Series Review (With Spoilers): The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Season 1, Episode 1

Sam+%28Mackie%29+preparing+to+return+Cap%27s+shield+to+the+government+after+turning+down+the+offer+to+take+up+his+mantle.

Image from Disney+

Sam (Mackie) preparing to return Cap’s shield to the government after turning down the offer to take up his mantle.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 1 – New World Order” was written by Malcolm Spellman and directed by Kari Skogland. Following the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) move on in a world without Captain America.

This has been a poorly planned week in terms of this series’ debut. The final trailer for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was released on the same day as the review embargo for “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” and reviews for this first episode were put out on the same day “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” was released. Marvel obviously wasn’t aware of the competition they’d be up against, and I believe that a four-hour film will eat this episode alive over the weekend.

Regarding “WandaVision” and other upcoming Disney+ series, Kevin Feige revealed future movies will be made for those who watched the shows, but also for those who did not. The interconnectedness of storytelling was the entire pitch for this platform, and going back on that “promise” most likely means that no significant event or plotline will occur in the shows for the time being. I don’t believe that these shows should be an optional choice. If people don’t want to watch the shows, then they’re clearly not invested enough in the story. It’s no surprise that this connected universe has been expanding over the past thirteen years, and if some people don’t have the willpower to catch up, we shouldn’t have to wait for them.

Image from Disney+

The trailers promoted this to be a “Lethal Weapon” style action-adventure, however, there’s only one action sequence in the entire first episode. Now obviously there will be more to come, but Skogland’s directing for the Falcon and Redwing opening scene was thrilling, and I wanted more of it. From what we see, this is the proper political thriller sequel to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and they haven’t missed a beat on the genre. We also meet a villain for the first time since that film, who you have definitely forgotten about: Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). Something that could be improved a bit is the hand-to-hand combat so far. Steve Rogers clearly has a wider range of skill sets than Sam Wilson, but choreography like the kind we saw in the opening scene of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is something I hope to see in this show.

This season only has six episodes, and it begs the question: is this episode wasting precious time? While it is a promising start, there are no Zemo (Daniel Brühl) or Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) appearances, there are very few easter eggs and Sam and Bucky never come in contact with one another. There are also only slight hints at the newly introduced villains John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and the Flag Smashers. Rhodey (Don Cheadle) does show up during the brief scene where Sam decides to return Captain America’s shield to the government, and there is one nice nod to the comics by introducing Joaquín Torres (Danny Ramirez), a minor character that should get limited reactions once viewers look up who he is. 

This show was described as a six-hour movie split into episodes, and that’s exactly what this is. It feels like the beginning of a film, and is not like episodic television. The hype-train of “WandaVision” got the momentum going, but from here on out, we need to manage our expectations realistically. Getting caught up in theories will not help that. I said this about “WandaVision” as well, and we all know how that ended up. I’d like this show to find its footing soon so it’ll wrap itself up in a satisfying way, leading us into the next story in the franchise.

Image from Disney+

After the first reactions came out last week for this episode, I set my hopes low. This is a complete 180 from what “WandaVision” had delivered, which was something new each week. This show is all about the buildup, so I wouldn’t say we’re running out of time. But if nothing happens by midseason, I may feel differently. In this episode, we primarily follow Sam and Bucky in their daily lives and see what they’ve been doing in the six months since they blipped back into reality. 

Spending time with Sam’s family and Bucky’s new life of remorse is an insight that couldn’t have been accomplished in any big-budget film. Exploring Bucky’s mental state is another thing that this show seems to be interested in exploring. While short, I liked seeing a flashback of him as the Winter Soldier under HYDRA’s control. That scene even has a payoff later on with the person he killed being the son of a man Bucky has befriended in present day out of guilt. These characters’ re-establishments are impressively written, and actually made me care a lot more about these two characters in live-action, compared to my previous mediocre interest in them.