Let’s Talk about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1-1
“How does it feel?”
“Like it’s someone else’s.”
With these three simple lines of dialogue, Steve Rogers retired as Captain America, ceding the title to his trusted ally, Sam Wilson.
The running theme among Marvel Cinematic Universe stories involves this notion, as best demonstrated in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Superheroes cannot be given the title. They must earn it.
That knowledge triggers the start of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and permeates until the final line of dialogue.
Let’s talk about the premiere episode of Marvel’s latest Disney+ television series.
Action, Not Words
With WandaVision fresh in our memories, we must reconfigure on the fly to adjust to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TFAWS).
The sitcom homage series built a mystery from the opening moments. The Falcon’s tale takes a vastly different approach.
Within seconds, Sam Wilson accepts a mission behind enemy lines. He must protect a military asset, Captain Vasant, from a new criminal organization.
Who has targeted the asset? His name is Batroc, and MCU fans will recognize him.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the start of the film sees Rogers track down the same individual as played by MMA legend Georges St. Pierre.
Yes, the parallels between Steve Rogers and his friends appear throughout the episode.
This time, Wilson flies onto, around, behind, and eventually inside a helicopter carrying Batroc.
Then, they fight, with the outcome slightly favoring the French martial arts master, which makes sense.
After all, he’s one of the few MCU characters who has aggressively engaged and attempted to defeat Steve Rogers in hand-to-hand combat.
Remember this line? “I thought you were more than just a shield.” Yes, that was Batroc. And yes, he initially gets the better of The Falcon, even in the air.
During this sequence, Wilson departs a plane sans parachute, just like Rogers. Later, he shows off his answer to the shield, Redwing.
This missile-carrying drone looks cute but packs a wallop, eventually blowing up an aircraft. And that brings us to an important point.
Remember that signature moment in Iron Man when Tony Stark calculates the locations of bad guys and kills them in an instant?
On military missions, Wilson kills, too. Seriously, there’s a decent body count in this scene…although Batroc escapes.
This opening scene identifies that we’re watching an action film, albeit as a TV show.
The Falcon Or the Winter Soldier
The name of the series belies the story in the series premiere. Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson never speak during the episode.
We start with individual stories before we reunite the frenemies in a future episode.
Bucky’s story starts with similar action.
The old school Winter Soldier appears by smashing through a wall and wrecking a dude. Then, he wipes out many other bodyguards.
Bucky Barnes clears the room in a matter of seconds, eventually choking the life out of his target. He states, “Hail HYDRA,” to reinforce the brainwashing.
The critical moment occurs seconds later. A panicked doctoral student accidentally watches the entire assassination.
Moments earlier, the man had passed on an opportunity to drink with friends. Instead, he chose to prepare for the following day’s session.
The Winter Soldier kills this dutiful employee for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Moments later, we watch an awkward discussion between Bucky and his shrink.
The two of them aren’t exactly friends. Then again, Bucky doesn’t have any. His only true friend traveled back in time to relive the 1940s.
Dr. Raynor represents more than just a shrink. She’s also former military, which hints that she may hold Bucky’s fate in her hands.
Bucky reveals that he has crossed another name off his list. She’s Senator Atwood, someone HYDRA wanted in power.
The Winter Soldier pays her a visit, moments after we see her asking someone to kill a Congressperson.
Bucky repeatedly lies about the encounter, declaring that he has followed Traynor’s three rules. They are:
- He can’t do anything illegal
- Nobody gets hurt
- He informs the subject that he’s making amends
Fittingly, the Winter Soldier breaks all three rules…while doing the right thing. He threatens Atwood before getting her arrested.
Nobody Wants to Live to 100
During this episode, we learn that Bucky is 106 years old…and miserably alone. His therapist indicates she’s the only person he has called that week.
Bucky does have a friend, though. We meet a kindly elderly gentleman named Yori, and here’s where the parallels to Steve Rogers begin for Bucky.
Yori tries to set his “young” friend up on a date with their sushi chef, Leah…just like Natasha Romanoff did for Steve in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Similarly, Bucky has struggled to adjust to the modern world. He hints that the only time he experienced peace was when he was in Wakanda.
That’s important because the Avenger explicitly states that what he wants the most is peace.
