By Evan Madden || Staff Writer
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the second new Marvel series released on Disney+, following the conclusion of the generally well-received first season of WandaVision. Like Wandavision, the show puts fan-favorite supporting characters from the Avengers film franchise front and center and aims to flesh out their own stories as it follows their lives after the events of Endgame.
Although there is a movie-level, high-velocity action scene near the start of the pilot, the majority of the first episode takes on a more somber and reflective tone, as it focuses on setting up greater emotional depth in its characters. In many ways, the more emotional and character-driven moments stood out much more than the action in these first two episodes. Marvel clearly saw the opportunity to develop members of its ever-growing cast in its weekly series to an extent that they simply did not have time to fit into the films.
The reintroduction of Sam Wilson/Falcon gives a nod to the scene in Endgame, when Steve Rodgers passes the iconic shield of Captain America on to him. In the film, we see his reluctance to take on the role of Captain America when he admits, “It feels like it’s someone else’s.” The question of how Sam will carry the torch forward and overcome his self-doubt will be a central storyline in the show.
We are also introduced to the other members of Sam’s family and learn of their troubled financial situation. Through this portion of the story, the show addresses an incredibly relevant issue: the disconnect between the superficial praise given to veterans and the lack of actual assistance available to them. Another storyline, which is briefly introduced in the second episode, also seems intent on expanding upon this issue, specifically concerning the historical treatment of veterans of color.
Bucky Barnes is similarly reintroduced as a simple man navigating his way forward in the chaotic post-Endgame world. He is realistically still dealing with trauma and guilt over his actions as a brainwashed assassin of the sinister organization Hydra. Sebastian Stan does an outstanding job portraying Bucky, who struggles with PTSD and seeks to atone for his dark past.
The natural chemistry between Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, first seen when the two were paired together in promotional interviews for Captain America: Civil War, resulted in viral clips of their banter. That chemistry comes through in the second episode, in which their characters are brought together by the unintended consequences of Sam’s reluctance to carry Captain America’s shield. The dynamic between their characters provides both humorous and emotionally poignant moments, quickly becoming the most endearing element of the show.
The organization that serves as the antagonists of the show so far, while seeming somewhat generic, is set up to be more nuanced than the maniacal, more one-dimensional villains in some of the MCU films. In the second episode, we gain a little more insight into their motivations, and a few moments help to humanize them a little more. It will be interesting to see how their run-in with the heroes of the show is handled, especially with a potential secondary antagonist thrown into the fray.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier retains both the high-budget action and the character-focused heart that fans have come to expect from Marvel. Fans of the franchise, especially of the titular characters, will be interested to see what direction the show will take as it seeks to give them greater depth going forward.
First-year Evan Madden is a Staff Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.