The best thing about the new MCU tv shows is the chance they give fans to see a continuation of the story from the movies, the so-called Infinity Saga. WandaVision was a very personal look at how Wanda Maximoff coped with the trauma she’d been through, and Loki will pick up (at least) one dangling plot thread from Endgame. In the middle, Falcon and the Winter Soldier (FatWS) gives us both a continuation for those two characters – Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and James Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – but also a bit of a look at how the world coped with the ‘Blip’.
Episode one is a very slow build dealing with just those things. [Spoiler alert for the movies] Sam is one of the many who were snapped out of existence, returning to discover the world had moved on five years. Families have mourned, and society has been adjusting to cope with the loss of half the population. So you’d think this big return would be a cause for celebration – but in truth, it brings more problems than the original snap. Who is in the right when you blink and find someone has moved into your home? When entire populations have relocated to help with the rebuild, only to now be told ‘yeah, thanks, but go away again’? Why is it them who has to abandon the work of 5 years life building?
I really liked that we get to see some of the fallout to these huge, world-altering events that in other movies may have just been plot points for the sake of it, barely mentioned again. However, it does lend this series a fairly dark tone that continues on with things such as Bucky’s PTSD, all the difficulties of choosing a new Captain America, deeply ingrained racism, and classism, and figuring out who the real bad guys are.
It sounds like it should be busy, but my overall impression of the series was one of ‘pretty standard superhero fare’. It’s action-led, in the main – lots and lots of fighting scenes, capitalising on the introduction of a new batch of super soldiers. It also suffers, oddly, from what I can gather is the removal of one plot thread, that was thought to be too close to the real-world pandemic to be used as a storyline. Maybe if you didn’t know that it wouldn’t be noticeable, but personally I thought it left a little hollowness and weakness to the storyline of the bad guys.
Still, we get the brilliant reluctant friendship between Sam and Bucky, which is worth the admission fee alone. We also have some familiar faces, including Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo – clearly relishing hamming it up to heaven and it’s great! – and Sharon Carter. A few new faces, too, including John Walker (Wyatt Russell – son of Kurt Russell (Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy 2) and Goldie Hawn, in case he looks oddly familiar) and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is somewhat infuriatingly teased in introduction and possibility, before never being really used. Season 2, perhaps – or one of the next movies?
Overall, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to hugely matter how good this is: Marvel fans will watch, non-fans will suffer too much from not having 20-odd films of backstory so may or may not even bother. Still, I found it more than enjoyable enough, despite being far from perfect. The biggest appeal for me is more the background stuff, the ongoing story telling, rather than the slight muddle of stories in the forefront, I suppose – but even those aren’t bad at all.
First broadcast: March 2021
Episodes: 6 @ ~45 mins each
My rating: 8/10