R E V I E W – S E R I E S
With the advent of a story arc about what it means to be a symbol that does not feature Chris Evans as Captain America, we already knew that the characters in question will hover around a grey area of ethical code. The superhero genre, with all its amusing concepts of flashy superpowers and aerial combat sequences is all about conveying the message of hope to its viewers. And if hope is not the spotlight of a story, the challenge that comes with instilling hope certainly is, i.e. the grey area. And with all the dumbed down implications behind moral choices and frequent verbal confrontations through and through, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier balances with obligatory action scenes to make it all work beautifully.
As misleading as the trailer was, conveying the probability of a mindless CGI action flick with a pinch of bromance, it helped the actual series come off as a pleasant surprise. It put everyone from the titular hero, the redemptive assassin to the struggling anti-hero and rebellious villain in multiple situations constantly and simultaneously — to better flesh out their choices and therefore — their characters. Through moral arguments, it kept on seeking the question: “What kind of people’s representative should be Captain America?” via the question: “What makes a good person?”
Not only did the series provide a much needed screen-time for both leads to be cared about, but also added a wide range of fresh faces that are not typically the one-dimensional MCU archetype. And a fluctuation in pacing throughout served as a constant reminder that each of these characters actually have an independent arc, which makes room for them to pull off a well-portrayed Secret Invasion saga in the future.
Episode 4 commenced with one of the strongest sequences of acting in the MCU in its pre-credit scene, which added yet another layer to the interesting arc of a lead. A number of expository moral arguments distributed evenly throughout the episode avoided the problem of a sudden info-dump: a noticeable flaw found in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Through their views, choices and actions, each new character shone the brightest as we got to process their motivations — why they were doing what they were doing. A small sequence thrown in the middle reminded us what it means to be the people’s leader in countries not filled with exotic metrocities. John Walker and his friend paralleling Steve and Bucky from Civil War served as a beautiful symbol of circumstantial misunderstanding. And there’s yet another classic Marvel calling out its own tropes — this time it’s weapon repetitions. To top it all, we were treated with one of the grimmest and jaw-dropping endings in MCU history.
Episode 5 can be best labelled as the calm before the storm. Nevertheless, it fell no short of its previous episode. A shift in pacing helped explore other dimensions of the characters who were continuously placed in similar situations. A few short-spanned moments that were emotionally compelling fleshed out one of the fan favourite characters to help us sympathise with him. Addressing racism and the repressed White American repulsion towards immigrants and their successors was a necessary bold move on their part. It was immediately complemented by a heartwarming sequence portraying an act of solidarity and humanity in Sam’s community. A training montage timed perfectly and a slow motion that works added to their experimentations with storytelling. In the end, it addressed the issue of being Captain America without being Steve Rogers, making peace with the gray world we live in.
Episode 6 had its share of satisfying zip-ups and flaws in doing so. A piece of technology from a phase -2 film, an unexpected redemptive arc and sensible choices in action — all added nice strokes to the canvas. While the action was choreographed brilliantly, a sense of realism pulled Marvel off its fan-service final sequence recipe where every character is somehow tied in a massive multi arena mega showdown regardless of need. In fact, avoiding fights seals the final statement on who is deserving to take the prestigious mantle. While the change of heart in one character makes him tougher to dissect yet easier to accept, we are not given quite enough to accept the sudden shift of another character, and the accompanying plot twist. They made sure to tie all loose ends from all episodes, providing us with a rather wholesome (and bittersweet) ending. The title card when the credits started rolling was cherry on top.
Experiments with camera work were laudable. Episode 4 featured a scene where the front cam was shakier than the back-view one — implying an approach towards the unwanted. Episode 5 featured serene views cinematography as a throwback to the Monet paintings featured earlier in the show. Spot on beats or stretched versions of the Civil War theme — all worked pretty well. A couple of scenes could have been more emotionally riveting given more screen-time. There was not as much of the ‘bromance’ as featured or expected. Director Kari Skogland did a brilliant job at portraying all characters sparking chemistry through their dialogues. And she was supported by Sebastian Stan and Wyatt Russell’s acting prowess too. As much as the series finale is predictable, it is safe to say that Marvel is exploring newer methods of storytelling to engage its audience even after the end of phase 3, and is succeeding in doing so.
Shudipto is a replicant with the emotional range of a labradoodle.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: MCU Gets Back on its Action Track