Warning: This article includes minor spoilers for the fifth episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” brought us full circle with its latest episode, returning to New Orleans and to the stories back home in the United States. And it set us up for a breathtaking finale that will surely hit as hard as Marvel Cinematic Universe projects do.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the fifth episode of the Disney+ Marvel series. There were rumors of a surprise Marvel Comics character showing up, so naturally, rumors of the X-Men and characters like Mephisto started to pop up. We had also heard some rumors that this was the episode that would make you cry, and it would be the one that really changed the game for the series.
But this has become a clear pattern with Marvel — sometimes the expectation doesn’t meet the hype. So sometimes it’s best to jump in with low expectations.
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was released on the heels of “WandaVision,” a show that dipped into the metaphysical and the unnatural. We had so much to consider with that show because one of the main characters, Vision, had died in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So bringing a character back from the dead already created theories and speculation right off the bat. That show was a natural place for Marvel rumors, leaks, theories, fan culture and more to thrive.
But “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” hasn’t been that sort of show. It’s action-packed with fight scenes — the best of which happens in Episode 5 — and battle scenes. It tells a mostly straight-up story. Sure, there are hanging questions — like the identity of the Power Broker — that we seek answers to. But for the most part, these are simple questions. Learning someone’s identity is a much easier question to answer than how Wanda created an alternate reality or brought Vision back to life.
But for Episode 5 of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” some of the hype felt reminiscent of “WandaVision.” We were told there’d be a surprise Marvel cameo and that the episode would make us cry. We were told Episode 5 would be the one where everything gets real for the Marvel show.
In large part, the episode delivered. At least it did for me. I set pretty low expectations about the cameo appearance, and the reality surpassed the expectations because of it. I didn’t really expect to have a “crying” moment from the show unless a major character died. But still, I found myself to be emotional during a montage toward the end of the episode.
For Marvel, setting low expectations can almost work to your benefit. I set low expectations for “WandaVision” — since I never really liked Wanda or Vision as characters — and yet it became one of my favorite Marvel projects. I know that’s me, but I’ve seen that sentiment shared elsewhere online. Marvel does a great job giving the fans what they want. Marvel listens to fans and is really in touch with the fan community. But sometimes fans expect too much or believe a singular episode of a series will change everything about the MCU. Rarely does that happen in Marvel.
It’s almost parallel to how Sam Wilson feels about his journey toward being Captain America. He expected to give up the shield and let it rest in the Smithsonian. He planned to give up Captain America’s name and identity and move on with his life. Little did he know he’d be thrust back into the world of crime fighting and have to consider taking back the shield.
Relive all the shocking moments in episode four of Marvel Studios' The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and get ready for episode five tomorrow on @DisneyPlus. #FalconAndWinterSoldier pic.twitter.com/U2LdVAG7A4— The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (@falconandwinter) April 15, 2021
Sam never expected to be Captain America. He didn’t expect to take on the mantle and the identity. A lot of his reasons are rooted in the systemic racism of the world, as we learn about in Episode 5. And yet, by the end of the episode, Sam raises the shield and becomes the character he never thought he would be. And he does it by his own choosing and his own design. He expected to give everything up. But now, by his own choice, he became something more.
All of this is to say that sometimes these Marvel shows will raise your expectations to high levels. The hype will be high. You may expect Wolverine to cut through the screen and rip apart John Walker. But we should take a lesson from Sam. Sometimes staying away from those high expectations may allow you to enjoy the project even more. And sure, maybe embracing the hype is your way to enjoy the show.
Find what works for you, and embrace the show as you must.