The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a very deceptive series. On the surface, the action sequences are arguably some of the best seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Director Kari Skogland and head writer Malcolm Spellman have managed to weave in amongst the explosions, and near-death escapes a compelling character study of the impact trauma has on an individual both in the short and long term. While Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) are without question Marvel’s equivalent of the odd couple, each of them shares a bond over how their traumatic past and present have shaped who they are today.
In the interest of full disclosure, critics were only allowed to see the first episode of this six-part series, so details are scarce, but here is what we can say. The series, just as Wandavision did, takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. Bucky is trying to lay low and assimilate into some semblance of normal existence. He is still battling the demons that haunt him from his days as The Winter Soldier. It appears that Barnes is even in therapy and is actively trying to right all the wrongs he has committed over his life. But is it ever going to be enough?
Sam Wilson appears to be working as a government contractor and has yet to come to terms with Steve Rogers handing over Captain America’s role to him. In his eyes, he is just an ordinary man, and Steve was much more. Besides the internal struggle of being handed this larger-than-life role, Wilson is trying to come to grips with five years of his life being gone in a snap. While he was gone, it seems that his family at home was facing challenges not even an Avenger can solve. His parents are gone, his sister is facing financial ruin, and life after “the blip” hasn’t been all it is cracked up to be. How does one come to terms with all this loss and turmoil and overcome an insane amount of guilt?
Skogland’s past work on such shows as The Handmaids Tale and Spellman’s writing style focused just on how crucial a role interpersonal relationship plays in this series. One of the best scenes in the first episode is where Wilson (Mackie) tries to use his celebrity to ease tensions with his sister and secure a loan to save their family business, which goes horribly wrong. What does it matter if Sam Wilson is an Avenger if his own sister kind of hates him? Fame cannot bring back the past 5 years. Saving the world will not erase the pain his family clearly has endured.
Bucky’s clearly not fully over what he went through as The Winter Soldier, and no amount of time in Wakanda seems to be able change that. Even when people are clearly trying to get close to him, he pushes them away. It’s clear that even after all this time, Bucky still believes he could turn again.
It also appears that at the center of the series is this idea of living up to Captain America’s legacy. Wilson clearly does not believe anyone should step into Steve Rogers’s shoes, no matter if he were given the shield. Barnes has so much going on inside his head that the last thing he needs right now is the pressure of being Captain America. So right now, there is this void that no one wants to fill. Will someone else step up? Will that individual have good intentions?
The action in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is out of this world. The first 15 minutes of this series contains one of the best sequences ever in the Marvel Universe. Audiences will be gasping with excitement right from the start. If this is what we have in store for the rest of the series, this will be special. The performances by Mackie and Stan bring so much charisma to any scene they are in. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see any scenes of them together in episode 1. Their chemistry together is off the charts and something to look forward to.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has all the looks of a more well-rounded series with a wider appeal than Wandavision. It will certainly resonate with fans worldwide and place the spotlight on two characters from the Marvel Universe who are usually overshadowed.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres March 19 exclusively on Disney+.
Photo credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Disney+