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'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Premiere Review: Shh — No Spoilers!

The action's great, but it's when 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' allows Sam and Bucky to be human that it really shines.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.'
(Image: © Disney+)

Our Verdict

A strong introduction into a more action-focused Marvel series that's just missing one key connection.

For

  • 💥Sam's speech in Steve's honor is very good.
  • 💥Love to see hints of the old Bucky Barnes coming back.
  • 💥This show is immediately focusing on these men as humans first.
  • 💥Put. More. Superheroes. In. Therapy.

Against

  • 💥Delaying Sam and Bucky coming together feels like a weird narrative choice.

This The Falcon and the Winter Soldier review is spoiler free. Our spoiler review will post after the episode premieres on March 19. 

As you’ve likely heard from the social reactions to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, this premiere episode doesn’t skimp on the action. The decision is a wise one, given the fact that the series focuses on a couple of very action-focused heroes, but there’s a quieter side to the premiere and it’s the stronger part of the episode by far. I’ll never turn down watching Sam Wilson as Falcon — and eventually Captain America — knocking bad guys around, and I can’t wait to see Bucky in action more. But, this first episode also focuses heavily on these two men as human beings. Sam was relegated to sidekick early on and Bucky’s been used as a weapon — whether it be for the U.S. Government or H.Y.D.R.A. — for as long as we’ve known him. Getting the opportunity to see them as humans is an incredible narrative choice that we’ll hopefully expand on for the rest of the series.

This first episode focuses on where the two are in the present without Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in their lives. Sam (Anthony Mackie) is working for the U.S. Air Force as Falcon when we first meet him, but he quickly heads back to be with his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) and his two young nephews (currently uncredited). Meanwhile, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is working through the conditions of his pardon, most notable of which being in therapy. More superheroes should go to therapy, don’t you think? Obviously those with heavy PTSD need to check it out, but there isn’t a single Avenger who wouldn’t benefit from a few good long talks with a licensed professional. It’s especially refreshing to see tough guy and former womanizer James Buchanan Barnes having a heart-to-heart with a therapist who is having absolutely none of his nonsense.

Bucky’s not the only one with a formidable woman in his midst. Sarah Wilson is a breath of fresh air. We’ve watched Sam be the voice of reason to Steve for so long that it’s kind of refreshing to see someone else looking at him with the same expression he used to give Cap when he didn’t think something through all the way. In the context of the premiere, that misplaced hope comes in the belief that the government has any interest in helping him or his family. 

MORE: How to watch all the Marvel movies in order
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The big question there is whether or not Disney will truly take the big swings at the government we’ve seen it shy away from in the past. Sam’s commentary is pretty direct, but it could be construed as taking swings at the banks rather than the government that runs them. A stretch, sure, but enough of a differentiation that they might get away with it. There are also certain introductions that very clearly set up Falcon and Winter Soldier vs. the world. But Disney has consistently received funding from the military, and the Department of Defense has strict regulations for those funds provided they get a say in how the military is portrayed in media. (For context, films like Independence Day were denied military funding for including Area 51, while the sequel received the DOD’s support.) Given everyone’s financial situations, it seems more likely than ever that the series will pull its punches. But WandaVision (mostly) surprised us. It could happen!

If there’s one odd decision in the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s the decision to not bring Sam and Bucky together yet. As a matter of fact, the only connection they have in this first episode is a comment from the therapist that Bucky has several missed calls from his future workplace associate. Everything we see is good! It just may have been better to at least have them establish some kind of future meeting in the very end. This is a shorter season than WandaVision! Let’s get to work on getting these boys on the same page.

That bit aside, the end of the episode does focus on what will likely be the driving force that brings our heroes together. There are very few people in the world who truly understand what Captain America’s shield symbolizes. If the premiere is any indicator, it’s going to need all the defenses it can get.