There's a meme floating around which shows Wanda, Sam and Bucky standing at Tony Stark's funeral. It says, "We needed therapy but got a TV show instead". The meme is on point. WandaVision did indeed focus on Wanda's symbolic coping with grief. Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the latest MCU offering on Disney+, leans directly into the therapy part. Set in a "post-Blip" MCU like WandaVision, Falcon and The Winter Soldier takes its tonal, action and even plotting beats from Captain America: Winter Soldier – and that is a smart and a refreshing move.
As the episode opens, we dive straight into the action with Falcon, who must retrieve a kidnapped US Armed Forces officer from the clutches of a villain that many of you might remember. Without spoilers, it is fun to see that familiar face – and as always, the physicality of the action is heightened by his presence. The Falcon is assisted by Joaquin Torres, a US Armed Forces officer, who in the comics does take on the Falcon mantle.
As the episode progresses, we are introduced to the Winter Soldier. Bucky, who has now been pardoned, and is going through his conditional therapy. Bucky has his demons. He seeks redemption – and without Steve or Wakanda around, therapy is seemingly all he has got. Bucky is also attempting to right his wrongs – which forms the core of a rather well paced, yet meaningful character led episode and sets up an emotional conflict that I am personally curious to see play out. Meanwhile, Sam is back home and fighting different battles with the financial system and legacy.
It is a lot to pack in, in one episode – but even without a heavy dose of action towards the latter half – director Kari Skogland and the writers manage to deliver a fun, well-paced episode. There is, of course, a big bad villain organization we get to 'sort of' see and one suspects Baron Zemo (seen in the trailers) will follow suit as well. The first episode has already teased multiple plotlines that may extend beyond the show itself.
Final verdict, while Falcon and the Winter Soldier seemingly treads familiar MCU territory in terms of action and themes – its delivery is significantly deeper, and character led than one would expect. Unlike WandaVision, there is no unique format, conceptualization of grief or easter-egg led mysteries to be had. Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the MCU doing what it did best with the Captain America trilogy – delivering a "spy thriller, but with superheroes". The resultant mix is not only a lot of fun, but surprisingly layered too.