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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Episode 1 Review

Captain Falcon… Punch!

 

Sam as he looks over Captain America's shield

Taking place after Avengers: Endgame and the five-year time gap known as THE BLIP, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 1 picks up right where the MCU left off after Captain America’s final farewell. The series takes a deep dive into both Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’s worlds — Captain America’s two best friends. 

Originally planned to be the first MCU show to debut on Disney+ (before the pandemic changed the schedule for Phase 4), Falcon and Winter Soldier is much more of a direct tie-in regarding its story as compared to Marvel’s last global hit: WandaVision. Which was, during its airtime, one of the most popular shows in the world. Whether or not the series will have that degree of fanaticism is yet to be seen, but from early reviews, all signs point towards this being another Marvel success story.

Overall, this pilot episode serves as a great re-introduction to the espionage and soldiers of war settings introduced in Captain America: Winter Soldier. It’s an intriguing, character-focused approach that looks at the histories of two long-loved Avengers who’d never had much time in the spotlight, just like Wanda and Vision before this series. Sam’s story is one of Captain’s legacy along with his family’s in a journey of who Sam’s supposed to be. The role model that America doesn’t really know that it needs. Bucky’s history, meanwhile, is one that finally has him look at his traumatically haunting past as the assassin: The Winter Soldier. 

Both storylines, providing all the motivational catalysts in what’s promising to be an action-packed adventure well worth the watch. Here’s a recap. 

FAIR WARNING. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

 

New World Order

 

The poster for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This episode begins with Sam remembering his time with Captain America as he grapples with both the Captain and his own legacies. That despite proving himself time-and-time again and being given the Captain’s shield, Sam struggles and still finds himself unworthy.

But before any serious thoughts are put in, the show immediately takes us into the heart of the action. Where one of the craziest extract and rescue missions goes underway, filled with plane interceptions, evasive maneuvers throughout canyons, air suit sailing, and overall just some top gun level of airplay. There are many intense close-ups and combat here, all featuring Falcon,  reminding us about the more action-driven pieces in the MCU that were semi-lacking in WandaVision.  

Once they complete the mission, Sam is debriefed by his assigned partner Lieutenant Torres down in Tunisia. A fellow soldier who’s working in-tandem with Sam to stop a terrorist organization known as the Flag-Smashers. Menacing baddies who believe that the world was better before the BLIP. The Flag-Smashers seek to create a unified world without borders, potentially undoing civil unrest between nations. While Torres continues his organization’s infiltration mission, Sam is called to Washington DC for some final Avengers business.

 

Symbols Are Nothing Without The Men And Women Who Give Them Meaning

 

At the Captain America museum in DC, Sam delivers a riveting speech as he bequeaths Captain’s shield to the museum. In attendance is none other than Rhodey, as the two meet to talk about what it’s like living in a post-blip world without the leadership of their two former best friends: Captain America and Iron Man. Rhodey asks Sam why he didn’t take up Captain’s mantle, especially as the world is broken and someone needs to help fix it. 

Later, down in Delacroix, Louisiana, Sam visits his sister. Who is a single mother struggling to keep her family’s boat and business afloat. She has taken out loans with her parent’s house as collateral but is on the verge of defaulting. Sam tries to help his family by going to the bank with her and attempts to get the loan changed by riding the coattails of his Avengers fame, a task that overall, still fails. It’s only now that Sam realizes what it was like for his sister to keep the family afloat once he’d left and joined the military.

Overall, Sam’s chapters in the pilot give us a lot to work with regarding his backstories. There’s also a statement to be made here about the struggles of a black man being approved for loans in America. Even one as prestigious as an Avenger. Handouts are something Falcon was never good at within the MCU, as he’s always been a hero that’s proven his worth. This series ultimately will test that resilience to the extreme.

 

A Soldier’s PTSD

 

Bucky Barnes in Falcon and Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes’ storyline starts just as equally ass-kicking in his debut. With a killer flashback to his Winter Soldier Hydra days, where while killing targets while on assignment, he coldly kills an Asian man by shooting him in the head. All of this is revealed to be a PTSD stress dream, which we soon learn, is what Bucky is now trying to address in therapy; interweaving Bucky’s past with his struggle in making a life for himself in the present. 

Revealing that he’s crossing off a bucket list to make amends, Bucky’s new life goals are to hunt the evil people he helped while being The Winter Soldier, catch them to turn them in, and then tell these people exactly why he’s doing this. Unlike Steve, who was as heroic as they come, Bucky is portrayed as more of an anti-hero. One doing his best to reclaim his life. However, Bucky’s passive-aggressive therapist begs to differ regarding his progress because, despite everything, Bucky still has no friends, ignores Sam, and is completely alone.

However, moments later, at street level, it’s revealed Bucky has one friend: an old Asian man named Yori Nakajima, who appears to be, a possible wartime buddy at first glance. Together, they eat sushi, and in a surprising moment, Yori convinces their server to go on a Date with Bucky, whom he meets up with at the store later. Bonding over a game of Battleship and beer, the two get to know each other, revealing that it’s nice how spends time with Yori given how sad the man was after his son’s death. In typical Marvel fashion, pretty soon it all comes together, revealing that Bucky was the one to kill Yori’s son, as he was the Asian man Bucky murdered in his dream flashback. Which is the actual reason he’s spending time with him and why he’s trying to make amends to Yori.  

 

A Great Start With Lots Of Promise

 

This was an overall excellent episode that sets up a good amount of conflict and backstory. Though the Flag-Smashers introduction falls a little flat, the new self-appointed Captain America reveal continues this theme of the heroes versus the wants-and-wills of the Government that the Captain America franchise has done an exceptional job of exploring. There are also hints this new captain might possibly be US agent John Walker given his appearance and demeanor. If proven true, this series now has three characters on the show who’ve all been Captain America in the comics: Sam, Bucky, and John. Which makes for a compelling contest this season about who truly inherits the mantle of Captain America.


Final Verdict: 3.5/5

 

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A screenplay and comic book writer who grew up on playing everything Blizzard and Final Fantasy, Christian is a part-time entertainment journalist who covers just about everything. He loves attending conventions, meeting fellow creatives, and of course, gaming. You can follow him on Xn_Angeles@twitter.com

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