On Mar. 19, Marvel delivered another action-packed television series that instantly charmed its audiences with clever, witty writing and deep-dives into character backgrounds. Following “Wandavision,” Marvel’s very late start to Phase Four of their cinematic universe, audience expectations were very high. And right from the first scene, “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is absolutely fantastic. Although the series provides less opportunity for fan theories than “WandaVision,” there is no reason to believe we won’t enjoy it just as much, if not more.
The show opens with a breath-taking aerial battle scene featuring Sam Wilson AKA Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Batroc The Leaper (Georges St-Pierre). Here, the show’s resemblance to both “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is striking and evokes nostalgia while begging the question: which late Avenger is Falcon really going to replace? We’re pretty sure it’s still Captain America…but the rest of the episode goes on to explore this same lingering question, as Falcon chooses to not take up the red, white and blue mantle and instead tries to piece his life back together while fighting poverty. A line from Falcon’s sister, Sarah Wilson (Adepero Oduye), “How can you have income if you don’t exist?” shows us that consequences of “the Blip” are still plaguing the country. Falcon clearly is not happy with the state of America or the world. Additionally, Falcon gives up the shield because he doesn’t want to be merely another military puppet following a corrupt government.
Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) struggles mainly with his trauma and PTSD. Marvel takes a note from “The Sopranos” here, introducing the infamous Winter Soldier from a therapist’s office. Plagued by nightmares from his past as a brainwashed Hydra assassin, Bucky has been struggling to cleanse the world of the corruption he caused while simultaneously “making amends” with those who exploited him for power (he provides evidence for their arrests). The Winter Soldier also tries to make up for lost time, befriending an unlikely elderly man (revealed to be the father of one of Bucky’s past victims) and playing Battleship with a potential love interest. I can’t help but wonder if Bucky is at all pissed with his old partner Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) for going back in time to live his own life, without at all thinking of Bucky, who similarly is stuck living in a time that is not his own.
Finally, an evil organization known as the Flag-Smashers is brought into play in this episode. The group is a reference to the comic book villain Flag-Smasher, now embodied by an online terrorist cell with similar beliefs of “creating world peace.” They also use similar tactics to those of the classic Captain America villain, mainly attacking major world governments to create states of chaos where citizens are forced to care for each other. Interesting ideology. The group dabbles in supersoldier serums, hinting towards the many rumors of the return of the infamous Zemo (from “The Winter Soldier”), whose name is also on Bucky’s list of “amends.” Will Bucky finally get his revenge?
The episode truly gets us closer to both characters. We learn more about Falcon’s technology and its limitations. We also see Redwing, his semi-sentient drone, pack some serious fire-power in ways previously not explored in Falcon cameos. Will he soon step away from technology to embrace the role of Captain America? Or will he wield both suit and shield to become the Iron Man-Captain America hybrid we all want to see? Hopefully they still leave room for Spiderman! With Bucky, we can certainly expect to get closer to his past and present. More flashbacks and “amends” will serve to fill the gaps of his dark days, as Bucky and Sam eventually team up to fight the Flag-Smashers and possibly the new, government-assigned Captain America revealed at the episode’s conclusion.
Overall, the first episode watched like a classic Marvel movie. The nostalgia mixed with the charm mixed with the action makes for an amazing watch. Marvel’s next big Disney series will certainly meet and exceed our expectations.
“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is available to stream on Disney+.
By Erik Mathews