There were a lot of questions surrounding “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” Disney+’s second original Marvel series set within the narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when it debuted in mid-March. But some of the most pressing questions (at least for us) revolved around whether the action-heavy show could hold a candle to the emotionally engaging “WandaVision,” both in terms of narrative impact and awards potential.
The six-episode limited series stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan as their fan-favorite characters Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, respectively. Picking up six months after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), the show finds the bickering odd couple starring in their version of a buddy comedy, reuniting for a new mission after someone has found a way to recreate the super-soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into Captain America and Bucky into the brainwashed HYDRA agent known as the Winter Soldier.
With plenty of high-octane action sequences and fight scenes, the Kari Skogland-directed show is a more traditional Marvel project than its immediate streaming predecessor. And for those fans who disliked the high-concept, out-of-the-box “WandaVision,” that is probably a good thing. However, when it comes to standing out in a crowded limited series race at the Emmys, it might not work in the show’s favor, as it is something voters have seen many times before, at least on the big screen.
Still, the series has risen in Gold Derby’s combined Emmys odds since debuting a few weeks ago. The show itself is currently 10th place in the limited series race (“WandaVision” is fourth), with Mackie and Stan sitting in 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the limited actor race. This puts them several spots behind fellow Marvel actor Paul Bettany, who is currently sitting pretty in third. Meanwhile, Emily VanCamp, who reprises her role as Sharon Carter in the series, is in 18th place in the limited supporting actress race, while Daniel Brühl, returning to the MCU as the villainous Baron Zemo, is in 17th in the corresponding actor category. There is still plenty of time for all four actors to improve in the odds though — both VanCamp and Brühl just made their debuts in the series’ third episode, after all. The only question is whether or not they will.
The limited series races are the most competitive of the genres at this year’s Emmys. If Marvel were willing to commit to a second season of the show right now, a decision that would allow the series to compete in the much less busy drama field, it probably would have a better chance at success even though it would have to fight against shows like “The Mandalorian” and current frontrunner “The Crown,” which has been picking up awards left and right for its fourth season. But to do so would require Marvel to show its hand, something it is famous for not doing since it could hint at future developments in the MCU, so instead “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” will face off against the likes of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” which is likely the limited series to beat, as well as HBO’s powerful “I May Destroy You” and Marvel’s own “WandaVision,” among others.
Where this will likely have little effect is in the craft and technical categories. “The Mandalorian” has already proven that a big name franchise property with lots of action has the potential to do well at the Emmys, so there’s no reason to believe “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” won’t pick up at least some noms in this arena. The action sequences and fight scenes are also on par with those seen in Marvel’s feature films, so the series should easily pick up nominations in categories like stunt coordination, special visual effects, costume design, and maybe editing and production design as well.
But when it comes to the limited series and acting races, there exists a real possibility that Emmy voters will lean toward one Marvel show or the other, and “WandaVision” definitely has the momentum right now. Of course, it’s also been out longer. Nevertheless, although the shows are inherently different in style and tone, they do serve a similar purpose: spotlight the MCU’s supporting players and dig into their personal struggles in a way the films never could. So like “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is adding depth to the two characters at the center of the show in real, meaningful ways. Mackie’s Sam is struggling with whether or not to take up the Captain America mantle and stand up for a country that doesn’t stand up for him as a Black man, leading to some powerful commentary on race and racism in America. Meanwhile, Stan has some meaty storylines of his own to work with as Bucky works through his lingering trauma. The “Gossip Girl” alum has flexed his chops on TV before and earned recognition for it, nabbing a Critics Choice Award nomination for his turn on USA’s unfortunately short-lived “Political Animals” in 2013, as well as a Gold Derby Award nomination.
If either or both could break into the limited series actor race, it would be a real triumph for Marvel. But it does seem like a bit of a long shot at the halfway point of the series. Now that the show is finished setting up its narrative and finding its rhythm, though, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them continue to move up in the odds.
New episodes of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” are released Fridays on Disney+.
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