TV: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (1x01-1x03)
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (1x01-1x03)
These are the first three episodes (of six) of the latest Marvel miniseries, this one about the two titular side characters taking on a terrorist organization after Steve Rogers's death.
I feel like I'm watching two different shows.
One of them is the story of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier taking on the Flag Smashers. It has competent action sequences that vanish from the mind as they're happening. It has a set of bad guys who feel... schizophrenic? For two and a half episodes we see them shuttle stockpiled relief supplies to starving communities. Then they blow up an occupied apartment block, presumably because the show thought, "oh, shit, forgot to make them the baddies". It has a very straightforward procedural structure — they go patiently from clue to clue to clue like some hyperviolent quest to find Carmen Sandiego.
It very much sets you up for an indifferent sigh of a series.
And yet. And yet. The *other* story is a personal story about the Falcon and the Winter Soldier adjusting to life post-blip. This story is not elegant — you don't get a strong sense of its arc, and we drop into it in random fits and starts. Some elements of it feel wildly inaccurate, and other elements feel forced. (Mr. Stan sells "then he was wrong about me" exceptionally well, but the script does him no favors with that sudden lurch towards confession.)
But good lord, they're throwing haymakers with what they're saying in that storyline. One main theme: America treats its veterans like shit. Yeah, we talk a big game — "thank you for your service" is practically a reflex now — but when it comes to giving vets the support they need, when it comes to *action*, we are failing. Another theme: yes, race has a lot the fuck to do with this.
I mean, holy shit, they showed cops racially profiling an Avenger.
Yes, this is nothing compared to what *happens* out there in the world, and timid compared to the level of protest these days, but... this is the MCU. The "McHero" universe, with a bad habit of cranking out washed-out-looking, cookie-cutter movie about white male assholes who get richly rewarded for learning to be marginally less assholish.
Context matters, and seeing these stories play out in the MCU is amazing. Hell, John Walker would be the hero of a normal MCU film, and here, the series goes to great pains to show us how, even though Walker means well, he's perpetuating a bad system.
I suppose there's a third show, which is basically a bantering buddy-cop show. This works unevenly, though the line "He's out of line, but he's right." made me laugh as hard as damn near anything from the MCU.
It'll be interesting to see how the back half of the six-part miniseries plays out. I worry that the undercooked villains and the underwhelming combat will ultimately make The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a letdown. But I'm still glad I'm watching it, because they're slipping an unabashedly political point of view (and one I agree with) into a straight-across-the-plate procedural.
For next week: Still no backlog! Somehow staying above water! I'm reading a book about cat care and watching Rompan Todo, Russian Doll, and Bridge of Spies. Meanwhile, I'm listening to more ofBlank Check's miniseries about Christopher Nolan.