In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” debut recap, Sam finds out life moved on without him while he was gone for five years and Bucky is still dealing with the sins of his past…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When it comes to the best movies that exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to argue against “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from occupying a spot at least somewhere near the top of that list.
The film was one part spy thriller, another part superhero story that also introduced Sam Wilson as Falcon and Bucky Barnes returning as the Winter Soldier. Now seven years later, those two characters are starring in the second ever TV series from Marvel Studios on Disney+ following Captain America’s retirement from the game.
Actually, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was supposed to be the first series to debut on Disney+ but production delays thanks to the coronavirus pandemic pushed back filming, which then led to “WandaVision” dropping back in January. While “WandaVision” tied closer to films such as “Doctor Strange,” it’s clear from just the first episode that “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will be much more grounded in reality in similar fashion to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — or at least as grounded as you can be with a superhero flying on mechanical wings and a 106-year-old former soldier turned brainwashed assassin turned Avenger.
The debut episode actually never puts Sam and Bucky in the same room, although it probably won’t take much longer to bring this duo together, especially with the level of intrigue already piling up. Nefarious forces are already at work and it feels like there’s going to be more than a few puzzles to solve over the next six episodes in this limited series.
There’s plenty to dissect so with that said, let’s recap the debut episode of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” titled “New World Order”….
Five Years Gone
From all accounts, “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” picks up approximately six months after the events in “Avengers: Endgame,” which means billions have returned from the blip but life is still getting adjusted back to normal after all those people suddenly just reappeared. Thanos may be defeated but that doesn’t mean Earth has solved the problems that come along with the aftermath of his devastating actions — even if everything was undone!
For Sam Wilson, he’s still being a hero and an Avenger after teaming up with the American military for an operation in Tunisia where they’ve discovered a hijacking is expected to take place. Due to restrictions from crossing over borders, the military can’t be seen flying into Tunisia or the next door neighbor at Libya so they’ve called in Sam to help with the operation.
After jumping out of the plane, Sam is connected with Torres — a military operations specialist, who will be his eyes on the ground as he approaches the plane that’s been targeted for hijacking by a terrorist group known as LAF.
When Sam makes it to the plane, he discovers that the hijackers have already taken over, which means he needs to get into action sooner rather than later as he cuts into the hull and bursts through to take on the LAF bad guys. That’s when Sam comes face to face with the leader of the hijackers — Georges Batroc (played by former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre) after he previously appeared in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Batroc gives Sam a run for his money before eventually taking one of the men on board hostage while he and his men jump out of the plan to make their escape while air surfing with hopes of crossing over the border into Libya where they can’t be followed by American forces.
The ensuing chase lets Sam do his best high flying acrobats while literally fighting terrorists in mid-air as well as through a pair of helicopters before finally rescuing the American serviceman from being held hostage. Only Georges Batroc survives from the terrorist group as he jumps out of the last helicopter before it blows up.
Back on the ground, Torres celebrates with Sam while he makes some repairs on his flying suit as he informs him about new threats that have arisen after the blip. While the LAF has just been trying to take advantage of the ensuing chaos that comes along with billions of people just suddenly returning to Earth, another group called the Flag Smashers have an entirely different agenda in mind.
They’ve been marking places with a strange handprint insignia and their manifesto essentially says the world was better off when billions of people disappeared after Thanos snapped his fingers in “Avengers: Infinity War.” This group wants to wipe out all borders with a united front across the entire world.
Of course, Torres can’t help but ask Sam about the wild conspiracy theories he’s heard since Captain America disappeared at the end of the fight with Thanos. While Sam knows that Steve Rogers traveled back in time and stayed with Peggy Carter to enjoy the life they never got to have together, Sam obviously can’t tell the rest of the world those details.
It seems the latest theory is that Steve is living on the moon, literally watching down over Earth just in case we ever need Captain America again. Sam is happy to dispel that rumor before packing up his gear and heading back to Washington D.C. for a special event that he needs to attend.
In the closing moments of “Avengers: Endgame” when Steve returned from the past to hand over his shield to Sam, the man who had become Captain America’s best friend told him that he felt like the star-spangled weapon just felt like it belonged to somebody else. While Steve assured him that the shield now belonged to him, Sam never quite settled with the reality that he was taking over for Captain America.
In response to those feelings, Sam has decided to hand over Captain America’s shield to the Smithsonian for safe keeping where it will join other items from his years spent saving the world. He makes a speech about why he’s decided to give up the shield and an unnamed Senator thanks him for doing the right thing by handing it over for prosperity.
“Symbols are nothing without the women and men that give them meaning. This thing, I don’t know if there’s ever been a greater symbol but it’s more about the man who propped it up and he’s gone. So today we honor Steve’s legacy but also we look to the future. Thank you, Captain America. This belongs to you.”
~ Sam Wilson
Needless to say when they’re telling him he’s doing the right thing, that’s pretty much a guarantee that he’s not.
Also one side note — where did Steve get this shield that he handed over to Sam? His original shield was destroyed during the fight against Thanos but after going back in time and then returning to present day, he has a new vibranium shield to hand over to Sam. Perhaps that will never be explaned.
As for Sam’s conflicted feelings over the shield, he speaks with James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who is also at the ceremony and he wonders why he didn’t take up the mantle since it was handed directly to him by Captain America. But Sam just doesn’t feel right trying to take over Steve’s legacy so he wanted to honor him by giving up the shield.
After the ceremony in Washington D.C., Sam then heads down to Louisiana to see his family — a sister named Sarah, who is a widowed single mother with two children.
