Warning: spoilers for the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier!
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, played by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan respectively, quickly became a much-loved duo following the development of their on-screen friendship in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Sarcastic and seriously passive aggressive, they’re beyond entertaining to watch together, and trailers for the Disney+ miniseries starring the pair seem to suggest no different. The first episode of the series, titled ‘New World Order’, lets us catch up with Sam and Bucky as they adjust to their lives six months post-Blip-return and post-Steve. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the second instalment of Phase 4 of the MCU, following Wanda Vision – the first Disney+ Marvel miniseries. The opening scenes are action-packed as we see Sam, in full Falcon-attire, working with the US Air Force to rescue one of their own in Tunisian airspace. But the action doesn’t take up the entirety of the fifty-minute episode, and we’re quickly brought up to speed about what Sam and Bucky (who are yet to reunite) have been up to in their personal lives.
One of the my favourite things about Marvel miniseries is that the episodic format allows for an unprecedented amount of personal and intimate depth that we never quite got from the movies. We’ve already seen it on WandaVision, with Elizabeth Olsen putting on a remarkable show as Wanda trying desperately to cope with Vision’s death… by subconsciously capturing and brainwashing an entire New Jersey town. Having returned from being snapped away by Thanos five years earlier, Sam is living with his sister Sarah (played by Adepero Oduye) and his young nephews in New Orleans, trying to help with her financial difficulties while facing some of his own. Meanwhile Bucky, having been pardoned and now under the supervision of his cynical and government-appointment therapist, is trying to amends with those he wronged while acting as The Winter Soldier. One of those people is Yori, a spirited old man living in Brooklyn who struggles to cope with the death of his son, as he doesn’t know the true circumstances under which he died. Later, we come to realise that Bucky knows how Yori’s son died because he was there, as the Winter Soldier, and, having to get rid of witnesses to his previous acts of violence, killed Yori’s son himself. Bucky’s guilt around his Winter Soldier days is certainly going to be an important and central theme in the show, let alone to the development of his character.
‘New World Order’ ends with the arrival of John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell) – the US government’s answer to the loss of Captain America and what he symbolised. Walker is holding Steve’s iconic vibranium shield, which Sam gave to the government earlier in the episode to be displayed in an exhibit dedicated to Steve. Even though Bucky and Sam have zero direct contact in this episode, though not for Sam’s lack of trying – Bucky’s therapist calls him out for ignoring Sam’s texts – it’s easy to see exactly how they’ll be brought together again. Walker’s sudden appearance isn’t going to bowl over well with either of them as Captain American’s two closest friends. As well as Walker, Sam’s new Air Force buddy Joaquin Torres (played by Danny Ramirez) is investigating the Flag-Smashers – a new terrorist group made of those who believe life was better during the Blip. They’re clearly in for a lot of action and adventure, in traditional Marvel-style, as they handle multiple enemies while reckoning with the personal and emotional aftermath of what happened in Avengers: Endgame.
Although The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has in-effect hit the ground running, setting up the storyline for future episodes with ease, it will be interesting to see how it measures up to WandaVision. Despite being entirely different in its premise, inspiration, and characterisation, WandaVision, with its slow burn and phenomenal storytelling, has undeniably left its mark on Marvel fans, meaning that despite any differences The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has some very tall orders to fill. Debuting so quickly after the finale of WandaVision also means that comparisons between the two are pretty much unavoidable. The series is also set to star Emily VanCamp, who will return as Sharon Carter – Peggy Carter’s niece, Steve’s brief love interest, and Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also starring is Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau, the leader of the Flag-Smashers; Don Cheadle reprising his role as Tony Stark’s best friend James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes; Georges St-Pierre as Goerges Batroc leader of criminal group LAF, and more.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+.