Falcon and the Winter Soldier came to an end last week, and it was… okay. We didn’t get the John Walker vs Falcon shield-on-shield battle the series had teased, and while I had complained that another symmetrical battle over diametrically opposed ideologies would be boring, it’s weird that the show replaced it with absolutely nothing. Maybe I’m just like my mother – she’s never satisfied. Despite not being on board with the ending though, it actually did feel like an ending, and not just a ‘tune in next time to see what the MCU does next!’ like we got with WandaVision. I vastly preferred WandaVision as a show, and in terms of enjoyment, I liked its finale more than this one. But Falcon and the Winter Soldier actually tried, thematically and structurally, to bring things to a complete close, and I hope Marvel can learn lessons from that going forward.
We do know that Falcon will continue. Captain America 4, written by the Falcon showrunner, will act as a continuation, and obviously the show ending with Sam being officially made Cap does set up the next instalment somewhat. But it doesn’t feel like the narrative was sacrificed for this continuation. Agnes suffers a horrific fate in WandaVision, while Wanda goes unpunished by the authorities – as a character, she has sacrifices, but faces no punishment for holding a whole town hostage – because she needs to head to Mount Wundagore, since her reappearance in the MCU has already been planned, and everything needs to link up.
There is obviously some of this going on with Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but it feels much more seamless, which is really all Marvel ever needed to do. I know that Wanda is coming back, but it would be nice if the MCU had allowed its most creative and risky endeavour yet to enjoy a proper ending, rather than cannibalising the finale to set up Doctor Strange.
Part of the reason Falcon excels is because both the show and Captain America 4 are helmed by Malcolm Spellman, meaning he was in full control of how the stories link up – relatively, at least. It’s still Marvel, at the end of the day. That doesn’t feel like a solution though; it’s a huge project with hundreds of different creatives behind the scenes, with Kevin Feige supporting them all, but he’s not an auteur making sure everything is perfectly aligned in a creatively satisfying way. I enjoy the MCU, but endings have always been its biggest issue, and I hope the fact Spellman was able to end Falcon so competently is taken as a lesson, not as a fluke owing to his control over both Falcon and Cap 4.
There are still some missteps. For one, I don’t think it’s that entertaining, and I doubt Falcon’s speech will have any real ramifications for how the MCU sees the military and government authority as a whole. And Sharon Carter was wasted throughout the show – she was the only character that I’d argue was given the typical MCU, wait until next time-style ending, and it meant her whole arc was warped to fit this trite and predictable ending. But Carter aside, the structure of the ending actually feels like an ending, and that’s progress.
Marvel has had tangentially related television offerings before, with the Defenders, Agents of SHIELD, and Agent Carter, but WandaVision was the start of a new approach, one that placed just as much value on the television side of things as it did the movies. It feels too early to tell how successful that is – WandaVision pulled in phenomenal viewing figures, but the ending left a lot to be desired, while Falcon fizzled but felt more like a TV show in its conclusion. It’s all eyes on Loki from now on.
Part of the reason the finale felt so satisfying was because of Isaiah, the first Black supersoldier, mostly forgotten by history. The show examined race on a much closer level than the MCU had done previously, but then seemed to flinch at the end. Despite that, Isaiah’s ending, finally getting the recognition he deserves, and coming to see the value in a Black man holding the shield, felt far more satisfying than just the hero beating the villain. That’s another issue with the MCU, good vs evil only has so many layers, especially in a story that never truly stops, but must end every time. Falcon’s central villain – was whether that be Karli, Zemo, Sharon, or John – didn’t really do enough to prop up the show, but that just means the ending had more space for a much more grounded resolution. Likewise, Bucky’s battle with his guilt and his sins, his realisation that the best way to exorcise his demons is through contrition and humility, not further violence or attempting to ‘fix’ things, is far more satisfying than slaying a monster.
I’m not sure how deliberate all of this was, nor am I confident that the MCU will pay it much attention beyond how it sets up John, Sharon, and Sam in the overall continuity. But for being a fairly bland ending, at least it actually felt like one – and maybe that’s enough.
Next: The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Suffers The Same Issue As The Comics: Not Enough Sam Wilson
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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