Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The: The Complete First Season (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Apr 28, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The: The Complete First Season (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)


Kari Skogland

Release Date(s)

2021 (April 30, 2024)


Marvel Studios/Disney+ (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B+

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The Complete First Season (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


After the highly stylized approach that Marvel Studios used for WandaVision, which was their first streaming series to officially take place within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they chose to return to somewhat safer, more comfortable territory for their second series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Unlike WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier fits squarely into the action-adventure framework of the Captain America franchise without pushing any stylistic boundaries. On the other hand, it definitely pushes the sociopolitical underpinnings that were always at the margins in those films directly into the spotlight, offering overt commentary on subjects like race relations and the treatment of refugees. So in its own way, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still goes a bit farther than Marvel has been willing to do in most of its films to date (with rare exceptions like Black Panther).

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is really a meditation on supremacy in all of its forms, including racial supremacy, physical supremacy, and regional supremacy. The world without borders that was necessitated by the mass disappearances of The Snap has been replaced by a return to the “normalcy” of defined political boundaries now that everyone has returned five years later after The Blip. Refugees of all sorts are being forcibly repatriated to their home countries by the ominously named Global Repatriation Council. They’re opposed by a group of nominal terrorists who really want nothing more than to protect the refugees and return the world to its borderless state. Yet they use the powers granted by the Super Soldier serum in order to do so, which means that they’re fighting supremacy with supremacy.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) has turned in the shield that Steve Rodgers gave him at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, because he feels that the world still isn’t ready for a black Captain America. As a result, the United States government finds another blond-haired, blue-eyed replacement in John Walker (Wyatt Russell), but he turns out to be someone who doesn’t understand that with great power comes great responsibility. That quickly puts the two of them at odds with each other, with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) joining with Sam in trying to find the source of the serum without Walker’s help. Bucky has been fighting demons of his own; he’s in therapy as a condition of his release after all the murders that he committed as The Winter Soldier, and part of that involves making amends to the families of all those who he had killed. Bucky is confronting the consequences of his past while Sam is refusing to confront his own possible future, so between the two of them, they’ve got a lot to work out together.

Ironies abound in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, including the fact that Sam and Bucky end up enlisting the help of Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) in order to stop the spread of the serum. Zemo worked for Hydra (and by extension, the Nazis) during WWII, but because of that experience, he understands the dangers posed by supremacy better than anyone else. At its core, the series takes a decidedly pessimistic view of humanity; no matter how good anyone’s motives may be, it’s still human nature to be corrupted by power. Even Captain America isn’t immune to its siren call. Steve Rodgers was the exception rather than the rule; he wasn’t just the only human Avenger who was worthy to carry Mjolnir, but his essentially pure heart also made him one of the few people worthy of taking the serum without being seduced by its promise of nearly unlimited power.

Sam knows that he isn’t worthy of that kind of power and he’s perfectly content to remain without it, but he eventually comes to accept responsibility of a different sort when he realizes that he has still has a role to play in fighting supremacy. The world may not be ready for him, but sometimes it needs to be dragged along kicking and screaming into a more inclusive future. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier concludes with Sam looking directly into the camera and giving a speech to the people of the world, in the exact same way that Charlie Chaplin did at the end of The Great Dictator. Like Chaplin before him, Sam isn’t just addressing the fictional characters in his own story, but all viewers of the show as well. For such a relatively straightforward action series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall by unambiguously addressing the vocal minority of Marvel fans who have a difficult time accepting the levels of representation offered by films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Sam puts everyone who prefers straight white male superheroes on notice:

“I’m a black man carrying the Stars and Stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are going to hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it. The stares, the judgment, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet I’m still here. No super serum, no blond hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.”

Is that too on-the-nose? Perhaps, but so was Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator. Some messages are more effective when they’re presented subtly, but sometimes you have to use a hammer in order to drive the point home. The coda for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier further hits the nail on the head by explicitly addressing the whitewashing of history, acknowledging the way that black super soldiers were marginalized just like all the other black soldiers during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and trying to make amends for that fact. Bucky has been making his own personal amends for his past sins, but Sam ends up taking the concept to the next level by helping to make historical amends for America’s past sins. With that, Sam and Bucky’s trajectories finally align, offering hope for a better future for everyone. The struggle continues, but it’s still a fitting conclusion for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Cinematographer P.J. Dillon captured The Falcon and the Winter Soldier digitally at resolutions up to 8K in Redcode RAW format, using Panavision DXL2 cameras with Panavision Primo T-series anamorphic lenses. In keeping with the overall aesthetic for the show, Dillon had the lenses detuned in order to match the imperfections of Seventies-era Panavision C series lenses. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema cameras were used for a few of the action scenes; for example, the skydiving sequences in the first episode were a combination of VFX and real aerial footage captured by stuntpeople wearing Pocket Cinema Cameras strapped to their chests and GoPros on their helmets. Postproduction work was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.39:1. While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is offered in Dolby Vision on Disney+, per Disney’s usual policy, this disc version is confined to HDR10 only.

