The Falcon and the Winter Soldier finally puts Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in the spotlight

(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted on Disney+ yesterday, and the show’s season premiere brought a solid mix of action and character development to the table. Given the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s tendency to relegate characters like Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes to the sidelines, the latter made for a satisfying beginning to this six-episode series. It seems this show will finally put both Sam and Bucky in the spotlight — and that alone is already making for a compelling narrative.

Character studies seem to be something Marvel is moving toward in Phase 4, since WandaVision offered Wanda Maximoff and Vision a similar opportunity to explore who they are outside of the Avengers team. Of course, since Sam and Bucky aren’t living in an alternate reality, their stories are more likely to mesh in-depth characterization with the responsibilities of being a superhero. (Hey, we aren’t complaining about that.)

During “New World Order,” fans watch as Sam returns home to his sister and nephews and the two attempt to save their family’s house and legacy. Fans have never known much about Sam Wilson beyond his military background, so it’s nice to get an idea of where he came from. It’s also great to see his relationships outside of the Avengers team (though the emphasis on his friendship with Rhodey was also very welcome).

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also begins to unravel Bucky’s time as the Winter Soldier, something the MCU has never taken a breath to truly explore the fallout of. It makes sense that Bucky would have tons of inner conflict after spending years as Hydra’s brainwashed assassin, so seeing him engage in therapy (however reluctantly) and attempt to make amends is both heart-wrenching and immensely satisfying.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is already tackling important issues

One of the most impressive aspects of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s premiere is how it manages to tackle several important topics over the course of its 49-minute run. This, again, is accomplished through its deep dive into its characters, something that will hopefully become a staple of the show.

For one, the series isn’t ignoring the fact that one of its leads is a Black man living in modern-day America. “New World Order” highlights the impact of systemic racism, not just by showing viewers how easily Sam and Sarah are turned down for a loan they should be eligible for, but also in demonstrating how quickly the U.S. government is to replace Captain America with an average white man — despite Sam clearly having more experience and the original Cap’s blessing.

With two veterans as the story’s main characters — one of whom spent years being controlled by the enemy — there was also no getting around addressing PTSD in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And although the premiere only started to touch on this topic, Bucky’s storyline looks like it will focus on mental health just as much as Wanda’s did in WandaVision. 

Finally, despite having one or two projects set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the MCU really hasn’t had much time to address the aftermath of Thanos’ actions. We’ve seen the fallout from perspectives like Peter Parker’s and Monica Rambeau’s, but with the Flag Smashers, it looks like we’ll finally see how the Blip affected the world at large — because it doesn’t seem like everyone is thrilled with the return of half the universe.

There’s so much to tackle in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but the series is off to a promising start. With any luck, it’ll continue down this character-focused path. It’s something we need more of from the MCU.

dark. Next. Will WandaVision get a season 2 on Disney+?

The series premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.