In a non-COVID timeline, THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER would have been Marvel’s fancy Disney+ debut series. It’s easy to see why that was to be the case: the first episode opens with a very big, very splashy action sequence involving requisite flying, massive explosions, an edge of your seat rescue, and in just a few minutes re-establishes Sam Wilson, The Falcon, as a kick butt force in the MCU. Post-ENDGAME, Falcon is partnered with the US military to help on special operations abroad, and he delivers the goods.
But we don’t live in a non-COVID timeline, so the first Marvel series on Disney+ was the far more unconventional WANDAVISION, which captivated millions of people with its slow-burn mysteries and palpable exploration of grief during a time of unbelievable sadness. It also frustrated vocal and very online fanbois who like their Marvel Studios productions to be more predictable. I’m guessing those fanbois will have a much easier time with THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, as it does not attempt to break any Marvel molds (at least not in the first episode).
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER is good old fashioned big budget action with signature Marvel one-liners and the realistic emotional beats we’ve come to expect.
Sam and Bucky haven’t spent much time together in the past, and they still haven’t by the time episode 1 wraps up. What brings them together and what their shared goals are remain a mystery, but episode 1 spends its time giving us a deep look into both characters’ struggles since being blipped back. Sam weighs the responsibility of Steve Rogers’s shield and tries to help his family in Louisiana but despite being an Avenger, runs into roadblocks that will be all too familiar to millions of Americans. Bucky is still unraveling his past as the Winter Soldier and looking to piece together some semblance of life as his true self.
Of course, the big question is who will take up the shield? Sam’s discomfort with it was evident in ENDGAME when Steve Rogers passed it on to him. Episode 1 doesn’t get us any closer to answers, but the setup is there and we cannot wait to see how this all manifests.
The episode makes clear that world events are going to force both Sam and Bucky to face their demons and solve some big problems. Like WANDAVISION, one director handles the entire series, in this case experienced TV helmer Kari Skogland. Malcolm Spellman serves as head writer.
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan continue in their roles and are so good, it made me stop and contemplate what a massive feat this all is. The MCU is easy to take for granted at this point, but no one has ever done anything like this and the fact that it just continues on in so many installments at such stratospheric levels of quality is truly nuts.
Obviously the creative team led by mastermind Kevin Feige deserves the most credit, but the actors they’ve chosen pull off a heroic task in making such an absurd world utterly believable. The Thanos snap, a would-be gimmick in the hands of most franchises, doesn’t just play out to its conclusion in the MCU. We’re now dealing with what would be natural aftershocks from such a bizarre and horrifying event. How do you pick up your life when you’ve been gone for five years and the world, your family, your friends, went on without you? How do you do that when you’re a superhero and are supposed to be invincible?
Spellman and Skogland do a fine job navigating those interesting questions while also setting up a new story and getting Sam and Bucky ready for what will come next. We spend so much time with them in this episode that the top-billed remaining cast members don’t even have time to be introduced. The standout newcomer is Adepero Oduye, who steals her scenes as Sam’s self-reliant sister Sarah.
Disney+ viewers worldwide will be thrilled that more MCU stories are streaming their way weekly. After a long dry spell since SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME hit theaters in 2019, WANDAVISION‘s spell was a welcome return. Now we will have new Marvel episodes weekly for the next few months, because as soon as this series wraps, LOKI will be just behind it. And with the pandemic hopefully waning, maybe we’ll see BLACK WIDOW in theaters this May after all. Either way, for now, catching up with Sam and Bucky is a wild ride you’ll want to take.
See it for Yourself
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER miniseries will boast six episodes that will stream weekly on Disney+ starting March 19, 2021.