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Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 6: One World, One People

Welcome back!  It’s the final entry in our episode-by-episode examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  As always, spoilers abound, and this article assumes you’ve seen the sixth and final episode of the series.

It strikes me, watching ‘One World, One People,’ how Falcon and the Winter Soldier serves as a microcosmic example of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.  Everything the MCU does well can be found in this series:  the quality and charisma of its actors; the self-assured polish of its cinematic craft; its notions about heroism and responsibility; and the sheer joy of seeing the characters and concepts of Marvel Comics brought to life.  Alas, the series also offers plenty of what the MCU doesn’t do well:  low stakes and a general lack of any real peril or consequences; the glossy blandness of a well-worn narrative formula; and a Game of Thrones-like disregard for time and distance, and cause and effect.  Like almost everything the MCU has ever offered up, it’s an uneven mix of excitement and disappointment:  thrilling, gratifying, maddening, and frustrating all at the same time.  As much fun as Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been — and it’s been a lot of fun, more often than not — very little of it holds up to even the most casual scrutiny, which pushes my particular needle closer to the maddening / frustrating end of the spectrum.  Not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the series, but enough that I find myself constantly wishing that this or that thing was done just a little differently.

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Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 5: Truth

Welcome back to our episode-by-episode examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  As always, there are spoilers ahead, and this article assumes you’ve seen up through the fifth episode.

A climactic fight at the top of the hour notwithstanding, most of the penultimate episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier feels like a deep breath before the final leg of a marathon.  It’s a time for the show to take stock of its human element and present its central thesis in a clear, unambiguous way.  With a notable exception or two, most of the episode’s running time is devoted to people at long last saying what they really mean…or perhaps finally realizing what it is they mean to say.

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Marvel

Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 4: The Whole World is Watching

Welcome back to our episode-by-episode examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  As always, there are spoilers ahead, and this article assumes you’ve seen up through the fourth episode.  I’ll beg the reader’s patience in advance; I quote dialogue fairly extensively from this episode, as much of what people say here reveals character and provides depth to the series’ ongoing themes:  power, powerlessness, race, class, and communal responsibility.

Hope and cynicism, death and zealotry.  No doubt it sounds strange coming from someone who’s devoted as much of their life to cataloging and absorbing these stories as I have, but I believe the only really inherently compelling thing about the characters populating super-hero universes is the extremity — the purity, the certainty — of their belief systems.  There’s an entire constellation of overlapping (and often conflicting) motives, methods, and philosophies at work in this episode, but one thing practically everyone here has in common is a devout belief in the essential rightness of their cause, or at least that their actions, however questionable, will be justified by the end result.  And as we’ll see, competing ideas about Captain America — both the person and the legacy — will once again come into play, and then some.

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Marvel

Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 3: Power Broker

Welcome back to our episode-by-episode examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  As always, spoilers abound; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the third episode (and optimally Captain America:  Winter Soldier and Captain America:  Civil War for good measure).

Ostensibly titled for the oft-mentioned but as yet unseen Power Broker (proper noun), episode 3 of Falcon and the Winter Soldier brims with would-be power brokers (common noun) and grasping intermediaries.  There’s hardly a person in this episode who isn’t intent on using someone or something else to get what they really want.  Throw in the strong possibility that a good many of them might well want something other than what they claim they really want, and hijinx ensue.  It’s a lot of fun, but, as we’ll see, labors mightily to hold up to even the most casual scrutiny.

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Marvel

Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 2: The Star-Spangled Man

Welcome to our continuing examination of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  As always, spoilers abound; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the second episode.

Episode 2 of Falcon and the Winter Soldier opens with a development I didn’t see coming:  a relatively sympathetic portrayal of John Walker (Wyatt Russell), the man revealed as the new Captain America at the end of last week’s episode.  We find him in his old high school locker room, surrounded by football gear and the echo of his early glory days, preparing for an appearance on Good Morning America that’s one part interview, three parts publicity stunt.  A woman who was clearly his high school sweetheart and who I assume is now his wife joins him, noting his nervousness.  He admits he feels the weight of the world’s expectations, and doesn’t want to fail anyone.  She tells him to just be himself.

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Marvel

Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ep. 1: New World Order

Welcome to the first of our episode-by-episode examinations of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  A minefield’s worth of spoilers lie ahead, and Captain America:  The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America:  Civil War (2016), Avengers:  Infinity War (2018), and Avengers:  Endgame (2019) will all prove pertinent to events we’ll see in episode 1 of this series.

“How does it feel?”

“Like it’s someone else’s.”

“It isn’t.”

The it in question is the iconic shield and symbolic mantle of Captain America, passed on at the end of Avengers:  Endgame from Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and the words — literally the first we hear in Falcon and the Winter Soldier — serve as a kind of thesis statement for what this series is all about.

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WandaVision: Final Thoughts

I’ll let you in on an uncomfortable secret, gentle reader:  while the life-long comic geek in me is thrilled (often against his better judgment) by the credible appearance of super-heroes in shows and movies, the snooty movie critic in me thinks that…well…they all too often just aren’t very good.

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Marvel

WandaVision, Ep. 9: The Series Finale

Welcome to the last of our episode-by-episode examinations of WandaVision.  There are potentially fatal, life-threatening spoilers ahead, and the public health hazard that is Opposite of Cool assumes you’ve seen up through the ninth episode, i.e., finished the series.

Let’s be honest here:  super-hero movies and television shows are not exactly renowned for their unexpected developments.  I mean, sure, there are all those post-credit scenes littering the ends of Marvel movies — Holy shit, he was trying to call Captain Marvel! — but even those are routine; a surprise party thrown in the same place at the same time for the same people every year.  You see enough of it, it stops being a surprise, right?

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Marvel

WandaVision, Ep. 8: Previously On

Note:  Welcome back to our episode-by-episode exploration of WandaVision.  As always, there are spoilers ahead; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the eighth episode.

The eighth and penultimate episode of WandaVision serves as an origin story for the two witches of our tale, Agatha Harkness and Wanda Maximoff.  Once upon a time, back before the internet, origin stories were routine in super-hero comics.  It was felt that periodic reminders of who these characters were and where they’d come from were helpful to readers new and old.  The origin stories in this episode are presented as flashbacks — a nice blending of comic and TV tropes, one laid over the other — and each witch’s origin story, bound by magic and tragedy, serves as a contextual frame for the other.

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Marvel

WandaVision, Ep.7: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Note:  Welcome back to our episode-by-episode exploration of WandaVision.  Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the seventh episode.

One of the unexpected pleasures of WandaVision has been the sneaky good reproductions of the sitcoms it’s emulating.  Episode 6 stuck its Malcolm in the Middle landing perfectly:  the editing, the camera placement, even the music.  So perfectly, in fact, that I expected to see director Matt Shakman’s name listed somewhere in the Malcolm credits.  This episode, we’re treated to Modern Family (2009 – 2020), with its fourth wall-breaking confessions and quasi-documentary style, as well as a title sequence evoking The Office.[1]Three of the most successful sitcoms of this era, Modern Family, The Office (2005 – 2013), and Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015), all employed the same quasi-documentary elements, with … Continue reading  Elizabeth Olsen absolutely kills it channelling Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) and her high anxiety bemusement at the beginning of this episode.  Sometimes it’s the little things.

References

References
1 Three of the most successful sitcoms of this era, Modern Family, The Office (2005 – 2013), and Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015), all employed the same quasi-documentary elements, with the main characters speaking directly to the audience / documentarian.