The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: A Globe-Trotting Action Epic With Heart
Marvel TV shows are a lot like buses. You wait 197 days for one and then two arrive one after the other.
Does it live up to the high standards set by Wanda, Vision, and the brainwashed citizens of Westview? In a word, yes. In a few more words, yes it does, but (on first impressions at least) it’s definitely a return to the Marvel movies we’re used to.
While WandaVision was weird and semi-experimental (for a Marvel show), The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is more in line with the films we’ve seen so far, a globe-trotting action epic – with a bit of intrigue thrown in for good measure – à la Captain America And The Winter Soldier.
Not that this is a problem by any means, because everyone knows Captain America And The Winter Soldier is one of the best films in the MCU, and if this initial episode is anything to go by The Falcon And The Winter Soldier could be just as good.
Set six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier opens with Sam (Anthony Mackie) trying to put his life back together after being ‘snapped’ for five years, and things couldn’t be tougher for our avian Avenger.
Sam’s trying to balance his work as a hero, fix his relationship with his sister, and struggling with the burden of Steve’s choice to give him the shield and nominate him the successor to the mantle of Captain America.
Bucky (Sebastian Stan) meanwhile, is a soldier trying to adjust to peace. He might have been pardoned for his crimes as the Winter Soldier, but he’s not forgiven himself, and the former assassin spends his days trying to make amends for the horrors Hydra had him commit.
It’s a sombre and serious place to find two characters who haven’t had a lot of time to shine in the MCU, and gives them both the depth they’re going to need if they’re going to carry a TV show for six episodes.
In fact, it seems to me that The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is going to continue the trend set by its predecessor, WandaVision, in that it’s taking full advantage of the decompressed nature of storytelling on television to really flesh out the more underdeveloped members of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Had Marvel tried to assemble the Avengers without developing these characters more, I’m not sure how people would have reacted. By giving them their own shows though, it gives them some much-needed development and will make the transition from the ‘old team’ to the ‘new Avengers’ much smoother.
To go all English literature student on things, there’s also an interesting underlying theme of struggling with change to the show; Sam’s grappling with the changes in his professional and personal life, Bucky seems unable to transition from the life of a warrior to that of a civilian, while America and the world have to come to terms with the sudden reappearance of half the world’s population.
It’s interesting and feels incredibly relevant to the now, especially with recent events in America, that so much of the show seems to be about resistance to change and the battle to stop it. Even the villains, the Flagsmashers, are people who thought the world was better off after ‘The Snap’ and are fighting to go back to the world that was before the Avengers saved the day.
I expected what’s effectively a Captain America spin-off to be political in some way, it’s inherent to the character, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting this to be the way the show framed it, and I hope we get to see this idea explored more in future episodes.
Of course, this is a Marvel project, so for as much as the run time is dedicated to setting up Sam and Bucky’s lives post-Endgame and making an observation about the inherently conservative nature of America, there’s also a lot of action – and what action it is.
Were it in a film, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s opening set piece would rank among some of the best action set piece openings ever committed to celluloid (I know, Marvel film on digital), and the sequence is easily one of the best action scenes in the MCU.
Choreographing an effective, frenetic, and compelling action scene takes real skill, and it’s impressive how coherent director Kari Skogland and cinematographer P.J. Dillon keep the scene considering the blistering speed at which it takes place.
The entire sequence felt cinematic and seemed to be a statement from Marvel to the audience that just because this is a TV show, don’t expect us to pull our punches. It was just such an incredibly confident opening to a show I, like those poor kidnappers, was blown away.
While we’ve only seen the first episode at the time of writing, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is a genuine treat and another worthy chapter in the myth Marvel Studios has been weaving since 2008.
Can it live up to Captain America And The Winter Soldier? At this point, I wouldn’t bet against it…
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stream exclusively on Disney+ every Friday.
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