by Sam Acosta
The premiere of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” gives us a small taste of what we can expect from this six-episode series. Following the success of “WandaVision,” expectations are high for this new series. While this episode doesn’t offer the suspense and sense of mystery of that series’ premiere, it does boast some thrilling action sequences, something that many fans wish had been more prevalent in “WandaVision.”
The series opens with Sam (Anthony Mackie), aka the Falcon, on a mission in Tunisia, and we get a taste of the type of action this series has to offer. Sam is tasked with saving a hostage from a group of terrorists who have hijacked his plane. After an elaborate chase sequence involving fighting terrorists and dodging missiles, Sam is able to rescue the hostage just in time.
Back on the ground, we are introduced to Lieutenant Torres (Danny Ramirez), one of Sam’s close associates. He warns him about the Flag Smashers, a group of extremists bent on returning the world back to the way it was before the Blip, after Thano’s snap had wiped out half of the universe’s population.
Sam returns to the states to attend a ceremony where he donates Captain America’s shield to the Smithsonian. Rhodey (Don Cheadle), aka War Machine, tries to convince Sam that Steve wanted him to take up his mantle, but to no avail. Even if the world needs a new Captain America, Sam is convinced that he isn’t the one to be that.
The episode then flashbacks to years before, when Bucky (Sebastian Stan), aka the Winter Soldier, is on an assassination mission during his days as a Hydra operative. We watch him dispatch his target’s security detail with brutal efficiency before swiftly taking him out. An innocent bystander witnesses the assassination, however, and Bucky ruthlessly kills him to leave no witnesses.
Back in the present, Bucky wakes up from this nightmare flashback and is clearly shaken, refusing to talk about it with his government-mandated therapist (Amy Aquino). He’s been trying to meld back into society quietly without dredging up his past. One of the ways he does this is by hanging out with Yori (Ken Takemoto), an elderly man who not-so-subtly sets him up with Leah (Miki Ishikawa), the bartender at their usual hang-out spot. It is later revealed, however, that even this connects back to Bucky’s past, as Yori is the father of the innocent bystander Bucky killed on that mission all those years ago.
Meanwhile, Sam visits his family in Louisiana where his sister Sarah is struggling to keep the family business afloat. She wants to sell their parents’ old fishing boat, but Sam’s sentimentality and stubbornness lead to conflict between the two. Despite his reputation as the Falcon, he is unable to help her get the bank loan she needs, which makes keeping the boat even less feasible. The episode ends with Sam and Sarah watching the military reveal a new Captain America wielding Steve’s shield, much to Sam’s dismay.
This episode was somewhat unsatisfactory for me, as it felt like a lot of setup with not a ton of payoff. That said, the action is spectacular. Watching Sam use his wings to block gunfire or Bucky brutally take down thugs made for some of the episode’s best moments. The sequence’s choreography, editing, and visual polish were all on the same level of quality as the main movies, and sometimes they were even a little better. I hope the action will continue to be a consistent positive of this series.
The Flag Smashers, with their chaotic nature, anarchic ideology, and superpowered leader, also intrigued me, and I am excited for their role in this series. Their view that Thanos’ snap ultimately brought unity and advancement to the world adds an interesting layer of context and complexity to that universe-altering event and what came after. The group also represents a unique take on a terrorist cell tailored specifically for the world of the MCU. I hope that the creativity that Disney showed in “WandaVision” will shine through in this project as well.
Going in, I had high expectations because of how brilliantly entertaining “WandaVision” was. In the end, I enjoyed this episode’s character development of Sam and Bucky as well as the occasional bursts of high-octane action, but, on the whole, it felt rather tedious.
I know that world-building is necessary at the start of any series, so I don’t want to be overly critical, but I do hope that the show picks up the pace a bit in future installments. I would also like to see more of Sam’s inner conflict about being a hero and of Bucky’s integration back into the modern world. I have faith that my disappointment is primarily a result of this being the series premiere and that, once things get going, it will prove to be an amazing experience for all Marvel fans.
Episode one of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Sam Acosta is a sophomore Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays.