Follow TV Tropes

Following

Series / The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Go To

Spoilers for all Marvel Cinematic Universe works preceding this one will be left unmarked.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mv5bodniodvmyjitm2mymc00zwqyltgymgytnzjjmmvmzty2otjjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzk3nduzntc_v1.png
"The world is upside-down. People need something to get behind. They need a symbol."
James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes
Advertisement:

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier note  is a superhero action thriller / buddy miniseries created for Disney+ by Malcolm Spellman (Empire), based on the Marvel Comics characters of the same names. A spinoff/sequel of the Captain America films, it is the 25th overall entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the second installment of Phase 4, and the second MCU series produced by Marvel Studios. Kari Skogland (The Handmaid's Tale) is the director of all six episodes.

Set six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the series follows Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) on a worldwide adventure that puts their abilities to the test after Sam initially declines taking up the mantle and shield of Captain America. Returning cast and characters include Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo, Georges St-Pierre as Georges Batroc, Florence Kasumba as Ayo, and Don Cheadle as James Rhodes while newcomers include Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau, Wyatt Russell as John Walker, Clé Bennett as Lemar Hoskins, Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson, Danny Ramirez as Joaquin Torres, Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley, Elijah Richardson as Eli Bradley, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.

Advertisement:

The show made its debut on March 19, 2021, two weeks after WandaVision's finale, and concluded on April 23. The same day its finale aired, it was announced that a fourth Captain America movie was in development with the script being co-written by Spellman and series staff writer Dalan Musson.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Trailer 3.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 
    Tropes A-G 
  • Action Prologue: The show opens with a massive cinematic action setpiece that seems meant to emphasize the budget available on this show.note 
  • Actor Allusion:
    • One of the names on Bucky's list is P.W. Hauser. In I, Tonya, Paul Walter Hauser plays the man hired by Tonya's husband Jeff (played by Sebastian Stan) to attack Nancy Kerrigan.
    • In the first episode, Sam says he's "always reppin' NOLA", even though his family is from a small town about an hour out from New Orleans. Anthony Mackie (Sam) was born and raised in the city.
  • Adaptation Deviation: In the comics, Flag-Smasher (who Karli is based on), was a middle-aged man. Here, the character was re-imagined as a young girl and the name is given to the group she leads.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Karli Morgenthau and the Flag-Smashers come off as a much more earnest group than they are in the comics, due to Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters being in play (something lampshaded by Karli herself in the fourth episode). As the series goes on, their only crimes as a group amount to helping refugees and providing medicine for those in need, while Karli herself increasingly escalates them into terrorist acts and threatening Sam's family — she doesn't exactly like doing so, but feels that it is all necessary for the cause, yet by the end even her supporters are visibly uncomfortable/reluctant with following through these acts. Notably, Sam defends the group on numerous occasions, with his main concern being the fact they've all got Super Soldier abilities, making them dangerous. At the end, even after Karli had been killed by Sharon, he tears into the senators that because the situation was as bad as it is, people helped "a misguided teenager" fight against governments because her/the Flag-Smashers goals were well-intentioned, and that they'd better try to improve the situation before the next Karli gets desperate enough to resort to such extreme measures.
    • John Walker as US Agent in comics typically represents the worst aspects of America in the political climate at the time a given story is written. Most consistently, he's an unapologetic Jerkass who frequently feels Steve Rogers doesn't really represent "the real America." Here, he has nothing but respect for Steve's legacy and honestly tries his best to live up to it. He's a flawed man to be sure, but at heart, he is a good man.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Sharon Carter in the comics was always an ally of Captain America's as well as stayed loyal to SHIELD and their friends even after quitting the organization. Here, Sharon has become disillusioned with the government and superheroes after none of their friends tried to have their back when she was a fugitive of the states, eventually becoming the manipulative and power-hungry Power Broker in a bid for revenge and conquest.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Both John Walker and Lemar Hoskins are explicitly just Badass Normal, though Walker is commented as possessing seemingly unnatural physical capabilities to the point he was subject to studies and apparently passed a number of tests. In the comics, they were both enhanced to the point that they were Steve Rogers' physical superiors by a considerable margin. This however, actually changes after Walker takes the serum in Episode 4.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • Don Cheadle was advertised to being part of the show and even has his own section at the end credits. He only appears in the first episode as Rhodey in a minor role before never making a reappearance.
    • Sharon Carter was heavily featured in the series promotion, was part of the announcement for the series, and has third-billing in the credits, but has around ten minutes across the entire series (even if she has plot importance).
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: The Action Prologue features one of these, with Falcon pursuing several men in wingsuits and his massive wings proving a bit problematic in those tight spaces. He is chased in turn by several helicopters firing missiles and manages to dodge them while the missiles hit the edges of the canyon.
  • Affirmative Action Legacy:
    • The series serves as a Deconstruction of the trope. Steve has entrusted his shield to Sam, but a Black man taking on the title of a White one — especially when that title is a symbol of a country that continues to struggle with racial issues — isn't so simple.
    • This is also seen with the introduction of Isaiah Bradley, who had become a Super Soldier in '51, following on after Steve Rogers. Rather than be celebrated, however, the government covered him up and then incarcerated him, subjecting him to experimentation (which, apparently, included being handed over to HYDRA), and spent the entire time pretending he never existed.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Dora Milaje manage to casually out-fight Walker, the most accomplished soldier in modern American history, and even super-soldiers, all without benefitting from any enhancement.
  • And Starring "with Daniel Brühl" / and "Don Cheadle"
  • Angrish: In Episode 2, when Sam mocks Bucky for getting beaten up by "a little girl", Bucky's only answer is an incoherent, angry scream.
