The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: Episode 1 Review
A more genre-driven exploration of a post-blip world
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has some very big shoes to fill. After the whirlwind adoration for WandaVision, Marvel fans had been cautiously waiting for Sam and Bucky to make their weekly appearance on DisneyPlus. Promotion and marketing was a-plenty, with the show's social accounts sharing trailer snippets and magazine features almost daily. Then Friday (19th March) came and the world sat down to see just how these two avengers were going to become the MCU's latest team-up pairing.
Disney's newest addition to the Marvel Studios list re-introduces Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) into the world, trying to cope with the effects of the five-year blip. Sam now works with the U.S. Air Force and is struggling with taking on the mantle of Captain America after Steve passed the role (as well as the infamous shield) to Sam at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Bucky battles with the demons from his past, attending government-mandated therapy and trying to make amends with the people he wronged as a Hydra assassin.
The series also introduces the Flag-Smashers: a terrorist group, focusing on one member with particularly impressive superhuman strength, who believe life was better during the blip. Seeing how the world no longer has their Avengers champions to protect them, the government intervenes and announces that a new hero is here to save the day: a brand-spanking-new Captain America!
While TFATWS feels a lot slower compared to Wandavision, there appears to be a different focal point at the heart of the series. While WandaVision used exaggerated storytelling to explore Wanda's grief, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier looks to be a deep character study of Sam and Bucky.
The compact intensity of Marvel films means that character development and exploration isn't something that can be examined in detail (especially within the films that Sam and Bucky have appeared in). TFATWS provides a lot more freedom (just like WV did) to understand these characters at a deeper level and explore their internal conflicts.
We already know some history around Bucky (he did have a full Captain America sequel focused on him) but Sam has been neglected for the most part: we know he was a close confidant of Steve but the first episode has just introduced his family and remnants of his life before becoming The Falcon.
The internal struggles that seem to be at play with these two characters look very interesting. Sam feels he doesn't have the competence and belief to take on the role of being Captain America and so gives the shield away for a museum display. This then opens a chain reaction where he's lost that role to a complete stranger without even being informed about the decision.
Bucky hangs around with the father of one of his victims: a painful reminder of the life he is trying to leave behind. Even when pursuing relationships and hoping to find some sense of normality, his mind is sucked back to the dreams that haunt him of his past.
These are two characters, two male characters, who are both grappling with their own complex issues. Yet they are tied together by the one person who they could always rely on: Steve - and he's gone.
As of yet, we don't know how Sam and Bucky are going to come together. But what we do know is that Sam has been trying to reach out to Bucky over text. As explained above, the pair are bound together by the close friend they once shared so this is surely going to be a huge component within their relationship.
The ending of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier's first episode was explosive (to put it lightly) and Marvel have done their usual, fantastic job in causing chaos online in response to it. As a series opener, the episode title of New World Order fits perfectly as the show introduces an extensive depiction of a post-blip world and a villain with numerous pathways: is it the masked figure from the Flag-Smashers, the government official that put the wheels in motion to create his dream "hero", or the new Captain America?
Stylistically, the callbacks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier are a real joy (the 7-minute Air Force sequence was quite special, wasn't it?) and the series already feels authentically genre-driven in terms of action and pacing.
Bucky and Sam aren't quite best buds (they seem to be miles apart really) but there's still quite a few episodes to go yet.
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