Wow. The series premiere of Falcon and the Winter Soldier has finally landed and it feels stripped straight out of the theaters. What were the best moments? How does the premiere grade out?
SPOILER WARNING!!! This Falcon and Winter Soldier review contains HEAVY SPOILERS AND THEORIES about the direction of the series and the next phase of the MCU. If you’re new to the series, then click here for an in-depth preview and everything you need to know moving forward.
What an incredible beginning. For fans hoping that the amazing tone from Captain America: The Winter Soldier had carried over into this series, the first 10 minutes cemented it. In fact, the entire initial launch felt like it was ripped straight out cinema. Watching Sam rescue the soldier was eerily similar to the fight sequence that showed Captain America’s attempt to rescue hostages from the hijacked S.H.I.E.L.D. ship, the Lemurian Star in the opening moments of the film.
The main hero jumping out of a plane without a parachute? Check. Using your technology (shield vs wings) to take down minion after minion? Double check. A one-on-one fight with Batroc the Leaper played by the great, Georges St-Pierre? Triple Check. If you’ve seen our episode of The Suit Up Geeks podcast above comparing the top two MCU films (Infinity War vs The Winter Soldier), it should be no shock to anyone that I’ve already fallen head over heels with this series. I know I’m probably in the minority, but The Winter Soldier is my favorite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Falcon’s aerial flight sequence was incredible to say the least, cementing Anthony Mackie as a worthy successor to Captain America from the jump.
The groundwork of the series premiere was really smart. It showed some early film-level action to let us know the quality we’re getting upfront, while also showcasing that character development will be the foundation for the rest of the show
As great as the action sequences were, the meat and potatoes of the show is the amazing character development from Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. These two have yet to meet in the series, but I absolutely loved the amount of time spent developing each character in the series premiere. “Symbols are nothing without the women and men that give them meaning,” says Falcon as he hands the shield to the Smithsonian. While the world may have moved on, Sam is clearly struggling to put on the shield while refusing to take the mantle as Captain America. Even Rhodey, played by the great Don Cheadle, gently pushed for Sam to take the shield in the opening moments.
On the other end, Bucky Barnes is also struggling to confront his traumatic past. Despite seeing a therapist, Bucky still cannot get the images and memories out of his head at night. I personally loved the nod to The Winter Soldier with Bucky using a small notepad that featured names on a list. Steve Rogers had a notepad in The Winter Soldier that featured things he has missed since being frozen. Here, Bucky is trying to make amends and move on from the last 90 years of trauma. “You’re alone, you’re 100 years old, you have no history” Dr. Raynor says to Bucky. There are a lot of parallels between Bucky and Steve Rogers as characters and this quote did a beautiful job summing that up.
Sam Wilson get a reality check (of good will, not actual money)
While the premiere may have been a slow burn, I truly appreciate the fact that we’ll be heavily investing into the emotional impact of Avengers: Endgame. We’re introduced to Sam’s family in Louisiana, who have been struggling financially and on the verge of losing the family boat. I loved the dialogue between Sam and his sister Sarah, played by Adepero Oduye. Fingers crossed we get to see more of her moving forward. Sam Wilson may have saved the world on multiple occasions, but he’s still unable to obtain a bank loan to help his family. Despite being an Avenger, Sam Wilson is no different than your standard military veteran struggling to make ends meet following his service.
Since I’m a film score nerd, I also have to give a quick shot out to Henry Jackman who did the score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He’s back doing the score here for Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will certainly enhance a show that is heavily character driven. The one-two punch of character development and Henry Jackman’s score is going to be the nuts and bolts of this series. Sam Wilson faces an enormous shadow. Steve Rogers has left some gigantic shoes to fill and seeing Sam confront those expectations is going to be extremely exciting down the road.
What didn’t work:
This was a slow burn, which might not work for everyone. Personally, I admire the fact that we’re getting a character driven series that deep dives into the emotional aftermath of Steve Rogers’ absence. For fans hoping for action sequences from start to finish, quality is more than quantity guys. We haven’t even gotten our first glimpse of Baron Zemo or began to explore John Walker’s character and backstory. There is a lot to look forward to with plenty of time left for amazing action choreography and the chaos that US Agent will surely cause in the near future.
Final Thoughts & Grade
From the moment it was announced, I knew Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to be elite-level TV. From the Henry Jackman score, the visuals, action and character development, the ceiling for this series is simply through the roof. It’s refreshing to see an MCU project continue to tackle many of the adult themes WandaVision addressed. When WandaVision tackled Elizabeth Olsen’s dark past and trauma, that’s when the series truly shined. The fact that we’re already beginning to untangle the ball of yarn from Bucky’s past and witness Sam’s conflict to take on the mantle is truly going to make this can’t miss television.
Now it’s time for me to go out on a reach. As many of you probably already know, I am a huge Star Wars fan. Quite simply, I haven’t had this kind of emotional response to a TV show since that series premiere episode of The Mandalorian. With 5 episodes remaining, I expect Baron Zemo and John Walker to be the focal point of the story for the next couple of episodes. Top to bottom, this is beauty on screen and a series that is ready to take flight.