After only a two week break between Disney+ shows, Marvel Studios returns with a complete 180 from its first television phenomenon WandaVision. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more in line with what fans are used to from Marvel, but with the depth and intense character focus that made WandaVision so special in the first place.
The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier kicks the show off with a slow but steady build up for what fans should expect from the show. A sprawling character study with sprinkles of blockbuster action set up the show as a true return to the political thriller elements of the original Captain America trilogy. The first episode follows Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes adapting back into a post-Blip and a post-Steve Rogers world. The results of the episode set each character on opposite paths, but will inevitably crossover as the title of the show suggests.
The first episode is not all boring character set-up by any means. The opening action sequence featuring a mid-air hostage rescue rivals, and at points surpasses, movie level VFX and technical achievements. Director Kari Skogland was not kidding when she said she wanted to create the greatest Falcon action scene ever put to film. Her tone, style, and choreography for the character’s flight style manages carry on the legacy that the Russo Brothers built for the character while also taking it to new and unique heights that Skogland can take full credit for.
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson is a surprisingly strong lead, with his personal and professional struggles effortlessly taking center stage. His entire time in the MCU so far has been as a pure side kick, but this new upgrade fits so naturally with the direction of the MCU that it’s hard to tell he was ever a sidekick.
The true standout of this show so far is Sebastien Stan’s Bucky Barnes (AKA The Winter Soldier). Admittedly, from this fan’s perspective, it was hard to see where the show would go with the Winter Soldier. His time in the MCU seemed all but complete, but Skoland and head writer Malcolm Spellman just showed us that he’s just getting started. Bucky is set up to be the emotional lightning rod of the entire show, and Stan is able to stretch his dramatic muscles in a way that has not been seen in the MCU yet.
Plot wise, not much is truly set up in this episode beyond what we already know. The episode mainly focused on setting up the characters (including a fun and meaningful cameo) and the world they live in. All of the developments in this episode were publicly revealed long ago (except for Bucky’s arc), but this episode is an intense kickoff for what looks to be an intense rollercoaster ride of emotions and thrills.
Filmnetic Grade: A