As promised, today marks the start for the Falcon and Winter Soldier reviews/recaps. As with WandaVision, these posts will be full of SPOILERS, so please beware. Hope you’re all caught up on your Marvel Legends (or the entire movies), so let’s dive in!
What was it about?
Sam and Bucky both deal with the repercussions of Endgame and the changed world they live in on their own terms.
The showrunner for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made it very clear that this would be an anti-thesis to WandaVision (although, according to reports, it will still be connected to no less than three other MCU projects) in every way and I was prepared for that. There are going to be only 6 episodes in this series, however, they are all longer than any of the WandaVision episodes were. From trailers alone, you knew this was looking more like a buddy-cop-action-type storyline and what else would you expect from Sam and Bucky? Still, this first episode caught me off guard in a couple ways, so let’s dive in.
First of all, this episode there is zero interaction between Sam and Bucky. I’d just like to get that out of the way. I honestly thought we would start with them already being a team right away, but easing us into what TFATWS would be about was probably a better call. It’s a very humanizing show, giving us a look at the men behind the masks and suits, while still delivering on copious lengthy action sequences (what a great fist 10 minutes!) that are so very Marvel and adding that dose of humour that comes so natural with characters like Sam and Bucky.
I did this thing in previous reviews/recaps where I broke down the show into it’s smaller parts and I’d like to do that here as well, but make it about the characters. Let’s start with what we learned about Sam’s state of mind and future storyline in the show:
- After having returned from the blip, Sam has now already worked with the Air Force for 6 months. A new addition to the MCU here is Torres, an intelligence officer Sam works with, charmingly played by Danny Ramirez. If that name is any indication, he might be based on comic book Joaquín Torres, who eventually became the Falcon’s successor. He definitely looks up to Sam already and is involved in one of the villain plotlines.
- Speaking of villains, Sam’s POV introduces us to the Flag Smashers, a group of people who thought the world was better during the blip (with less people) and want a world without borders, therefore gathering growing support. We only saw a glimpse of them so far, but they definitely seem to be physically stronger than an average person should be. The reason behind that is still unknown.
- While I always liked Sam Wilson, I felt like I learned much more about him in this one episode than in previous movies. We meet his family (his sister and two nephews), find out about his family’s business and their struggles. It’s heartbreaking to learn that heroes don’t really get paid and that they are in the process of losing everything their family had worked for. They deserve better.
I do realize that the bank scene is about systematic racism (why would the only reason Sam be well known be that he’s a Football player?) and the terrible treatment of veterans, but I still think Tony/Pepper should have set up a fund for the Avengers/heroes years ago. I know that all of Civil War was basically about how the governments didn’t want them to be a private army, but someone HAS to pay them and the Starks are rolling in money. The sentiment “it’s not a job, it’s a responsibility” is nice and all, but clearly you can’t live off of that.
- I liked the little moment between Sam and Rhodey we got! They were once on different sides of the whole civil war, but now they have also both lost their best friends. I enjoyed seeing them connect and have a friendship of their own. I will always be in favor of Sam having people in his corner, which Rhodey seems to be since he asked him about why he gave up the shield.
- Most importantly though, we need to talk about the shield. Sam never felt like it was his, but when I saw him hand it over to the Smithsonian in honor of an exhibition for Cap, it felt like he was coerced into giving it up, because someone mentioned “you made the right call in handing it over”. Even in that scene, it didn’t sit right with me, because while Sam might not have been ready to take up the mantle as the new Captain America, Steve intended for him to have it. It was even more grueling when the US announced their new Captain America, John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell, whose dad was also part of the MCU and played Ego, Starlord’s father) at the end of the episode and they had given him the shield. It was a pure insult to Sam and I suspect that this is how the show intends to tackle the topic of race and patriotism.
All the while Bucky has to deal with his own demons. As mentioned above, I didn’t expect it to start off so separated, but it was still good to get a feel of where everyone is at. Let’s break it down again:
- Bucky is where he is supposed to be – in therapy! As he said himself, he had a little calm in Wakanda (a place he loves), but has mostly fought for 90 years and done little else. Sure, the therapy might be a condition of his pardon to make sure he is not a danger anymore, but it’s still necessary. There’s so much to work through and I love the rules that he has to abide to in order to make amends, whether they are working for him or not.
- Rule 1: don’t do anything illegal
- Rule 2: no one gets hurt
- Rule 3: *whole speech about making amends* “I am no longer the Winter Soldier. I am James Bucky Barnes and you are part of my efforts to make amends”
- While he is really trying to rectify some of the things he has done, he is still plagued by nightmares. His therapist critiqued that he has no friends (and seems to be ignoring Sam’s texts), but we learn he is actually quite close with a 90-year-old man called Yori.
They are the perfect combination of two grumpy old men buddies and Yori even proves to be an amazing wingman when he secures Bucky a date (it was adorably awkward! He brought flowers). However, I think all of our hearts broke when it clicked that Bucky (as Winter Soldier) was responsible for Yori’s son’s death, making that the reason Bucky got close to him in the first place. It feels similar to him having been responsible for the death of Tony’s parents and like something he might not be able to make amends for, even if he was not in control of himself at the time.
- Ultimately, it seems that Bucky is still filled with guilt and on top of that, has no clue how to live as a civilian with freedom again. It especially shows that he is struggling when his age comes into play. He is 106 years old after all, even if he doesn’t look it and this is a vastly changed world from the one he was used to when he was last a civilian.
So, this show is set several months after Endgame, which also puts it several months after WandaVision. I do wonder if that will ever be mentioned, but am not sure it fits with what they are trying to tell here. All in all, I think it was a more than solid start to the show and am looking forward to what’s to come.