When lists are compiled of the best MCU films ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ more often than not is at the top. That was the film that introduced as to Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and reintroduced us to Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in his new identity as the Winter Soldier. With Captain America hanging up the shield at the end of ‘Endgame’ we now get a series that explores his legacy with these two characters stepping into the spotlight.
After the unconventional examination of grief in ‘WandaVision’ Marvel Studios look like they are delivering something more traditional with their second series. This first episode starts with what must be the biggest, most expensive action scene ever produced for a TV show. It’s a sequence that starts of by mirroring the opening action scene of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. In that film Cap jumps out of a plane to carry out a hostage rescue mission on boat. On this show Falcon jumps out of a plane to rescue a hostage on another plane. On both missions Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) is the villain. But this scene surpasses the scope of the one in the film. Where that was gunplay and fistfights this is an aerial masterpiece. What starts off as shooting and punching ends with the hero and villains flying between planes and helicopters, Falcon using his wings and the villains using wingsuits, dodging missiles and bullets. This is the kind of stuntwork you just don’t see anymore with a lot of it done practically.
But this episode isn’t just about the top notch action. Like ‘WandaVision’ it is also an examination of the mental state of the two lead characters. Sam Wilson is lost and trying to find his place in the world. Cap gifted him the shield but he doesn’t feel he is the right man to take it. He returns to his sister to help run the family’s fishing business but being an Avenger doesn’t pay the bills or secure him a loan. Bucky is seeing a therapist, as part of his pardon, who is trying to tackle his PTSD, which he is in denial about, and crushing guilt he has for the his previous crimes. He is going down a dangerous path and befriended the elderly father of one of his victims. Sam has a family to fall back on but Bucky is all alone.
Although the episode is focusing on the characters there is a villainous plot bubbling in the background. A global conspiracy involving a group who aren’t happy with the world now that half the population has returned. We see them causing chaos but it unclear as of yet what they are up to. One of Falcon’s military colleagues gets caught up in this and our two heroes, who haven’t teamed up yet, are bound to get sucked in.
But America needs a new Captain America and the government can’t wait for our two heroes to make a decision about who it should be. Enter Watts Russell who is introduced on live TV as the country’s new hero. As Sam watches this you can see the regret in his eyes as he losing his status as well as his family business.
Marvel look set to have yet another hit on their hands. TV is allowing them to explore their characters in a way that time does not allow for in films but without losing any of the production design or thrills.