Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes realise their futures are anything but normal.
Taking the position of follow up to WandaVision is no easy task for any Marvel property. Not least for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier which was originally set to air first. Does the more straightforward action-adventure series live up to the hype? By all accounts from this episode, the answer is yes.
This first episode, dubbed “New World Order,” is shadowed heavily by Chris Evans’ Captain America. As it should be. With the focus being on two of his closest allies, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), his spectre needs to loom large. Without directly appearing in the episode Chris Evans’ feels like a presence that haunts Sam. That presence is likely what brings these two together but for now Sam and Bucky are in very different places.
What is immediately striking about “New World Order” is how much it lives up to its title. Whilst the opening action sequence, after a misleading opening scene, feels like Marvel playing in its favourite sandbox. The rest of the episode feels like a step up for the MCU post-Endgame. There’s a level of emotional intelligence that has been lacking outside of the Captain America franchise. It evokes the political thriller nature of Winter Soldier but with the sensibilities of Endgame and WandaVision thrown in.
For Sam this new scenario means reconnecting with family. His sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) features heavily in the episode. Her presence provides a huge grounding rod for Sam. She represents everything he left behind when he went off to become a soldier and eventually Falcon. Whilst he has featured heavily in recent movies, Sam has always lacked in character development which has been lavished on a-list Avengers. That is no longer the case. Opening up his family life, including their struggles, brilliantly humanises the character and instantly involves the audience in this new corner of the MCU.
Bucky also has ghosts from his past to deal with. But whilst Sam is actively trying to change his situation, Bucky is drowning in his. Take a leaf our of Oliver Queen’s playbook, Bucky is carrying a list of those he wronged or helped during his time with Hydra. In some cases he’s righted his wrongs but in other cases, particularly with his neighbour Yori (Ken Takemoto). Bucky killed Yori’s son whilst on a mission and Yori has never been able to move on. Now living alone he is befriended by Bucky as a constant reminder of his past. It’s dark territory for the MCU but once again perfectly encapsulates this new state of emotional awareness.
“New World Order” successfully sets the scene for the five episodes to come. Bubbling away in the background are a group of “Flag Smashers.” We don’t learn much here other than they are well organised and mightily dangerous. The storyline loops in the excellent Danny Ramirez as Joaquin Torres (yes that name should sound familiar!) and widens the world of TFATWS sufficiently to up the ante as the episode comes to a close.
The climactic moments of “New World Order” circle back to the idea of Cap’s looming spectre. Sam’s actions with the shield handed to him by Old-Man Steve come back to haunt him in the worst way possible. It presents a dynamic political and personal problem to solve and left me ready for more.
As expected for a Marvel Studios production, “New World Order” is cinematic from start to finish. There’s less room to play with aspect rations like WandaVision but the show replaces this with a truly global feel. VFX are top notch and easily what any fan of the franchise has come to expect.
TFATWS starts off strong with a surprisingly emotional and poignant opening episode.
The six-part limited series is directed by Kari Skogland and stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes. Emily VanCamp returns as Sharon Carter alongside Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo, and Wyatt Russell as John Walker/USAgent.
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