  • Anti-Villain: The Flagsmashers hail from a downtrodden group of refugees who were unfairly used by the system. They eventually graduate into extremism, but they start out fairly sympathetic. Even after they're defeated, Sam gives the government a lecture about the valid points they were making.
  • Artistic License – Physics: In the finale, a few kids are shown hanging off of Bucky's vibranium arm, which he's holding out at full extension, seemingly not even noticing them while he nonchalantly chats with other people. This is actually physically very problematic for the same reason that a Buster Sword would never work even for someone with super-strength, because it's not about the strength; it's about the center of mass. If you hold something that weighs more than about 10% of your body weight out away from your body, it will shift your center of gravity enough to pull you off balance. (This is the reason why people carrying heavy objects instinctively clutch them to their chests, keeping it as close to their center of gravity as possible so it has the least opportunity to pull them over.)
  • The Atoner: Bucky is still haunted by the crimes he committed as the Winter Soldier—which is ruining his attempts at a normal life. For his part, he is thankfully receiving help, but his condition and traumatized psyche is not making it easy for everyone.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Sam has improved his hand-to-hand combat skills enough to keep up with Bucky and Walker while fighting super soldiers.
    • John Walker is an active-duty U.S. Army Captain when chosen as the new Captain America. He had won no less than three medals of honor and excelled in all tests given to him by the U.S. Government. He also trained himself to wield Captain America's Shield to the same degree, being able to skillfully wield it in combat. And this was before he took the super-soldier serum.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Used extensively in the finale where Sharon, aka the Power Broker, guns down Batroc and Karli, and Zemo's butler blows up most of the remaining Flag Smashers.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • Baron Zemo breaks out of prison with the intention of destroying any and all replications of the super soldier serum and killing anyone who took the serum that could prove to be dangerous. By the end of the series, he's done all of these things, allowing himself to be imprisoned in the Raft with little trouble.
    • Sharon Carter manages to wipe out the Flag-Smashers and Georges Batroc to prevent them from revealing their true identity as Madripoor's Power Broker, and also get their job at the CIA reinstated by Sam Wilson, allowing them access to government weapons to sell on the black market, and further increase their power and influence.
  • Batman Gambit: A pivotal part of Bucky's plan to break out Zemo involves starting a prison riot just by slipping someone a note saying "He will kill you tonight. Kill him first." Which probably could have worked with any of them.
  • Beware the Superman: A running theme through the show is that the majority of people who want the super soldier serum are made worse by it, as most are incapable of not abusing the power the serum gives them over others. Those like Steve, Bucky and Isaiah are the exceptions to the Flag-Smashers and Walker as of episode 4. Also lampshaded by Zemo.
    Zemo: The desire to become a superhuman cannot be separated from supremacist ideals. Anyone with that serum is inherently on that path.
  • Big Bad: Karli Morgenthau and the Flag-Smashers are the primary antagonists, as Sam and Bucky work to stop them before they escalate in their terrorist actions, even recruiting Baron Zemo to help due to his expertise and distaste for Super-Soldiers. The Flag-Smashers stole their Super-Soldier serum from the crime lord of Madripoor, the Power Broker (a.k.a. Sharon Carter), who sets out for revenge against them but otherwise remains a Greater-Scope Villain. The government-mandated successor to Captain America, John Walker, is set up as a secondary antagonist as he gradually goes off the deep end after taking the serum and committing increasingly brutal acts, though fortunately he comes to his senses by the finale.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Flag-Smasher's attack on the GRC is foiled, Sam takes on the mantle of Captain America, proves himself worthy of the title to the public and sees to it that Isaiah Bradley's story is added to the Captain America Smithsonian exhibit. Bucky is finally able to face and let go of his past traumas. Walker is able to let revenge go and takes on a role he's much more suited for as the covert U.S. Agent. However, Sam was unable to save Karli; and his attempts to make things right for Sharon has created a new threat, since she's been revealed as the Power Broker and — now with a full pardon and her old job back — is expanding her reach into government prototypes. Not to mention, it's left in the dark exactly how legitimate Walker's new role is.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While many heroes and villains have both virtues and vices, the Power Broker seems to be the only truly malevolent force in the present timeline of the series, targeting pretty much anyone who runs afoul of them with threats and swift violence.
  • Black Dude Dies First: A particularly harsh example: after several reminders that systemic racism is still thriving through the Snap, the first major fatality is Lemar Hoskins – and that by accident on Karli's part, who by way of apology assures John she only wanted to kill people who could make a difference. Lemar's death sends John Walker down the slippery slope.
  • Blatant Lies: When Bucky's therapist, Raynor, asks him if he's still having nightmares, Bucky says "no", immediately after a scene where he's had a nightmare. She tells him how obvious the lie is, because he's been doing it a lot since they started meeting and she can tell by now. Even at the end of the conversation, he insists that he's not having nightmares.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Well, as far as you can get per the standards of Disney+, anyway. Compared to other MCU works before it (especially WandaVision, which came before it in release order), this show doesn't pull any punches in much of its fight scenes, being more on par with those seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and John Wick, just barely scraping by with that TV-14 rating. Special mention goes to the ending of Episode 4 with John Walker caving Nico's ribs in with the Shield], in possibly the most brutal death in the main MCU.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The fundamental problem with the GRC/Flag-Smasher conflict; During the five years after the Snap, people from all over the world traveled to other nations for work, and the governments permitted it to fill out their depleted workforce. After the blip returned all those people, the GRC wants to relocate the "refugees" and return everything to how it once was, arguing that the blipped people have a right to return to their homes. The Flag-Smashers, on the other hand, seek to defend the rights of all the people who had found and worked for new homes and even want to take it a step further by breaking down borders altogether. Both of them, in the eyes of Sam, fail because they are too extremist in their stance: During the final episode, he stops the Flag-Smashers' murderous scheme before chewing out the government bigwigs he'd just saved, imploring them to create a better world for both groups.