From here, the story seems likely to focus on Leah and Bucky’s relationship, but that’s a swerve. Yes, they do go on a date, but it ends awkwardly.
Over time, we learn that Yori cannot cope with his lingering grief. His son died far too young…in a hotel…during an assassination.
Yes, Bucky hasn’t randomly met Yori. The Winter Soldier seeks to make amends for his past deeds, even though he was brainwashed at the time.
Bucky cuts the date short to tell Yori the truth before stopping himself.
This moment must come later in the series after he’s shown more personal growth. Until then, Bucky qualifies as the ultimate misanthrope.
The WWII veteran has fewer than 10 phone numbers in his address book, ignores all of Sam’s messages, and cannot relate to a 30-year-old seemingly perfect woman.
Bucky’s lonely, and his personal baggage appears likely to keep him that way. The man needs a friend.
While he’d hate to admit it, The Winter Soldier needs The Falcon.
New World Order
This subheading signifies the episode’s title, New World Order. It also reflects the philosophy of a different terrorist faction, the Flag-Smashers.
Joaquin Torres, an Air Force lieutenant, befriends Sam during the opening scene. Later, the two converse over tea.
Torres reveals that the Flag-Smashers preferred life during The Snap, which the Avengers later undid. They would prefer to go back.
I guess they’re way into Thanos, embracing his view of a new world order.
Obviously, Sam feels strongly that The Snap was terrible, what with his disintegration and all.
The Second Kind of New World Order
In fact, that piece of backstory ties into many aspects of Wilson’s struggles during this episode, as it also reflects his changing life.
We learn that Wilson left his family to join the military, causing a burden on his sister.
Once their parents died, the siblings gained co-ownership of a house…and a boat. Sam doesn’t want to save either one, but his sister needs the money.
Skipping ahead, Sam and his sister, Sarah, go to a local bank and ask for a loan.
The bank officer vacillates between fanboying over Sam and lamenting the family’s loan credentials.
Ultimately, the Wilsons fail in their loan attempt. Before that, the loan officer takes one selfie with Sam and later requests an even weirder one.
This subplot seems vital from a Marvel Comics perspective. It establishes that Sam isn’t wealthy like Tony Stark or Dr. Strange.
Instead, he’s a street-level hero, Marvel’s term for the hardworking underclass, the ones who frequently struggle with bills.
Perhaps Peter Parker represents this group the best, although Luke Cage also merits mention.
Remember when Wilson took Captain America’s side during Civil War?
That had far-reaching financial implications for Sam. Also, his lack of employment during the five years as dust apparently hurts him, too.
Loans have dried up due to so many unsnapped people requiring money once they return.
Sam is too late, which his sister implies has some basis in the color of their skin.
Yes, this MCU story will directly address the economic imbalance in America, just as Marvel Comics have done so much throughout the years.
At first, I thought the setup felt like a stretch, but then I remembered Stark’s dead. He cannot pay the Avengers any salary.
Also, Sam’s Civil War choice would make him unpopular with government officials.
Speaking of Which…
The most impacting moment from this episode occurs at the end.
Moments after Wilson attempts to help Torres battle terrorists, his sister enters the room. She shows him a video from a live press conference.
Military officials have taken Captain America’s Shield, one that Wilson gave the Smithsonian. They are now handing it to John Walker.
The comic book character known as U.S. Agent walks down the stairs and symbolically performs his best Steve Rogers circa World War II pose.
The American government has given the title of Captain America to John Walker.
This happened despite their knowing that Rogers had chosen Wilson for the role.
As a decorated war veteran and Avenger, Wilson qualified for this honorific in all the ways that matter.
However, his Civil War stance and the color of his skin caused the military to unearth another solution.
At the start of this episode, Wilson didn’t believe he deserved Captain America’s Shield.
By the end, The Falcon feels betrayed that someone else has taken the gig in his absence.
From a political perspective, the government should have at least contacted Wilson about the issue and probably even gauged his interest.
Instead, they overlooked him in favor of Walker. Wilson feels betrayed because that’s how people react to betrayal.
From this moment forward, we have two Captain Americas, the government’s choice and the man who helped defeat Thanos.
John Walker doesn’t stand a chance.