The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is already making a statement about the world. Several, actually. It’s only the first episode, but this show has a lot of ground to cover, and they’ve already planted a few seeds for things that will surely come back into the fold later on in a big way.
One of the most prominent themes of Phase 4 is shaping up to be the fallout after the Blip and the trauma of being a superhero. Past MCU projects like Iron Man 3 and more recently WandaVision have had themes of mental health, but this episode marks the first time we actually see an MCU hero in traditional one-on-one therapy. It’s a grounded look at the struggles Bucky Barnes is facing in a post-Blip, post-Steve Rogers world, and trailers indicate the show will take us back to this therapist’s office at least one more time before the series ends.
Perhaps the biggest curveball thrown by the premiere is Sam Wilson voluntarily handing the Captain America shield over to the authorities. The show uses this as an excuse to bring back another former Avenger, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who has a poignant conversation with Sam at the Smithsonian afterwards. It’s also implied that Rhodey may return later in the series, possibly suited up as War Machine?
Sam’s decision not only sets the stage for the new Cap to be introduced at the end of the episode – with values the mantle is associated with re-moulded by the government – but also shows us where Sam’s head is at six months after the Blip. He’s adamant about keeping his family legacy in his own hands, but recognizes the one of the Captain America mantle is much more complicated and one he doesn’t feel ready to take on (even if he was “chosen” to do so).
But oddly enough, for all the focus on Captain America’s shield in the marketing, there wasn’t too much discussion about it in this episode. It’s bound to come up (a lot) in the future, but the first episode was mainly about setting the stage for the rest of the series by showing off what the world is like post-Blip.
Enter the Flag-Smashers, who prefer the way the world was during the five years that half of the population was gone. This may seem silly, but as stated in the episode, “Every time something gets better for one group, it gets worse for another.” The MCU loves their “villains with a valid point” and the members of this group already seem poised to join the ranks of Killmonger and Thanos in that regard.
Even with a fresh group of antagonists and a new Captain America looming in the background, the episode puts most of its focus on human drama, most notably Sam and his sister Sarah figuring out the future of their family’s business (and the way their status as Black Americans affects their options) and Bucky working to makes amends with the people harmed by the Winter Soldier’s actions. It’s during one of the latter scenes that one of the episode’s most thought-provoking statements arises: the fact that there are “titles” for people who lose a spouse or parent, but no word for someone who loses a child.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s first episode was a heavy one, but even though the humor will likely ramp up once its two leads come together and their banter comes at full-force, I hope the show stays committed to exploring these more serious topics as it progresses. This is the perfect opportunity to really get into the implications of the Blip as well as certain race- and mental health-related topics, and the MCU would benefit from the continued discussion of them.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Official Synopsis
Following the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) team up in a global adventure that tests their abilities—and their patience—in Marvel Studios’ “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.” The all-new series is directed by Kari Skogland; Malcolm Spellman is the head writer.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is available to view now on Disney+. What did you think of the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know what you thought in the comment section below or over on our social media!