Review: First Episode Of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Establishes The Everyday Threats Facing Superheroes
After a story about television sitcom history and the stages of grief that was WandaVision, the next MCU series is something different but more familiar. This is a series that feels relevant to our everyday lives and, apparently, the lives of superheroes themselves. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premiere episode grounds the MCU with a story about the real-world conflicts that superheroes deal with. In the case of these two characters, it’s just how they fit into this new world. They also have to consider what kind of heroes the world needs them to be.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Premiere Episode Is Quietly Brilliant
Images via Disney+
With each Marvel Studios release, I’m always in awe of just what they are able to do with their massive universe of characters and stories. The marketing of this show highlighted Sam and Bucky as bantering super-buddies. What The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premiere episode gives us, however, was something more substantial. The characters’ stories are rooted in the real world of guilt, circumstances, and the realities of the everyday.
The episode picks up a few months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Falcon, aka Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), is working with the government in operations suited to his special skill sets. He takes a break from those duties to commemorate Captain America’s shield in a museum. While there, audiences learn why Sam isn’t wielding the shield, and we get a clear sense that this takes place in the larger Marvel universe.
On the other hand, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), is trying to live the quiet life. Cured of his brainwashing, Bucky is continuing to work on finding his way back from his hellish life as the Winter Soldier. He’s also trying to atone for the sins he committed, albeit in creative ways. Both men are trying to reconcile their superhero lives by attempting to fit into the normal world.
How Marvel’s Limited Series Opens Up New Avenues Of Storytelling
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The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premiere episode astounds me for one very particular reason. It provides a different kind of look into the lives of two secondary characters from the MCU. And in a way that isn’t possible while standing next to gods and national symbols. In minutes, the audience gets a glimpse into the tumultuous life of Bucky Barnes not seen before, despite his many MCU appearances.
Similarly, Sam Wilson isn’t just Cap-support but has a family and past of his own. Both men got snapped away during the events of Avengers: Infinity War and returned 5 years later. They have that in common with Wanda. However, their experiences with it is different than hers. They lost someone, but not in the same way. In fact, they are perhaps inspired by their friend to claim the sort of life for themselves that Wanda can’t have. If they can.
And very similar to parts of WandaVision, there is a joy and immense pleasure in the novelty of seeing these amazing awesome and high-flying superheroes in everyday situations. Like hanging out at a bar, on a date, arguing with their siblings, or even trying to cope with a conflict they can’t punch their way out of. It’s simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch.
The Premiere Episode Sets Up Conflicts (and Not Just Between Falcon and Winter Solider)
Images via Disney+.
This new Disney+ MCU series looked like it was about determining who the next Captain America will be. And while the story may absolutely explore that during its run, the first episode paints a drastically different picture altogether. The every day, non-superhero conflicts presented are more about how these two heroes are coping with their lives. Especially when they’re not saving the world. It feels like the villains of this series are more the concepts of racial inequality, the economic disparity within America, and how even superheroes are not immune to it all. It’s incredibly interesting to see, not just Sam Wilson’s non-superhero life, but also how he deals with living in America, as a Black man first.
It’s an aspect of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier that we hoped we would get, and I’m glad to see the premiere episode dive headfirst into it. I’m just hoping that the series does explore it more deeply, and not just from a surface level. Which is usually the criticism for most MCU content. The Captain America story in the comics has a long history with other Black characters in comics taking up the mantle. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier can, and should absolutely feature a story about the Black experience, from the superhero perspective. Especially given the MCU movies’ significance and impact on media and the pop culture zeitgeist.
Bucky Barnes’ Story Is More Personal And Emotional
Images via Disney+
On the other hand, (no pun intended) the conflicts and issues plaguing Bucky Barnes are more personal and internal. Having been a brainwashed assassin for 50-plus years, Bucky has a lot of atoning to do. But does any amount of atonement make up for the lives he’s destroyed? The way that he’s influenced history and the political landscape of the world? That looks to be the question that Bucky himself is struggling with for now. It’s a gut-wrenching reveal when a moment in this episode reveals exactly the significance of Bucky’s actions over the decades. And how it’s haunting him right now. Because, like Cap, he’s a man out-of-time and adrift in the world. Cap had the Avengers to swim towards, but Bucky isn’t sure he wants to keep up the fight.
Still Keeping It Straight Up MCU
Images via Disney+
Despite these heavy-handed themes and very relatable topics, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premiere episode still has plenty of MCU sequences to keep everyone engaged. The episode opens with a high-flying (literally) action set piece that is comparable to any MCU movie. It’s the perfect way to hook the audience in at first with an explosive-filled action scene. Then the storytellers sneak in a substantial emotional storyline.
And while I’m expecting there to be a lot of the more bang-bang action bits, this new MCU series definitely sets up some very cool storylines that can be explored as the series progresses. Given how emotionally driven WandaVision was, I’m excited for a series that deals with the more external problems of the society we live in. And it’s definitely looking like Marvel’s Disney+ shows are the ones that will be doing that, over the more broader appeal stories in the movies.
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premieres on March 19 on Disney+.
Are you excited to see these two superheroes in their real-world element? Let us know in the comments below, or on our social media channels.
Featured Image via Disney+.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.