  • Bowdlerize: Some of the Bloodier and Gorier scenes were tamed in a version of the show that was uploaded to Disney+ in 2022, such as visible blood splatter being removed from one shot and a character originally impaled by a pipe now merely being struck by it. After fan outcry when the edits were discovered, Disney+ restored the original episode, claiming the edited version was uploaded by mistake.
  • Breather Episode: After an action-packed opening, Episode 5 gives Sam and Bucky a much needed breather. In that episode, after several episodes of chasing after the Flag-Smashers which has led them into uncomfortable or dangerous places, and having a lot of disillusionments about the legacy of Captain America, Sam can finally work to fix his family's problems and Bucky gets some psychological help from Sam which sets him in the right direction.
  • Brick Joke: In the first episode, Torres mentions he's heard rumors that Steve Rogers retired to the moon; Sam smirks and refuses to answer. In episode 6, Sam introduces himself as Captain America, and one GRC member says "I thought Captain America was on the moon."
  • Call-Back:
    • In the second episode, Bucky is once again forced to drag his metal arm on the road to support himself, with sparks flying, during a fight with the Flag Smashers on two moving trucks — much like his ambush against Steve, Nat, and Sam during The Winter Soldier.
    • Also from The Winter Soldier, Batroc is the Starter Villain who's seized command of a huge vehicle that our heroes have to infiltrate in the Action Prologue.
    • While spying on the Flag-Smashers in Munich, Sam jokes that Bucky is now a "White Panther" because of his new Wakandan-made vibranium arm and him acting stealthy. Bucky replies that he's actually White Wolf, which is what some Wakandan children and T'Challa called him in Black Panther (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War, respectively.
    • The second episode opens with a high school marching band playing an arrangement of the "Star-Spangled Man With a Plan" song from Captain America: The First Avenger.
    • The third episode states that Steve loves Marvin Gaye. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sam recommends that Steve listen to Gaye's album Trouble Man.
    • As part of his speech against the Super Soldier Serum, Zemo asks if they'd want to live in a world full of Red Skulls. And in reference to the same film, Nagel boasts that he's the first person since Dr. Erskine to successfully create the serum in full.
    • In the fourth episode, we have the way Bucky flexes his arm after reattaching it, and the way he catches a knife and flips it, both callbacks to the highway fight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Inverted with Walker and Hoskins, though without the leadership aspect. Hoskins, a Sergeant-Major, is much calmer and diplomatic, while Walker, a Captain, is abrasive and aggresive.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Central Theme:
    • Running through the series is the exploration of putting people on pedestals and the dangers that come from it, even if those people were worthy of admiration.
      • The main source of conflict between the titular heroes is how they deal with their image of Steve Rogers. Sam gives up the mantle and shield of Captain America, seeing himself as being unable to measure up to Steve despite Steve having bequeathed it to him. Bucky in turn takes Sam's refusal to take up the shield as an insult, since he bases all his faith that he can move on from being the Winter Soldier on Steve's belief in him, and if Steve was wrong about Sam, then he could have been wrong about Bucky too.
      • John Walker is pumped up as the new Captain America by the United States Government based on his military accomplishments, but the pressure of living up to the original Cap's legacy is weighing on Walker and he reacts poorly when he doesn't get the respect he thinks he deserves for taking the position.
      • Isaiah Bradley, a man with the same powers and capabilities as Steve Rogers but horribly cast aside for his race, does not see Steve Rogers as a man but only as a symbol of the system that exploited and betrayed him. This makes conversations with Sam, who knew Steve personally, very tense.
    • Another major theme explored throughout the series is where African-Americans fit within the ideals of America given the historical and current transgressions against the group. Sam has a Broken Pedestal moment when he learns about Isaiah Bradley's horrendous treatment by the US government in the 1950s and questions how he could ever take up the Captain America mantle when systemic racism is alive and well in the country.
  • Color Character:
    • Discussed and mocked a bit. In episode two, a kid calls Sam "Black Falcon," which his father told him because Sam is black. Sam takes offense to that and then says he wouldn't call the kid "Black Kid". The kid's friend laughs at that.
    • Played straight with Bucky himself, whose Wakandan nickname of "White Wolf" is brought up several times.
  • Comicbook Movies Dont Use Codenames:
    • While Sam and Bucky usually go by their real names, the codenames Falcon and Winter Soldier pop up frequently. It should be noted that Sam didn't go by the name Falcon in the movies all that much.
    • While Baron Zemo is more of a title than a codename, it does get referenced here for the first time. Zemo is revealed to be an actual Baron — that is, of noble family — by episode three with a few characters referring to him as simply "Baron".
    • Sharon Carter is not called Agent 13. Justified as she hasn't been a SHIELD agent for some time.
    • The name Power Broker is used to refer to the underworld leader of Madripoor, though as of Episode 4, the character is still The Ghost. Episode 6 reveals that Sharon is the Power Broker.
    • Lemar introduces himself only as Lemar Hoskins and usually goes by his real name. He does briefly refer to his codename, Battlestar, much to Bucky’s chagrin.
    • John Walker is made the new Captain America, just as he was in the comics, but he mostly calls himself that while others use his real name. After losing the title, Val calls him "a U.S. Agent" as a reference to his other comic identity.
  • Companion Cube: Redwing is not established to be a sentient AI, but Sam still considers it a loyal pet and gets offended on its behalf a few times.
  • Company Cross References:
  • Connected All Along: In "Truth", it turns out Sharon Carter and George Batroc are working together, though the relationship is strained because Sam has ruined his operation in Algeria and Batroc partly blames Sharon for it. However, she contacts Batroc again to send him on an operation with the Flag-Smashers which will allow him to take revenge on Sam.
  • Continuity Nod: In the first episode, Bucky mentions that he has a sister, and that he hasn't been on a date since 1943.
  • Create Your Own Villain: The Avengers in general were pardoned after the Blip, but Sharon Carter was not. They and the government ignored her, leaving her to turn to a life of crime in Madripoor as she blithely tells Sam and Bucky in episode 3. This could come back to bite them, as Sharon (now the Power Broker) sent Batroc to help the Flag Smashers and gave him the chance to kill Sam out of revenge for the foiled aerial hijacking in episode 1. Her new CIA job will also allow her to sell top-secret weapons and intel to the black market, which could be used against them in the future.
