While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is primarily concerned with moving its narrative forward, there are occasional moments that fill in gaps from the past.
Aside from Captain America: The First Avenger's World War II setting and Avengers: Endgame's brief exploration of 1970, most of the MCU's 20th century remains widely unexplored.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier alluded to moments during the Korean War with Carl Lumbly's Isaiah Bradley. Just as Sam Wilson takes in Bradley's story as he tells it, fans are left without a clear flashback of how the events went down.
KOREAN WAR CONFRONTATION IN THE MCU?
Even with the rich scene potential, viewers were never going to see a younger Isaiah Bradley rescuing his boys in the 1950s.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Direct, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier director Kari Skogland revealed Isaiah Bradley flashbacks were never considered:
“It was always going to be a modern-day retelling because I think you want to see the man telling the story. How it affected him. To flashback is a cinematic paradigm that we’re all used to, but it takes you out of the emotion of the person.”
Skogland doubled down on the decision to tell Isaiah's story in a present-day recollection, emphasizing that the real emotional weight comes through the character himself and that "that compelling story had to be told by him [Isaiah]:"
“In this case, that compelling story had to be told by him, and we had to see the effects on him, because I think just to flashback and see it would be just another series of images that might not have had the same impact as the heartfelt storytelling.”
PRESENT-DAY FOCUS FOR ISAIAH BRADLEY
Aside from the one nightmare Bucky had about his HYDRA days, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier set every scene in the present. While an Isaiah Bradley flashback has massive potential and would have given fans yet another sweet Captain America suit, leaving that story as a modern-day recollection made the most narrative sense.
Even though he appears in three episodes, every Isaiah Bradley scene is brief. Bradley lives a quiet life with his grandson, uninterested in speaking with outsiders. His dismissal of Sam and Bucky when they initially appear on his doorstep is enough to tell fans that this is a man with serious trust issues. Who wouldn't give two Avengers the time of day?
When he eventually opens up to Sam, it's painful. Bradley resurfaces memories he's kept suppressed for decades, quivering as he chokes on his words multiple times. Rather than cutting back and forth between the present retelling and flashbacks of the actual moment, Skogland keeps the camera on Isaiah and Sam the entire time.
This allows fans to not just hear the story but see the 70-year toll it has taken on Isaiah. Coupled with Sam's reaction, Skogland makes the most out of a scene that ultimately would've been lessened by the inclusion of flashbacks.
If fans are going to get any Bradley action, it looks like they'll have to wait until Isaiah's grandson (potentially) gets his hands dirty down the line.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to stream in full exclusively on Disney+.