Let me be honest. I reviewed a couple of episodes of WandaVision, and I was never really hooked during the show’s entire 9 episodes runtime. It had a slow start and it lacked that spark that makes all MCU films shine. Well, I’m pleased to say that the spark is back in an AMAZING fashion in that first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. Curious enough, it wasn’t necessarily the manly superhero action that I was missing during the acid trip that was WandaVision, but stakes that I could relate to and fully understand. The Captain America movies all had that quality; focusing on humans on Earth and our leaders’ political agenda. This new series follows that same trend while doing it in a more mature way.
I challenge MCU fans to tell me otherwise, but I’m of the idea that the first 49 minutes of this show feature probably the most mature and adult-like content and depth of the entire MCU franchise so far (yes, you heard me correctly). We are dealing with ‘human’ problems and a ‘normal’ world, where everyday salaried people actually try to get back to their normal lives following the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and not fighting supernatural events. That makes it easier for us viewers to relate to what both Sam and Bucky are going through as middle-aged men with big responsibilities. A certain Uncle Ben would watch them carefully (Spider-Man reference, wink wink).
No major spoiler here, we’ll get into that when episode 2 comes along.
According to the synopsis, this takes place six months following the death of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ (Captain America) journey back in time at the end of the last Avengers movie. With the Avengers split up, we follow two of them on a more human tale. Sam Wilson, known as ‘The Falcon’ (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes, known as ‘The Winter Soldier’ (Sebastian Stan), go on with their lives and their own problems individually as their best friend is now gone. Still grieving the departure of Captain America, Sam joined the US. Air Force acting as an operative for Special Ops missions. We also see him reunited with his family in Louisiana, including his sister and nephews who are dealing with financial problems. Bucky, on his side, is dealing with a much darker reality. Having been pardoned for his past war crimes as the Winter Soldier, he is tasked with seeing a psychiatrist who helps him deal with his troubled past in order to better live a normal life. As the government is looking for ways to reinstate hope and patriotism among the people after these dark times, the symbol that was the shield of Captain America is commemorated at the Smithsonian. The question remains, who will take Steve Rogers’ place?
In Eastern Europe, we follow some of Sam’s new colleagues as they uncover a network of masked terrorists who operate with an online digital signal to gather followers. This will lead to the reintroduction of Zemo (Daniel Brühl), the Sokovian villain from Captain America: Civil War as the main antagonist of the series.
Funny enough, both Sam and Bucky do not share one minute of screen time together during that first episode…and the end result is still great!
Since this is the first episode, we know very little about the plot yet, as both characters have not yet been deployed for their mission. However, the show starts off on a pretty memorable note with a sweet aerial battle including Falcon, C-17s, helicopters and parachutes. Filmed with GoPro cameras attached to the stuntmen, we witness incredible live stunts in mid-air, which reminds me of that Halo jump in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. If you missed the action in WandaVision, this show has you covered.
The rest of the episode lets go of the action, as we go deeper into the everyday routine of both Sam and Bucky. Although the family dynamic of Sam is warm and cozy on a peaceful harbour in Louisiana, I found Bucky’s introduction to be even more interesting. We find him sitting in the therapist’s chair as he remembers his past crimes and political assassinations under the Soviet and Hydra regimes. Although we know he is troubled by what he’s done, there is some friendly humour to be found in him when he tells us that he’s been trying dating apps and avoiding violence when framing old Hydra officials still at large. We also see him taking care of an old neighbour, which makes sense later in the episode. Again, Marvel knows how to perfectly balance humour and drama to make it just enough realistic, and not tongue in cheek.
My favourite aspect of this new story goes beyond the characters themselves, which are great. It has more to do with the very personal and human problems that both men are facing. That makes the whole show more grounded in reality as we compare ourselves to them, even though they are categorized as superheroes. For example, have you ever wondered if members of Avengers were actually paid for their work? Are they salaried employees like the rest of us mortals? Well, according to a very fascinating discussion between Sam and a Louisiana banker, money doesn’t seem to be growing on trees for superheroes either. Subtle, but a good little twist!
Needless to say, I’m already a fan! The remaining five episodes sure are promising and they will explore that good old MCU action that we terribly missed. Sure, all the action and the gadgetry can become a little redundant after so many movies of the sort, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gets one crucial thing right this time: the emotional tone. We explore realistic human and 21st-century American socio-economic themes that were never really exploited before with the exception of some of the themes from Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014). This is Marvel’s idea of a Lethal Weapon story, and I’m all for it.
Episode one is now available on Disney+, don’t miss it.
Be sure to also check out our spoiler-free thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.