‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ attempts to tackle race, mental health with poise but falls short

Bucky (Sebastian Stan) glares angrily at Sam (Anthony Mackie) after a fight. (Fair use from The Indian Express)

Disney Plus’ second Marvel show “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is full of action, excitement and character development that culminates in an entertaining and enjoyable show that is one of the most engaging Marvel installments due to its discussions of racism, PTSD and much more.

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” starts the buddy-cop style friendship between the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and the Falcon, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), as they attempt to make new lives in a changed world after “Avengers: Engame.”

This is Marvel’s second TV show–after WandaVision–and the newest addition to phase four of the Marvel Universe. This phase takes place after half the population was killed by Thanos over five years and delves into storylines of the minor Avengers superheroes.

While the storyline is intriguing, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” struggles to find a balance between being a serious show tackling issues such as race and income inequality or an action-filled comedy. Each episode seems to have a different feel, teetering between both styles and giving the show an unbalanced feel.

The story starts with a struggling Barnes trying to live a new life as a reformed superhero after being kidnapped and forced to kill under the Winter Soldier moniker for years. At the same time, Wilson is trying to reconnect with his family and continue the legacy of Captain America. The two characters, while having little in common, bond over their shared friendship.

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” skillfully dives into the backstories of Bucky and Sam, who were stagnant, undeveloped characters in previous Marvel films. The show takes time to deal with Bucky’s PTSD and various mental health issues. After being brainwashed for decades, he starts to find himself as a person no longer under the control of others.

Additionally, the show highlights the racism Sam deals with. While they try to tackle racial profiling with the police, they minimize the issue greatly.

Further, Marvel feels the need to sideline Sam, a prominent Black character, while doing this. In some episodes, he is quite literally watching the action go on around him, like when John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is fighting the Dorae Milaje. The show only focuses on his race and his personality when it works for the story. They only truly highlight Sam’s power and depth in the final episode of the series which, while incredible, comes late.

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is a fantastic show with great action and is perfect for people who want to learn more about Sam and Bucky’s characters. However, at the same time, it fails to truly exemplify the difficulties that the characters face and seems to address complex issues at a surface level.