One of Marvel's most highly anticipated shows in Phase Four, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, has finally hit Disney+, and so far, it delivers on its hype.
We find Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, the titular characters, navigating a post-Blip world after the events of Avengers: Endgame. And considering
Despite a few concerns, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1 is off to a great start, and it is shaping up to be an excellent series.
“New World Order” primarily focuses on Sam after an elderly Steve gifts him Captain America’s shield. He seems to be doing fine, working with the United States Air Force again. But on the inside, he is not okay because he did not have time to grieve for his friend properly.
Sam, like billions of others, was thrust into a broken world after The Blip ended. Billions of souls are now wandering the earth, trying to figure out where they belong in such a chaotic time.
So, Sam does what he knows best -- he returns to the Air Force and visits his sister and nephews.
But things are never that simple, and he has a lot to contend with. Steve is gone, leaving Sam with the Captain America shield. Of course, Sam would turn it into the Smithsonian -- how could he bear to look at it, let alone use it, when he has not even grieved yet?
Steve represented the best in all of us. Courageous, righteous, hopeful. And he mastered posing stoically. The world has been forever changed. A few months ago, billions of people reappeared after five years away, sending the world into turmoil. We need new heroes. Ones suited for the times we're in. Symbols are nothing without the women and men that give them meaning. And this thing... I don't know if there's ever been a greater symbol. But it's more about the man who propped it up, and he's gone. So, today we honor Steve's legacy, but also, we look to the future. So, thank you, Captain America. But this belongs to you.Sam
Even things with his sister, Sarah, are not easy. With money being tight, she wants to sell their family’s boat. Sam has every right to be reluctant, but he was not there for the last five years, even though it is not his fault. Sarah tried her best to keep things afloat, but she could only do so for so long.
And if banks refuse to give them loans to help out, then what else can she do?
There is an apparent rift between these siblings, and the source of this rift is -- like most of the world’s problems -- The Blip. Sam disappeared, and now, he is back. Sarah cannot relive the last five years of struggling finances just because Sam was not there.
Sam currently has many burdens, and his family's financial situation is only the tip of the iceberg. He gives up Captain America's shield, cannot grieve properly, and tries to move on, unsuccessfully. How could he when he cannot even look at the shield?
To make matters worse, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1 ends with quite the cliffhanger.
Sam gave up Captain America’s shield under the premise that the Smithsonian Museum will display it. Instead, the government betrayed Sam and hired a new Captain America to take Steve’s place.
We do not yet know how Sam will react, but his shaking hands at the end of the episode gives us some clues. And he has every right to be angry about this situation. He works for the government, entrusts them with his most priceless possession, only to be stabbed in the back. This situation certainly brings up questions.
If nobody can replace Captain America, and Sam turning the shield in was "the right thing to do," then why does the government hire a new Captain America?
Sam, who has been loyal and honest with them from the beginning. Sam, who Steve gave his shield to. Not only did the government lie, but they also betrayed Steve.
Which begs the question -- why do they think Sam is unqualified for this position?
Sam most likely would have turned the offer down at this point, but they did not even offer it to him in the first place. Yet, the government does not hesitate to hire a new Captain America as soon as Sam leaves DC.
There is no valid reason for betraying Sam like that, but there is a curious aspect to this new Captain America. The new Captain America, unlike Sam, is white. Of course, we expect the government to deny this is the reason they did not consider Sam.
Sam's government does not see him as someone who can represent America, which might lead Sam to question his purpose as Falcon.
How can he work with a country that does not see him as worthy enough to possess the shield? Can the shield even represent an America free of systemic racism and bigotry?
These questions are testaments to the systemic racism that is deeply entrenched in our society today.
Anthony Mackie could not have said it better: “Sam considers the shield a representation of the country that we live in. There's a lot of trepidation as far as how does a Black man represent a country that does not represent him?”
We hope to see this theme explored more thoroughly throughout the show. We hope that Sam will come to possess the shield as a symbol of what we can be -- an equal society with equal opportunities, a society without systemic racism, a society that celebrates and recognizes everybody.
Despite The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1 mainly revolving around Sam, we also learn about what Bucky is up to these days.
