Marvel’s television shows are the perfect setting to handle the fallout of the “blip” from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The return of half the population after five years gone was mostly played for laughs in Spider-Man: Far From Home. But in WandaVision, and now in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the ramifications are felt in even the most secondary of characters, giving even more weight to the events of the final two Avengers films.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spotlights two characters who have been around for a while but have never truly been centered in any of the previous MCU films. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was cleared of any wrongdoing in his role as the Winter Soldier, but that doesn’t ease his conscience of the innocent people he remembers killing. Stan wears exhausted annoyance perfectly, giving Bucky a biting wit that masks a deep hurt and an overwhelming amount of guilt. Some flashbacks show us more of the brainwashed Winter Soldier, but mostly, Bucky is trying to move on to a normal life. His near constant guilt threatens to drown out the interesting aspects of his character, but Stan gives us more than guilt, making Bucky more multifaceted than ever before.
Sam (Anthony Mackie) still works for the military, donning his wings for rescue missions, until he teams up with a fellow soldier who’s tracking an underground terrorist organization. He’s also still grieving Steve Rogers, and part of that process involves retiring Captain America’s shield in a public press conference. The series explores Sam’s personal life when we meet his sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye), and dive into their family dynamics and how the “blip” left them with financial troubles. One scene points to how bank loans work differently now that half the population suddenly reappeared after five years.
While it definitely won’t be the focus here, these small interactions throughout the show are great reminders that these people are living in a world that’s still trying to rebuild itself. This point marks a few months since The Return. The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets up the emotional context of its two lead characters, leaving the plot-heavy stuff in the periphery for now. However, the underlying political movements being made are all too familiar, as government officials take an “America First” mentality after the other worldly threats of the last decade. It’ll be interesting to see how the politics play out over the course of the show, especially with Steve Rogers’ Captain America now out of the picture.
Despite being light on plot, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has some great action sequences, including the opening number. Falcon’s wings look as shiny as ever, and Mackie brings a certain charm to his superhero status, with and without the wings. The hints at the larger threat are too little at the moment to really get a good grasp of what’s going on, but spending some time with two Avengers we hardly know as fully realized characters is a real treat.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres March 19, 2021 on Disney Plus.