The Falcon And The Winter Soldier
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starts off with a bang and ends with a great twist and a cliffhanger. The question “Who is this new imposter Captain America, and why didn’t they give the job Sam (Anthony Mackie)?” echoes in our heads while the credits role.
In-between the crazy aerial action scene that the series premiere opens with and the twist at the end, the rest is more of a mixed bag. This is no WandaVision, of course, and feels a lot more like what you’d expect from the MCU. Only . . . slower?
There are some exciting moments. The Winter Soldier flashback was great. I love Bucky (Sebastian Stan) but there’s a part of me that enjoys his bad side more. He’s a ruthless assassin with style. Bucky has yet to take shape as a real, fleshed out character.
I also enjoyed the revelation about his relationship to the old man, Yori (Ken Takemoto). It’s no wonder he’s troubled as he checks off his “amends” list. Some of the things he has to do are probably kind of satisfying, like bringing down a corrupt senator. Others, less so. When you’ve befriended the father of a man you assassinated . . . that’s rough, even if you were being mind-controlled by Hydra.
There’s bits of humor also. When the bartender asks him how old he is and he answers truthfully that he’s 106 I chuckled. But there’s not a lot of laughs here.
Sam’s story is less interesting—other than the Captain America stuff and the opening combat scene. He goes back to visit his sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye) and try to convince her not to sell their family house and fishing boat. They try to get a loan but the bank officer is more interested in selfies with an Avenger than giving them a loan. You’d think an Avenger would be a relatively safe bet (they must be getting paid by the government—I don’t buy the idea that this is all charity work). It’s also kind of ridiculous to say he hasn’t had an income for the past five years when he was blipped out of existence in the Snappening.
But I don’t really care, I guess. I don’t really need to spend time with Sam’s family or their struggles. It’s just not that interesting, or maybe the show just hasn’t managed to make it interesting so far. Not as interesting as Bucky’s amends list, anyways, which itself is just some backstory that may or may not payoff as a story beat.
This was an episode that largely served to set up where these two men are at after the events of Avengers: Endgame. The world has changed. They’ve changed. Bucky is no longer in the relatively peaceful bosom of Wakandan hospitality. He’s back in the real world and it’s not easy. Sam is living in the shadow of Captain America whose shoes are understandably hard to fill. The US government, meanwhile, is moving along. America needs heroes, and this guy wearing Cap’s costume will do nicely.
I did enjoy the masked rebel group that Sam’s army buddy, Torres (Danny Ramirez) tracks down. These “Flag Smashers” are bad news, and their leader—or at least one of their leaders—is a guy with super-human strength. The mystery here is definitely intriguing.
But the episode felt too long and too slow and a little flat. Like a beer that could use a bit more carbonation. I like both main characters just fine but neither is used here in ways that make me super interested in their stories and while I’m curious about what happens next, I’m not on the edge of my seat like I was after every WandaVision episode.
Judging by the trailer, things will pick up going forward, so I’m still optimistic. There’s room for some fun “buddy cop” humor and plenty of high-octane action. The mysterious new Flag Smashers kind of remind me of Legend Of Korra’s Equalists. But for now, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has failed to take flight.
On the other hand, I am excited to discover that Battleship can be used as a drinking game. That’s brilliant.
Erik Kain writes a widely read and respected blog about video games, entertainment and culture at Forbes. He is a Shorty Award-nominated journalist and critic whose work