Are you still emotionally devastated by “WandaVision”? Does “Baby Vision” still haunt your dreams? Well, park your chaos magic to one side, because after a mere two weeks away, the MCU is back with the second of its original shows.
Yet again we come face-to-face with two Avengers largely devoid of screen time as the mammoth Infinity Saga came to its epic conclusion. However, this time our heroes are not bound together by love. Well, not yet anyway…
We find Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka “Falcon,” and James ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka “The Winter Soldier,” a few months after the blip, with the weight of all that has gone before clear to see.
What’s also clear to see is the molding of thematic tones we’re going to get over the next six weeks. Director Kari Skogland seems a great choice to meld together the comedic nature of Bucky and Sam’s back-and-forth, along with rip-roaring action set pieces, one of which kicks off the season with a bang.
And what this episode does well is set out its stall straight away, as they endeavor to blend human drama with the grit and breakneck speed of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
In fact, this episode would do well to simply call itself “Sam and Bucky,” operating as an exploration into their reluctance to fit into the roles thrust upon them and, crucially (which is where it shares DNA with “WandaVision”), in moving grief and loss to the forefront. The MCU and those behind it, so often criticized (and rightly so at times) for not having real life stakes, are clearly making a conscious decision to use its longer platform shows on Disney + to dig deeper into the inner workings of its heroes, and the toll the events of “Endgame” have taken. As although it might have been all smiles and dancing for Peggy and Steve, the saga’s end left more questions than answers for most of our remaining heroes, especially the two closest to Steve himself.
And while it might feel like a slow burn for some, considering its refreshingly short six episode run, it actually excels the most in its quieter, more grounded moments, as we explore the psyches of Bucky and Sam. One is coming to terms with the weight of his past and all the horrors of a former life, while the other struggles to move forward into (as he says in “Endgame”’s final moments) “a world without Captain America.” One thing this show is sure to offer is the chance for its leads to demonstrate their acting chops, especially Mackie, a fantastic dramatic actor who up until now has not really had the opportunity to showcase it within the MCU.
That’s not to say it’s without its moments of levity. Mackie flexes muscles both dramatic and comedic, while a hilarious therapy scene offers Stan the chance to deliver some trademark deadpan Bucky lines.
However, as well-crafted an episode as it is, its focus on family and internal drama is sure to be met with possible global threat following this episode’s gut-punch conclusion. Sam and Bucky are going to have to become what the title of the show suggests and, like it or not, these Avengers are going to have to assemble.
You can watch the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+ now!
Theo Fisher is a Film and Journalism graduate from Cheltenham, England, who has written about film for multiple websites, doing reviews, awards season coverage and opinion pieces. His favorite film is “Whiplash” but I’m a sucker for a good sports film like “Moneyball.”