As we attempt to catch up with all of the stuff in Phase Four of the MCU, I thought I’d ramble on here for a bit with some thoughts on it all as we make our way through! For those of you who, like me, have no idea what’s going on, let me present you with a brief introduction to the next Phase, as I have been trying to research it!
Phase Four kicks off The Multiverse Saga, entering a new story following the Infinity Saga that we had been watching between 2008 – 2019. There are naturally a lot of references to the events of Endgame, as we see the fallout from the Snap and whatnot, as the movies and TV series continue the timeline into the post-Avengers era. The exception here though is Black Widow, which takes place shortly after Civil War. Things kick off with WandaVision, set in the weeks following Endgame, and we progress through The Falcon & Winter Soldier, Loki, and other TV series for a total of eight shows, and seven movies. There’s a lot to watch there, for sure!
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a six-part show that was initially released from March 2021, and is set six months after the events of Endgame. Despite being given the mantle of Captain America, Sam Wilson struggles with the idea and eventually decides to give the iconic shield for a government museum centred on the First Avenger. Sam continues his super-heroing as Falcon, and learns of a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers who seem to be trying to recreate life during the Blip. Wilson teams up with Bucky Barnes to try to foil the group, heading to their headquarters in Munich, and are followed by the new Captain America, Johnny Walker, who is keen to work with Sam and Bucky, but they refuse. During the fight in Munich, however, it becomes clear that the Flag Smashers are actually a group of super-soldiers, so Bucky approaches Baron Zemo for intel, breaking him out of prison and travelling to the crime haven of Madripoor to pick up the trail. (Madripoor is a location fairly important within X-Men lore, and marks the first instance where we begin to see the fact Disney now has control over the Mutants following their acquisition of Fox).
There, they discover that the mysterious Power Broker has hired a Dr Nagel to recreate the super soldier serum, but the three are compromised and are able to flee to safety with the help of Sharon Carter, who is a fugitive from the US following the events of Civil War. They find Nagel and learn he has created 20 vials of the serum, which was stolen by the leader of the Flag Smashers, Karli Morgenthau. They head to Latvia to track her down, but the terrorists are actually in Lithuania, attacking the Global Repatriation Council. While in Latvia, however, Bucky is accosted by Ayo, who demands Zemo account for his murder of King T’Chaka. Zemo is able to discover Morgenthau’s location, and the three are joined by Walker who is keen to bring her to justice himself. However, Sam talks to her alone, asking her to end the violence, but a fight ensues due to Walker’s impatience. Zemo destroys most of the serum Morgenthau had, but Walker apprehends him and secretly takes the final vial. Ayo and the Dora Milaje arrive for Zemo, and another fight ensues, during which Walker is humiliated and Zemo escapes. A further fight with the Flag Smashers leads to Morgenthau killing Walker’s partner. It becomes clear that Walker has taken the serum, though, when he pursues one of the super soldiers and kills him with the iconic Captain America shield in front of a horrified crowd, who are all filming him.
Walker is stripped of the mantle of Captain America, though does not take it well. However, he is approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, who recruits him for an unspecified purpose. Bucky tracks down Zemo to Sokovia, where he hands him over to the Dora Milaje, from whom he asks another favour. Sam has returned home to help fix up the family boat, and Bucky delivers to him a briefcase from the Wakandans containing a new wing suit. He and Bucky train, as Sam begins to come round to the idea that Steve Rogers intended for him to take up the mantle of Captain America after all. Receiving intelligence that the Flag Smashers appear to be targeting a GRC conference in New York, Sam heads there with Bucky and Sharon. The Flag Smashers take the GRC hostage, and Walker shows up in an attempt to atone for his discharge from service by taking Morgenthau in. However, he is unable to step up to the plate and it falls to Sam as the new Captain America to rescue the members of the GRC. In the wrap-up, Walker is branded US Patriot by Valentina, again with no real purpose specified. Sharon, who is revealed to be the mysterious Power Broker, kills Morgenthau and is given a pardon by the US government, and reinstated to her former post in the CIA – however, it transpires she intends to use her position to sell government secrets.
I really enjoyed this series, I think it’s a really nice continuation of the Captain America strands from the main movies, while allowing for some of the more quieter moments to develop, similar to what WandaVision gave us. There are plenty of scenes where you could never imagine seeing that amount of character development in a movie, but here it’s really broadened out. Something I particularly liked was seeing Bucky in Wakanda, where he was finally free of the Hydra mind control.
There is no shortage of action, of course, and with the procession of fight after fight after fight, it definitely feels like a six-hour action movie, taking a very different approach to WandaVision’s episodic feel. While I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach, it can feel slightly exhausting overall! But in terms of the epic scope of this storyline, it really brings together everything that we’ve come to expect from the blockbuster movies of the MCU.
The show has a very powerful message as regards having Falcon, a black superhero, take on the role of Captain America, which was surely enhanced at the time it was first shown, given how the world was still in the wake of the George Floyd murder. I’m in no way qualified to talk about these kinds of issues, being British and white, but there is still something really gratifying to me to see these things addressed. I will never understand why people can treat other people differently based on their skin tone, so in general I’m bemused why it should be an issue – we’re all just people, trying to do the best we can, after all – but the fact that it is an issue leads to things like this making me pleased. But let’s not become too political here.
I think the main reason to enjoy this series is seeing how the fallout of the Blip is handled. The fact that half the population of the planet disappeared for five years, then reappeared after those who were left behind had the time to readjust, is really quite a fascinating idea, and while the political ramifications of global repatriation are somewhat secondary (or even tertiary) to the action, it’s nevertheless good to see this kind of story strand being picked up for a backdrop. While Marvel have said their TV shows are intended to spotlight characters who would otherwise not necessarily get their own feature film, they are also being used to explore the wider themes of the MCU that would perhaps otherwise not be seen as massive draws to the action-adventure crowd. We all know how badly viewers reacted to the politics in The Phantom Menace, after all…
However, several story threads seem to have been left hanging at the end of the finale, and despite some initial rumblings about a possible season two, it seems likely that most of these will be taken up in the fourth Captain America film, New World Order, which is set for a May 2024 release. Too long to wait, for me!