Written by David Holland
The first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” dropped on Friday, rapidly becoming the streaming service’s most watched premiere in its brief history. The pilot episode focused mostly on setting up what the two title characters have been up to since returning to the land of the living in time for the climactic battle in “Endgame”. Life hasn’t exactly been easy since we saw them at Tony’s funeral.
What We Learned:
It turns out that doubling the population of the world in an instant by bringing back billions of people who have been dead for five years creates some logistical headaches. Set aside what must have been a common occurrence: A man being snapped back into existence after five years only to find his wife happily moved on with another man (This is my pitch for the first scene of a Disney+ MCU sitcom that focuses around a completely normal family and the wacky hijinks of living in the MCU. Kevin Feige, if you’re reading this, call me.) Even Avengers are having a hard time adjusting. I guess not everyone can create their own alternate reality in a New Jersey town.
In this episode, Sam Wilson is contracting with the US military to do some super-work on the side, but much of the episode focuses around his family drama. He returns home to Louisiana to see his sister and nephews and try to get a loan that will save his family’s boat. It is quite the lore dump when you realize that Falcon has been in the MCU since Captain America: Winter Soldier and this is really the first time we have learned anything about his backstory. Even though he lays on the charm as Falcon, his application for a loan is denied. After all, he hasn’t had any income for the last five years. That’s obviously not fair since he was dead at the time, but the loan officer points out that bringing all those people back from the dead has been a bureaucratic challenge. This episode lays some foundation for Sam: figure out how to preserve his family’s legacy while also figuring out how to follow in Captain America’s footsteps.
Steve Rogers’ shadow looms large over Sam. He gives into pressure from the higher ups to donate Captain America’s shield to the Smithsonian. The brass reassures him that he did the right thing, and Sam does express that he was nervous to take on Steve’s mantle. In a refreshing scene, Rhodey and Sam, two black superheroes, talk briefly about what that legacy means and where Sam goes from here. Of course, all of this is betrayed when a “new” Captain America is revealed at the end of the episode. To avoid confusion, we will call him US Agent. Naturally, Sam will have to grapple with what it means that someone else is carrying the shield. And of course, there are some glaring undertones here. Steve gave the shield to Sam, an Avenger. The government chose to give it to a white dude. Obviously US Agent is bad news which is why he immediately became the MCU’s most hated villain.
Bucky’s storyline was introduced in a flashback. We see the Winter Soldier carrying out one of his assassinations in typical action-packed fashion. After the deed is done he spots a civilian witness. This is not his target, but Winter Soldier kills him anyway. Bucky awakens on the floor, a callback to “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and Sam’s conversation with Steve about mattresses being too soft for soldiers. Bucky is having a hard time adjusting to a world without a mission. He is going to therapy, but it doesn’t seem to be going well. The therapist has to threaten him with incarceration to get him to open up at all, and even then he dissembles. He has befriended the father of the young man from his dream, but hasn’t yet confessed his role in the murder. He is trying to make amends by working his way through a list (another “Winter Soldier” callback to Steve’s list), but the only work he seems to enjoy is bringing down baddies. Making amends by confessing what he did to the innocent victims is going to be much more difficult. He even tries dating but that isn’t any easier.
What We Are Waiting For:
I think many people watched the first episode of FAWS, thinking that it would give them the same emotional feelings as the last few episodes of “WandaVision”. But remember, WandaVision was a slow burn. With a few exceptions sprinkled in, it didn’t really get dramatic until the very end of episode three. Similarly, the pilot of FAWS spent most of its time laying foundation. We need to see what these characters have been doing since “Endgame”. We need to understand the world as it has been since the Hulk snapped his fingers. I am hoping that Sam and Bucky connect early next episode because I think that their chemistry is going to be a lot of fun, but for now we needed to see what baggage each of them is carrying so we will better connect with them later.
Other than that, we need to know more about the mystery. We saw the Flag Smashers in action briefly. They robbed a bank and stole a bunch of money, but their larger objective is still unclear. We also know that Zemo has a role to play, but I am not sure if he is working with the Flag Smashers or on his own. I expect that unraveling the motives and goals of these different villains will be the primary focus of the remaining episodes, while any leftover time will be spent punching US Agent.
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