The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 Episode 1, “New World Order,” is an impressive reintroduction to Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes post-blip. This first episode is appealing because we, as the audience, get to figure everything out alongside the titular characters. This is reminiscent of WandaVision. That’s not the only possible comparison between the two series.
There is a common thread of humanity weaving these stories together. So much of the character’s humanity can get lost in the movies’ larger-than-life missions. Both series let these characters breathe outside of all of that. We got to see what that meant for Wanda’s journey. Now we get to see what that means for Sam and Bucky.
We’ve never seen this duo like this before. We’ve never seen Sam and Bucky as men before soldiers, before heroes. We met them both as the latter, and the crowded movies didn’t offer an adequate amount of time to explore their lives as men.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s premiere episode sees Sam Wilson stress the importance of the people behind the symbols and how they mean nothing without those people. That’s so true, and “New World Order” speaks directly to that. We always knew that Sam Wilson was a hero — that hasn’t changed. We’ve seen Bucky Barnes become one as he tried to overcome every possible hurdle thrown at him.
Now is the time to discover who these men are behind all that heroism. Bucky’s super-soldier serum aside, Bucky and Sam are human. There’s a power to the grounded stories told through the humanity of our favorite heroes.
If this first episode is any sign, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will double down on that and a lot more over the next five weeks.
Honor the Legacy
No matter how hard I tried to deny it, I knew this series would have to tackle Steve’s departure. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier never explicitly states whether Steve is actually dead or not. Sam just says that he’s gone. It’s safe to assume the latter is true, though. The Smithsonian appears to have added to Captain America’s exhibit and acquired the shield as a final touch. For comprehension’s sake, it’s likely easier to say that Steve is gone (i.e., dead) than it is to explain the time travel with the Infinity Stones and the life with Peggy in an undisclosed timeline.
That’s not The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s confusing mess to clean up.
That’s why The Falcon and the Winter Soldier should leave things with Steve as they are and hone its focus on Sam Wilson’s battle with his conscience like it does. Steve Rogers’ presence is felt in every frame of this show, but not because it is a story about him. It’s about those he left behind — his best friends. It’s about how they honor the legacy Steve imparted on them while staying true to themselves. To do that, this show has to do the work of finding out what “being true to themselves” even means for Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes now that they have six hours to themselves.
The opening action sequence is very similar to Steve Rogers on the Lemurian Star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Obviously, they’re not identical because Falcon and Captain America are different with different skillsets, but the vibes are very similar. Even some of the critical elements are the same. If Henry Jackman’s score didn’t evoke any familiar emotions for you, maybe seeing Georges St-Pierre as Batroc the Leaper did. Even though Steve isn’t present, the trio of films that brought him into our lives and the lives of Sam and Bucky already have a meaningful influence on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
I could write a thousand words about Bucky’s apartment and him sleeping on the floor (I bet his bed is too soft!!!), but I’ll refrain…for now.
Instead, it feels more relevant to spend an entire section discussing Bucky Barnes’ therapy session. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tells us that therapy and making amends are all a part of Buck’s pardon and new civilian life. If that’s what got him here, then so be it. More superheroes should see therapy as a healthy resource to turn to after shouldering all that they do. Mental health is just as important as physical help for all of us, including superheroes. That’s why Iron Man 3 will always stand out to me.
The flashback that leads us to this session (and the reveal that Bucky’s only friend is also the father of a man he once killed as the Winter Soldier) is utterly seamless. The action in this scene features some of the hand-to-hand combat we’re accustomed to seeing the Winter Soldier use. Henry Jackman’s “The Winter Soldier” theme from Captain America: The Winter Soldier adds to the flashback’s intensity. Sebastian Stan’s performance is just as compelling as it’s always been. Stan’s ability to convey everything through the Winter Soldier’s eyes allows for a deeper understanding of this character and has for many years.
Bucky doesn’t say a lot during the session, and he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t say a lot in the movies, and Stan’s performance picks up where the dialogue falls away. The same could be said here, but the difference is that Dr. Raynor pushes Bucky to talk. This is it; this is his time to figure out what he wants and who he wants to be. As someone who has loved this character since 2011, it’s still surreal to know that Bucky is going on this journey — his own journey — and he’ll get to speak on his own behalf with the free will that was so often stripped from him.
