A slow, yet strong beginning for ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’

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Marvel Studios’ latest mini-series, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” comes just two weeks after the last episode of the successful “WandaVision.” Premiering on March 19, “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” follows the story of the titular characters after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” Each episode sits at around 50 minutes long, with two episodes already available on Disney+ and more to come every Friday through April 23.  

The first episode of the new mini-series, “New World Order,” spends its entirety delving into the lives of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. Through the quick establishment of  trauma and legacy themes, Sam struggles to come to terms with the weight of owning Captain America’s shield.  On top of that, Sam struggles with Steve Rogers’ expectations for him to take up the mantle of a superhero, one who is the shining symbol of the country. On the other side of things, Bucky is struggling to reacclimate to life as a civilian and to come to terms with his violent past as the Winter Soldier. In a notebook, he keeps a list of names of people who he’s wronged and attempts to slowly set things right to ease his overburdened conscience.  

At a first glance, the first episode of “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” seems a little underwhelming. It takes the whole episode to set the stage for our characters’ new starting points. This episode is a bit dry, with only one small action sequence and little to no humor intertwined within the dialogue of Marvel’s characters. However, the show’s slow approach to the meat of the story actually helps build upon some of these deeper themes that show up in the next episode. The first episode ends after Sam hesitantly (but willingly) relinquished Steve’s shield to the Smithsonian and the new Captain America is revealed —  a massive shock to both characters.  

In the second episode, “The Star-Spangled Man,” we learn more about the new Captain America, and we see just how different he is from Steve Rogers. The new Captain America, John Walker, is brought into the public eye like a celebrity by the Department of Defense. We also start to see more about the villain behind the Flag Smashers, a group of super soldiers completely unbeknownst to Sam or Bucky.  

With more knowledge of John Walker and the Flag Smashers, there is more action in the second episode as “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” charges into its main story. With Sam and Bucky at odds with each other, they find themselves having to work together to stop this new threat, while also dealing with a new, narcissistic Captain America.  

This episode also brings back Marvel’s signature humor with Sam and Bucky bickering  like an old married couple at the behest of Bucky’s therapist. Aside from this scene which kept me laughing for its entire three minutes, there’s plenty of witty quips and comedic relief between the two characters throughout the episode.  

But that’s not all. Despite the fact that the second episode seems like a complete shift in tone from the first, Marvel continues to delve into deeper topics, including racism. We see Sam Wilson racially profiled on the street when some police officers stop him in the middle of an argument and ask Bucky if “this guy is bothering you,” signaling to some deeper issues. Tying back to the plot, this could be an indication of why Sam gave up Steve’s shield. For now, we can only speculate that maybe Sam foresaw that America wasn’t ready for a Black man to become Captain America. Still, this episode also introduces a new character by the name of Isaiah Bradley, a Black super soldier, a stunning revelation kept secret from the whole country (except Bucky). 

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” takes a different approach than what we saw in “WandaVision” as it delves into much deeper issues than typical superhero shows. With fantastic writing starting the series strong, and great performances from Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, we’ll have to wait and see what other secrets Marvel will reveal in the next episode. 

Episode 1 Rating: 4/5 

Episode 2 Rating: 4.5/5 

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