  • Creative Closing Credits:
    • In Marvel tradition. The credits scroll over walls or shutters covered in broken propaganda posters and graffiti with American iconography. The credits listing themselves first appear as classified documentation which is overwritten by the actual credits, similar to the opening credits for Godzilla (2014). And like most Marvel movies after The Avengers, the cast is alongside images representing their characters.
    • Taken a step further with the main cast section of the credits, in which, similar to WandaVision, each episode has only the names of any actors whose characters appear in that episode appear during the corresponding section (i.e. Emily VanCamp not being credited until Episode 3 onwards despite her character's picture appearing after those of Mackie and Stan's characters), while Mackie and Stan alternate top billing between episodes.
  • Darker and Edgier: Though the banter between Bucky and Sam breaks it up occasionally, the overall series leans toward the darker side of the MCU's usual tone, with its themes of politics and war similar to the Captain America films — which makes sense, as the two main characters are Cap's sidekicks and successors trying to continue his story. Previously untouched themes of race and mental health are also prominent throughout the story, and the word "shit" is thrown around with surprising regularity. And then there's the Wham Shot at the end "The Whole World is Watching", when Walker, having gone off the deep end after taking the serum and Lemar's death at Karli's hands, has just brutally beaten a helpless and begging Flag-Smasher to death with the shield, and stands, its edge covered in blood. And finally, Sharon Carter undergoing a Face–Heel Turn as the unrepentant, senselessly vengeful, self-serving and cash-grabbing monster of a crime lord known as the Power Broker.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The entire series is this, as after years of being supporting characters in the MCU, Sam and Bucky are firmly the focus this time around.
  • Deadpan Snarker: This being the MCU that we're talking about...
    • Bucky shows shades of this.
      Raynor: That is utter bullshit.
      Bucky: You're a terrible shrink.
    • Sam and Zemo likewise engage in some Snark-to-Snark Combat with Bucky, too.
      Sam: (referring to Karli) That little girl kicked your ass!
      Bucky: *yells incoherently*
  • Diagonal Billing: Sebastian Stan is billed first for odd-numbered episodes while Anthony Mackie is billed first for even-numbered episodes.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Done backwards in episode 5 with a toy bunny left at the GRC refugee camp, when the Flag-Smashers return to regroup after a big fight with just two fatalities on both sides. The toy bunny is the last thing we see when they leave.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Baron Helmut Zemo wants to stop Karli Morgenthau from carrying out the Flag-Smashers' objectives, by destroying the super soldier serum they're using. Though the Flag-Smashers don't know that Zemo exists for the most part, their brief encounter with him in the fourth episode brings the Flag-Smashers in conflict with the Power Broker, a ruthless crime boss from Madripoor who provided them the serum in the first place.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Bucky switches the long, wavy hair that he's been seen with since The Winter Soldier to a cropped look much more reminiscent of his appearance from The First Avenger, shedding what remains of his old identity as the Winter Soldier.
  • Fake Arm Disarm: Bucky’s prosthetic arm gets detached or otherwise disabled fairly regularly, though being made of vibranium it’s usually not actually damaged.
  • Family Business: Sam's sister Sarah has inherited their family's fishing business and is struggling to keep it afloat. She simply wants to sell and cut her losses on a failing business, while Sam is insistent on keeping it alive. It runs parallel to Sam's own struggles with the Captain America mantle.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Discussed. Sam refers to androids, aliens and wizards as "the Big Three" threats faced by superheroes. Bucky's reaction is to insist that no one besides Sam calls them "the Big Three," only to be proven wrong when John Walker uses the same phrase.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: The end of episode 3. Bucky is the first one to spot Kimoyo beads scattered around the heroes' latest refuge. Not only does Wakanda already know about Zemo, they've sent Ayo.
  • Foil: John Walker, the "new" Captain America, contrasts with Sam Wilson. Sam is a good man just as Steve was, but he struggles with living up to Steve's image and initially refuses to take up the shield. In contrast, Walker embraces the external imagery of Captain America, but he is ultimately revealed to lack the humility or moral fibre Steve and Sam both have.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Bucky suggests breaking Zemo out of prison, among the many reasons why not, Sam mentions how Wakandans would not approve that, given King T'Chaka's death. Guess who shows up later after Zemo?
    • Episode 3's title is "Power Broker," a person who's mentioned to rule over Madripoor but never actually appears in the episode...until Episode 6 reveals that they were there the whole time. In hindsight, it makes sense that Sharon Carter first appeared in the episode named for her.
      • Also in the episode, it's mentioned in passing that Karli was an art history major and ended up in Madripoor when she got a job there. Sharon's front business is as a dealer in works of art.
  • Forgot About His Powers: When Sam points out that Bucky could have used his metal arm to tighten a lug nut, Bucky admits that he sometimes forgets to use it because he's right-handed.
  • Freudian Slip: Whenever Karli tries to explain how peaceful her protest is, she ends up saying that she actually wants to kill anyone who stands in her way.
  • Gender Swap: Karl Morgenthau in the comics becomes Karli Morgenthau.
  • The Ghost:
    • The legacy of Steve Rogers is felt keenly throughout the series, with the man coming up in conversation many times and one of the core conflicts of the series being who will take up the mantle of Captain America now that Steve is gone. While his voice is briefly heard in a flashback and there are photographs of him everywhere, Steve himself is a no-show, with many in-universe wondering exactly where he went.
    • The Power Broker is frequently mentioned, but has not appeared on screen. Subverted in that she was right there in front of us the whole time.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In "The Whole World is Watching", John Walker goes off the deep end after Hoskins is killed, and repeatedly smashes the shield into one of the Flag-Smashers, killing him in public. The strike itself is not shown, but the shot of the blood-smeared shield is horrifying enough for the audience to understand the gravity of what Walker has done.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Pretty much every major player involved in this series has a valid point and an understandable motivation, and they all do shady, morally questionable things (albeit at different levels) to achieve their goals. As pointed out by Nico, the world post-Blip is no longer dealing with the Black-and-White Morality of the events of the first Avengers film.
Advertisement:

