It’s been two years now since ‘Avengers: Endgame’ appeared on our screens and Marvel kickstarted their next generation of superheroes. When we last laid eyes on Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the pair were gathered by an aged Steve Rodgers who was ready to pass his Captain America mantle on to the next hero. This is almost precisely where we find ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ at the start of the series.
The show begins with an immediate reminder that Sam is currently faced with the big decision of whether to become the new Captain America. He repeats the words that we heard him say in the finale of Endgame: “it feels like it’s somebody else’s”. The series makes it clear from the get go that we will watch Wilson wrestle with the decision of whether to maintain his individuality or to take the leap and become America’s ultimate hero.
From the outset, the series does its utmost to establish its characters and remind us of what we already know. The jump into an action sequence within the first five minutes of the show gives us that much needed bombastic Marvel magic that has been sorely missed from our screens for a while now. The show’s $150 million budget does not go amiss in this sequence, and it juxtaposes itself so distinctly from the rather sedate beginnings of Marvel’s last series, ‘WandaVision’. The start of ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ establishes itself as an indication of what’s to come: this is the big budget, action-packed fun-filled fest that we have been waiting for.
Thankfully, however, Marvel strikes that perfect balance between action and character development. Alongside these action sequences, we see Sam interacting with his family for the first time. We get an introduction to his sister and nephews and, alongside the grandiose decision to become Captain America, we see Sam simply trying to keep his family legacy afloat. Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson does a lot to ground the show in reality as Sam’s sister. Her genuine and earthy personality softens the contrast between the action and the family drama and we immediately develop an understanding for who she is as a single mother, a sister left behind by her brother and a struggling business owner.
On the other hand, Sebastian Stan’s storyline as Bucky Barnes ventures deeper into the character’s backstory than ever before. Whilst we have seen how The Winter Soldier struggles with the war crimes he committed when he was under the control of others, the series fronts Bucky’s mental struggles and the use of flashbacks to his time as an assassin vividly portrays his psyche.
The series’ downfall lies mainly with its dialogue, however. The ham-fisted nature in which Sam consistently recalls his conversation about becoming Captain America becomes repetitive pretty quickly, and the show could do with having more faith in both its audience’s understanding and in Mackie’s ability to portray Sam’s struggles. The typical Marvel bravado and patriotism is perhaps stronger here than in anything the studio has ever produced before and, at certain points, the show borders on ‘Team America’ levels of nationalism and flag-waving.
There is no denying the sheer enjoyment of being back in the presence of these characters, however. After nearly two years without any Marvel films on the big screen, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s action sequences provide some much needed fun and the entertainment value cannot be denied. Following in the footsteps of WandaVision, the series falters a little in its lack of narrative care. We certainly will not be getting any mind-bending storytelling with this one, but, quite frankly, I do not think that that was ever the show’s intention.
‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ is available to stream on Disney+ now.