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Disney+ Review: The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Episode 1)

March 18, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Two weeks after the end of WandaVision, Marvel is debuting their new series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney Plus, the latest small screen tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I had a chance to preview the first episode in the six-part series, and I’m pleased to say that it’s off to a solid start.

Set following the events of Avengers: Endgame, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier catches up with Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastien Stan) and, like WandaVision, it continues to explore the nitty gritty effects of having half the world suddenly reappear after being snapped out of existence for five years.

Sam is now taking defence contracts with the United States government, while grappling with the responsibility of being asked to hold Captain America’s shield. Meanwhile, Bucky is struggling with PTSD over the things he did before redeeming himself, and trying to make amends with people he hurt. These two characters, who both have close ties to the late Steve Rogers, are kept apart in the first episode, but they will eventually be brought together again, as shown in previews for the series.

The episode also establishes the threat of an anarchist group called the Flag-Smashers that believes things were better during the five-year “Blip” when half the world disappeared, which will likely be the main source of the show’s conflict. This allows for plenty of action, and one of the most impressive things about The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is how cinematic it feels. The episode opens with a massive set-piece involving an airplane, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the series has in store.

But what stood out most to me about this first episode, is how grounded it felt as a character drama, including a subplot involving Sam looking after his family members who were financially devastated by the “Blip.” Like WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is, in its own way, also about the different ways that people process trauma. The first episode lays the groundwork for how the series will continue to explore the effects that the “Blip” had upon the mental health of these characters, and the fundamental ways that it changed this world.

Where as WandaVision took a very stylistic approach to telling its story and really leaned into the serialized storytelling structure, with each episode resembling a sitcom from a different era (a gambit that was pulled off brilliantly), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier more closely resembles the movies in the MCU. The series is directed by Kari Skogland (whose other credits include episodes of The Loudest Voice, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead), with Empire‘s Malcolm Spellman serving as head writer, who basically conceived it as a six-hour movie.

Because of this, the first episode very much feels like only part of a first act, which makes it somewhat hard to judge on its own. What I can say, though, is that the series is off to a great start, bolstered by good writing, strong performances, and superior production values. The first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier offers a good mix of exciting action sequences and solid character drama, ending on a note that offers a hint of what’s to come in both the rest of the series and Phase Four of the MCU.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Episode 1) will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of March 19th. New episodes will be released every Friday.

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