Friday, March 26, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' - Sam and Bucky Team Up Despite Their Disagreements in 'The Star-Spangled Man'

Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - Episode 1.02 "The Star-Spangled Man"

John Walker is named Captain America, and Sam and Bucky team up against a rebel group.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

"The Star-Spangled Man" was written by Michael Kastelein and directed by Kari Skogland

John Walker has been preparing to become the new Captain America. The United States government sees the necessity of that visual. They have been searching for the replacement for months. Sam was given the shield by Steve Rogers. He did so because he knew his friend had the morals and conviction to wield it with pride. Sam had doubts himself. He didn't feel worthy. It was easier for him to continue as the Falcon. That superhero life is known and acceptable to him. It's enough. He is capable of so much more. He isn't allowed to believe that. More importantly though, the government is willing to deceive him in order to take advantage of what he has. They needed his cooperation in order to obtain the shield. It is just handed to Walker. He believes that he embodies everything that this symbol represents. He never met Steve Rogers though. The story props up his skills as a soldier. He is at the top in every field. He has been training for this moment. He is nervous. But he also carries himself with national pride as well as an arrogance because this special designation has been bestowed upon him. Sam and Bucky have been through many conflicts. They understand the fragile bonds that hold the world together and the heroes necessary to keep it safe for everyone. They operate with some freedom. And yet, they too are conditioned into accepting that they must be carefully monitored in order to be controlled. Sam's body makes him a perceived threat. That isn't true unless he's engaging with an enemy trying to move a serum that creates super-soldiers. He is effective and appreciated in the field. Outside that though, he is seen as just another Black man who is angry and doesn't seem reasonable. Sam's identity matters. Bucky's does as well. They are both struggling at the moment. They lost the person who always kept them solid in their convictions. Without Steve, they flail around in their friendship. They embark on a mission together here. That's an appreciated development. The show needed Sam and Bucky together. They were kept from each other in the premiere. However, they have drastically different reactions to the events in the world. Bucky is furious that Sam gave up the shield and a new Captain America is cosplaying with it. Sam doesn't have the luxury of feeling that way. In fact, it's what he has come to expect as a Black man in America. This is what the government does. It's not a noble institution that inspires greatness in others. Steve stood as that ideal. It was never perfect though. Meanwhile, Bucky sees himself as a former Hydra operative. When people have disdain for him and what he has done, he always positions it through that prism. And yet, lives have been ruined because of the experiments done on communities who were never able to take advantage of the subsequent opportunities. Isaiah Bradley was a super-soldier developed in the 1950s. The world doesn't know about him. Instead, he was a Black man sent to prison for his actions being perceived as crimes. Bucky was free to roam the world for years. He is even gifted with a pardon. Sure, he is arrested here. That is all cleaned up through a therapy session. That comic delight is the true highlight of the episode. Meanwhile, the show is barely making vague promises with the overall story with the Flag-Smashers. That basically cements the feeling that the show has very interesting things to say about the world at large, who is allowed to be a hero and the government's role in caring for its people. However, the execution continues to be a little lacking and uninspired. It's a great conversation starter, with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan clearly having a blast. The threat remains too opaque for a story that is in no rush to deliver despite a six episode run time. It's awkward while suggesting something much deeper in analyzing the longterm horrors that have plagued the Black community at the hands of the American government. It's a luxury to see that context as well. Again, Sam and Bucky have been through these stories before. They were a part of a team that did something. They dealt with the consequences as well. The effective moments of this story occur because the audience already has a connection to Sam and Bucky. It's heartbreaking when Bucky fears that Steve being wrong about Sam also means that his view of Bucky is inherently wrong. That transference is devastating. The connection doesn't have to exist at all. Bucky can't see that. He is still trying to form an identity in this world. It's easier for him to embark on the next mission. He still has to be reminded of the rules. That's the part of life he knows and can function within. He doesn't have to do so alongside the new Captain America. A reluctant alliance may not fix anything. It certainly requires people to be fully aware of the complex intersectional dynamics that have defined the past and infused the present with so much drama. So many are willing to ignore what has previously occur. That history is important though. Mistakes were made. Heroes can step up to improve the world. However, the government may still be failing to serve those who need the most protection.