WarningMight contain spoilers.

I have mixed feelings. I was shocked by how violent and jingoistic the pilot is—far more than is typical for the MCU, and continued throughout. Sam is not very interesting, despite representing compelling and current societal issues. It’s as if he’s always performing, because we never see him either lose his temper or lose control; he never seems to just be himself. (On an unrelated note, his Captain America outfit may function very well, but it looks downright silly.)

Bucky is a vastly more compelling character. I’m glad Sebastian Stan finally got an opportunity to shine after the disappointment of Avengers: Infinity War . A happy Bucky flirting with Sam’s sister is an unexpected delight, while the flashback to Ayo testing him after the completion of his deprogramming is very emotional and moving. It’s interesting to think of him as an expat, even if it’s an imperfect metaphor.[1]

It beggars belief that Baron Zemo’s first appearance puts him in an almost comedic role. I’m glad later episodes correct this. The Wakandans are properly awesome, though. It’s fun watching them figuratively and literally dismantle all opposition.

I don’t accept John Walker’s semi-redemption. It’s certainly true that he’s a product of the system, but he’s also a man who beat another man to a pulp in a rage, and he doesn’t have gamma radiation–induced anger issues to blame: he deliberately injected himself with the super soldier serum because he felt entitled to power. (Wyatt Russell’s performance, though, is pitch perfect. It was superb casting.)

I could listen to Lemar Hoskins’s voice all day. I wish he had more to do as Clé Bennett than be a walking moral compass before dying just to give John Walker an excuse to kill someone. As pointed out by a commenter:

I'd argue it would have been better served if Lamar [sic] hadn't died. If Walker had thought he died for some reason, killed the Flag Smasher, and then Lamar [sic] shows up, horrified at what he's done, then that could have generated even more cognitive dissonance for Walker.

I agree with Pajiba that Karli and her group feel underwhelming and generic. It’s obvious that having to excise the vaccination storyline hurt the show, even if that wouldn’t have completely salvaged it. I was disappointed at the determination to demonize Karli so we didn’t accidentally sympathize with her cause.

Sharon being the evil Power Broker is a twist no one could have expected… as long as their imagination stayed within the bounds of good storytelling. More fool me for refusing to believe in such an inane and illogical possibility when people first started hypothesizing about it.

The ‘banter’ between the two leads in the first two episodes is painfully forced; their natural camaraderie in the second half is a relief. The quality of the show oscillates: the first episode is unimpressive, the second is better; the third episode is unimpressive again, the fourth is good; the fifth episode is the highlight of the series, whereas the last is a mixed bag.

There was no need to show a snake being gutted. It’s disgusting, and only included for shock value.

One thing to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s credit is that it certainly fits visually with the MCU, thanks to its crisp, high-quality production. The cinematography is good to great, especially that sequence, when Walker kills Karli’s friend, darkly mirroring Captain America disabling Tony Stark’s suit at the end of Captain America: Civil War .

  1. Speaking of expats, no matter how many of them I meet or hear about, I’m always shocked by the blatant racism of their efforts to insulate themselves from the society around them, right down to spending years as a resident without ever making any push to learning the local language. ‘It’s harder as an adult’ is not an adequate justification.