Friday, April 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' - Working on a Boat Provides Self-Reflection for Sam and Bucky in 'Truth'

Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - Episode 1.05 "Truth"

John Walker faces consequences for his actions, and Sam and Bucky return to the U.S.

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.

"Truth" was written by Dalan Musson and directed by Kari Skogland

This episode truly is the show's first attempt at providing meaningful character development. Sure, not everything ultimately works. The show still has to rush through a lot of plot in order to set up the finale. Moreover, it seems perfectly obvious that not everything is going to be contained to one additional episode. The show is clearly establishing things for later in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That already has become a slightly annoying problem with the television extension of this franchise. It's almost as if the shows are becoming placeholder events between movies to provide meaningful backstories for the characters who are always treated as secondary. Sure, it can help ensure context later on. But it also has the responsibility to be entertaining right now. This show has had some ambitions of critiquing power and government. It examines these issues as they pertain to the Blip and how the world has changed. It still feels rather tentative. The show is not committing in a serious way. Sure, Karli and the Flag-Smashers are a serious threat that must be dealt with. However, it's easy for Joaquin to eventually track them down using their calling card online. That sets the stage for the final conflict in New York with Sam debuting with the shield and a new suit for the first time. That appears to be the most significant journey from this season. Up to this point, it has been rather empty. Sam just isn't that entertaining or compelling as a character. That comes with the show having to provide so much backstory for him now. The conflict was obviously going to be between him and Walker fighting over the shield. That occurs at the top of this episode. Sam and Bucky have to take this symbol of American patriotism away from the man who has just committed a vicious and brutal murder. It's a grueling fight but they prevail. Again, some parts of the show are absolutely aware that portions of the government are just upset that this murder was caught on film and Walker didn't ultimately strike harder at the leadership of this adversary. That provides for a shocking and exciting entrance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina de Fontaine. That was unexpected. She is clearly a delight. She also happens to have big plans for Walker. She doesn't see a petulant and rampaging lunatic trying to convince himself that his actions are noble and justified. He's a white man upset he can't do whatever he wants with no consequences whatsoever. He believes his side of the story isn't being heard. What the public saw was the truth though. It isn't more complicated than that. Walker certainly represents the ugly and real sides of the American identity. However, he is meant to serve in an aspirational role that extends beyond that. Steve helped inspire people to lead as the courageous heroes they are. He trusted Sam with the shield. It's much more complicated for him to carry on this legacy though. The last Black man who became a supersoldier was experimented on and tortured for years. Isaiah Bradley's story has been erased. His contributions to the world have been taken away. He's afraid of the danger his family would be in if the truth was revealed. Sam sees it now. It takes awhile for him to get the pain and the betrayal. But it also highlights the importance of the fights he has. He has to choose when to engage and where. He has a responsibility to be there for his family. It's great that this episode spends a large chuck of time simply fixing up his family's boat. It's low-stakes action that informs characters and builds relationships. Again, things are still stiff because the audience really has no connection to these people whatsoever. Moreover, Sam and Bucky will return to battle as soon as Karli makes her next move. It's all coming to a conflict in New York. Sam is preparing for that. He accepts the responsibility of the shield. He trains with it. He improves his skills. He is ready to step forward as a new hero. It's not an action he takes with anyone's permission or approval. It's all about his personal agency. Isaiah would label him a fool for believing in the myth created around this heroic image. But it's still worth fighting for from Sam's perspective. That's about as deep as the show aspires to go at the moment. It's simple. The story provides some closure in sending Zemo off with Ayo and the other members of the Dora Milaje. But it's also baffling to see Sharon pop up doing something that seems to be critical but never amounting too much. Again, bizarre choices have been made with the intent of saving big developments for later. So while everyone should be hyped about what's in store for Julia Louis-Dreyfus' future with Marvel, it also leaves this show feeling solely like a transition piece for a story yet to occur.