    Tropes H-Z 
  • Hard-Work Montage: In "Truth", Sam and Bucky team up again to repair Sam's family boat. This more than anything helps them bond and they become friendly with each other after the job is done.
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: John Walker is subject to this in response to the actions he took to avenge the death of Lamar Hoskins, where he is immediately stripped of his awards and title of Captain America by his commanding officer. After all, regardless of the victim being an international terrorist, executing a person in cold blood on foreign soil in front of the general public is a disastrous look for America on the international stage, so removing Walker from his position is a logical choice of action to save face from the PR. Unfortunately, they also strip him of all benefits and leave him to twist in the wind, which leaves him vulnerable to a visit from exactly the wrong person...
  • Headbutting Heroes:
    • While they do get along up to a point, Sam and Bucky are twice seen having arguments, with Sam teasing Bucky and Bucky not in the mood for it at all. Episode 2 throws out the funnier aspects of this trope, with both Sam and Bucky deciding they want nothing to do with each other after dealing with the Flag-Smashers during their therapy session.
    • Sam and Bucky are also this trope to John Walker and Battlestar, as they're fighting a mutual group together. But while John and Lemar try to get along with the two of them at first, Sam and Bucky refuse to return their friendliness due to considering Walker an Inadequate Inheritor and for being a By-the-Book Cop. This leads to John eventually returning their hostility when they part ways in Episode 2.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: All jokes about "Cap's two girlfriends" aside, Sam and Bucky have a platonic version of this trope after their Friendship Moment in "Truth". They agree that they are not friends and barely co-workers, just two guys who were mutual friends of another guy, who is gone, and so they are now just two guys who are working together. This is after an episode showing them bonding as friends.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Part of Bucky's Must Make Amends list is that he can't hurt anyone when crossing names off his list. So when confronting Corrupt Politician Senator Atwood, who owes her office to the Winter Soldier, he doesn't hurt her. He just locks her in her own car, takes it for a spin via remote control, and then neutralizes her bodyguard when the guy pulls a gun on him. Then he leaves her for the police to arrest, completely unharmed.
  • Indy Ploy: When Bucky asks Sam what the plan is, Sam doesn't say anything, making Bucky respond, "So, no plan?" Sam just ruefully smiles and then jumps out of the plane.
  • Interquel: The first episode establishes that it takes place six months after the ending of Avengers: Endgame, which sets it after WandaVision but before Spider-Man: Far From Home.
  • Jerkass to One: Sam Wilson towards John Walker, who he views as an inferior Captain America compared to Steve Rogers.
  • Knife Nut: The Flag-Smasher super-soldiers love fighting with knives. Lampshaded by John Walker in episode 4.
  • Leitmotif: With composer Henry Jackman returning from the Russo-directed Captain America films, many of his character themes carry over to the series, including Zemo's theme from Civil War and Falcon's from The Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier's theme only makes brief appearances (most prominently a flashback in Episode 1) due to Bucky separating himself from that identity.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In Episode 4, we see Hoskins and Walker have it out with a squad of Dora Milaje over dragging Zemo off in chains. Unusually for this trope, the Dora Milaje are straight-up trying to kill Walker, aiming the points of their spears directly at the center of his chest.
  • Logo Joke:
    • Episode 2 forgoes the usual Marvel fanfare during the Marvel Studios plate, instead featuring a marching band rendition of "The Star Spangled Man with a Plan" to segue into Walker's first press appearance as Cap.
    • Some promos feature the Disney+ logo with a metallic sheen as if it's made of Vibranium, like Sam's shield and wings and Bucky's arm. The arc that follows the "+" sign is also juxtaposed with the curves of Captain America's shield.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Flag Smashers and their followers wear black masks with a red handprint. Zemo also takes to wearing his iconic purple mask.
  • Meaningful Rename: The series Book Ends with a new title splash, being renamed Captain America and The Winter Soldier showing that Sam has fully embraced the mantle.
  • Meta Casting: John Walker, Captain America II, is played by Wyatt Russell, who originally auditioned to play Steve Rogers, Captain America I, for Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Sam gets two of these.
    • Sam has a new suit that no longer requires him to manually adjust the sweep of his wings. Redwing, his drone, has also been upgraded and features missiles, lasers, machine guns, and a sophisticated AI.
    • He later gets a vibranium suit from the Wakandans after Walker destroys his new suit.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless:
    • The current iteration of the super serum provides all the same benefits of the original formula but without the need for vita-rays or other enhancements. This means that, contrary to Steve's Heroic Build, even lithe individuals like Karli are every bit as strong.
    • The Dora Milaje are apparently physically stronger than Walker given that they can throw their spears so hard that he can't dislodge them, but they can pull them out without much effort. This is in spite of Walker being almost twice their size and ripped.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the comics, Bucky is Cap's sidekick. In the movieverse, Bucky wasn't Steve's sidekick during the war, he was just a member of his squad, but in this series he can be viewed as Sam's.
    • The innocent bystander murdered by the Winter Soldier in Bucky's flashbacks is named RJ Nakajima, a reference to RJ Boyle in "Second Chances". He plays the role of "lost son" in both works.
  • Name and Name: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. After the final episode, the title is changed to Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The promotional material indicates that Helmut Zemo has gone from hating the Avengers to hating superheroes as a whole, to the point of saying that they "cannot be allowed to exist". In the series proper, Zemo merely remarks that he thinks super soldiers shouldn't be allowed to exist, due to their political and corruptible nature, and is quite content to return to prison after taking down the Flag-Smashers and paying tribute to the Sokovia memorial.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Dora Milaje. Losing to them is what pushes John Walker over the edge about taking the serum. Also, if they had not tried to kill Walker and Hoskins, Sam and Bucky would not have had to step in, and Zemo would not have escaped.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Once again, Georges St-Pierre (Batroc) speaks in his native Canadian French accent instead of a European French accent like his Algerian-French character should have.
