The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Comes Through With Therapy, Financial Woes, and That Good Good Worldbuilding in Its Opening Episode

Illustration for article titled The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Comes Through With Therapy, Financial Woes, and That Good Good Worldbuilding in Its Opening Episode
Image: Marvel Studios

Full spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier below.

Happy Monday, folks! Every Monday for the next six weeks I will be recapping the latest episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While it gets off to an action-packed start, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier mostly slows things down and drives home just how weird day-to-day life has been since half the population came back to life at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

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The show kicks off with an action sequence that allows the Falcon, a.k.a Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), to show off just how much ass he’s able to kick. Off the bat, I was happy to see Batroc the Leaper (Georges St. Pierre) back on his bullshit. It was truly great to see Falcon get to—ahem—stretch his wings, and by stretch his wings; I mean sock folks in the jaw with them.

After this explosive opening, the show delivers its first swerve: Sam relinquishes Captain America’s shield. When we last saw Sam at the end of Endgame, Steve Rogers had essentially granted the mantle of Captain America to Sam. Going into this series, we all kind of assumed Sam was just going to be Falcon with the shield. Instead, Sam elects to donate the shield to the Smithsonian.

Seeing Don Cheadle’s Rhodey at the ceremony was a delightful surprise, and I really loved the conversation between the two where Rhodey straight up asked Sam why he didn’t take up the mantle of Cap. Sam tells Rhodey that he feels like there was only one Cap, and it was Steve Rogers.

The show does a decent job here of using the Blip—the event where half of all life in the universe was dematerialized for five years after Thanos acquired the Infinity Stones*—as an allegory for the chaotic and fractured times we, the audience, are currently living in.

*see Avengers: Infinity War for more details!

Rhodey argues that Sam should’ve taken up the mantle because the country needs a unifying symbol, and the shield could be that symbol. The show intends to explore the implications of a Black man taking on the mantle of Captain America, and Sam’s struggle to represent a country that doesn’t represent him.

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One of the interesting choices the show makes to drive that idea home is showing how even though this man squared up with Thanos, he’s still subject to the same financial woes as the rest of us. Sam goes down-home to Louisiana where his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) is struggling to keep the family’s fishing business afloat. She wants to sell the family’s old fishing boat, but Sam wants to keep it because he feels it’s part of the family’s legacy.

The two go to the bank at Sam’s behest to acquire a small business loan that will lower their payments and allow them to repair the boat. After an awkward exchange where Sam reveals that avenging doesn’t exactly pay the bills, the banker denies them a loan essentially on the basis that he didn’t have proof of income for the five years he disappeared. The banker tells them that things have tightened up since the Blip, to which Sarah responds “funny how things always tighten up around us.”

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On one hand, I like the idea that even the Falcon is faced with the fuckery when it comes to getting a small business loan. On the other hand, y’all, this man helped in the fight to expose Hydra and take down Thanos. While it ties into the idea that as much as Sam has fought for his country, his country doesn’t have his back when he needs it, it raises a lot of questions about the financial security of the Avengers.

One of the interesting choices the pilot makes is that its titular characters are off on their own separate journeys through its entirety. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is shown as still struggling to acclimate to a life not built on perpetual violence, and haunted by the things he did as the Winter Soldier.

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He’s currently in therapy and is working to make amends with his past. While his first attempt at atonement was more playful in nature, his second is much more somber and deals with a father still grieving over his son, who we see Bucky kill in a flashback.

The overall focus of the episode is on both Bucky’s and Sam’s struggles with life outside of battle. The episode sets up the Flag-Smashers as a potential big bad for the series, but it’s honestly secondary to the almost laser focus on the two leads’ individual struggles. It’s a choice I really dug, as we’ve never really been able to slow down and see who Sam and Bucky are when they aren’t blowing shit up with Cap.

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I don’t expect things to stay that way, though, as the episode ends with a hell of a swerve. The U.S. Government does Sam Wilson the dirtiest by introducing to the world “The New Captain America” (Wyatt Russell). He’s the whitest, most all-American version of Captain America you could imagine. Considering the palpable disappointment on Sam’s face as the announcement is made (by the Senator who thanked Sam for donating the shield no less), it’s clear that Sam’s struggles with the shield have only just begun.

Overall, the pilot does a solid job of setting up just how messy life is for everyone after the events of Endgame. While not as action-packed as I was initially expecting, I really appreciated how the show gave more depth to Sam and Bucky as characters, and the bits of worldbuilding is already adding some interesting depth to the MCU. If the pilot’s job is to get me excited about what’s to come, then so far The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a job well done.

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If you need more The Falcon and the Winter Soldier goodness, then check out this interview The Root did with The Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie. See you next Monday, true believers!

Additional Notes:

-I really want a show that details what life was like during the five years of the blip. We keep getting vague allusions to the struggle in both this and WandaVision, and I’m curious to see what that world was. I guess what I’m asking for is Marvel’s The Leftovers.

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-OK, but really, imagine being denied a loan as an Avenger? He straight up fought a war to save the entire damn planet and won. THE ENTIRE. PLANET. And he can’t get an SBA loan? Shit’s cold, b.

-Shouts to Henry Jackman for coming back on the score. I loved his music for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the music really does a great job of making this feel like a continuation of the movies.

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-Between Wanda’s breakdown, Falcon’s money problems, and Bucky’s general life, the Avengers have been down bad post-Endgame.

-Y’all were goddamn ruthless with that #MAGACap hashtag this weekend. I’m so excited to see how you folks are going to meme your way through this series.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.

DISCUSSION

atcgnome
The Stig's Chamorro cousin (Chamorrovirus)

Endgame offers a pretty rich, if short, version of what life looked like during the Blip. It’s bleak. Natasha basically reduced to hermit status, eating PB&Js while looking for her best friend, who went on a globe-trotting bad-guy murder spree because his entire family was snapped out of existence, while Cap took Sam’s role helping vets deal with the loss from the Snap. Shots of the Hudson with boats stacked up against the island like debris after a superstorm.

I like what they’re doing in showing that a post-blip world is just as chaotic as a post-snap one.

Random musings:

1) The entire global supply chain is now optimized for half the people that exist. There’s going to be a lot of starvation and suffering.  You can’t catch the fish and slaughter the cows (that have returned) fast enough, and there’s no way to farm that much food instantly.

2) Can you imagine losing your spouse, getting re-married 4 years later, then having your previously non-existing spouse reappear suddenly? How would he feel? (I guess you could set up an entire show about that topic and call it “Swinging After the Snap”)

3) There are no jobs. There will be no money for half the people on earth.  See (1), but also ... power, transportation, medical services ... good lord.

4) Governments are apparently in complete disarray. The pilot touches on that a bit, and I suspect will play into the plot heavily.

5) Fuck that banker, fuck that bank.

6) Sam’s Air Force contracts better be lucrative as hell for the services he is providing.  There is literally no one else on earth with those skills.