Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their respective roles of Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, and Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, in the new six-episode series, which was created by Malcolm Spellman, who also serves as the head writer, and directed by Kari Skogland. The series finds the two best friends of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) teaming up for a new global adventure, one that is sure to test the limits of their patience, mostly for one another. Along the way, Sam will also grapple with whether or not he’s ready or even willing to step into the role of Captain America and all that comes with it.
Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of time to think about the series this past year and what we want the show, with its odd couple central pairing, to look like. Here are the seven things we hope to see in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
A Nuanced Story About What It Means for a Black Man to Be Captain America in 2021
When Steve handed over Cap’s iconic shield to Sam at the end of Avengers: Endgame, it was a big moment for the character, yes, but it also had huge, lasting implications for the MCU. Marvel boss Kevin Feige could have easily had Steve pass the baton to Bucky, as the character also took up the mantle in the comics, but by choosing Sam, a Black man, to be Steve’s successor as Captain America — whether or not he decides he’s willing to carry the shield — Marvel was making a statement. And in 2021, especially after the events of the last year and the global Black Lives Matter protests, Marvel has an opportunity to tell a timely story about what it means to be a Black man in America today while also digging into what it means for a Black man to be a superhero and the symbol of American strength, courage, and idealism.
We’ve already seen what can happen when representation is taken seriously on-screen—Black Panther, with its majority Black talent in front of and behind the camera, celebrated Black culture and identity in a powerful story that resonated with people around the world. The film became the highest-grossing solo superhero film in history, and Marvel has a chance to build upon that legacy now with Sam Wilson’s story as he wrestles with whether or not to pick up the shield and take on the Captain America mantle and everything it stands for.
An In-Depth Exploration of Bucky’s Trauma
Much like how WandaVision’s nine episodes gave Marvel the breathing room to fully explore how Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) traumatic experiences have affected her, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier would benefit from digging into Bucky’s trauma in a similar way, because it’s an understatement to say that the character has been through a lot since his first appearance as Steve’s best friend in Captain America: The First Avenger.
After appearing as a brainwashed killing machine in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he was framed by Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) in his attempt to destroy the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. And though his HYDRA programming was removed in between the events of that film and Avengers: Infinity War, he was snapped out of existence by Thanos (Josh Brolin) only to return in Endgame to fight yet another battle. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. So much of what Bucky has been through over the course of his century-long life has happened off-screen, and now is the perfect time to not only reveal how being brainwashed and jumping from one fight to the next for 100 years has affected him and his psyche, but also how he is processing it—if he’s processing it. This could be a powerful character showcase if done right.
Some History and Backstory for Sam
After appearing in six Marvel films, Sam still remains somewhat of an enigma. Outside of the fact that he was a pararescue airman who did two tours during the War on Terror, what else do we really know about him or where he comes from? Well, we know he led a grief support group for veterans with PTSD after leaving the Air Force, and based on promotional images for the series, we also know The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will introduce us to Sam’s sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye). But what was his childhood like? What did Sam do before joining the U.S. Air Force? And why did he enlist in the first place? Meanwhile, what is Sam’s relationship with his sister and her family like now after being gone for five years? There is so much we don’t know about Sam and his backstory, and now is the perfect time to dig into who this man is outside of being Falcon or outside of being Steve Rogers’ friend.
An Actual Storyline for Sharon Carter (That Doesn’t Make Her a Stock Character or Love Interest)
Marvel has shortchanged Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter nearly from the moment she was introduced as Steve’s neighbor in The Winter Soldier. While she’s been depicted as a competent operative with a mind of her own at different points throughout the MCU’s overarching story, she’s also felt like little more than a stock character. Sharon could have been anyone, which is not something you want to say about any character in this position, let alone Peggy Carter’s (Hayley Atwell) niece. Hopefully, the writers will use the series’ expanded running time to also give Sharon a storyline that offers her room to show off her skills while shading in the character a bit and giving her purpose beyond looking pretty or flirting with a hunky dude with superpowers. Sharon, and her fans, deserve better.
A Quiet Acknowledgment of Steve’s Legacy
It would be wise for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier not to spend too much time dwelling on the past — this is a new phase of the MCU, after all, and this story should be looking to the future rather than looking back and comparing itself to what came before. But it would also be disingenuous to pretend like Steve Rogers and his legacy as Captain America is inconsequential or doesn’t loom large over the proceedings. It does — quite literally, actually, based on what we’ve seen so far in the trailers. So we know the character will no doubt play a role in the narrative as Sam considers whether or not he is the right man to step into Steve’s large shoes and take up the Cap mantle. But because this is a new chapter, one that is about Sam (and Bucky!), not the man who formerly occupied this space, the show should find a way to honor Steve’s many contributions without overshadowing the stories of the two exceptional men at its center.
Thrilling Action on Par With the Marvel Films (That Adds to the Narrative)
If WandaVision taught us anything, it’s that not every Marvel project needs to be jam-packed with fistfights or action sequences to be successful or emotionally satisfying. But The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a different sort of beast, one that is actually primed for action, and based on the trailers, the show is definitely going to attempt to deliver the same level of action as the films. But if we have one request it is this: Please don’t let the show’s action sequences stall the narrative or take away from the poignant character moments. There should be a balance. After all, it’s the characters that we’re here for, the action is simply a bonus.
Plenty of the Odd Couple Humor We Saw in Captain America: Civil War
One of the true highlights of Civil War was seeing Sam and Bucky, two men who have very little in common outside of their friendship with Steve, interact with one another. Those moments together, whether they were packed into Steve’s tiny car or fighting Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in an airport, provided a lot of humor and had many fans clamoring for the two to star in a buddy comedy. Well, this is it. This is Marvel’s chance to give fans what they have wanted for years. Knowing that Spellman and his writing team pulled from buddy comedy action movies like Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, and 48 Hrs, hopefully it won’t disappoint.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premieres Friday, March 19 on Disney+.
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