Like Sam, Bucky struggles with life after The Blip, but his situation is a little more complicated. Before The Blip, Hydra brainwashed Bucky for over ninety years. When Steve finally broke through to him, Bucky eventually left for Wakanda to completely erase the brainwashing.
He has not caught a break since the 1940s, and this is his first chance to breathe. He is in a new world, free for the first time in almost a hundred years.
But while the government may have pardoned him, they forced Bucky to attend therapy, where he decided to make amends for all the crimes he committed as a Hydra soldier.
Bucky has known violence for almost a century -- from World War II to Hydra to The Avengers.
Now, he has to make amends through legal measures without hurting anyone while acknowledging his past. And it certainly does not help that he experiences gruesome nightmares about his days working for Hydra.
Unlike Sam, Bucky does not have many people to turn to. His family has already passed. One of his only friends, an older man named Yori, is someone Bucky has to make amends with since he killed his son.
Ultimately, Bucky is very lost and lonely, torn between his past, present, and future. He is unsure of what to do now, and it will become increasingly difficult to figure it out once he finishes his amends project.
Bucky: All right, give me a break. I'm trying, okay? This isn't... this is new for me. I didn't have a moment to deal with anything, you know? I had a little calm in Wakanda. And other than that, I just went from one fight to another for ninety years.
Dr. Raynor: So, now that you've stopped fighting, what do you want?
Dr. Raynor: That is utter bullshit.
Bucky: You're a terrible shrink.
Dr. Raynor: I was an excellent soldier. So, I saw a lot of dead bodies, and I know how that can shut you down. And if you are alone, that is the quietest, most personal hell. And James, it is very hard to escape. Look, I know that you have been through a lot, but you've got your mind back; you are being pardoned. I mean, these are good things. You're free.
Bucky: To do what?
Sam may not understand everything Bucky is going through, but they are still two people with shared experiences regarding The Avengers. They were both erased during The Blip, and now, they are trying to figure out their lives respectively.
We imagine The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will revolve heavily around this theme, especially once they join forces. We hope to see their friendship grow and their characters develop.
There is room for a lot of character development for both Sam and Bucky. In Bucky's case, his character can grow through learning to trust Sam and develop their friendship.
Overall, "New World Order" is a great episode, but we have some concerns regarding the Flag Smashers, the group that seems to be the primary villainous entity.
While violence is undoubtedly never the answer, we can only imagine what it is like to lose half of life on the planet for five years, just to have the lost half suddenly reappear. It is a staggering and unusual situation, bound to produce varying opinions on the subject.
Torres: You see these guys? These are the guys you gotta worry about. I've been stumbling onto their manifestos on message boards. They call themselves the Flag Smashers.
Sam: Is that a new thing? Bad guys give themselves bad names?
Torres: There's a lot worse names than that one. But basically, they think that the world was better during The Blip. Trust me, it wasn't.
Sam: Trust me. Every time something gets better for one group, it gets worse for another.
Torres: Yeah. Essentially, these people, they want a world that's unified without borders. So, you could see why a lot of people are into that.
The Flag Smashers are certainly not your typical villains.
And while we still do not know what they imagine society to look like, it is pretty clear that they advocate for open borders and a less nationalist world. These goals seem to subtly convey propaganda, saying that a world built more on community, unity, and sharing is a recipe for disaster.
It will not be a good look for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier -- and Marvel -- to pursue this route. Even if it was not intentional, this idea promotes nationalism and disunity. Nationalism is not bad in all cases, but it can still be a dangerous ideology.
If superheroes squash the Flag Smashers on behalf of the government, it will seem like propaganda that favors elites and upper classes and bashes ordinary people and lower classes.
We imagine there is more to the Flag Smashers conflict than nationalist propaganda. So, we will give Marvel the benefit of the doubt for now. However, we will carefully tread when watching future episodes, and we hope that our analysis of the Flash Smashers will prove to be wrong.
World's a crazy place right now. People are... well, nobody's stable. Allies are now enemies; alliances are all torn apart. The world's broken. Everybody's just looking for somebody to fix it.Rhodes
Over to you, Fanatics!
What did you think of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1?
Was it everything you hoped for? How do you think Sam and Bucky will deal with the disheartening news about the new Captain America? How do you feel about the new Captain America? What are your expectations for this show?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.