Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has the unenviable task of following WandaVision in the studio’s new Disney+ lineup, which also includes the forthcoming Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston. Interestingly, Falcon was supposed to swoop in first, but the pandemic jumbled everything around, and WandaVision magically landed at the front of the line.
Good thing, too. The weird, heartfelt, surprise-packed WandaVision was a buzz-worthy hit. It ventured outside the usual Marvel comfort zones, offering up a truly inventive concept. It wasn’t until the final episode that the show took a more familiar path, applying narrative strictures to guide its characters toward the next batch of big-screen blockbusters.
It’s likely The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will do the same, just in a more conventional fashion. The lone first episode provided to critics has that rooted-in-grit feel of the first Iron Man and Captain America films, but as a result is less interesting than WandaVision, which benefited from a mysterious deployment of classic sitcom formats to unpack its story.
Still, there’s plenty of buzzing to be done by Anthony Mackie, whose Falcon takes flight within the premiere’s first minutes, engaging in an explosive, high-speed mission.
After that, things quickly cool down, as the episode establishes what will most likely become the show’s central premise: Dealing with the legacy of Captain America. Will Falcon take up the shield passed onto him in Avengers: Endgame? Will Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes — the Winter Soldier — make amends for his past as a ruthless assassin?
Meanwhile, the world is still grappling — emotionally and financially — with the sudden return of half its population, which vanished for five years as a result of Thanos’ life-obliterating snap. One scene, set in a bank, drives this point home masterfully.
As of episode one, Falcon and Bucky have not yet crossed paths, but that’s sure to come soon enough as whatever mission they undertake will form the arc of the six-episode miniseries. Previews indicate they’ll have an adversarial buddy relationship, one steeped in outward contempt that conceals deep abiding respect and affection.
The show’s villain is more clear-cut than in WandaVision — Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who last wreaked havoc in Civil War. But there are clearly some surprises in store, and the first jaw-dropper arrives at the end of episode one.
It’s the kind of Marvel moment that hooks you in, selling you on returning for episode two, kicking off a show that may (or may not) prove irresistible.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres on Disney+ Friday, March 19, and will air weekly through April. Visit www.disneyplus.com.
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