‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Reveals Characters’ Hidden Depths

The miniseries from Marvel Studios brings fans back to the grounded world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe



Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie act as Sam and Bucky in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” The pair endure any and every struggle throughout the miniseries.


Warning: This article contains major spoilers from all episodes of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and previous Marvel films.

When I watched the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” I had a strong feeling that this show would be one of the best projects from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Through its stunning visuals, stellar cast and compelling story, I was excited for the remaining episodes of the series. Creator Malcolm Spellman crafts a new story for the beloved characters and returns fans to the world created from the “Captain America” films. After watching the finale that aired on April 23, I can confidently say this series represents the best of Marvel Studios.   

The World Has Changed 

The show starts with Sam Wilson and James “Bucky” Barnes adjusting to life after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019). Sam (Anthony Mackie) is working for the United States Air Force and decides to give Captain America’s shield to the government. He also works with Joaquín Torres (Danny Ramirez), to stop the supervillain Batroc the Leaper (George St-Pierre). Meanwhile, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is struggling to find peace within himself after being brainwashed by an evil organization known as Hydra. 

The titular characters’ actors perfectly show the struggles that each character deals with. It is wonderful to see Sam’s personal life, which is never shown in the movies due to time constraints. The first episode ends with the introduction of the anti-patriotism group Flag Smashers, and John Walker, who becomes the new Captain America. 

The second episode focuses on the consequences of Sam giving up the shield, and John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and Lemar Hoskins (Clé Bennett) are introduced as Captain America and Battlestar, respectively. 

Sam and Bucky reunite to stop the chaos from the Flag Smashers. Bucky continually questions Sam’s decision, but the argument is interrupted by their fight with the Flag Smashers and their leader, Karli Morgentheau (Erin Kellyman). The only thing Bucky and Sam have in common is their friendship with Steve Rogers, the former Captain America. However, their relationship allows development for the characters and makes the conversations between them very entertaining. Sam and Bucky visit the wrongly imprisoned Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) when they find out there are survivors of the Super Soldier Serum experiments. 

This episode does not shy away from issues found in our society. Even though Sam is an Avenger, he still experiences the discrimination and prejudice that many Black Americans face in the U.S. By the end of the episode, it becomes clear that John is unstable and does not understand Sam and Bucky’s motives to stop the Flag Smashers. To resolve this issue, Sam and Bucky talk to Zemo, who last appeared in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).

Viewers also see John and Lemar in action, with John struggling to control his temper while being Captain America.

Let’s Get to Work  

In the third episode, Sam and Bucky ask Zemo (Daniel Brühl) to help them stop the Flag Smashers. Due to Zemo’s ties to ending the Super Soldier Serum experiments, Bucky breaks him out of prison and allows him to join their mission. Zemo recommends that they all go to Madripoor, the home of the Power Broker, the manufacturer of the Super Soldier Serum. 

Upon entering Madripoor, they run into Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). Viewers also see John and Lemar in action, with John struggling to control his temper while being Captain America. Sharon is more rebellious and shows resentment for helping Steve in previous films. Fans adore Zemo more because of his performance in the episode and his amazing dance moves in the middle of the episode

The action sequences are very intense and brutal, which is something that fans have not seen since “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014). This episode has many surprises and kicks off the many twists that happen in the remainder of the season. The episode ends with a surprise appearance from one of the Dora Milaje warriors, Ayo, asking Bucky about Zemo.

The fourth episode starts with an emotional flashback scene of Bucky being cured by the Wakandans from his mind control. As Sam, Bucky and Zemo arrive in Latvia, Ayo (Florence Kasumba), John and Lemar try to intercept their plans of finding Karli and the Flag Smashers. While Ayo gives Bucky 24 hours to use Zemo’s help, John tries to take control of the plan by giving Sam limited time to talk to Karli. 

Kellyman does an excellent job in the scene where Karli attends a funeral for Mama Donya, her caregiver throughout childhood, and shows off her acting range during her discussion with Sam there. By simultaneously showing acceptance for her loss and determination to change the world, Kellyman is able to help viewers understand her character’s motives. Because of John’s time constraints, the plan fails, and John secretly steals the serum after Karli drops samples in her encounter with Zemo. This episode is filled with many surprising moments and great action sequences.

The fight between the Dora Milaje and the team was very intense and satisfying because John finally faced the consequences of his actions. Russell excels in his portrayal of John, showing that even though John wants to do the right thing as Captain America, his ego and temper will always get the best of him. Lumbly also performs well as Lemar and helps John make decisions during difficult situations. John fails to save his friend and acts in an un-Captain-America-like manner.  

While some fans may expect this penultimate episode to have plenty of action, it instead takes time to further develop the characters.

The New Captain America  

The fifth episode opens with the major consequences of the end of the last episode. Such a publicly egregious action shows that he is not worthy of upholding Captain America’s legacy. It informs viewers that John represents the worst parts of our country, such as police brutality and people abusing their power to benefit the few. Desperate to keep the Captain America mantle, John fights Sam and Bucky in an epic fight scene, leading to his defeat and Sam getting the shield back. Bucky agrees to turn Zemo in to the Dora Milaje, and they relegate him to an underwater prison. Sam gives his broken wings to Torres, hinting that he will become the new Falcon. 

While some fans may expect this penultimate episode to have plenty of action, it instead takes time to further develop the characters. Bucky decides to help Sam fix his family’s boat, strengthening their friendship and showing an emotional conversation between the characters.

Bucky finally accepts why Sam gave up the shield and finds peace within himself. Since John was revoked from the mantle by the government, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) offers to help him move on. Sam visits Isaiah and Isaiah refuses to receive the shield. He tells Sam about his time in prison and why the country betrayed him. Sam is given a new costume by Dora Milaje and finally accepts his new role as Captain America. 

The finale does not waste time getting to the action. Karli and the Flag Smashers decide to infiltrate a building in New York City where a vote from the Global Repatriation Council is taking place. Captain America and the Winter Soldier try to stop the Flag Smashers and Batroc. John tries to join the battle and avenge the murder of Lemar. However, instead of stopping Karli for his own agenda, he helps Bucky to save the politicians who were trapped in the middle of the battle. Sharon, concealing a secret, helps Sam stop Karli and Batroc, but both Batroc and Karli suffer. Sam gives a very powerful speech to the politicians, which is an inspiring message to viewers and shows that Sam really is Captain America.

This episode is an amazing end to the season. Once again, everyone in this episode does a stellar job and is afforded closure to their story arcs. Isaiah is honored by Sam at the Captain America museum to finally recognize his service for the country. Also, Bucky makes amends with the people he hurt during his time as the Winter Soldier. Valentina warns John to be prepared for what is to come. The show ends with Sam and Bucky relaxing, celebrating Sam becoming Captain America and the situations throughout the season being resolved.  

The Future of the MCU

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” continues to show the best of this new phase in the MCU. The show feels like a six-hour Marvel film, and every second of it is worth watching. It will be interesting to see how this show ties into upcoming films and TV shows, such as “Armor Wars” and the yet-untitled “Captain America” 4. While we don’t know when we will see these characters again, it is safe to say that they will always be “on your left.