The Falcon and the Winter Soldier concludes on Friday, wrapping up Disney+’s second-ever Marvel series. Below, Ringer staff offer their review of the show so far, predictions for the finale, and thoughts on what’s next for Captain America—whomever that may be.
1. What is your tweet-length review of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so far?
Jomi Adeniran: When it’s meh, it’s meh. But when it’s good … it’s really good.
Miles Surrey: For better or for worse, this really does feel like a six-hour movie packaged into a TV series. (OK, mostly worse.) I’d like to apologize for occasionally giving WandaVision a hard time.
Arjuna Ramgopal: A return to the familiar MCU action that fans are accustomed to, with a little bit of the character development and thematic structures used in WandaVision—mixed together with the visuals and tones from Winter Soldier and Civil War.
Aric Jenkins: Some solid social commentary and impressive fight sequences, and yet … I’m bored. I miss WandaVision.
Ben Lindbergh: More mostly well-made grist for the Marvel mill, without the weirdness of WandaVision but with some surprising social consciousness. Making it a movie might have saved us all some time.
2. What are you most excited for heading into the finale?
Jenkins: John Walker doing that “I … AM … CAPTAIN AMERICA” bit upon seeing Sam wearing his vibranium Captain America suit.
Lindbergh: A Luke Skywalker cameo! No wait, wrong Disney series (and wrong actor, so far). “Excited” overstates how The Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes me feel, but I am looking forward to seeing screen superhero Julia Louis-Dreyfus steal some scenes.
Ramgopal: Sam Wilson finally becoming the next Captain America. It was teased almost two years ago at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, but it’s been a slow build for Falcon to become one of the MCU’s next leading superheroes. With his new gear courtesy of Wakanda, I’m ready to see whatever mantle Sam chooses to take as he publicly becomes the hero he’s always been.
Surrey: Whether John Walker going rogue with a knockoff Captain America shield will get in the way of Sam and Bucky trying to come up with a peaceful resolution for the Flag-Smashers. Though it’s entirely possible they’re setting up everything with Walker for Season 2(?).
3. Given the show’s title, will both the Falcon and the Winter Soldier still carry those monikers at season’s end?
Ramgopal: No chance. This show has been about mantles and what they mean to those individuals and the public. Clearly Sam and Bucky are struggling to find their place in this new world with their current superhero names. In many ways, they don’t fit anymore. In the penultimate episode, both characters proved they have outgrown them. Sam physically left his wings behind, leaving them with Torres (and potentially foreshadowing Torres becoming the next Falcon). Bucky proved he’s no longer a murderer by sparing Zemo and having the Dora Milaje take him away.
Adeniran: I don’t believe so. Both will shed their names for Captain America and White Wolf, respectfully, which is good for them but admittedly difficult for branding. Who will watch Season 2 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier when neither character is called Falcon or the Winter Soldier?
Lindbergh: In light of the former Falcon’s clipped wings and his Captain America training montage at the end of Episode 5, I’m going to go with no. Congrats to Joaquín Torres on his new nickname and to Danny Ramirez on his new tax bracket.
Surrey: This feels pretty immaterial, don’t they just go by Sam and Bucky most of the time anyway? But it also seems likely that Joaquín Torres will be the new guy flying around in those “Falcon” wings, perhaps as soon as the finale.
4. Power rank the season’s villains heading into the finale, in terms of how compelling you’ve found them.
2. John Walker
3. Batroc the Leaper
Second to last. The water pump Sam and Bucky can’t fix.
Dead last. Karli and the Flag-Smashers.
Lindbergh: The Wilsons’ stingy bank loan specialist; Baron Zemo; post-serum John Walker/U.S. Agent; Bucky’s confrontational therapist; Karli and her henchpeople. No offense to the Flag-Smashers—I dig the Hand of Saruman–inspired logo and the slick-looking mobile app—but their vendetta against the GRC could not bore me more.
