The premiere of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is finally here, and boy was it worth the wait. If you’ve yet to tune in for the first episode, head on over to see our spoiler-free first thoughts. Otherwise, come along as we break down and examine the various aspects of “New World Order.”
The Effects of the Blip Reversal
Despite some of the neat and tidy aspects of the ending of Avengers: Endgame after the team fought to right the world once more, there was endless fallout off-screen in the aftermath of the Blip reversal. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier pulls these issues into its narrative. Rhodes tells Sam point blank that the world is broken right now. We learn criminal organizations like LAF and the Flag-Smashers have been using the situation to their advantage. Banks (and likely other institutions) have had to change the way they do business with the reappearance of everyone that was previously blipped out of existence for five years. And on top of everything else that’s happened, there’s a widespread unease without Steve Rogers as Captain America.
That Signature Marvel Cinematic Universe-Feel
Despite the fact that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a television series, the team approached this project in such a way that it still feels like a very cohesive extension of the MCU films we know and love. There’s action, special effects, high-flying heroes, vast sets, and explosions galore. As promised in the series’ original synopsis, the show will lead to a global excursion for Sam and Bucky (and we’ve already visited quite a few places over the course of one episode). This further contributes to the cinematic feel of the show. However, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier — while teeming with blockbuster potential — hardly forgets the vast character development potential that 6 episodes worth of storytelling (versus an ensemble cast film) allows. More on that below.
When Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson was introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we didn’t know much of his backstory besides the information that he divulged about his time with the US Air Force. As with most ensemble films, Sam never had the opportunity to step into the spotlight for a deeper dive into his history. Now that he’s one of the leads in his own series, the team behind the show has purposefully given both he and Bucky the fleshed out, personal storylines that they deserve.
Episode 1 took us to Louisiana, and we met Adepero Oduye’s Sarah Wilson, Sam’s sister and a mother to two boys. Sarah has had her own fair share of troubles keeping the Wilson family seafood business afloat while Sam has been off fighting larger-than-life villains with the Avengers and was then subsequently blipped out of existence for five long years. Now that Sam’s back, his nephews have grown considerably, and Sarah has been juggling the decision to sell the family boat. Sam attempts to help her acquire a loan from the bank, only to receive a metaphorical slap in the face when their application is denied. Whereas the MCU films have often glossed over things like this, the series makes an outright statement in showing Sam’s financial problems despite all that he’s given for the Avengers and the world.
Family problems aren’t all that Sam will be grappling with, because there’s also the legacy of Steve Rogers’ shield weighing down on him. When Sam watched the government’s reveal of their new Captain America at the end of the episode, it felt like a punch to the gut for viewers after his speech at the Smithsonian and subsequent conversation with Rhodes. There’s so much more for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier to continue unpacking with Sam Wilson, and we can’t wait to see him hopefully wield the shield that rightfully belongs to him (and not that knock-off Cap).
James “Bucky” Barnes
Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes has quite literally been through the wringer in the MCU, following his first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger. His storylines throughout The Winter Soldier and Civil War were absolutely riveting as we watched a brainwashed man struggle to find his way back to himself after decades and decades of nothing but violence and bloodshed. With all that was going on, fans weren’t necessarily surprised (though disappointed) to see his problems put on the back burner in Infinity War and Endgame, coming to a tragic head when he knowingly said goodbye to the young version of Steve Rogers for the last time.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will see Bucky back in action, as seen in all the accompanying promotional material for the series. However, episode 1 made it abundantly clear that he’s not out of the woods yet when it comes to his own mental health and personal traumas. Bucky’s in therapy, and Dr. Raynor isn’t letting him off easy by a long shot. We’ve begun to explore Bucky’s haunting nightmares that he’s having from his time as the Winter Soldier and his list of amends that he’s working his way through. Dr. Raynor also calls him out on heartbreaking fact that he barely has any contacts in his phone, and he won’t even answer Sam’s messages. After all that he’s been through, Endgame‘s events didn’t tie up with a miraculous off-screen happy ending for Bucky. Is that really damn sad? Yes. But is it refreshingly realistic? Also yes. And the best part is that the show is going to actually dedicate the time to exploring the future trajectory of Bucky’s growth and healing.
On a more uplifting note, the show has also begun to fully embrace the snarky, funny side of Bucky Barnes as he fumbles his way through 21st century things like online dating. Bucky is a complex, layered character with so much to bring to the table, and it’s a relief to finally see Stan given the opportunity to play him to his full potential this time around.
John Walker/U.S. Agent
Even though we knew it was coming, it didn’t make it any easier to see an imposter walk out dressed as Captain America in the final moments of the episode. John Walker has a lengthy history in the comics dating back to the 80s, so it will be interesting to see how his presence in the MCU ends up playing out and what sort of interactions he may have with Sam and Bucky.
The Flag-Smashers were introduced early on in the episode as an anti-nationalist group that wants to see a world unified without borders. They also believe that the world was better during the Blip. This group ties into the comics by way of the supervillain Flag-Smasher aka Karl Morgenthau. He would go on to found the criminal organization U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., a group dedicated to eradicating the concept of countries and nationalism. Thus far in the show, we know that Erin Kellyman portrays the young girl seen at the robbery meetup, Karli Morgenthau. Keeping in mind that drawing from source material doesn’t necessarily mean the show will replicate the actions and motives of the corresponding entities, it remains to be seen what exactly Karli and the Flag-Smashers will do.
This episode introduces us to Danny Ramirez’s Lieutenant Torres, who has comic ties to Sam Wilson as his eventual sidekick. We did a deeper dive on that earlier, which you can check out here.
Batroc the Leaper
Georges Batroc is back! First seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the skilled mercenary is now working with the criminal organization LAF. The last we saw of him in episode 1, he dove out of the plane in his wingsuit after Sam successfully extracted Colonel Vassant. The question stills remains as to whether this was a one-off cameo or if he will play a bigger part in the series.
Overall, the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier successfully set the stage for what’s certain to be an incredible, action-packed, hilarious, and emotional deep dive into the lives of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. And now we eagerly await the arrival of Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter and Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo.
Episode 2 of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will land exclusively on Disney+ next Friday, March 26.