It’s been a long two years since we’ve seen The Falcon or The Winter Soldier grace our screens. While WandaVision was a quirky drama thriller, The Falcon was teased to us as the action-packed Marvel show that one would expect from the studio.
Going into the premiere, there were a few things on my mind. Mainly, the trailers teased a new Captain America who was neither Sam nor Bucky. How could that be? Clearly, the government has lost their minds if they think a newcomer can be a better Cap than either of these two. Admittedly, Bucky isn’t exactly a role model citizen, although he does kick some serious #@$. Sam on the other hand feels like a shoo-in. He did everything right.
Well no worries, Episode 1 does answer that question somewhat, although it will leave you with more questions than answers, as any good premiere will do.
Episode 1 delves deeper into character motivations that we haven’t seen on the big screen. We get a first-hand look at Sam’s family life. It turns out he has a widowed sister, Sarah Wilson, but the rest of his family has passed on leaving her a heavy burden. Sarah spends her days carrying on a family legacy working as a fisherman of sorts. We learn her family business has been losing more money than it has made as she tries to overcome substantial debt.
Anthony Mackie has a certain charm that makes his interactions throughout the premiere as both a hero and a regular Joe shine. Behind his wry smile, life isn’t easy for his family. One might have thought superheroes were living off that sweet Stark and Wakanda money, or well-padded government paychecks. Turns out neither is true. Sam informs us that he mostly lives off of “goodwill” that his superhero status grants him. Surprising, yet unsurprising. But seriously, what’s up with the small paycheck from the government? The man is an Avenger after all! Saving the world should count for something?
Sam’s family's financial struggle centers around the family boat and home. A legacy that Sam wants to keep for future Wilson generations. His sister is convinced that they should sell off the boat. Sam, of course, remembering his family and good times, refuses to part with it. It’s a familiar story we all know and humanizes the Avenger whose battles normallly revolve around supervillains.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also explores Bucky Barnes' checkered past and how he is moving forward. The show makes you feel for him. Where does he belong, what is his purpose? He’s a civilian now, and like any soldier returning from war, he feels out of place. It's pretty clear battle action is what he wants, but that doesn’t seem to find him.
Bucky is a haunted man. Reliving nightmares of his past as The Winter Soldier. Coming to grips with what he has done leaves him with anguish. In an attempt to make things right, Bucky has started a list of people he has wronged to make amends. He does so by visiting families of those he has harmed to bring closure and clear his conscience. He also helps capture or subdue Hydra allies, within the confines of the law as a civilian, but his civilian ways of assisting in their capture doesn’t satisfy his penchant for hard justice.
During Endgame, I was rooting for Bucky as the new Cap. Now, I’m not so sure. He’s in a dark place, which doesn’t represent the youthful optimism of Captain America.
The two titular heroes have yet to collide, but they soon will. The overarching villain of the series is an organization that represents itself with a red hand called ULTIMATUM. They want a world without borders. A compelling idea, but backed by violence to make it real. We don’t quite know exactly what they represent and how they will achieve it, but it’s clear they are one of the main antagonists of the show and will unite Sam and Bucky together.
An interesting and unexpected parallel between WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that both have seemingly untrustworthy government agency heads working behind the scenes. In WandaVision the head of SWORD tried to take out Wanda and gain control over Vision. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam surrendered Cap's shield, only for the Government to announce a new and different Captain America, without any deference or consultation from Sam or the Avengers.
Clearly, the loss of Iron Man and Cap, not to mention Black Widow, has diminished The Avengers' influence on the world stage. Captain Marvel is off in the distance, and Hawkeye wasn’t exactly concerned with domestic matters after the blip. Is there even an Avenger team left after the end of Endgame? It doesn’t look like it. There’s just an assortment of heroes doing their own thing. Certainly, there's enough talent with Spider-Man, War Machine, The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Shuri (and Black Panther as of canon), for a credible Avenger team to still exist. Stark Industries surely didn’t disappear entirely, but perhaps Pepper has left The Avengers' responsibility in order to focus on family in the wake of Endgame.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gives us a small picture of what the world is like after Endgame. Something WandaVision could not do within the confines of Westview.
Sam’s charm paired with Bucky’s morose demeanor will make for an interesting pairing once the two collide. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has unveiled the curtain of everyday life for these heroes and for people living after the blip. What happens next is anyone's guess. Episode 1 was filled with action, character development, and new insights. I’m hooked and can’t wait for Episode 2 to air.