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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - New World Order - Review

What happened to the Avengers after Endgame? Far From Home and WandaVision have both acted as mini-epilogues whilst setting the stage for the next chapter and now we’re now getting into the mix of the subject matter with the film being used as a real launching pad for new Marvel projects; chiefly this one – which opens with a bang, an actions sequence that showcases The Falcon and what he’s capable of with a high-flying desert stunt battle in a bid to capture a target before he can enter Libyan borders (because the Avengers have in the past, previously been so respectful of country’s borders).

Anthony Mackie brings that effortless charisma to the role and the Top Gun-style combat with shades of Point Blank makes this action scene a huge early favourite; and from the follow-up introduction to Bucky on a past mission in Winter Soldier get-up in ruthless, flashback mode as he rips apart his opponents without a care, we’re reminded that hey: if you like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’re going to like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which is not a bad thing at all for those who want more of the same, nd more of the same is very much The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s game, a safe bet after the riskier, but at the same time, not-so-risky WandaVision. There's a grounded sensibility to it that almost feels like it's afraid to embrace its comic book origins.

As a result, the pilot almost feels a bit too safe. It plays for all the standard superhero cliches and tropes. Starting the story with the friendlier and more open Falcon before moving to Bucky was a good touch, we’ve learnt even less about his story than Bucky’s, and we got to examine the financial difficulties in the wake of the death of the Avengers’ main financier – Tony Stark – and the fact that Sam’s been dead for five years. It’s not easy to pick up the pieces where he left off even as an Avenger; although you’d think that alone would be enough to score him some credit, and there’s no way that Iron Man didn’t have some kind of backup plan in place for his friends. To find out that he can’t even get a loan (whereas Wanda and Vision were able to buy a house) brings to mind some post-Avengers financing questions, obviously, Tony didn’t feel charitable in helping out the Avengers post his death, but given the events of Civil War, maybe Tony chose not to help Sam out for that reason? Or were the Avengers just unpaid interns?

But this is what Disney+ is for, shining the spotlight on characters who aren’t big enough to get their own movie, or at least not yet, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes a very real case for the Steve/Bucky dynamic (if they were brave enough evolving into something more than just a dynamic, there's relationship potential there) playing out like a buddy cop/spy drama that we don’t get much of nowadays. Mackie does a more than serviceable job, and we learn more about his family and the attachment to his boat, and what happened to his sister who didn’t get snapped whilst he was away, and that she’s been raising her two children alone for five years whilst grieving with the loss of Sam. For them, they’re in two different places, and after five years – Sarah has moved on. Sam meanwhile is still in post-battle mode from the events of Infinity War and Endgame back-to-back, no time at all passed between them for him.

Meanwhile, Bucky’s showing his age and Sebastian Stan does a brilliant job at getting to the heart of the trauma behind the man. He’s coming to terms with the damage he caused – for me, previously, Bucky hasn’t really worked as a character being largely used to service the plot in The Winter Soldier and Civil War, but then again; like with Falcon, this show is already giving him material that shows he can be more than that. His haunted persona that comes with being as old as he is catching up to him, and the damage that he caused in the past is a heavy burden for anyone to bear. He has flashes of his old self where he goes on a date with Miki Ishikawa’s Leah and hangs out in a bar sharing an all-too brief and heartbreaking moment of happiness, but the Bucky in the present is a very different Bucky to the one that Steve knew before he went under the ice.

We get hints of villains in the background: The Flag Smashers are there, an anti-globalism patriotic group, and there’s also the mysteries factor of whoever the new Captain America is. On a broad scale, it opens up a world of new potential. Knowing The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; I’m fully expecting him to be an antagonist, but there’s a lot of potential there either way – we’ll see more of the Flag Smashers in the future for certain and there’s no way they won’t be connected – it’s going to leave Sam with a reckoning as to why he gave up the shield immediately after getting it, feeling like it belongs to someone else and that he’s confident enough in his role, and that’s a heavy burden to handle that presumably, will be the main arc of the season: making Sam earn the shield after donating it to the Smithsonian.

I love that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is expanding the Marvel world beyond the films, we haven’t nearly seen as much of it as we should have – Far From Home and WandaVision did touch on it before, but Far From Home was very much focused primarily with Peter’s actions overseas and WandaVision was very much closed in on a singular town aside from a brief, turbulent introduction to Monica. Now; with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier opting for a globe-trotting premiere, we might get the chance to fully explore the world and place it in its grounded context. Although nowhere near as in depth a world I’ve frequently made comparisons between the post-blip world and The Leftovers-post the vanishing of 2% of its population, if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can pull emotional punches even as half as heavy as that show, then we’re in for something special. As TV series go: Mission Impossible by way of The Leftovers is quite the elevator pitch.

Marvel is pulling all the punches with a budget that’s *this* big. It looks movie level; indistinguishable from The Winter Soldier itself in terms of style. The set-pieces and truly global feel almost give it a Mission Impossible structure and I’d love the series to lean into its spy movie tropes further down the line which for all its problems, The Winter Soldier was good at. The influences are everywhere over this pilot; whilst maintaining its own Marvel brand. There’s a clear establishment and set-up of an arc for both characters, it’s a very pilot-y pilot after all, and the character-driven angle that explores the politics of super heroism is a fascinating approach.

One negative thing that I hope the series is able to rectify in the near future is that Falcon & The Winter Soldier doesn’t fully earn the length of its individual scenes – they feel fraught with exposition and perhaps overstay their welcome by a few minutes more than needed. But then again, this is a pilot after all – when was the last non-exposition-heavy pilot you saw? It’s hard to avoid, no matter how familiar you are with the characters.

Hopefully The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sticks the landing, this very much seems like a broad safe bet after WandaVision, but safe bets can sometimes be good palette cleansers. Hopefully this doesn’t turn out as predictable as I’m worried it’ll be, and is able to stick to its themes and wrestle with some complex ideas at the heart of the show. Either way, I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next, as I get the feeling we're only just getting started.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier airs next Friday on Disney+.

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