Two weeks after the success of Marvel’s first mini-series, WandaVision, came the next Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 television installment, The Falcon and Winter Soldier. Named after the titular characters, the six-episode series brings two familiarized supporting characters into the limelight.
Radical changes seem to be coming with Phase 4, as can be seen with WandaVision and the trailer of Loki. Unlike the more ambitious storylines of the Scarlet Witch and maybe even Loki, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes’s (Sebastian Stan) starring debut is astoundingly basic. With poor pacing, awkward acting, and dull writing, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier pushes the audience to hope that the remaining five episodes hold a bit more creativity.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place in the months following Avengers: Endgame, leaving Falcon as the successor of Captain America’s iconic Vibranium shield. Feeling out of place in the super-patriot’s role, Sam donates the shield to a museum and instead decides to focus on his sister who is struggling financially due to the catastrophic effects of “the Blip” from Avengers: Infinity War. Meanwhile, Bucky struggles to overcome his PTSD from his days as the brainwashed Winter Soldier. Though in therapy, he continues to isolate himself and have nightmares.
While Marvel attempts to claim this as part of their character arc, it is simply cliche. After nearly a decade of these characters’ involvement in the MCU, it is a shame to see them progress to only the “soldier with PTSD” and the “loan struggler” in 2021.
Not only are the internal conflicts dull, but the “big baddie” of the series lacks anything truly big or bad at all. A terrorist group referred to as the Flag Smashers desiring a world without borders pales in comparison to recent villains that have graced the MCU. Be that as it may, perhaps the villain is not what will define this series. It is a safe bet that the characterization (if done better in the following episodes) will take the cake for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Many audiences came to watch this mini-series for the highly anticipated action that was hinted at in the many, many trailers released by Disney+, but in forty-nine minutes, all viewers got was a boring Falcon flight sequence, or rather a copycat version of the canyon spaceship dogfight in Captain Marvel.
Surprisingly to critics, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has maintained an 8.2 star rating on IMDb, capping at an 8.6 on its day of release. This rating is not set in stone and is subject to change as the show continues.
Pilots are often cited as perfect or horrendous with little room for in-between, and unfortunately, the premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier seems to fall into the latter. But with that, there is much room for improvement as we enter the main arc of the six-episode storyline. Here’s hoping that the show takes a bit more risk for some equal reward.