Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie) allies himself with Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) to embark on a series of international adventures, the duo drawn together by their ties to Steve Rogers, to thwart the activities of the Flag-Smashers, an anti-patriotism terrorist cell.
Because the coronavirus pandemic not only ruined the lives of hundreds of millions of people all around the world but also ruined the moviegoing experience for us all, there were no Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released during the entirety of 2020, marking it the first year since there has not been a Marvel movie released since the start of the MCU in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man.
It definitely felt extremely weird not to be in a movie theatre last year getting excited about our favorite superheroes. It made me reminisce on my first viewing of Avengers: Endgame on opening day with a crowd of a few hundred people, all of us just losing our minds whenever a humongous, satisfying, or emotional moment happened.
We are still a ways off from movie theatres all around the world reopening, but we are finally crawling towards that finish line. We’ll get there soon, even if it feels like a ways off still. But don’t worry if you’re like me and you still have that Marvel itch – because Disney+ is currently where it’s at for superhero content.
Earlier this year, we were treated with the wonderfully weird and shockingly emotionally charged WandaVision which saw Elizabeth Olsen deliver her best performance to date as Wanda Maximoff. A performance that I genuinely hope gets a ton of awards season recognition when the time comes.
But WandaVision is not the only series that Marvel has cooked up for the Disney+ streaming platform. We are getting several others this year which is certainly exciting, but the latest series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a marvelous follow-up to WandaVision.
Of course, both shows are hugely different and they have their own style and presentation. WandaVision was a strange sitcom-esque drama whereas Falcon is a political superhero thriller. There may only be six episodes in total in this show, but all six are terrific and expand the mythos of these characters in bold and satisfying ways.
Before this show’s debut, I was never really a massive fan of both Falcon or the Winter Soldier. They were characters that I definitely rooted for when they were teaming up with the Avengers to take down Thanos a few years ago, but they weren’t characters that I felt a lot of emotional attachment to. I think the folks at Marvel understood that a lot of people felt this way, which is probably why they wanted to make this show. Now that I’ve seen Falcon, I can say that I care a whole lot more now about the titular superheroes than I did before.
Bucky Barnes hasn’t technically been the Winter Soldier for a long time by the time the show kicks off, but he still feels a tremendous amount of guilt for the things that he did under that persona. It’s been eating away at him for years and he wants to wipe his slate clean and become a better person day by day.
Sam Wilson starts the show undecided on whether or not he truly wants to be Captain America, even if Steve Rogers left him the iconic shield. He feels like “it belongs to somebody else” and feels like if he were to take up the mantle, he would somehow do a bad job. He feels so much pressure which is understandable.
His declining the shield leads to one of the show’s most interesting characters being introduced, that of US Agent John Walker (Wyatt Russell) who audiences loved to hate over the course of six episodes. There’s always this underlying sliminess to his character that is hard to describe, but so easy to feel.
It’s genuinely sickening though that some viewers were sending death threats to actor Wyatt Russell because it’s not like he wrote the character. He didn’t do any of the things that his character does in the show in real life. He’s simply an actor showing up to work every day and doing his job. And I for one thought his performance was terrific.
Although let’s be honest, the real stand-outs here are Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. They have truly never been better in these roles. The journey that this show takes their characters on was riveting, emotional, and deeply funny. There are plenty of times where Bucky and Sam will have some playful banter, and none of it feels fake. The chemistry on-screen between Mackie and Stan is a thing of beauty.
Viewers that don’t really like their superhero stories with a lot of talking at the center stage are probably going to find Falcon a massive chore to sit through. There are absolutely a number of fight scenes that you would expect to see in an MCU production, but the show’s number one focus is spent on developing the titular characters, which is something that I greatly appreciated.
It’s also not afraid to get serious when the time calls for it. Numerous scenes are sprinkled throughout that discuss real-world issues and the difficulties and challenges a black superhero would face in our world. Masterful writing and storytelling are on full display here. If the forthcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe shows are as strong and as rich as Falcon, then we are in for an amazing treat.
Overall Grade: A
Directed by: Kari Skogland
Created by: Malcolm Spellman