‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ – Episode 1 “New World Order” Review

Welcome to a more traditional “Odd Couple” setup.

The pilot for Marvel’s latest mini-series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, begins with a mission involving a kidnapped soldier. It has everything you expect from an exciting Marvel property: Aerial stunts, daring rescues, and high stakes. It’s a good opening for what is essentially a slow burn episode.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) aka The Falcon, leaves his successful mission to fly to Washington to speak at the dedication of a Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) asks Sam why he didn’t take up the mantel of Cap, but Sam didn’t feel like it belonged to him. See, to the government, Sam is The Falcon, but to his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) and her two sons (played by Chase River McGhee and Aaron Haynes), he’s simply “Uncle Sam”. And he’s dealing with the fallout of being gone for five years during “The Blip”, which left his sister alone to run the family fishing business down in Louisiana.

She’s finally come to terms with the reality that selling the boat and the business is the only way to survive when Sam shows up to give her false hopes. He’s an Avenger what could go wrong? Sadly, he is still a black man going to a bank asking for a loan – surprise, surprise, he is denied. Unfortunately, before he can begin to formulate a plan B, his friend from the opening mission, Joaquin Torres (played by Danny Ramirez) brings to his attention a new and troubling development in Switzerland. A rising threat that Torres brought up earlier (the Flag Smashers) in the episode is making itself more known. Then, of course, is the press conference that introduces a brand new Captain America…uh what?

Meanwhile, after a nightmare introduction (literally), we get to catch up with James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan). He’s seeing a shrink, Dr. Raynor (played by Amy Aquino), suffering from PTSD, and trying to make amends. He’s not a fan of therapy but he’s got no choice it’s part of his being pardoned for war crimes deal. Much like a lot of soldiers, Bucky is at a loss for what to do now that he doesn’t have a war to fight.

While the shrink points out his lack of friends and social life, we soon see that James has at least one friend it seems. An old Japanese man named Yori (Ken Takemoto). You are initially led to believe that this is because of Bucky’s age – he is a man out of time, it makes sense he would want to hang out with someone who could relate. Not to mention the only other person with “shared life experience” as Steve had put it, is now an old man and possibly dead (I’ll be honest, they don’t outright say he died, but he also isn’t around…). But, his friendship is another name on his amends list; the old man is the father of one of the people we see The Winter Soldier kill in his most recent flashback.

When Marvel first started introducing shows on Netflix each one appeared to have an overall theme. Jessica Jones was obviously geared towards women who survive sexual assault that eventually ballooned out to include any kind of assault. Luke Cage was dedicated to the black community in relation to gangs, the black power struggle, and corruption. Iron Fist was largely about mental health, to begin with, which evolved to include addiction and family drama. Punisher dealt with PTSD, veterans’ affairs, and somewhat devolved into reckless patriotism. And Daredevil, which started everything off, was about vigilante justice and the balancing act heroes face when putting on a mask. These new offerings could have similar promise since WandaVision at least in part dealt with grief and how that can manifest into wish-fulfillment that can quickly go downhill.

I’m wondering then if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be focused on veteran issues. If they do, it should be an interesting take because instead of Frank Castle who channeled his PTSD and rage into a violent retribution, we have Sam who is trying to get back to a semblance of civilian life after being vanished for five years, and James, who is going to therapy even though he doesn’t always act in the best of ways.

Also, why is the running gag for the “man-of-out-time” always pressuring him to date? They did it to Steve and now they’re doing it to Bucky. I mean, Steve you kind of understood because there was always the idea that he was holding out for Peggy, but Bucky didn’t have his own epic love story that we are aware of. Tough break, Bucky, but there’s always Hinge…

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