“Thre Falcon and the Winter Soldier” premiered on March 21, 2021. Disney+/Courtesy
This article contains spoilers for Marvel content up to “Endgame”
Leaving behind the aliens and infinity stones of the “Avengers” movies and the magical illusions of “Wandavision,” “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” delves into the human problems and superhuman foes of the titular B-list superheroes. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is the second serial production of Marvel’s Phase Four, following two weeks after the finale of “Wandavision,” the first serial production of Phase Four.
Before Phase Four, all Marvel television shows followed tertiary superheroes, like Daredevil, The Iron Fist, or the generic Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. These shows alluded to the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to clarify the setting or timeline. However, they rarely had a character directly from the movies. The circumstances in these shows never impacted the movies in the MCU, allowing for enjoyment by both dedicated Marvel fans and fans of the individual shows themselves.
“Wandavision” and “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” are much different in that respect. The main characters of the Phase Four shows were plucked from the pool of supporting characters of the Phase Three Marvel movies. The events of these shows are linked to previous Marvel productions and stand to affect subsequent productions.
Unlike the highly stylized pilot of “Wandavision” which sets up as a superhero-sitcom and mystery series, fans wait for several episodes before revealing the events that led up to episode one. The “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” pilot plays like the first act of any other “Captain America” or Phase Two MCU production. It opens with a fight scene, introduces a few new characters, reminds the audience of a few old characters, introduces the villains and peppers in the protagonists’ conflicts throughout the episode.
The last time the audience saw Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), he was being handed the iconic Captain America shield by an old and retired Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). However, the show’s name suggests that Wilson chooses to remain the Falcon rather than take on the mantle of Captain America. Instead, Wilson decides to reunite with his family in his hometown.
The only MCU production other than “Black Panther” with a Black-American actor as the main character is “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” This aids in tackling social issues facing Black-Americans today, and is shown towards the end of the first episode.
This season’s Winter Soldier’s journey seems parallel to Captain America’s in “Captain America and the Winter Soldier.” Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is adjusting to both life in the 21st century and the fact that all of his friends and family are either dead or very, very old.
Barnes has to grapple with all of that plus the ramifications of his 70-plus years as a human weapon brainwashed and used by the covert Nazi organization, Hydra. That would be a lot for anyone to handle, especially when your only living friend abandons you to travel back in time to marry the love of his life.
While Marvel does a decent job explaining the necessary MCU history in episode one, like all Marvel productions after “Avengers,” “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” requires knowledge of the events from previous films.
Ultimately, people watch Marvel movies because they are genuinely good movies, and there are Marvel movies people watch to understand the next one to come out. The first episode of “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” seems to be setting up a series people will watch through once to understand the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.