  • Nothing Personal: Done in different episodes. Zemo apologizes to Bucky for using the activation words on him in Civil War, assuring him that it was merely to achieve a goal that was unrelated to him. Then in the last episode, Karli tells John that she didn't want to kill Lemar, because he couldn't have made a difference. John takes it very personally.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, two adult men, fight against the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau, who is only a teenager.
  • Older Than They Think: Used In-Universe in one preview clip: Sam expresses surprise when Bucky references Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, and Bucky smugly points out to him that he read The Hobbit when it came out — in 1937.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: When Karli attempts to apologize for killing Lemar, she tells Walker that she never meant to kill people who didn’t matter. Walker takes it exactly how you'd expect.
  • Passing the Torch: An undercurrent in the series is that Sam and Bucky are trying to deal with the possibility of Sam receiving and taking up the mantle of Captain America now that Steve Rogers is retired, given the shield's complicated legacy and meaning. The U.S. government also wants to pass the torch so that people will have someone to inspire them in a post-Blip world.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Karli dies in Sam's arms in this pose. He then carries the corpse out to the police this way, highlighting the tragedy.
  • Plug 'n' Play Prosthetics: Bucky's arm comes off given the right touch code, and when put back on the part lodged in his shoulder automatically reconnects when the arm is held near it.
  • Pretender Diss:
    • Walker is subjected to this by Sam and Bucky, who make no attempt to hide how much they dislike him and see him as an Inadequate Inheritor for Steve.
    • Batroc does the same with Sam in the finale, saying "the robes don't make the monk," only for Sam to demonstrate through combat why he's wrong.
  • Punched Across the Room: Several examples:
    • Karli accidentally kills Lamar with a punch when he collides with a beam, hitting his head hard.
    • Walker does this to both Bucky and Sam during their fight in Episode 5.
    • In general, the super soldiers have the ability to do this with taps.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The extroverted, slightly cocky and good-natured Sam is the Red to Bucky's stoic and aloof Blue, as reflected by the colors on their costumes. Gets zigzagged at times, though, since Sam's kindness and empathy also grant him the emotional intelligence to favor reasoning with his enemies over more violent options, while the same traumas that caused Bucky to become so closed off in the present day also lead him to become more volatile when one of his Berserk Buttons is pressed.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Played With; the world at large seems to have forgiven Bucky for what he did as the Winter Soldier, even receiving a pardon, but people who were directly affected by the Winter Soldier aren't so quick. Isaiah Bradley, having fought the Winter Soldier in 1951, doesn't trust he's not still a killer, and in fact, actually considers the idea of Bucky being able to get redemption for his crimes, when Isaiah was punished for stopping him, to be personally insulting.
  • Relative Button: In Episode 4, Karli personally calls Sarah and tells her that she intends on meeting with Sam alone, not before threatening the lives of her sons. Naturally, Sam has Sarah and the kids hightail it out of there almost as quickly as Karli called them before settling the matter with her then after, this time with Bucky in tow.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Isaiah Bradley, Steve's successor as America's Super Soldier military superhero, has been completely unmentioned at all until now, despite ostensibly being the second superhero in the MCU (chronologically speaking). This is intentional, as the US Government balked at the idea of a black superhero, and outright imprisoned him to cover it up. Only Bucky even knew he existed (because Isaiah once kicked his ass so bad he tore off his metal arm), and he kept quiet to give the man peace.
  • Retcon: It was previously said that Bucky knew that Steve was going to live out his life in the past, but not that Bucky knew Steve was going to pass the shield to Sam. The scene in Endgame plays out like that, with Bucky being very accepting and content when Steve doesn't immediately return, but being surprised when he sees an elderly Steve again. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has Bucky say he and Steve talked about it and he knew Sam was going to get the shield.
  • Revenge: Seems to be a running theme in the series:
    • Though the Flag Smashers' goals are to help the refugees orchestrated by the GRC, deep down, their leader actually wants to vent her anger on the people who took everything away from her. As the episodes progress, Karli begins to cross moral boundaries and kills anyone in order to accomplish her goal, something even her followers are reluctant to follow.
    • After the death of Lemar Hoskins at the hands of Karli, John Walker, whose judgment was already being clouded after taking the Super Soldier Serum, kills the nearest Flag Smasher he can catch. Even after being stripped of the title of Captain America, Walker continues to pursue Karli for revenge.
    • Sharon Carter resents the US government for blacklisting her, forcing her on the run and destroying her family name. Once she regains her status as a CIA agent, she plans to use her connections as the Power Broker to sell top secret government projects and intel on the black market.
  • Ruder and Cruder: This is one of the very first Disney+ Originals to have uncensored uses of the word "shit" on the platform.note  This is in stark comparison to its predecessor, WandaVision, which featured minimal swearing.
  • Running Gag: People mistakenly calling Sam "Black Falcon".
  • Rule of Three: Bucky offers his help to Sam three times; Sam's response each time is a good indication of how far their friendship has come along.
    • In Episode 2, Sam needs help dealing with the Flag Smashers, who are still an unknown threat, but doesn't want Bucky around because the two can barely stand each other at this point. Bucky tags along anyway.
      Bucky: I'm coming with you.
      Sam: No, you're not.
    • In Episode 4, after Karli makes a threatening phonecall to Sarah, Sam both needs and wants Bucky's help during the meeting with Karli but is too proud to ask. Fortunately, Bucky doesn't need an express invitation.
