The Falcon and the Winter Soldier opened to an extremely strong start, giving Disney+ its most-watched premiere and Marvel fans a new take on a familiar formula. Episode two does a lot of work to set the stage for future episodes — and other future projects — while providing a wholly interesting story in its own.
One thing The Falcon and the Winter Soldier does right is its take on John Walker. He’s not quite the John Walker from the comics, but this more humanized take on him is good because it makes him a more realistic opposition to Sam — and Wyatt Russell does a great job playing this character you love to hate. Bucky and Sam’s reactions to him are great and the juxtaposition between his views and what Sam thinks is starting to show, which is much needed. John is a government pawn and tool — but Sam is the opposite and for that matter, so was Steve.
The Flag Smashers don’t seem to be the big bad of this series, as the show makes moves to humanize the group through several shots shown in this episode. Even Sam tells Walker that his perception of this group is based on being someone in power. It’s clear power dynamics are an ongoing motif inside this show and the Flag Smashers might not be the big bad people initially thought they would be.
Isiah Bradley also makes his appearance, harkening back to the iconic Truth: Red, White & Black comic series. The MCU’s Isiah knew Bucky back in his Winter Soldier days and is understandably angered by the US government’s treatment of him after his hero days. The scenes afterward where Sam gets racially profiled by cops is an all too real reminder of the world we live in, proving that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn’t afraid to explore those themes.
Another huge thing about the Isaiah segments is the character introduction of Eli Bradley. Eli, played by Elijah Richardson, answers the door when Bucky and Sam show up, acting quite protective of his grandfather. It’s clear the MCU has some plans for the Young Avengers, between Eli’s introduction here, Kate’s appearance in Hawkeye, Billy and Tommy in WandaVision, and Cassie Lang’s continued presence.
Bucky and Sam are always a joy to watch onscreen — courtesy of Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie’s great chemistry together — and the therapist’s office scene was just as fun as the trailers implied. It also gives a lot of good insight into Bucky’s character, exploring his issues with self-worth in the wake of his Winter Soldier past. It’s exactly what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier should be doing with his character.
All in all, episode two does a lot of great work to set the stage, from namedropping Sharon Carter for future episodes to the reintroduction of Zemo. It’s a fun episode that has a lot to say.
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