Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is finally available on the Disney+ streaming service, and the first episode of the series delivered plenty of updates on the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with a tease of things to come for its titular duo.
The series features Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their MCU roles as Sam Wilson and James “Bucky” Barnes, respectively, who are better known as the high-flying Falcon and the deadly Winter Soldier. Set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, the show has its duo confront the realities of a world thrown into chaos when Thanos’ invasion made half the world’s population suddenly disappear, only to reappear five years later. Their efforts are complicated by the absence of their friend and mentor, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), at a time when Captain America is sorely needed.
In order to make sure you don’t miss anything, we’ll take a deep dive into each episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and discuss some of the notable moments and MCU-relevant elements you might have missed. (This article will discuss plot points from the latest episode, so consider this a spoiler warning if you haven’t watched it yet.)
The first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is set several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame and kicks off with Sam Wilson staging a one-man, midair rescue of an American military agent from the criminal organization L.A.F. and a familiar mercenary, Georges Batroc. After completing the mission, Wilson is informed of a new terrorist organization known as The Flag-Smashers before heading off to Washington, where he hands off Captain America’s shield to the national museum instead of keeping it for himself, as Steve Rogers intended.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes struggles to cope with the terrible acts he committed while he was a brainwashed HYDRA assassin, and attempts to make amends for his sins through therapy and reconciliation. After one of Wilson’s fellow U.S. Air Force operatives is attacked by a powerful (and seemingly superhuman) member of the Flag-Smashers, Wilson’s attention is pulled away from a debriefing by the news that the U.S. government has introduced a new Captain America — one wfo appears to be carrying the shield Wilson gave to the museum.
If the mercenary Wilson battles in the episode’s opening action sequence looks familiar, that’s because this isn’t the first time he’s tussled with an Avenger. Mixed-martial artist Georges St-Pierre made his first appearance as Georges Batroc in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (pictured below) when he attempted to hijack the S.H.I.E.L.D. ship called the Lemurian Star and gave Captain America a tough fight. Between the trouble he gave Captain America and now, Falcon, the MCU’s Batroc is quickly proving to be a far more formidable villain than his Marvel Comics counterpart, Batroc the Leaper, who rarely presents much of a challenge for Marvel’s A-list heroes.
The episode also features a brief appearance by Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the Avenger known as War Machine who wears a modified version of Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor. Rhodes’ last MCU appearance was in Endgame when he attended Stark’s funeral, and he now appears to be both a friend and mentor of sorts to Wilson, encouraging him to become the new Captain America instead of turning over the hero’s shield.
Early in the episode, Wilson indicates that the series is unfolding just a few months after half the human population of Earth suddenly reappeared after vanishing five years earlier during the event known as “The Blip.” Much like WandaVision before it, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier dives into some of the ramifications of this mass event that occurred as a result of Thanos’ invasion in Avengers: Infinity War and subsequent defeat in Endgame.
In one example, Wilson is approached by a husband and wife in Tunisia after his rescue mission, and the husband thanks the Avenger for returning his wife to him — likely due to her being one of the billions of people who vanished for five years in The Blip. Later, Wilson and Rhodes walk through the memorial to Captain America, and exhibits tied to Thanos’ attack, The Blip, and “The Vanished” can all be seen in the background. The problems arising from half of humanity suddenly disappearing come into play again later on when Wilson and his sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye), are turned down for a loan due to Sam’s lack of income during the five years encompassed by The Blip.
Sam and Sarah Wilson’s attempt to get a loan from the bank ends in failure, but that scene does provide an unexpectedly enlightening moment when the bank’s loan agent presses Sam on how the Avengers earn a living.
We know Tony Stark is a billionaire industrialist, but what about the rest of the team? Wilson’s explanation of how the other Avengers are supported financially — through government contracts and the goodwill of wealthy donors, apparently — sheds some light on one of the underexplored aspects of the MCU that might not be very exciting, but offers a bit more depth and humanity to Marvel’s larger-than-life characters.
The closing moments of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere deliver one of the episode’s biggest moments: The debut of the new Captain America.
Behind the mask of this new version of the star-spangled superhero is Overlord and Lodge 49 actor Wyatt Russell, who portrays John Walker, a soldier chosen by the U.S. government to succeed Steve Rogers in the role. His debut doesn’t offer much in the way of details at this point, but if Walker is anything like his Marvel Comics counterpart, he’ll be a much more aggressive, nationalistic version of Captain America, less inclined to put the greater good over the orders he’s been given. In Marvel Comics history, Walker served as Captain America at various points while Rogers was either unavailable or unwilling to serve in that role, and later took the nickname U.S. Agent for his own pursuits.
New episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere every Friday on the Disney+ streaming service.
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