’s right but because of his costume. Kudos to Sam using iconography to his advantage, but it’s still disheartening to think politicians wouldn’t listen to a black man otherwise. Valuing national symbols over people was what Karli was fighting against. Perhaps Sam can finally get the good endorsement deals he deserves. Sam also arranges a pardon for Sharon & a memorial for Isaiah. He helped saved his sister’s boat so they have a big party there. (Bucky also wrapped up his issues more perfunctorily.)

Surprising no one, the Power Broker turns out to be Sharon Carter. Spies turning out to be traitors shouldn’t even count as a twist.  She sabotaged her Madripoor operation as a long game to get her old job back. (How’d she know Torres would be assigned to both Batroc & the Flag Smashers?) It seems like that’d backfire once her bosses notice their cutting edge developments wound up on the black market only after she regained her security clearance. I hate how this implies Rogers was right not to get her a pardon since she embraced crime as soon as her friends abandoned her. Perhaps Secret Invasion will reveal she & Val are Skrulls? That’d rectify her character assassination, but on the other paw it’s the only meaty characterization the MCU has afforded Sharon.

Much like how Sam Chung didn’t become Blindspot in Iron Fist’s second season, Joaquin Torres isn’t the new Falcon yet. It’s possible he’ll become Falcon II by repairing Wilson’s ripped apart by Walker. So just like the two Wasps, he’d be another superhero whose physical mutation is replaced with technology.

I felt cheated that WandaVision didn’t introduce Bova, Ebony, Wonder Man, & Grim Reaper like the second intro implied it would. (Since Wanda’s sitcom-a-rama was explicitly generated from her mind, does this mean Wanda’s aware these characters exist within the MCU like Agatha Harkness & The Whizzer?) TF&TWS introduced Flag-Smasher, Battlestar, US Agent, Falcon II, Isaiah Bradley, Patriot, Dr. Wilfred Nagel, & Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. That’s more than I expected. Contrariwise it still hasn’t officially begun assembling the Thunderbolts.

I still think Marvel Studios missed a golden opportunity to release a Thunderbolts movie between Infinity War & Endgame. This reimagined Zemo would fit better as the leader of the anti-Inhuman Watchdogs than The Masters of Evil, which means we probably won’t be seeing any supervillain team-ups in the MCU. Even if we do, he’s so anti-superhuman he won’t draft any of the surviving powered ones like Ghost, Agatha Harkness, Abomination, Leader, Mordo, Hellcat, Mr. Hyde, Angar the Screamer, Nitro, Griffin, Hellcow, & clearance Lady Deathstrike. (Why bother resurrecting Tony Stark when you could have more of her?) Maybe he’d consider Bullseye & Mary Walker (until her third personality manifests). The stinger should’ve been Baron Zemo asking Batroc to join the Thunderbolts Initiative. Val doesn’t form the team as a Suicide Squad ripoff either.

This was rich in character development for its titular titans. Weirdly I don’t know if audiences will necessarily have missed anything vital if they skip this. Endgame’s ending already implies Falcon takes up Captain America’s legacy & Bucky is unburdened by his brainwashing. I doubt we’ll be hearing anything about the GRC or martyred Flag Smashers.

The end credits change the title to Captain America & The Winter Soldier. That’s only half right. Winter Soldier is the supervillain name HYDRA foisted upon Bucky. Don’t keep calling him that once he’s regained his autonomy as a superhero! White Wolf is a fine alternative.

Civil War could’ve been Serpent Society? We were robbed once again! Now that Sam has officially taken up the mantle can he fight these enhanced Ophites in the forthcoming Captain America 4? I’ll also accept a Cap-Wolf movie with Nightshade ported over from Luke Cage.

Why is Brazil the code for the Marvel Legends Sam as Captain America? All the other codes use countries corresponding to the beginning of the characters’ names. Wouldn’t he be Canada, Chile, Croatia, China, Chad, Crete, Congo, Chechnya, Crimea, Cambodia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, or Czech Republic? Or France could work too. According to leaks the BAF is … Captain America’s wings. It feels wrong to have to buy everyone to get his vital accessories like MCU Vulture rather than get him complete as a deluxe figure. (Meanwhile the comics version of Captain Samerica didn’t get wings.) At least they’re not forcing us to purchase the whole series to build Agatha? Walmart is offering a bonus John Walker in his Captain America duds to mimic the in-universe toy, but there’s no Sam Wilson in the Falcon suit he wears for most of the series? Does US Agent not include his DIY shield? Baron Zemo is left handed, but it looks like only his right hand can hold his golden gun. Sharon, Karli, Battlestar, & Batroc get snubbed. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten a comics Flag-Smasher yet since most of the parts exist already.

While its highs don’t reach those of WandaVision, TF&TWS is more consistent. It’s not as high concept so its tepid ending is less underwhelming. The standardized runtimes make each episode feel more filling. Aside from Sam’s magically versatile wings, this could’ve pushed the creative flourishes beyond “grounded.” Part 3 was probably my favorite since it was the pulpiest. Showrunner Malcolm Spellman & director Kari Skogland made me tolerate Bucky & US Agent much more than I do in the comics. More could’ve been done with Karli & Zemo though. This was a well earned spotlight for Sam Wilson. Despite its share of shortfalls, however, I’d say WandaVision was the more entertaining of the two.

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