The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a new era on and off the screen. The success of Wandavison has proved that the Marvel formula can be translatable to television and push the boundaries of its storytelling (at least until the climax in Wandavision’s case), and keep fans excited and enthusiastic week to week. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is in position to deliver another round of change for the way stories are told in the MCU and how we engage with them.
Spoiler alert: What follows contains a lot of what happens in the first episode.
In The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, it’s clear that things are different. The series starts with Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), solemnly picking up Captain America’s shield gifted to him by the elderly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Cut to a standard MCU action set piece involving a hijacked plane in the desert. He chases the international criminals over the dessert in his winged suit saving the day at the last possible second in true Avengers fashion.
Afterward, Sam has a bite to eat with Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), the soldier who served as ground support for him through the operation. They discuss current events, people coming back from the blip, criminal organizations forming worldwide, and Steve Rogers. Torres asks if the online conspiracy theory that Captain America is on a secret base on the moon, but Sam has to leave; he has business in Washington.
Sam gives a speech at the Smithsonian honoring the late Steve Rogers. He presents the shield to the museum rejecting the ownership Steve gave to him. He doesn’t feel worthy of stepping into the shoes of the man he so admired. Colonel James Rhoades, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), asks why he didn’t take up Captain America’s mantle. Sam just can’t get over the feeling that the shield and everything that comes with it was Steve’s. Rhodes explains that it’s a new day, and the world is broken and looking for someone to step in and fix it.
We see the Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), clearly in his Winter Solider days as an assassin for Hydra, the authoritarian organization hellbent on world domination. He carries out his mission with a cold-blooded demeanor eliminating anyone who gets in his way. His young target is trying to open his hotel room, trembling with fear and unable to get away or talk the Winter Soldier into mercy — his fate is sealed. Bucky wakes up terrified, heart racing. It was a nightmare, a memory of one of the many terrible things he did as the mind-controlled pawn of Hydra.
Bucky is in therapy, government-mandated after his pardon for his crimes as the Winter Soldier. His therapist asks if he is still having nightmares, he lies, and she knows it. He explains he is trying to right some of the wrongs he put into the world. He recently got a former Hydra member who is a senator put behind bars, within his pardon’s rules, of course (no one gets hurt), to “make amends” for all he is done. He has a list of people he helped do evil things and people he did terrible things to. Bucky is closed off, all alone, trying to make sense of his life now. Now 100 years old, he has been fighting for the majority of that time and doesn’t have a clue what his life should be.
Bucky does seem to have someone he could call a friend of sorts, an older man named Yori, who he gets lunch with every Wednesday. They get sushi, and the Yori sets up a date for Bucky with the waitress at the bar. Yori sees a dish that reminds him of his son, who disappeared overseas while consulting for a company. No one knew what truly took place, and Yori can’t find closure or peace. As we know from a flashback, Bucky killed Yori’s son and is trying to make things right, but that task is much harder in practice. Bucky can’t bring himself to tell Yori the truth.
Sam makes his way back home to Louisiana and meets his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), who is in charge of the family fishing business. They butt heads on what to do, whether to sell the boat and get out of the family business or try and get the loans necessary to make it sustainable. They go to the bank, and his celebrity as an Avenger buys him some goodwill, but that’s about it. The bank’s rules have apparently changed, and he has no income for the previous five years (on account of being snapped out of existence), and as an Avenger they didn’t get any paychecks.
Sam gets an urgent call from Torres. He was investigating one of the criminal organizations they discussed previously called the Flag Smashers and was almost killed by a super-strong individual. After the call, his sister alerts him to an urgent message on the TV. A shocked Sam watches the defense department announces a new Captain America, and a man walks out in Caps iconic uniform and the shield Sam gave up.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has set up several storylines and addressed some pressing questions in the aftermath of Endgame. The series will explore Sam and Bucky’s relationship, their relationship with Steve Rogers and the ideals of the former Captain America. The trailers and previews promise it will be a fun, action-packed buddy comedy with two stars that play well off each other as they deal with new threats in a world that has changed drastically.
The central questions are: what does it mean to be Captain America, and who can be Captain America.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is available to watch on Disney+, new episodes every Friday.