The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 1 (Disney+)
Written by Malcolm Spellman
Directed by Kari Skogland
Wandavision set the bar for Marvel series on Disney+ and we are getting our look at the next one fairly quickly. The Falcon and Winter Soldier directly continues events from Avengers: Endgame, mainly the passing of the torch from Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson. With a Captain America story, the expectations are going to be very different from something like Wandavision. One episode in and it appears the showrunners know the tone and type of story that works best with these characters so we’ll see where things go.
Our first episode opens with Sam (Anthony Mackie) donating Cap’s shield to the Smithsonian. He has an aside with James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) about legacy and why he didn’t keep the shield. Then it’s off to a mission in Tunisia where Sam works alongside Army lieutenant Joaquin Torres. It seems Georges Batroc, whom Cap faced off with in The Winter Soldier film has hijacked a military plane. Sam uses his wings and drone Redbird to take out Batroc and save the day. While decompressing, Torres tells Sam about this political group that has sprung up online calling themselves the Flag-Smashers. Torres is going to investigate further while Sam is off to deal with family troubles in Louisiana.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is dealing with PTSD and court-ordered therapy. The United States has given Bucky a pardon for his actions as the Winter Soldier but he must attend regular therapy to ensure his programming is gone. He’s going through a list of people he needs to make amends with including the elderly father of a man he killed who was just a bystander. Bucky struggles with his guilt, trying to good but feeling unworthy of forgiveness. And things wrap up with the reveal of a brand-new Captain America, apparently chosen by the Department of Defense.
About that new Cap. He is apparently John Walker who was a replacement Cap in the comic books. In the 1980s he first showed up as Super-Patriot, a projection of American arrogance during that decade. Later, when Steve Rogers abandoned the Cap identity, Walker took the role and tried to tone down his often hard right-wing ideology. A right-wing terrorist group called the Watchdogs killed Walker’s parents seeing him as betraying their ideals. Walker snapped and went on a murder spree of his enemies just as Steve Rogers returned to reclaim the mantle. Walker would fake his own death returns as USAgent, a more violent take on Captain America. Depending on the writer and the story, Walker pops up now and again alternating between an ally and adversary role.
I think so far the writers know the kind of story that works best in the Captain America corner of the Marvel Universe. You need some metaphors for ideologies in the United States. The story needs to be globe-spanning with hints of a larger conspiracy underneath everything. The characters should definitely have some grounded, personal conflict which we are certainly getting. Bucky is pretty much always dealing with PTSD. The one thing we aren’t sure about yet is the dynamic between the two main characters as they haven’t come together in the story yet. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I am wondering how adversarial it will be played. Will Bucky feel entitled to the shield in some manner or will he happily offer it over to Sam?
I did like the problems going on for Sam’s sister having to take care of the remnants of their parents, a fishing boat & a house. We see how this ties into all those people that were snapped out and back into existence. Sam has no credit because he was presumed dead for five years. There are also some questions about how superheroes make ends meet and it’s put on the goodwill of strangers which seems like a dubious way to live. I’m interested to see how this story develops because we have a number of disparate storylines that will need to be tied together.