Right from the opening moments of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – an extended action sequence amid rock formations spearheaded by Anthony Mackie‘s Falcon – it’s evident that the intent of this show is to link it to the prototype of the Marvel canon we’ve come to expect. After WandaVision took bold swings, this second Disney+ series is more a replication of the movies’ mentality we’d come to expect – namely early products like Captain America and Iron Man.
Given that this was supposed to be the first show out the gate, it makes more sense that this is more in tune with the Marvel personality – a comfortable transition from big to small screen, over the wildcard element of WandaVision which, admittedly, paid off in spades. And depending on how you view it in comparison to that show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will either feel comforting in its familiarity or slightly underwhelming due to a sense of the narrative being on autopilot.
Asking far less questions but still setting up a sense of a bigger arc overall, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier keeps our titular heroes apart for this first 40+ minute episode – no mid-credit sequence either, for those interested – setting up their day-to-day lives in a timeline set some 6 months after the events of The Avengers: Endgame where Sam (“Falcon”) is trying to adjust after being blipped out of existence for a 5-year period. One notable guest star in this episode (I shall name no names) is hoping for Sam to pick up the Captain America shield and continue the name, but, as he states, the shield feels “like someone else’s” whenever he holds it.
Offsetting Sam’s woes, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) lives a more plagued existence. Haunted by nightmares linking to his days as a brainwashed assassin for HYDRA, the Winter Soldier is a lonely figure, hoping to make amends for this past sins – an interesting story additive that is hopefully explored further – and find peace. The occasional glimpses of an uprising of masked rebels suggests Bucky won’t be living soundly anytime soon, and a further reveal on the tail-end of this first episode leans in to Sam’s professional aspirations, suggesting a more in-depth series awaits.
The light that radiates from Mackie’s smile and the effortless brood that Stan has perfected prove satisfactory enough to tide us over until the duo physically collaborate on-screen. Their natural charisma will hopefully be a staple of the show that’s readily explored as action sequences can only take you so far; though, somewhat surprisingly, this first episode is relatively light in that field, suggesting that creator Malcolm Spellman (TV’s Empire) is well aware of the charm he has on hand and won’t just be providing brawn over brains because he can.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will premiere its first episode on Disney+ on Friday, March 19th, 2021. It will continue to release each subsequent episode weekly, before concluding on April 23rd.