With WandaVision, Marvel kicked off its Disney+ era with a unique conceit tailor-made for the small screen—even as it made sure to keep that show’s story of grief and loss tethered to the larger, serialized MCU narrative. Those hoping for similar risk-taking with the studio’s second TV effort, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, would be wise to temper expectations, at least initially, as the six-part series (premiering March 19) is a more straightforward return to the militarized action that defined the Captain America piece of the MCU puzzle, from which it is a direct offshoot. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Guided by sturdy performances and a premise that promises buddy comedy, anti-terrorist combat and world-building in equal measure, the premiere of Marvel’s latest shows off few radical moves but delivers just what the faithful want.
Set a few months after the events of Avengers: Endgame—and the reappearance of billions of people on Earth after Thanos’ finger-snapping Blip—The Falcon and the Winter Soldier establishes from the outset that it’s a tale about honoring the past, and important familial legacies, by assuming leadership responsibilities. Its focus is squarely on Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, charming as ever), aka The Falcon, who’s introduced staring at Captain America’s shield in a bedroom while recalling the patriotic hero implying (at the end of Marvel’s record-smashing blockbuster) that it belongs to him. It’s Sam’s apparent destiny to become the new Captain America—a notion confirmed by comic book lore, foreshadowed by the MCU, and known to everyone in this world. That includes fellow Avenger James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), aka War Machine, who at a gala museum exhibit about Captain America, asks Sam outright, “Why didn’t you take up the mantle?”
For now, the reasons for Sam’s decision are somewhat vague; he simply doesn’t seem ready to step into the legendary shoes of his good friend, who’s an old man presumably enjoying retirement in heartland-USA anonymity. Nonetheless, Sam hasn’t left the universe-saving business, as evidenced by an opening scene in which he takes flight in Tunisian airspace against a group of French-speaking kidnappers (led by Winter Soldier alum Georges St-Pierre) who are members of criminal outfit LAF. Sam’s mission is to retrieve an abducted government liaison, which provides an opportunity for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to show off its protagonist’s formidable battle skills. Dodging missiles at high speeds courtesy of his mecha-wings, and deploying a Stark Tech drone named Red Wing to cut open plane doors and shoot down helicopters, it’s an early showstopper designed to verify Falcon’s enhanced-power bona fides, and it boasts the sort of choreographed CGI spectacle that is the MCU’s stock-in-trade.
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