Following the season finale of “WandaVision” which premiered on March 5, fans began to wonder if its success was merely a stroke of luck for Marvel, but the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” was released on March 19 and proves otherwise. The 49-minute-long first episode perfectly sets up a series that has created high expectations regarding the fate of Captain America’s legacy and how our protagonists Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) -known by their alter egos the Falcon and the Winter Soldier respectively- will adapt to post-Blip life without their uniting factor of Steve Rogers.
The show starts off the best way Marvel knows how: a dramatic action sequence where Sam Wilson jumps out of a plane and uses his envy-inducing Falcon suit to engage in an airborne fight to stop a kidnapping within a time crunch. Once the theatrics are over and the viewer is thoroughly hooked, the question of Captain America’s famed shield, which was hinted to be a large plot point in the trailers, is finally touched upon. Steve Rogers left the shield to Sam Wilson at the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” and while many fans were unsure of how to feel about Sam being the successor of the title, it’s obvious from the opening scene he isn’t entirely sure about it either. Mackie does a fantastic job of conveying everything the audience is feeling even without any dialogue, but then again, both himself and Stan are known for their superhero-esque brooding on-screen. Sam’s decision concerning the vibranium frisbee felt too easy when tied up in a bow barely 15 minutes in, especially considering he’s in the profession of superheroes and their culturally significant symbols by proxy. The final moments of the episode confirmed my doubts, and those of the characters, with the jaw dropping reveal and eventual source of conflict within the show.
While Sam Wilson deals with his future over a national figure’s legacy, his family’s financial troubles and a new masked group with villainous intentions, Bucky Barnes is struggling with his past. The entirety of his scenes are somewhat humorous considering the context of an angsty 106-year-old ex-assassin conversing with his exasperated yet well meaning therapist, while navigating awkward first dates and lunch outings. Stan’s begrudging portrayal makes it easy to chuckle at the absurdity of it all, until you realize why he’s doing it. Bucky is still dealing with the consequences of his actions regardless of the fact Hydra brainwashed him and all he wants now is to make amends and find peace. For someone with such a bloody backstory though, it’ll take more than a formulaic apology and a few names crossed out of a notebook, especially if Bucky doesn’t truly believe he deserves redemption. For now, neither of the characters interacted with each other on screen since Bucky dodges Sam’s texts and both have their own pressing issues to attend to, but something tells me our two heroes will ultimately need the other’s help, for better or for worse.
Whereas the first episode of “WandaVision” started off risky and with an air of unfamiliarity within the untreaded waters of a superhero vintage sitcom, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is everything you’ve come to expect from Marvel, just with the newfound time allowances for a slow burn plot. While I’m disappointed with the release of one episode versus two unlike the premiere of “WandaVision,” the first installment in the six-episode series successfully created a suspenseful tone that left me intrigued for the show’s ability to delve further into Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ character development. Our favorite superhero duo previously benched in movies such as “Captain America: Civil War” will have the ability to save the world without fighting with their fellow Avengers for the spotlight and to push each other’s buttons in the process.