The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 1
Disney Plus’s sophomore Marvel TV Show is an occasionally rewarding return to formula which benefits more from a big focus on its characters than from uninspired action sequences
Marvel made an impressive debut on Disney Plus with Wandavision, a show so unlike what had been done before on the film side. Wandavision took cues from classic sitcoms and crafted a compelling mystery. Whilst the show was uneven at times and did not perfectly stick the landing, it truly benefitted from the TV format. Such a deep dive into Wanda’s trauma simply would not have been possible on the big screen. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the next MCU show to arrive on Disney Plus. The show is without a doubt more conventional than Wandavision but similarly aims to shine a bigger light on its characters, Sam and Bucky, than the films ever did. That is ultimately where the show shines in the first episode as the action sequences pale in comparison to more personal moments with the two leads.
A return to formula
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a stark return to formula after Marvel’s experiment on the small screen with Wandavision. It even takes a while to get used to the change. Going straight into an action sequence in the first episode is rather jarring. Wandavision was unique but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more so sets out to imitate the films. However, the big problem is that from the get go, the stakes are considerably lower. Action sequences can be exciting but there needs to be a reason for their inclusion. They frankly feel out of place in the first episode and are themselves relatively bland and uninspired. That will surely change over the course of the show with the introduction of Baron Zemo as teased in the trailers; however, in episode 1, the fight scenes feel pointless and a waste of time. The same could be said of the mystery set up in episode 1 which does not stand up against Wandavision’s storyline which was compelling from the start. A lot of time spent on action and mystery could instead be dedicated to focusing even more on the characters. That is the biggest selling point for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier right now. Steve Rogers’s death in the MCU means that Sam and Bucky are becoming even more major characters and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the best place to get know more about them and their history.
The importance of the shield
Steve Rogers meant a lot to not only the MCU characters but to fans as well so it was wise for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier to dedicate time to explore the legacy he left behind. This is where the show really hits all the right beats. Avengers: Endgame positioned Sam to take on the mantle after Steve Rogers returned to the past to live out the rest of his life with Peggy Carter. Sam inherited the shield but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finds him in a different place to where Endgame left off. In a world post Captain America, there are differing opinions on how to respect Steve’s legacy. Sam has his own views but there are others who believe differently and the decision Sam makes in the first episode is set to have major consequences. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier puts the spotlight on Sam finding him struggling with real life issues which he cannot just punch his way through. Like Wandavision, the show is about the two heroes coming to grips with their past, resolving personal issues, and in the end moving forward better off for it. Sam’s interactions with his sister are especially compelling as it is refreshing to see the MCU explore the complexities of normal people who do not have powers. Bucky similarly has to navigate normal life and is trying to atone for his past sins as the Winter Soldier. The character drama is the heart of the show and more than makes up for the less than stellar action scenes and mystery in episode 1.
Whilst Wandavision felt more experimental than conventional, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a big return to a formula that has worked so well for Marvel in the past. This is both a good and a bad thing. A return to the MCU formula arguably allows for more streamlined storytelling. The TV format worked wonders for Wandavision but here there is an even greater focus on the characters with no time wasted on gimmicks. The show feels fresh and exciting when it uses the time to delve deeper into Sam’s and Bucky’s lives than the films ever did. Not only do we get to see the characters as superheroes but also as ordinary people with their own personal struggles. Scenes up close with the two leads as they navigate normal life and the fallout after Endgame outshine relatively uninspired action sequences. Where the first episode fails is when it tries to imitate the films. The action sequences are off-putting with considerably lower stakes and no major reason for their inclusion. Even the mystery elements of the first episode are uninventive and unwelcome as they fail to meet the high standards set by Wandavision. In terms of action and mystery, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings nothing new to the game so where it works best is as a character drama. Things will hopefully change over the course of the next few episodes with our reintroduction to Baron Zemo who was teased in the trailers; however, for now, the big reason to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is to get know more about the two leads in a way that would not have been possible on the big screen.