The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1 Both Soars and Slogs out of the Gate

Julien Neaves, Editor

I remember when the first episode of Marvel Cinematic Universe series WandaVision premiered with its odd 50s sitcom set-up. It proved quite divisive among fans, with some loving it and others calling it “trash”. As time went on, however, most of the fan base got on board with the show. But I recall thinking that when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier came out it would appeal to a much broader section of the fanbase with its much more traditional set-up.

Well, the new miniseries premiered on Friday but instead of soaring out of the gate (get it? Falcon? Soar? You get it?) the new show slogged out of the blocks. With a SPOILER ALERT here’s my review:

I’m not worthy. But Cap said I was. But I’m not worthy…

The series finds Captain America’s superhero sidekick Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Cap’s formerly brainwashed assassin and best friend James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes aka The Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan) six months after Endgame and living in a post-Blip world.

The episode kicks off with a banger of an action sequence featuring Sam in full Falcon mode on a mission for the Air Force. And this was one high-flying, punchy set piece that definitely delivered. I throughly enjoyed the display of Falcon’s abilities including his adorable (and quite lethal) drone Redwing. And it was also cool seeing mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) again after his memorable fight with Cap in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

One small nitpick—Falcon’s heat vision picked up about a couple of baddies on one of the planes, but then when he entered there were more than just a couple. But other than that it was a fantastic start to the episode and promised quite the adrenaline-fuelled outing going forward.

Hello darkness my old friend…Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Well I hope you had fun with that opening because that’s the most action you’re gonna get this episode. We do have a brief flashback scene of Winter Soldier going all Terminator which was pretty cool, but yeah that’s about it. Now it’s time for drama, and mostly very dull drama.

Now I liked Bucky’s storyline of suffering with PTSD and trying to make amends for all the horrible he has done. I enjoyed his scenes with the therapist, the old man whose son he murdered, and his aborted date. Sebastian Stan does a great job as the haunted, brooding hero. The Wilson family stuff, however, was a different story.

Is this scene STILL going on?

Now while I appreciated the writers giving Sam some backstory and exploring the impact on his family due to him being blipped out of existence for five years, but I was so bored here. Bored to tears! I just couldn’t bring myself to care. And the scenes just went on and on and on. I felt they could have wrapped this up a lot faster and still got the message through. I found myself constantly checking the time, and that it definitely not a good sign.

And it doesn’t help that Anthony Mackie has all the acting range of a traffic light. Both in the family scenes and the scenes where he is struggling with taking up the Captain America mantle his delivery is just kinda bland, and lands with all the impact of a wet tissue. Outside the MCU they have been trying hard to make him a leading man in films and television but so far it has not worked, and we’re not off to a great start here. Mackie seems to need a stronger actor to lift him (as we see in the scene with Don Cheadle as Rhodey) so hopefully things do improve when he begins sharing the screen with Stan.

And the award for most punchable face goes to…

But all anyone is talking about is the episode’s cliffhanger where the Government unveils a new “Captain America” in full uniform and carrying Cap’s shield which Sam had donated to the Cap museum. I have never seen a character so instantly hated without saying a word or doing anything other than posing. But he just looks and feels so wrong that there is an internal, almost primal revulsion. Actor John Walker’s sh— eating grin also makes you want to smack that smug look right off his face.

Now I’ve seen a few posts commenting that Sam being replaced by a white guy as Captain America opens up themes of racism. Well it may, but it’s too early to tell from just this one scene. Let’s not jump the gun, people. I am intrigued to see what they do with faux-Cap and I am hoping for at least one scene where he gets punched in the face. All I need is one. Or two, if the Powers That Be are feeling generous.

And with the introduction of the Flag Smashers, and the fact that Civil War villain Zemo will be appearing, I am confident things will pick up in terms of action and intrigue. But in terms of first episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could have done better.

Editor Jules’s Score: 6.5 out of 10

So how would you rank the first episode? For my review of the WandaVision finale you can click here. Or for some Marvel TV suggestions you can check out my six shows to binge after WandaVision by clicking here.

B0FC059B-BBEE-47CF-90E4-D588C1BACD93 Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.