Captain America is “missing” and the honeymoon phase is over. Gone are the celebrations welcoming home the loved ones taken away during the snap. Gone are parades and the “thank yous.” The world is in shambles, trying to pick up the pieces due to the chaos of the last five years of a fractured government, torn allies, and the economic infrastructure that’s barely holding on. People are losing hope, wondering will it ever get better? While there are enemies to face (there will always be enemies to face), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier dives deep into the lives of superheroes once the costume comes off and they’re alone with their thoughts. As soldiers of war, the most dangerous threat are their thoughts, the silence always seeping in.
As The Avengers scatter to deal with their own trauma (stares in WandaVision) and fires to put out, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes return to a life that audiences barely get to see: Home. Sam, the son of Louisiana natives, moves back in with a family who has already moved on without him. Bucky, the son of the dead, is forced to confront life with no family, friends, a natural arm nor relationships. As a man who was once frozen on ice and forced to be a weapon for war, his mental state is in shambles and the only man who would understand him was last seen walking away as the man Bucky never got a chance to be: fully lived, loved and happy.
While it’s easy for anyone to give up hope (which is something the world does), for Sam and Bucky they’re determined to “make it right” both in their professional careers and at home. Now in therapy, Bucky is no longer the Winter Soldier but James Buchanan, a man searching for the peace he once had in Wakanda by making amends to the lives he ruined (think of Bill Wilson’s 12 Step Program used AA).
Sam, who turned down being the next Captain America (“it feels like someone else’s”) struggles to step in as a provider to his family that doesn’t need nor wants his help. To them, he’s not The Falcon, but the brother and uncle who left them alone to save the world when times got too hard. Sam now grapples with putting the pieces back together in a world that just sees him as another Black man in America.
Like WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is an intimate look into not superheroes but humans grappling with the struggles of grief. Grieving for the lives they could have had if they never became superheroes and grieving over the life moments they missed during a single finger snap. While these two characters had a brief moment together in Civil War, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a deep dive into the relationship of two people who equally hate, yet respect each other through their shared PTSD trauma as soldiers struggling to make sense of their new reality. It rather refreshing watching characters we’ve followed for almost a decade given a chance to breathe and settle into themselves.
Told in just six episodes with the first one being 47 minutes and 17 seconds long, the series combines the action of their signature big-budget movies (reportedly costing $150 million) as criminals of the LAF are determined for life to return back to life during the snap (because of profit) wanting a world without borders. “Trust me, every time something gets better for one group, it gets worse for another,” Sam echos.
The opening sequence is breathtaking as it thrusts us into a battle in the skies as Falcon, Red Wings, and troops on the ground attempt to take down the terrorist organization. Each moment is invigorating as both teams try to make it to the border of the Liberian airbase (The Sokovia Accords are still intact). The cinematography following the action seamlessly as the camera angle dives and swoops with action giving us powerful explosions and instant deaths.
While this is just Marvel Studios’ second foray into the TV world, this was the first series filmed before being shut down due to COVID and the earthquake in Puerto Rico. Having a lot to prove to both audiences and their actors, Marvel has created a series that should be the blueprint for all shows going forward.
It is a show that brings out the best of Sam and Bucky while not shying away from their worst moments. It also manages to be incredibly funny as two opposites join forces bringing out each other’s sense of humor. Inspired by buddy-cop comedies of the past, it’s such an evolution in storytelling seeing Sebastian Stan’s Bucky cracking jokes with as much fierceness as he cracks skulls.
Despite their costumes and adventures, Marvel shows us two superheroes who must realize in order to save the world, they must first save themselves. Steve Roger would be proud of the men they’ve become.