It seems Sarah has taken over the Wilson family business where they run a fishing boat and seafood operation but times have been tough since their parents passed away. In fact, Sarah is planning on selling their parents’ boat in order to help make ends meet.
Sam disagrees with his sister’s decision and instead offers to pitch in a helping hand while also convincing her to take out a loan that will help them keep the boat and restart the family business. She reluctantly agrees and goes with Sam to a local bank to apply for the loan.
That meeting ends in disaster after the loan officer spends more time playing fan boy to an Avenger like Falcon but then turning down his loan application. During the conversation, an interesting point is raised that’s never really been addressed before — how exactly do the Avengers make a living?
Sam is reluctant to ask that question, which means he can’t show steady income despite the fact that he’s a worldwide hero, and ultimately the loan is denied, which puts the family business back into peril again.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes is trying to adjust to a new life after he returned from the dead for a second time. Following the events in “Avengers: Endgame,” Bucky was offered a full pardon for his past crimes but he’s still kept a running tally of the people he wronged or helped for HYDRA while serving as The Winter Soldier.
He’s been systematically crossing them off a list but never breaking three cardinal rules along the way, which means he’s not hurting or killing anybody but rather handing them over to authorities or making things right with other means.
But Bucky is still tormented by his past where he routinely has nightmares that take him back to those missions when he was brainwashed, killing people under HYDRA’s orders. He remembers one operation in particular where he wiped out an entire group of security officers and then killed his target but there was one innocent bystander that saw it all happen.
The person begs for his life but the Winter Soldier couldn’t possibly leave any witnesses so he pulls the trigger and that’s when Bucky wakes up in a cold sweat.
He goes to therapy that day while his doctor attempts to poke and prod at him for answers about his progression through the nightmares and the constant torment from his past. Bucky tells her that he once found some sense of peace while living in Wakanda but ever since returning home from the blip, he’s just been haunted by the things he’s done — even if he had no control over his actions.
After leaving therapy, Bucky runs into one of his neighbors — an older man named Yori, who goes to lunch with him quite often. While Yori isn’t in the mood on that particular day, Bucky offering to pay coaxes him into having lunch at a local sushi joint.
They share some food and Yori even helps out Bucky’s dating life by hitting on the girl working at the sushi restaurant for him. The two of them make a date for later that night while Bucky is still stunned that the old man made a move like that.
Before finishing lunch, Yori’s mood turns from happy to dour after he spots some mochi sitting on the counter and that reminds him of his son. It seems years earlier, his son was working for a consulting firm overseas and he was murdered in a crime the police could only call “wrong place, wrong time” but he’s tormented by the fact that he’ll never truly know what happened to him.
Of course, Bucky knows all about that torment.
When it comes time to go on his date, Bucky arrives at the sushi restaurant and he ends up having drinks with the girl while playing a game of Battleship. Along the way, she begins quizzing Bucky in a game of “getting to know you” and she mentions that it’s sweet how he spends time with Yori, who has been grieving tremendously ever since the death of his son.
That’s all Bucky needs to hear to end the date — he walks out and returns to his apartment building where he knocks on Yori’s door. When he answers, there’s a tribute to his son on a mantle behind him and that’s when it all comes together.
Yori’s son was the innocent bystander that just so happened to witness the Winter Soldier assassinating a group of people and he ended up as collateral damage.
Bucky stares at the image and then at Yori before apologizing for not paying him back for lunch but later he looks at his name on the list of people he needs to reconcile with for all the horrific acts he committed while under HYDRA’s spell. Obviously, Bucky is still carrying around a tremendous amount of baggage from his days as the Winter Soldier and it’s not getting any easier to have that weight on his shoulders.
Back overseas, Torres is determined to get more information on the Flag Smashers so after monitoring some online chatter he shows up at a designated meeting place where new members are expected to join. Out of nowhere, someone shows up with a bag filled with masks featuring that same handprint symbol that he’s spotted all over the place.
Everybody puts on a mask just as a thief busts out of a bank carrying two giant duffel bags filled with cash. The thief also has one of the masks over his face, which shows this was a coordinated attack because now everyone in the area is wearing that same mask and authorities have no idea who to arrest.
But Torres keeps a beat on the thief and tries to stop him only get to get tossed like sack of potatoes and then curb stomped by the assailant, who makes a clean getaway.
Busted up and still nursing his wounds the next day, Torres calls Sam to tell him what happened and his interaction with the Flag Smashers. Both recognize that this thief may have some kind of powers but neither wants to fully acknowledge it but it’s something Sam is going to have to bring to the attention of the American military.
That’s not the only problem he’s doing to deal with now.
His sister alerts him to the news on television as the Senator who thanked him for giving up the shield is now making an announcement about a new symbol that will stand for truth, justice and the American way. With that, the Senator introduces a new Captain America — complete with the shield that Steve gave to Sam after saying goodbye to him one final time.
Sam is stunned and now he’s gotta live with the fact that he gave up only to have the American government betray him to hand it over to someone else.
That person holding the shield is John Walker — played by actor Wyatt Russell — and he’s a pretty famous character from Marvel Comics best known for his moniker U.S. Agent. The character has undergone numerous changes over the years, first starting out as the Super-Patriot — an American loving hero, who felt like Captain America’s values weren’t quite strong enough. Eventually, Walker even took up the title of Captain America after Steve Rogers gave it up.
Later, Walker became known as U.S. Agent while wearing an outfit very similar to Captain America and he was typically heroic in his actions, although with questionable political views at times in comparison to some of the other heroes he served alongside.
At this early stage of the game it’s unknown how Walker will be used in “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” but for now it appears he’s going to take up the cowl of Captain America, much to Sam’s chagrin.
“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” returns with a brand new episode next Friday on Disney+