      Sam: [Karli] said come alone.
      Bucky: (matter-of-factly) I'm coming with you.
    • In Episode 5, Sam already has about a dozen family friends helping him with the boat and doesn't need Bucky's help at all. Bucky instead asks if Sam wants his help. Sam accepts, and the two of them end up fixing the boat together.
      Bucky: Do you want any help?
      Sam: (nods) Yeah.
  • Salt and Pepper:
    • Sam is a grounded superhero who becomes conflicted with the mantle of Captain America. Bucky is a darker Anti-Hero and wants to stay as far away from everyone as possible but feels Sam should be more dedicated to being the next Cap.
    • John Walker and Lemar Hoskins also fits. Walker is constantly on edge while Lemar acts as a voice of reason.
  • Sanity Slippage: Walker becomes steadily unhinged over the course of the series due to the stress of taking on the mantle of Captain America and the constant frustration of hunting Karli and the other Flag-Smashers. This comes to a head in episode 4 after Walker takes the Super Soldier serum. He becomes increasingly violent, and after Battlestar is accidentally killed by Karli, he completely goes off the deep end and brutally murders one of the Flag-Smashers in broad daylight in front of a horrified crowd.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title is a play on the 1985 spy thriller: The Falcon and the Snowman.
    • In Episode 4, Zemo befriends some children at the shelter by offering them Turkish Delight, in order to gain information from them. Much like the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, offering Turkish Delight to Edmund to win him over to her side.
  • Sidekick: Played With. Lemar Hoskins plays it straight with John Walker, even though Steve didn't traditionally have a sidekick in the movies. Bucky subverts it, being unwilling to partner up with Sam for Sam's sake but simultaneously having the same goals as Sam and a relevant skillset, and also being adamant that Sam should be the next Cap. Nico is Karli's unofficial sidekick and sounding board, and in the end he even dies in her place, quite literally.
  • Status Quo Is God: Played for Drama. The Snap was an apocalyptic event that brought nations together to help each other and rebuild in the aftermath. But then the Blip happened, and with everyone killed by the Snap alive again, the world has started to shift back to how it was before. However, the Flag-Smashers believe that the newfound unity and harmony that the world experiences in the wake of the Snap was a good thing, and are upset that governments are content to just go back to how things used to be.
  • The Stinger:
    • Episode 5 shows a disgraced and disavowed John Walker building his own Captain America shield.
    • Episode 6 shows Sharon Carter given a full pardon and her old position back by the U.S. Government — which is unaware that she's the Power Broker and now has access to high level Government secrets.
  • Superhero Movie Villains Die: Looks to be played straight at first with Karli Morgenthal and Batroc both killed, but Karli knows full well that the seeds she's sown will just keep on growing. Turns out she still has a number of loyalists out there, like the very soldiers rounding up the Flag-Smashers in the end (and Zemo has no reason to kill the ones that aren't super soldiers), and the Power Broker, Sharon Carter herself will be taking on a more active role now that the Government has granted her all the authority she needs.
  • Take That!: Despite its military-themed and veteran-sympathetic storyline, a bulk of the series delivers notable critiques of major conservative political talking points (i.e. anti-immigration policies, justifications of police brutality, perpetuating white privilege, and non-transparent/non-consultative international diplomacy).
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: To the extreme. In theory Sam, Bucky, Zemo, Walker, and Hoskins are all trying to accomplish basically the same thing: Stopping the Flag-Smashers. However they're constantly at odds. Sam and Bucky don't like each other. There's mutual hostility between Sam and Bucky on one side and Walker and Hoskins on the other. No one trusts Zemo. Much of the conflict comes from the fact that they want to stop the Flag-Smashers for very different reasons.
  • Temporary Scrappy: John Walker is intentionally made unlikable (if sympathetic). His debut as Captain America is a slap in the face after Sam turned the title down, his cockiness alienates potential allies, his impatience ruins plans, and he eventually loses control and beats a man to death. There are certain standards that come with being Captain America, and the show demonstrates that Walker doesn't have them.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: The show begins with Bucky Barnes seeing a therapist to work through his Hydra brainwashing issues, but he finds it unproductive and is antagonistic as a result. Later, he has a joint session with Sam Wilson, which is Played for Laughs as they bicker with each other.
  • There Are No Global Consequences: Averted; just as the Snap collapsed society when half of the population vanished in an instant, it was equally disruptive when those billions of people just as quickly came back with zero warning five years later.
    • On the grand scale, it's mentioned that international diplomacy has become somewhat chaotic due to rapidly shifting alliances and a rise in crime and terrorism. On the "everyday" scale, small businesses such as the Wilsons' family fishing enterprise are struggling to obtain loans due to an unstable and highly competitive economy, and the dating scene has exploded due to snapped people suddenly finding their partners have moved on since their "death".
    • Part of the reason why the Flag-Smashers operate is because, with society still trying to help the half that just came back, the other half who weren't Blipped — many of whom are still trying to get themselves together after five years — have virtually been left to fend for themselves.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: John Walker's impulsiveness eventually gets the better of him, leading him to kill a Flag Smasher, battling Sam and Bucky and losing his Captain America title, military honors and pension.
  • Training Montage: In "Truth", Sam acquires the Shield and decides to wield it for good. Cues a montage of him training in order to master how to use the Shield in combat, with a lot of running, muscle training, and trying acrobatics.
  • Tritagonist: The series does a Rotating Protagonist take on the characters Helmut Zemo and John Walker in regards to this role, toying with the viewers who's the Decoy Protagonist and who's the Red Herring Decoy Antagonist. By the end of the series, both turned out to be Red Herring Decoy Antagonists and it's Zemo who's the Decoy Protagonist after turning himself in to the authorities, while Walker, despite a couple episodes earlier being set up as villain, is ultimately the show's actual tritagonist to Sam's The Protagonist and Bucky's Deuteragonist.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Institutionally, the U.S. government comes off like one.