Jenkins: No. 1 villain is easily the U.S. government for what it did to Isaiah Bradley. Zemo is a close second, mostly for his charm, but also his serial killer–esque dancing in that Madripoorian club. Also, John Walker has entered the race as a dark-horse candidate; he’s got potential to pull off an upset in the finale. One thing is for sure: Karli and her whiny Flag-Smashers are not finishing in first.
Surrey: It’s John Walker by a long shot. Wyatt Russell does a great job conveying how the enormous responsibility of being Captain America can crush someone under the weight of expectations while exposing their flaws. (A good soldier doesn’t necessarily make a good man, etc.) That being said: While Walker murdering a person is inexcusable, the premiere opens with Sam Wilson casually killing a bunch of terrorists. The show might as well be called The Falcon and the False Equivalency.
2. John Walker
3. Sharon Carter
5. The Power Broker
Last. Karli and The Flag Smashers
While Zemo isn’t the same villain we last saw in Civil War, he remains a fascinating character with a twisted sense of what is right and what is wrong. I can’t see Walker being redeemed, but the show has done a good job of showing what putting a damaged individual into the spotlight will do. Karli and the Flag-Smashers had a ton of potential, especially in a world where there were huge consequences of losing half the population. But the show hasn’t done a good job of really developing these villains more than a standard MCU movie does, despite having three times more screen time.
5. Final prediction time: Who’s the Power Broker?
Lindbergh: It was Sharon All Along.
Ramgopal: A character we haven’t met yet or who doesn’t really matter.
Surrey: If the Power Broker isn’t Sharon Carter, who’s clearly running some kind of shady operation in Madripoor, then it’s gotta be someone viewers haven’t been introduced to yet.
Jenkins: It’s gotta be Sharon, right? Or does she just casually have access to global satellites?
Adeniran: Maybe the true Power Broker was the one inside us the entire time … but it’s probably Thunderbolt Ross or someone we least expect.
6. On the heels of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s arrival, will we see another surprise cameo in the finale? If so, who will it be?
Jenkins: Screw it. Let’s say Chris Evans. In flashback form, maybe???
Surrey: All this hype around random MCU cameos is a great distraction from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being an uneven mess of a TV series. But I guess my answer is no.
Lindbergh: Al Pacino as Mephisto. Just because it didn’t happen in the WandaVision finale doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.
Adeniran: I wouldn’t be surprised if Don Cheadle’s Rhodey showed up as he did in the first episode, but I don’t think we can have a series so based in the lore of Captain America: The Winter Soldier without Nick Fury making the slightest of appearances.
Ramgopal: While I would like the Power Broker to be a character we’ve already met, it feels like it’s a character that has yet to be introduced—meaning our last big cameo will be the reveal of the Power Broker, who will then be used in more MCU content down the road.
7. The series has toggled between numerous genres—buddy comedy, military epic, espionage thriller, to name a few. Theme-wise, what is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ultimately about?
Surrey: Sokovians tearing up the dance floor.
Adeniran: Whether it’s through the lens of race, immigration, or class structure, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is about realizing that the world we live in is not actually what it seems. Sam, Bucky, and John Walker each have to take a step back in various episodes and realize, “Wow, I know less about this thing than I ever thought.”
Jenkins: Clearly The Falcon and the Winter Soldier all along has been laying the groundwork for a romantic union between Bucky and Sam’s sister, Sarah. We all saw that huge smile on the boat. It’s a love story.
Lindbergh: Rebuilding. Broken boats, broken wings, broken bonds, broken psyches, broken trust, broken race relations, broken global sociopolitical power structures, broken actor-character continuity—you name a situation sorely in need of repair, and it’s almost certain that someone in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tried to repair it.
Ramgopal: Moving on when the world has changed. FWS has focused so much on a world that is very different post-snap. It has affected our two protagonists and all the supporting characters in such different and interesting ways. MCU movies don’t have the luxury of digging deep and examining the fallout of their big decisions. This is an epilogue of Endgame showing where Sam and Bucky are going. Now that they’re no longer tied to Steve, who and what are they?