R E V I E W – S E R I E S
Episodes 1-3: Less is more, more is less
A saga more than a decade long and based on all-powerful universal artifacts to build up to one of the two most significant comic book conflicts of history is pretty much self-explanatory in terms of individual arcs. Heavily focused on world-building and creating connections between films, the MCU rarely concentrates on personal or social aspects. Amidst all the fictional rule-binders, the greatest, if not only, character growth has been shown in Captain America’s arc. This is what makes the transition from his satisfying ending to the stories of people he trusted – exceptionally hard. Halfway through the new Disney+ miniseries, we can say that they have kept this hype-train on the right track.
The first of phase 4, WandaVision, provided the cool-down we needed after the exhilarating and excruciating events of The Mad Titan. As the trailer suggested, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would get back on track with the specialised action sequences we loved in films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hiring Derek Kolstad, a creator of the John Wick franchise, for the job further solidifies the fact. Yet, surprisingly enough, the pilot episode’s pre-credit scene suggested they have more to offer than teased in the promotions. Off to a strong start with voiceovers and shaky cams to enhance it, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made their intentions clear about stretching to territories they should’ve earlier. And after the beloved Marvel Studios intro, we are greeted with the most common layout of modern action — a sequence involving trivial opposition (who have loose connections with the main opposition) to prepare us for the pace. Only this time, what we see are the primary sequences used in the trailers — meaning most of the content for the rest of the series is brand-new. And to top that, the sequence was a parallel to the opening sequence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Each episode had its highlights and base aspects.
Episode 1 took its sweet time fleshing out our titular characters, and nailed the part with Bucky Barnes. Another man out of time, transitioning to a self-sufficient individual from a mindless one, traumatised by his innocent victims — the measures they took with his character implies a great understanding of the writers’ part. With The Falcon, they answered questions we fans always had about the superhero lifestyle and financial stability. And adding a rather unoriginal struggle to his arc was made watchable by cleverly utilising past MCU events.
Episode 2 addressed the sensitive social issues. Stretching back the super-soldier arc to the past as well was a clever move on their part. A chronologically well-arranged sequence depicted the existence of racism through and through. Political propaganda to create another much-needed beacon of hope for the distressed American populace hit the marks where Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t. And once again, they took time to dissect the new lead, making his character perfectly imperfect and emotions and motivations valid.
Episode 3 dove deeper into the story while continuously adding newer characters. Be it for the sake of the sequencing or in a cliffhanger, an increment in characters placed in exotic locations and extremist antagonists with peacekeeping motives infers to a possibly upcoming unoriginal action drama like Mission Impossible installments. A simultaneous introduction of characters added with a spoonful of social issues that people face around the fictional world added with a pinch of character depth makes the episode dramatic, entertaining, overwhelming, and rushed, backed by plot armours.
Suffice to say that the pacing in episode 3 was not exactly a smooth ride from episodes 1 and 2. On the other hand, action sequences were paced differently — from subtle fast-paced to faster sci-fi to hand-to-hand combat flashes. The use of a hand-held camera enhanced the pacing in Episode 2, helping us fathom what’s going on. The camera work has been quite broad-ranging as opposed to any average MCU flick. While the zoom-ins in episode 1 were awkwardly on the nose, episode 3 had the panning improved with long and aerial shots and slo-mo. Background music has mainly been experimental as well. Clichéd digital instrument based tension builders worked fine for episode 3. For episode 2, the overly done dramatic score used for a minor death scene felt both out of style and scale compared to what happened and the MCU. And using Mozart’s Lacrimosa to reintroduce a chilling character was out of style, yet a plausible choice, which was ultimately nullified in episode 3 for the sudden change in character. Nevertheless, you realise how much of an influence Marvel has when you find multiple fanboy comments in the YouTube video for Mozart’s piece after that episode.
With half of the drama still remaining, we saw a lot of drama revolving around The Blip, executed wonderfully unlike in Spiderman: Far from Home. Showing the struggles of victims worldwide and selfish street-level politics revolving post-Blip government initiatives help the antagonists’ cause by manifolds. It’s appreciable, and we certainly hope they don’t start overusing it as plot armour or lazy writing. Side by side with the titular duo’s chemistry, they acknowledged the implications of Captain America’s idea, much like in The Dark Knight trilogy. Character depth for heroes and anti-heroes so far has been brilliant. The villains’ depiction is very humane, but their screen-time being low takes away some much needed intrinsic value from their emotional moments and depth. Any more of that would lead to a perfectly scripted moral dilemma.
Each episode ended with intriguing cliffhangers, episode 3 with the best for its sound mixing, making us want more. But when we see the runtime of the credits take as we exit the player, we can’t help notice that the MCU has a new common villain.
Shudipto is a replicant with the emotional range of a labradoodle.