    • "New World Order" shows Sam willingly surrendering Captain America's shield as a permanent exhibit to the Smithsonian, publicly acknowledging that no one has the right to claim the moral high ground Captain America represents just yet. By the end of the episode, the U.S. government openly declares that they have "a new Captain America", and have given Captain America's shield to John Walker. Then again, it's very likely that—much like how Steve and Sam were treated in Civil War—the U.S. government treats them and their equipment as U.S. government property, which they will allocate as they see fit.
    • A more explicit case comes to light in "The Star-Spangled Man" when we are introduced to Isaiah Bradley—an African-American turned into a super-soldier who, despite loyal service to the U.S., was subsequently incarcerated and experimented upon.
    • Bucky accuses Sam of this, due to him giving up the shield after Steve entrusted it to him. Though the issue isn't just that he thinks Sam is ungrateful, it's that if Sam is indeed an ungrateful bastard, then Steve was wrong about him being worthy of the shield. And if Steve was wrong about Sam, what if he's wrong about Bucky deserving forgiveness?
    • Ayo thinks that Bucky is this for helping Zemo break out of prison after Zemo killed King T'Chaka since the Wakandans helped to free Bucky from his Hydra brainwashing. he eventually fixes this by delivering Zemo to them, but is warned to stay away from Wakanda until things cool off
    • John Walker accuses the U.S. government of this when he's Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee after killing an unarmed and surrendering Flag-Smasher in front of hundreds of witnesses, claiming he's always followed their orders but they just tossed him aside when he became inconvenient.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The Flag-Smashers. They've got a refined version of HYDRA's boosted Winter Soldier serum, meaning that they're notably stronger than even Bucky, and implicitly, even Steve himself. This allows them to mow through most opponents with ease, despite the fact that almost none of them can actually fight. However, even a Badass Normal can take them down if they're a Combat Pragmatist (Sam, with his Falcon gear) or a No-Nonsense Nemesis (like Zemo, who just picks his moment and shoots them). Likewise, when faced with a comparatively Weak, but Skilled fellow Super Soldier like Bucky, they don't stand a chance — and when faced with a Power Broker serum-enhanced Walker, a combat veteran, the results are not pretty.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When Sam receives an embarrassing phone call from his sister in the middle of an undercover meeting with the Power Broker's subordinates, who actually seem to take the rather embarrassing call in stride, implying this. It's only when Sam's sister calls him by his real name that they realize he's a narc.
  • Waif-Fu:
    • The two Dora Milaje from Wakanda aren't particularly large even for women and are completely unenhanced, but they each manage to hand Walker a Curb-Stomp Battle even though he's a legendary and hulking soldier. They're even able to throw their spears so hard that that Walker can't dislodge them, but they can pull them out with ease.
    • When Karli fights other super-soldiers, she's an example, managing to match them blow for blow even though she's half they're size, and they have the same enhancements she does.
  • Warm Place, Warm Lighting: The first episode depicts Tunisia, which has a rather warm climate, with a yellow-orange filter. The series doesn't use this filter at all when in any of the scenes in America, save for the scenes in Isaiah's neighborhood in Baltimore.
  • We ARE Struggling Together:
    • Sam, Bucky and John Walker are ostensibly on the same side, trying to stop the Flag Smashers. However, Sam and Bucky do not trust Walker's motives and are offended that he was made the new Captain America. Sam and Bucky have their own issues and come to deeply resent each other — though they end up mending fences in the third episode.
    • Humanity went through the traumatic events of the Snap and the Blip and is trying to unite while rebuilding from the disasters. However, old and new factions and grievances quickly emerge as people disagree over the allocation of scarce resources—ironically the very same philosophical/ideological claim that Thanos publicly espoused.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 4, "The Whole World Is Watching". Seems a bit self-explanatory once you get to the final Wham Shot of the episode where Walker beats Nico to death with the Shield in front of dozens of witnesses.
  • Wham Line: Episode 6, "One World, One people:"
    Karli Morgenthau to Sharon Carter: Without us Super Soldiers, how much power does the Power Broker really have?
  • Wham Shot:
    • Episode 1: A then-unnamed man had already taken the mantle of Captain America not long after Sam had passed up on the Shield.
    • Episode 4: The shot of John Walker holding the Shield, covered in blood after having brutally murdered Nico, who was unarmed and begging for his life, in front of the whole world to see.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Zemo's easy solution to dealing with the Flag Smashers, who are Super Soldiers. Case in point is when he manages to get the serum vials off Karli by doing this. She hides, and he destroys all but one of them.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: Bucky's answer when Sam asks him, "What's going on in that cyborg brain of yours?"
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Flag-Smashers, as lampshaded by Karli herself. To the US Military and law enforcement, they're radicals who want to take the world back to a dark age, like it was during The Blip, and are made more dangerous by the fact they have superpowers. To their supporters and themselves, they're a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits with noble goals, doing what they can to help people that are being ignored by the world's governments, and see the time during the Blip, when borders were weakened and the world banded together to survive, as proof that the world shouldn't be divided by countries and humanity should be united. As a superhero who does work for the government, Sam is meant to be taking them down, but he demonstrates sympathy for their goals, especially as the government is hardly treating him fairly.

Captain America and the Winter Soldier

 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Top

Zemo on Super Soldiers

Zemo makes an interesting point about the super serum that leaves Sam & Bucky without a comeback.

How well does it match the trope?

4.69 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainHasAPoint

Media sources:

Report