The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier quickly brings fans back into a post-Endgame MCU for a more personal look at Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) breaking out of Captain America’s shadow.
The premiere kicks things off with an awesome action sequence that sees Falcon working with the U.S. Military, I’m guessing the Air Force, to deal with some plane hijackers. It’s great to see Falcon just be Falcon as his high-flying fighting is captured greatly. It’s fast-paced, simple, and cool to see Falcon a little unleashed and even call on his little bot Red Wing to help him dispatch enemy helicopters. Up until this point, Falcon has always been in Cap’s shadow as more of a hero helper but seeing him here is a lot of fun since Mackie adds a lot of great charm and it really feels like he’s leading the charge. The sequence is admittedly a little long and the close-ups on Falcon’s face when flying around look a little off, but these are truly small gripes in a big bad-ass Falcon action scene that kicks things off on the right foot.
Although it kicks off with some big action, the rest of the episode is more personally character driven and it’s frankly why it’s so great. Falcon and Winter Soldier have always been my least favorite heroes in the MCU because of how they’ve been just backup for Cap, but seeing them in the spotlight in a more personal, character-driven narrative really made me care about them on a deeper level than ever before. We actually get to see Falcon more as Sam as he deals with the domestic woes of his family legacy suffering since the Blip. The Wilson family business is going under and his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) is on the verge of selling it – something that Sam doesn’t want to see. The family dynamic between Sam and Sarah is very engaging because the performances of Mackie and Oduye are so strong and the issues they deal with strike a relevant chord.
The sequence of them in a banker’s office looking for a loan to help them make payments perfectly brings out some interesting post-Endgame world-building and themes about racial inequality. There’s an interesting line about Sam not having any bank information for the last five years because he got snapped out of existence that makes you think deeper about how things have changed. It’s an interesting moment that further builds on what a post-Endgame MCU looks like on a domestic level, but what’s more interesting is what happens afterwards and a little before. Within their interaction with the banker, there’re moments that emphasize themes about racial inequality.
Sarah basically becomes invisible to the banker compared to Sam once he figures out that he’s Falcon. It’s in a similar vein to a scene in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing where Mookie (Lee) talks to Pino (John Tutorro) about his racism in how he views black celebrities as being “more than black” and seeing the average black person as something lower. The same idea is seen here with Sarah basically becoming a footnote to Sam’s presence in the eyes of the banker as he grills Sam on his financial gains as an Avenger. Sarah even chimes in with a perfect line of whether the banker is asking or auditing him because of how much he’s digging. It’s a situation that perfectly shows how racial inequality didn’t get snapped out of existence and how they’re especially prevalent in financial institutions when it comes to minority owned businesses and owners getting financial help – or rather lack thereof.
It’s great to see the MCU use this longer format to dig deeper into themes, but I hope that Falcon’s storyline simply won’t deal with race relations. It’s certainly not because they’re weak since the scenes with the banker and Sam seeing that the government is making a new Captain America after they convinced him to donate his shield to the Smithsonian are perfectly subtle and impactful moments that dive into racial issues really well, but it isn’t warranted at all. Falcon’s story never was really about race and there was a tweet I saw, which I unsuccessfully tried to find again to give the person credit, that talked about how they feel like black characters and filmmakers are sometimes forced into having their stories about race and the black experience when it doesn’t need to, and I think there’s some truth to that here. Again, everything that’s done here is really strong and stands out, but it certainly feels added in and doesn’t come off as personal or strong compared to him figuring out his own place in the world without Cap.
Everything dealing with Sam coming to terms with Cap being gone is really good as seeing him give up the shield and understanding how to feel about his last conversation with Cap really sticks with you. It’s the one aspect that truly connects his and Bucky’s story and something that fans will instantly gravitate towards. Not to mention, it comes with a surprising appearance from Rhode (Don Cheadle) that’s nice and a fitting look at how the world and Sam’s view of it has changed without Steve. It’s also worth noting that within Sam’s story we get a look at the big bad faction that’s likely being led by Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) called the Flag Smashers. At this point, there isn’t much to say other than that they’re clearly super soldiers and they have already gained quite a following.
The real stand out of this premiere though is Bucky as his story is full of raw emotions of grief and regret that make him more relatable and interesting than ever. The scene with his therapist who is totally an equal match for him, his gruesome nightmare of the horrors Hydra’s control subjected himto, and Stan’s excellent performance really make him still being haunted and traumatized by his past genuinely tug at your heart. Stan’s performance is incredibly strong as it evokes all of the regret and inability to escape himself in an incredibly compelling way. You can feel all the inner demons and fragments of Hydra that still haunt him and the reveal of his true intentions of hanging around an old man in Brooklyn is heartbreaking and genuinely surprising. Cap has always been labeled as the “man out of time,” but Bucky really embodies that idea in this premiere and it’s what makes his story about overcoming his past so exciting and promising.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier kicks off on a near-perfect note with it giving viewers a deeper reason to care for its titular heroes and presents promising emotional arcs that really dig into their personal struggles and inner demons. Mackie and Stan are easily at their best and the premiere makes you more excited than ever to see them step into the spotlight.