EDITOR’S ALERT: This is the fourth in Stacey Jones’ ongoing discussion of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ergo, like it says in the title of this post, a world of SPOILERS awaits below the thin red line. Oh and also an assumption that you’re familiar with the MCU!
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
S1:E4 The Whole World is Watching
by Stacey Jones
NOTHING BUT SPOILERS, and an assumption you are familiar with the MCU in its entirety.
Episode Four brings us to a place of necessary darkness, but does not do so lightly.
Sure, it’s a comic book, but death in the MCU has always had a real price, and a part of the continuing story. In another comic book cinematic universe, the main dude has already died and come back to life, but it looks like neither film is canon (or maybe they both are) and there’s another reboot incoming. Or something.
It’s hard for me to care about characters that can’t die or are handily replaced on any whim from an investing producer. There are no real stakes and no real tension, because nothing really matters. Tomorrow, Batfellow will be a different actor, and in these three movies, Wonderlady is gonna be played by the same actress, but the tone of character is going to drift wildly.
Sure, you can hang these kinds of characters on an all action and effects driven film and it’s fine enough for entertainment… but sure doesn’t do much to make me care.
When a viewer cares, the writer has to step up and can reach inside them and play their emotions like a piano.
Comic book dialog doesn’t work so great on the big or little screen. Take a listen to the aforementioned “other” comic book filmed universe, and it becomes clear that excessive slow-motion sequences are used to avoid even more terrible dialog moments.
Watching those “Other” films, the dialog is often something to be trudged through to get to the next action bit. I never feel this while watching an MCU piece, and instead, strain to hear every bit of it.
Because the characters in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier speak like actual human beings living in our real world, and as a result the line between the MCU and our own existence blurs. We recognize people we know, or even aspects of ourselves, and we happily invest in their journey as our own. We care.
The MCU’s efforts to stay internally consistent and have each film inform the others builds an emotional element into it. We grow attached to these characters and the actors who work their suits. We’ve laughed with them, fought, cried, and won… and so many times, lost.
But those losses are the things that continue to shape the characters that go on, far more than the victories. The past informs the future and people grow and learn… or don’t.
As viewers, we bank all of it. We find it’s not so hard at all to feel like we’ve really lost a friend when Old Steve Rogers hangs up The Shield in Avengers: Endgame. Or Tony and Natasha die.
All of this is why ‘The Whole World is Watching’ will likely be the linchpin episode of the series.
Sam’s arc has always been, “Am I Worthy to Wear the Shield” and from episode one, it’s clear that part of his self-doubt is reflective of having been born black in America.
John Walker’s arc has had him in a rapid decline since his first appearance. He’s all ego, and the pressure upon him is enormous. He’s a product of the modern American Armed Forces and their corporate resource wars, his medals were earned for atrocities committed overseas.
Super-serum or not, John Walker is never going to be able to carry the responsibility of The Shield.
The creeping doom I felt when Ayo and the Dora Milaje show up, beat the tar out of Walker and humiliate him, twisted my stomach. A couple of black women beating a blonde, blue eyed white man is so obviously emasculating (aside from the racial overtones) that we understand the choices he is about to make are coming from a completely smashed ego.
Lemar’s death is accidental, a result of John’s poor chain of decisions. It’s Walker’s bottom of the barrel moment: his partner is dead, and it’s his fault.
John must fail for Sam to succeed, and in the episode’s final, horrific moments he fails in front of hundreds of live streaming phone cameras.
The whole world is watching not only Walker, but also Sam and Bucky’s reaction. It’s the catalyst moment where The Falcon and The Winter Soldier decide who they are, what they stand for, and what they must do.
It feels scary, dangerous, and important, and that’s why I’ll be back next week.
Stacey Jones is an award winning writer, composer, musician, and rebel philosopher who was, in fact, the overall winner of the 2nd running of TVWriter™’s now gone but not forgotten contest, The People’s Pilot. TVWriter™ is happy to welcome him back to the fold.