Hot off the success of WandaVision, Marvel Studios is releasing their latest series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ beginning March 18th. The series, which takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, follows Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) as they adjust to life after the “Blip” and life without Captain America. In addition to the return of Wilson and Barnes, the series also features returning MCU characters like Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), and Helmut Zero (Daniel Bruhl), as well as a new character named John F. Walker (Wyatt Russell). The result is a pilot episode that is filled to the brim with MCU action but spends a lot of time setting up the following episodes and leaves the audience unsure of what the series is really all about.
The first episode begins with an incredible aerial action sequence featuring the Falcon (Mackie) chasing a plane with terrorists that have taken a hostage. Sam is working with the U.S. Military as an independent contractor, and while he is able to rescue the hostage, the terrorist leader gets away. Sam soon learns that they were part of a new terrorist organization called the Flag Smashers, who think the “Blip” made the world better. Unsure if he should take up the mantel of Captain America as Steve Rogers had wanted, Sam is convinced by the U.S. government that it would be best for “Steve’s legacy” to retire his superhero identity and put the shield in a museum, which he agrees to do. Sam visits his sister and her two kids and realizes that life during the “Blip” was not easy on them without him and that the family business is now in danger of being closed permanently. Things get worse when Sam learns that he was lied to by the government that he works for, as they introduce the new Captain America (Wyatt Russell). Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes is adjusting to his new life and working with a therapist to make amends for his past sins.
Unfortunately, Emily VanCamp and Daniel Bruhl do not appear in the pilot, but one can only assume that their characters will turn up in the coming episodes. The first episode sets up a solid series with MCU-level action, but the pacing is a little slow and after watching the pilot, I’m still not sure what the series will ultimately be about. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally planned to premiere before WandaVision, but the pandemic changed that, and it is unfortunate because now the two shows will be unfairly compared. That being said, the series doesn’t seem to have the same urgency or originality that WandaVision possessed. The first episode seems to be setting up a lot that will pay off down the line, and I’m willing to give the series some room to grow. However, based on the pilot, the Marvel action is definitely there, but the story unfolds slow.
I’d talk about the supporting cast, but in the first episode, there is not much of one. There is a cameo by a former Captain America villain that is very cool, and Don Cheadle is as solid as ever as James Rhodes, a role he didn’t originate but now completely owns. The only real supporting roles in the pilot belong to Amy Aquino (Bosch) as Barnes’ therapist and Adepero Oduye (The Big Short) as Wilson’s sister, respectively. Aquino is a veteran TV actress and brings a lot of gravitas to her role, while Oduye has a strong introduction but I’m still unsure what role her character will play in the overall series. Assumingly, Wyatt Russell will have a large role in the series as John F. Walker, the new Captain America, but he is only introduced in the pilot’s last few seconds. So, while his inclusion is intriguing it is still yet to be known how the character will fit into the show.
It’s important to note that the show’s two title characters never meet in the first episode. I do hope that their separate stories come together shortly. I think the heart of the series will be seeing the two of them together on screen, as both actors have been playing their characters for years now and understand their motivations well. The pilot allows time for the characters to grow, especially with Sam coming to terms with how his heroics have affected his own family and Bucky deciding to deal with the guilt he suffers from his past actions. I love the MCU, and especially these particular characters, so I’m willing to give the series some latitude. The action is certainly there, and if the series ends up dealing with the issues I think it will, then I’m totally on board. It’s just really hard to know what the show will ultimately be about from the first episode. In the end, I hope The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can fulfill fan’s expectations by becoming a strong entry into the MCU, as well as an entertaining and suspenseful buddy-espionage series. But only time will tell.