* This review contains minor spoilers from “The Falcon & The Winter Soldier”, but these sections are flagged. *
“The legacy of this shield is complicated,” said Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) says cautiously that his inner turmoil swirls early in “The falcon and the winter soldier, ” Disney +Is new Marvel Studios limited series. Captain America’s shield – him at the end ofAvengers: Endgame ” by a now aged Steve Rogers – should be a gift. But the symbol – everything it stands for and the man who made it so difficult – means so much to Wilson, both personally and professionally. In the superhero’s troubled eyes, the shield and everything it represents is more of a spiritual burden that it may not be able to live up to. This is seldom stated, of course, although everything can be read on Wilson’s pained face. The advantage of Marvel’s serialized storytelling, however, is that deeper subtext is easy to find when you know these characters that well.
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The one line and its simple, solemn performance say so much. Can I live up to the standards of good soldier Captain America? Should i even try? And maybe there is even room in America for a black man to put that coat on? These personal and social struggles are at the heart of Marvel’s most recent show, coined by the chief writer Malcolm Spellman (“rich”) And directed by an experienced filmmaker Kari Skogland (“The Walking Dead, “” The Handmaid’s Tale“).
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In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, fragmented heroes don’t kick their asses and take on names (at least not yet). You deal with identity. Set six months after the events of “Endgame”, Sam Wilson seems happy with who he is – the quippy, cocky, criminal superhero known as the “Falcon” – but whenever the mantle of Captain America and the Schild to be accepted by everyone, he would shoulder comes up, the hero is reluctant, the fear for his eyes begins to betray his otherwise happy demeanor.
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Elsewhere, Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is a determination of his pardon in judicial therapy. His personal struggle is different but very real and also tied to his broken identity. Barnes is torn apart by shame and guilt from his days as a hydra farmer when he was the mind-controlled winter soldier. Barnes has blood on his hands and his journey is about making reparation and atone. But, as Wilson said earlier, that goal is complicated (which means some well-intentioned but misguided attempts to befriend some family members of people he has murdered in the past). His no-bullshit therapist (brilliantly played by Amy Aquino), knows that Barnes is haunted by his sins in nightmares, carries a guilt complex, and carries different ideas of self-loathing. But he’s also a vault, and pinpointing your trapped feelings is an impossible task.
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As Barnes says, he had a moment of calm in Wakanda (see “Infinity War” and “Where’s the Fight?”, A brilliant little subtle character moment grabbed by the show’s writers). But his whole life was a series of battles that went from one fight to the next with little delay. Tired of being exploited as a tool of war, he says he just wants peace, but his therapist doesn’t believe that soldiers who have suffered so much trauma can just sit on the sidelines without incurring further emotional costs.
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This is “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” or at least the first episode. Not much of a traditional superhero show (until now anyway) and maybe more like a prestige drama ala “The American, “or”homeland. “Yes, the series opens with one big action set piece – the Falcon secretly makes the US government offer overseas (which will likely have an impact later) – but frankly, it’s the least interesting element of the show. Episode 1’s setup, investing the time to reveal the emotional state these characters are in and how they fight, is really compelling and allows both actors to really shine without saying too much.
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“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was described as Marvel’s Riff in a buddy action comedy, but if that’s true, episode 1 isn’t indicative of it at all. In fact, none of the heroes interact with each other and all that is said about your relationship through Barnes’ therapist is that he ignored Wilson’s lengthy texts.
At the conspiracy level, a new terrorist organization is on the rise; A group called The Flag Smashers who seem to believe that life during the blip – when half the world was torn from existence – was better than it is now. Wilson is on their trail through one of his US intelligence agents in the Middle East (Desmond Chiam), but the full extent of their plan (or how it eventually connects Daniel BrühlBaron Zemo character) is unknown.
Episode 1 obviously just sets the stage for the full story, but it does great character work on where Sam and Bucky were in the post-blip, post-Steve Rogers era. The entire show seems to be built on the premise of their comedic quarrel and joke interactions, which first appeared in “Captain America: Civil War, ”But none of that is to be seen here. The series is also based on her association with Captain America, both of whom are, or have been, Cap’s best friends from two different times. Both men seem lost and unsure of their place in the world without him.
Spoiler is coming *
While Barnes’ fight feels like the heavyweight at first – he’s a former killer, after all, with great regret and praise for Stan’s internalized performance – there are two issues Wilson struggles with. Wilson just can’t accept Cap’s shield, politely declines it at a press conference and the government thanks him and then puts it in the Captain America Museum, which we saw several times in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After that, he discusses his decision with James Rhodey, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the question arises as to why you didn’t take over the shield. But the big subtext of the scene is – and it is indirectly talked about – yes, I understand it’s hard, but haven’t you considered your responsibility to play the role?
Spoiler ends *
Later, human struggles become even more real, down to earth and no longer tied to heroic wings. Wilson returns to Louisiana and the family’s shrimp boat. his sister Sarah Wilson (a solid Adepero Oduye), struggling to pay the bills and make ends meet. She wants to sell the boat, but to Wilson, that is the legacy and one he cannot give up (a nice topic that will surely come together later). This leads to a great sequence in a bank where the hawk is essentially begging for a loan. Without spoiling, TF & TWS stands out for its idea of being black in America and being a superhero at the same time – something the MCU hasn’t really looked at before. What Wilson experiences painfully and humiliatingly is dehumanization and resembles the way America loves its black all-star athletes when they play big games on the field but really could care less about them off the field. The moment is searing, and all of these notions of racial inequality end in a bigger emotional blow in the finale when the government reveals that they essentially tricked and dirty him.
One cannot speak of the entirety of “The Falcon & The Winter Soldier” based on an episode. There will certainly be big MCU action, comedy, and more traditional elements. Still, the first episode is extremely promising, a rich and layered introduction to the concepts of identity, legacy, and the hard-to-swallow reminder that no African American is exempt from the challenges of being black in America. Not even a superhero. [B+]
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” debuts on Disney + March 19, with new episodes released weekly.