“How do you feel?” “Like it’s someone else’s.”
Hot on the heels of the success of the quieter, more introspective series WandaVision, is Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which reunites the brilliant buddy dynamic of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). The six-episode series is set to bring the frenemies together with past allies, including Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and previous enemy Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl).
Directed by Kari Skogland, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier centers on events six months after the effects of the ’Blip’, in a world still very much reeling from recent events. Following Steve passing on the iconic shield to Sam, the two characters team up on a global adventure which will test their abilities and already rocky relationship.
Opening with a high-octane action sequence, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier quickly immerses you back into the light-hearted action-comedy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While WandaVision proved a predominantly self-contained character study, TFATWS is very much set in the main universe with plenty of nods to the Captain America trilogy. Skogland begins to plot the groundwork for an intriguing political thriller with a real Captain America: The Winter Soldier feel, teasing a central mystery involving a masked group of anti-nationalist activists calling themselves the Flag-Smashers.
However this is nicely contrasted with a surprisingly grounded and poignant central narrative, as Skogland explores the world post-Endgame following the Blip, with no Captain America or Tony Stark. We follow the two military men as they attempt to readjust to civilian life while looking to right past wrongs and grappling with their identities along the way. Where do they go now following the biggest battle of their lives, and who do they look to lead them with Steve now out of the picture?
What works really well throughout the season opener is the surprising amount of character building, adding depth to the two former sidekicks, particularly with Anthony Mackie as he gets his time to shine. Following the moving ending of Endgame, Sam is grappling with the huge burden of knowing what to do with Cap’s shield and the mantle that goes with it. Should he step into his friend’s incredibly large shoes and step up to the responsibility, or return the shield to its original owners? The ex-military officer still helps out the Air Force with certain missions, but refreshingly also spends time with his family in the hopes of helping out with the family business. It’s great to see more of him in his element rather than being relegated to Steve’s friend with the handy winged suit.
Meanwhile Bucky is unsurprisingly still having nightmares about the deadly missions he carried out as the Winter Soldier. In an attempt to atone for his past sins, he’s begrudgingly attending regular therapy sessions with certain stipulations attached. An excellent exchange between Bucky and his equally quick-witted therapist (Amy Aquino) allows Stan to dive into Bucky’s more sarcastic side, a side which was briefly teased in Civil War. As the series focuses on the partnership with Mackie’s Sam Wilson, I really hope this marks the start of a thorough exploration of the character, giving Bucky much more depth than his typical role as merely a connection to Steve’s past. There’s a real tragicomedy surrounding this version of the character, with Skogland setting up a potential redemption arc. I expect there’ll be plenty of humour between the duo, particularly with Sam frequently referencing his age, but for now Bucky’s story is a poignant one exploring his solitude, as he doesn’t know what he wants to do now he’s free of his past.
Production value rivals the quality of the big screen counterparts, with a number of particularly impressively choreographed action sequences and fight scenes. In the adrenaline fuelled opening, the production team utilise a wide variety of clever camera shots and moves to capture the dizzying twists and turns of the epic aerial sequence. It’s great to see the usual Marvel quality clearly present and the budget still rivaling that of their major studio productions. Marvel also sprinkle in plenty of the Easter Eggs (such as Stark tech) and familiar faces which help connect the more grounded character moments with the wider MCU post Endgame, along with the addition of a smartly upgraded Falcon suit combined with fantastic new shield for Sam.
Featuring an impressive amount of character development and exhilarating action sequences, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is off to a solid start. Fans of Captain America: Winter Soldier will undoubtedly be in their element, particularly with the exciting exploration of the hilarious dynamic between Sam and Bucky.