Captain America is gone. So what next? If you’re one of those people who wished WandaVision’s climactic battle had contained a bit more action… well, you’re in luck because the first ten minutes of episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier throw plenty at the audience!
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Story
It’s six months since the Blip, the event which brought back all the people that Thanos wiped out. But not everything has changed for the better.
Sam Wilson, the Avenger known as the Falcon and a former soldier, continues to try and make the world a better place by helping the US military combat terrorists. While some people have welcomed those who returned during the Blip, others have seized upon the chaos it’s brought to the world and are seeing it as motivation to challenge the system. And while the Falcon has his hands full battling the LAF and Batroc, a new terrorist group known as the Flag Smashers are building in strength.
Meanwhile, Captain America’s former sidekick Bucky Barnes – the Winter Soldier – struggles to adapt to life in the modern world. Having been a Hydra-brainwashed assassin for decades, he’s plagued with guilt over his actions and continues to seek ways to make amends for what he’s done. But with Captain America gone and Bucky and Sam fighting their own battles, who will take on the mantle of being America’s true hero?
Since Falcon is the star of the show, it won’t be a shock that it involves a furiously paced aerial chase sequence/dogfight, and this time out he gets to battle Captain America: The Winter Soldier villain Georges Batroc (the Leaper) and his henchmen, all while the bad guys play a game of mid-air hot potato with a hostage. Oh, and there are some helicopter gunships thrown in for good measure. Essentially, it’s the kind of dumb, overblown, action-packed sequence that’s on par with many of Marvel’s big screen adventures.
It’s the ideal way to kick off the series and to get the audience’s attention.
The problem is that it’s also a bit misleading.
Much like the aforementioned Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s adrenaline levels drop soon after and the actual storylines of the episode kick in properly… and they’ve got more in common with the Marvel Netflix shows and Cold War thrillers than any Michael Bay-esque action flick.
In other words, viewers should prepare themselves for some serious character introspection as Falcon and Rhodey discuss honouring the legacy of Captain America, while Winter Soldier gets to mope about in therapy and enact his long-term desire for atonement.
Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this. It all makes for solid drama, and fits with their characters perfectly. It’s just that some viewers may not have signed on to this show expecting to be on the edge of their seats as they watch Falcon and his sister applying for a bank loan.
Which is a shame, because that’s also one of the most telling and personal moments of the episode and reflects many of the dreadful truths about the world we live in. Not only is it a perfectly handled (and intentionally awkward) scene, as well as one which also brings up further realities about the Avengers; it also speaks of some of the bigger issues at play which are clearly going to be core themes of the series. After all, what is it that America really stands for in today’s world?
Is it any good?
In terms of writing, episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does a solid job bringing viewers back to the heart of the MCU and carefully avoids too much fan service, while still drawing the right inspiration from the source material. The performances of Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are both on point, and their years in the roles have helped them get a feel for what’s needed of them in any given situation. Meanwhile, Kari Skogland’s directing manages to echo the Russo’s first Captain America foray so well that it logically fits as a part of canon.
So, it’s good. In fact, it’s very good – and at times it’s outright impressive.
Unfortunately, at other times it’s just average. Or rather, the sudden downshift from old-school James Bond intro to the more grounded world of bureaucracy, family problems and PTSD is a little too abrupt, leading to things feeling uneven. On their own, they’d be just fine – after all, it isn’t the first time Marvel characters on TV have dealt with the daily grind; but because of the shift, it’s like the brakes got slammed on any sense of fun. It may be fascinating seeing the real world lives of some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as the plot gradually builds, it’s also not the most rewarding of experiences.
While this is clearly going to be a series which builds, and there’s nothing technically wrong with episode 1 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s unlikely to be for everybody. However, there’s plenty of potential and this looks like it could become another impressive instalment in the MCU – as well as one which makes a few necessary points at a time when it’s most needed.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1: “New World Order”
A decent start, but not for everybody.