If one thing has saved my family during the COVID malaise of Toronto area theatres being shuttered it’s the glory of Disney + and it’s slate of original content. With a weekly release schedule, there’s something quite retro about this approach as the streamer creates the room to watch, re-watch and talk before each new episode launches.
In regards to fandom, it allows for worlds to be explored as new episodes are anticipated throughout the week. It’s the small joys of at home watching. As Disney + is now in full MCU swing, the grounded “real-world” approach of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was needed after the multiverse binge of WandaVision. Like Captain American: Winter Solider that proved to be one of the MCU’s most compelling entries, the continuation of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ stories finds solid footing in its political espionage roots.
Taking place three months after the aged Captain America passed the shield to Sam Wilson, we find Sam in full action mode. No longer a sidekick, Sam continues the fight against the LAF that took place at the start of Winter Soldier. Like his good buddy Steve Rogers, Sam takes on Georges Batroc (UFC Retiree George St. Pierre) and in doing so reinforces that Sam along with his Red Wing can handle things as main action heroes. As Sam is introduced to a new world threat in the Flag Smashers, we find Bucky now pardoned, reluctantly in therapy and suffering from PTSD. He looks to make amends with his past while struggling with finding any type of peace. He shares that he misses his time of solace in Wakanda and recognizes the challenge that comes from being decommissioned from conflict after so many years. Working through a list, quite like Steve was during his early defrosting, Sam seeks to bring balance to his new life while owning his deadly past as the Winter Soldier.
The layers of story that shape Sam and Bucky is at the core of the premiere episode and looks to unfold even more as the series continues. With Sam, the show runners embrace Marvel’s history of political consciousness and grounds Sam’s new life post “BLIP” within the micro aggressions of race.
Returning home to Louisiana to help with the family business, Sam’s sister acts as a guide to the real world. Whereas Sam thinks his time as an Avenger makes him unique, he soon realizes that he is trapped with a dual space of race; an America that celebrates his heroics but then traps, confines and limits his potential as a Black man. Upward mobility for Sam is stripped and he soon realizes the world he lives in. Equally, Sam wrestles with the burden of carrying the Captain American shield all while being told that he is not the symbol that America needs in a hero.
With episode two now available, it’s these complex narratives that promises to intrigue and provoke as the series unfolds. Yes, there will be action aplenty but it’s the small character moments that remind us that great storytelling rises from the political and is grounded in our day-to-day.
Sam and Bucky are now grounded in more ways than one and so their post Endgame story promises to unfold with true intrigue. This is MCU done right!
Looking ahead to episode 2, trust me that things get real. My review of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier continues next week.