It’s a beautiful rendition of the series, and a subtle improvement over the streaming version thanks to less compression and a significantly higher bitrate (all six episodes are encoded on two BD-100s). Still, it’s important to understand that this could never look as consistently dazzling as some other 4K releases. That’s because Dillon and series director Kari Skogland favor frequent backlighting, atmospheric smoke, and soft focus. The actual plane of focus is extremely narrow in many shots, with everything else looking soft and blurry. The backlighting and smoke further obscure fine detail, and it also naturally limits the contrast range. That’s simply how The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is supposed to look much of the time. At other times, however, everything is razor sharp and detailed, with superb contrast. The color reproduction also varies from scene to scene, sometimes looking borderline desaturated, and other times springing to life with vivid colors (the red lighting during the GRC evacuation in the final episode is extraordinarily intense in HDR). The best way to think of it is that everything is sharp, detailed, contrasty, and well-saturated when it should be, and it’s soft, fuzzy, flat, and desaturated when it should be. It’s all accurate to the intentions for the show.

Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is also available in Atmos on Disney+, but only in highly compressed Dolby Digital, and the aural differences are even more dramatic than the visual ones. Still, despite all of the gritty action on display throughout the series, it’s not necessarily the most aggressive of mixes. Atmospheric effects are always present but frequently subtle, with most of the sonic energy remaining anchored to the front soundstage. There are some good uses of the overhead channels, with vehicles passing over the camera and helicopters slowly panning across the ceiling, but those kinds of effects are sporadic. The surround channels are more actively engaged during the aforementioned action scenes, and there’s a bit of punch to the low end, but the bass digs even deeper in some of the music, especially when the gang reaches Lowtown in the fictional country of Madripoor in the third episode. It’s still a solid mix overall, even if it falls short of reference quality.

Additional audio options include French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, plus English 2.0 Descriptive Audio. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, and Spanish.

Disney’s 4K Ultra HD Steelbook release of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a two-disc set that includes a set of three different art cards. It’s not dual format, since Disney has opted to release the Blu-ray version separately, and it doesn’t offer any Digital Codes. (They’re undoubtedly withholding that option in order to protect the value of the show on Disney+.) The six episodes are spread across the two discs, with the extras split between them:


  1. New World Order (UHD – 47:18)
  2. Star-Spangled Man (UHD – 47:28)
  3. Power Broker (UHD – 50:52)
  • Assembled: The Making of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (HD – 59:30)


  1. The Whole World Is Watching (UHD – 51:20)
  2. Truth (UHD – 57:26)
  3. One World, One People (UHD – 43:21)
  • Cap’s Shield (HD – 5:04)
  • Gag Reel (HD – 2:40)
  • Deleted Scenes:
    • Flight Lesson (HD – 1:04)
    • Still Not Funny (HD – 1:10)

Assembled: The Making of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a comprehensive look at the production of the show featuring interviews with all of the key cast and crew members. Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, and Daniel Brühl are joined by (potential spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the show) Clé Bennett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Florence Kasumba, Emily Vancamp, Erin Kellyman, and Don Cheadle. On the other side of the camera, series director Kari Skogland is joined by head writer Malcolm Spellman, costume designer Michael Crow, production designer Raymond Chan, stunt coordinator Brad Martin, and executive producers Zoie Nagelhout, Nate Moore, and Trevor Waterson. Together, they describe how they executed the mandate that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier look like an MCU movie, not a TV show, and that the goal was to stay grounded as much as possible. They also explain why they decided to bring John Walker, Zemo, and Valentina into the story. From there, they cover the locations, costumes, stunt work, and visual effects, as well as the challenges that they faced while dealing with the pandemic. (Fans of Jonas Ussing’s YouTube series “No CGI” Is Really Just Invisible CGI will appreciate the fact that for all of the obvious CGI that’s present in the show, nearly every single shot of Sam in the new Captain America suit had to have the cowl adjusted digitally, and it’s completely invisible.)

Cap’s Shield features some of the same participants, focusing on the iconography of Captain America’s shield. It also demonstrates how the show was reshaped during the edit, with Sam’s training montage having originally been intended as the opening of the show, but it ended up being moved to a more appropriate position later on. It’s interesting information, but it probably would have worked better being incorporated into Assembled instead. The Gag Reel is a pretty typical reel of minor flubs and mugging for the camera, although it does provide proof of Daniel Brühl’s underappreciated comic chops. Finally, the Deleted Scenes are really just scene extensions, with Flight Lesson offering a bit more interchange between Sam and Rhodey at the beginning of the series, and Still Not Funny doing the same at the end between Sam and Bucky.

We definitely live in a strange days when studios like Disney and Marvel are producing quality making-of documentaries like the Assembled series, but primarily limiting them to streaming only. It’s even stranger when they’re not included on any the home video releases of the actual cinematic installments of the MCU. Disney has long since chosen which side of their bread to butter, although they’re making baby steps back into supporting physical media once again. These 4K Steelbook releases of their streaming shows have been of consistently high quality, and at least they’re including the relevant Assembled episodes on each one. Yes, there’s still no Dolby Vision, but the advantages that gained by the higher bitrates should outweigh Dolby Vision on all but the smallest of displays, and the uncompressed Atmos mixes put the streaming Dolby Digital versions to shame. This is unquestionably the best way to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and the series itself is well worth a look.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on Facebook at this link)



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