The Falcon and The Winter Soldier doesn’t take long to get into some serious action. After a somber scene of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) AKA Falcon packing the Captain America shield and remembering his conversation with Steve Rogers at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he’s back in the field fighting bad guys with his robot sidekick Redwing.
Fans who prefer this style of adrenaline-packed Marvel will appreciate the return to form, though if you’re only watching the show for the action you will be disappointed. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier quickly proves it’s a character study worthy of the new standard set by WandaVision.
In many ways, the start of the episode takes its cues from Captain America: Winter Soldier. There’s Sam working with the government (this time the military) to take out a terrorist organization, with the promise of an even more sinister enemy to come. Sam also takes a visit to the Smithsonian, where Steve Rogers’ legacy is explored (and we get a nice cameo from Don Cheadle as Rhodey).
Fortunately, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is far more than a repeat of films you’ve already seen. The first episode of the series explores Sam and Bucky Barnes’ (Sebastian Stan) post-Blip journeys to dig deeper into their past and present.
“Symbols are nothing without the women and men that give them meaning.”Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson has long been the Avenger with the least amount of backstory. It may have taken the burden of Cap’s legacy, but he’s finally front and center.
The show rectifies the MCU’s past neglect of the character by sending Sam on a trip back home to connect with his family. We learn more about who Sam loves and why he chose to leave them in the first place.
Anthony Mackie does an excellent job showing a new side to this character. Sam has always been an easy-going guy, but the level of comfort he exhibits back home around his family is different. His razor-sharp wit turns into something more tender and vulnerable.
Sam’s trip back home isn’t all heartwarming family time though. We also get to explore the reality of being a superhero, which is far less glamorous than you might think. Even Sam’s clout as an Avenger isn’t enough to help him secure a bank loan to save his family’s fishing boat.
He’s an Avenger. But he’s also a Black man and a veteran who disappeared for five years. At the bank, he is just another file to be stamped “DENIED.” It’s important that the show isn’t glossing over reality with a superhero sheen.
Keeping the show grounded lets Mackie show off his dramatic chops instead of just being the go-to guy for one-liners.
Bucky’s story gets a similar treatment, though for him there is no long-lost family to return to. Just a list of names in his ledger requiring him to make amends.
His scene in therapy provides some much-needed humor, but it’s hard to ignore the darkness of his storyline. As Bucky himself points out, he’s gone from one fight to another for 90 years. His brief stop in Wakanda may have undone his brainwashing, but it wasn’t enough time to heal.
“I didn’t have a moment to deal with anything, you know?”Bucky Barnes
His friendship with Yori, the father of one of his innocent victims, raises an interesting question. Is Bucky really willing to accept himself and move on? Unlike dealing with lingering Hydra agents, he can’t fight his way out of all of the consequences of his past life. What Yori wants is the truth about his son, but is Bucky willing to give him that?
It’s obvious he’ll have to team up with Sam at some point this season, but I hope the show continues to commit to showing Bucky’s healing process as well.
While I would like to say, “the real villain of the show is the Blip,” The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is more straight-forward. Unlike its predecessor WandaVision, the show doesn’t leave as much mystery for the internet to theorize over.
The show’s marketing already revealed Baron Zemo will return at some point and, within the first 15 minutes, we’re introduced to the terrorist group The Flag-Smashers.
The Flag-Smashers, a group of people who seek a world without borders and a return to how life was during the Blip, are also a lingering consequence of that event. It’s reassuring to see that Marvel is not shying away from the consequences of the Blip in this phase of films and shows.
The show still leaves a few questions to ponder about the group. Who is their leader? What is their actual end goal? And why the heck are they super strong?
The biggest villain of the series may end up being neither Zemo nor this new group. At the very end of the episode, we’re introduced to a brand new Captain America.
It’s a betrayal of Sam that immediately sows distrust. If Steve chose him as a successor, why deny his wish to retire the shield? There’s also the glaring issue that the new Captain America is a bland white man, indicating the government was more than happy to have Sam give up the shield so they can pick someone who fits their outdated mold of a hero.
If there is one thing the MCU has made painfully obvious over its many films and now shows, it’s when the government decides to do something you should be asking questions. “Why a new Captain America?” is the big question leading into the next episode.
- Torres asking if Steve is secretly living on the moon could be a throwaway joke or a hint that the Blue Area of the Moon base from Marvel Comics will be popping up in the MCU soon…
- “Doctor Space Cape” is now canon.
- Interesting that no one recognizes Bucky. Apparently, a haircut is as effective of a disguise as a baseball cap in the MCU.
- No Sharon Carter on this episode. Hopefully, we see her soon.
- If Bucky has fewer than 10 numbers in his phone, and two are Sam and his therapist, who are the others???
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere on Fridays on Disney+.