The Wilson Family
We learn so much about Sam during his portion of the episode. It makes the missed opportunity of the movies never delving into his history sting even more. Sam’s often playful but obviously strained dynamic with Sarah, his sister, is a welcomed addition to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie and Adepero Oduye work so well together! It lets us see Sam through someone else’s eyes — someone who knew him before he was a soldier and before he was an Avenger. She adds a unique perspective of what life was during the Blip. This adds to the tension between Sam and her. No matter how much he tries, Sam can’t fix the damage that’s been done in his absence.
Their scene at the bank is one of the most grounded moments of the episode, similar to Bucky’s therapy session. These two scenes tap into the humanity of these heroes in an almost crushingly honest way. The bank teller doesn’t even see Sam as one of the heroes that saved the entire universe until that’s all he sees. Even then, the teller still won’t give Sam and Sarah the loan they need.
At the beginning of the episode, Sam talked about the importance of the men and women behind the symbols. The teller only sees the symbol and how it could benefit him through something like a selfie to show off to his friends. Never once does this man think about exchanging goodwill in granting Sam and Sarah the loan. This teller doesn’t see the man behind the Falcon.
Things would be different if Steve Rogers or Tony Stark walked into that bank asking for a loan. If they had the same record that Sam did after being snapped out of existence for 5 years, the bank would still give them what they want and then some. They’re Captain America and Tony Stark, after all. The Falcon is no less of a hero than them, but he doesn’t have the same privileges.
This scene is uncomfortable to watch because it spotlights implicit racial biases and systematic obstacles that restrict who gets help when they need it. These are extremely prevalent aspects of today’s society. Discomfort isn’t all bad because it means that something’s not right and needs to be changed. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not taking a step back from the discomfort that may come with representing racial injustice on screen. This leaves room for the hope that change can come about because of it.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier
According to the first portion of the show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place 6 months after the blip, more or less. Sam says he’s been working with the Air Force for 6 months. It wouldn’t be unlike to throw himself into work after all of that. He and Steve are alike in that way, too.
The transitions between the cold open, the in-air action sequence, and the sit-down in Tunisia aren’t smooth, but that matches how Sam is always moving on to the next thing. Like Bucky said of his own experience, there’s always been another fight, and he doesn’t know what comes after that. Sam and Bucky are unlikely to admit that they have anything in common, but there is common ground there.
Hopefully, we’ll actually get to see Sam and Bucky interact next week so that they can start to find that common ground. All we know is that Bucky is dodging Sam’s texts, but that’s very little to give in the first episode of a six-episode season.
If they can’t find any personal common ground come Episode 2, something tells me they’ll have a common antagonist in Fake Captain America (that’s what I want to call him) before they do the Flag Smashers. At least that’s what I hope will happen because it does not feel right to see a stranger in Cap’s suit and holding that shield.
I know absolutely nothing about this iteration of John Walker yet, but I don’t like him, and I don’t trust him. He’s an accomplice to the government’s plan to reject Sam Wilson as Captain America. Not only did they plagiarize Sam’s speech, but they also lied about their intentions for the shield. John Walker is a part of that; therefore, I am all for Sam and Bucky figuring out a way to get the shield back in the hands of the man who deserves it.
Other Damn Good Moments:
- It’s nice to see Rhodey again!
- Bucky broke the only three rules he’s meant to follow because of course, he did.
- Yori as Bucky’s wingman is so sweet.
- Sam’s parents are named Paul and Darlene. These are the details we never got in the movies!
- “I forgot how hard you hit.” – Sam to Sarah
- Bucky mentioned his sister and I lost it.
- Bucky’s dog tags made an appearance already!
- Bucky kindly saying, “Please don’t,” when the girl told him she was reading his mind during the board game hit me harder than I expected.
- Sam’s nephews are adorable and need to be protected at all costs.
What did you think of this episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier drop weekly on Disney+!