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THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER 1×02 “The Star-Spangled Man” Review

Neil reviews today’s brand new episode of THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER calling it a “flawless followup” to last week’s premiere.

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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios)

Synopsis

John Walker is named Captain America, and Sam and Bucky team up against a rebel group.

Review

Looking back on last week’s episode of TFATWS (reviewed here) it feels like that episode really acted as a prologue for the adventure that Sam and Bucky now find themselves on. Episode one presented the series two leads at very different points in their lives. But also in very separate places. With the two not sharing a single frame of screen time it really amped up the sense of setting the scene.

With only five remaining episodes it felt like “Star-Spangled Man” needed to up the pacing in order to get things moving. But whilst it isn’t the most action-packed or fast moving episode, it certainly does not disappoint when it comes to showing fans what TFATWS is capable of.

As expected, the series is much more serialised that WandaVision. Rather than telling us a new contained story this week we got more of the same this week. With Wyatt Russell’s John Walker now unveiled as the new Captain America it quickly brings Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) together. Kari Skogland’s grip on the narrative as the series’ director seamlessly transitions from Malcolm Spellman’s writing last week to Michael Kastelein this week. The narrative flow is thus that I couldn’t tell “Star-Spangled Man” was written by someone different.

The ghost of Chris Evans’ Cap looms much less this week. Instead the series opens with much more focus on John Walker and his introduction to the world as the new Captain America. The episode does skip us forwards in his story. He’s been on a national tour, similar to Cap, and is now revisiting his old high school. It reflects story elements from Captain America: First Avenger brilliantly. The callbacks to Cap’s tour and how his presence was merely a promotional tool give a sense to the hollowness of his appointment. The difference here is that Walker does also get involved in the fight but without the cameras and the entourage following him.

Walker’s presence offers up problems for both Sam and Bucky. For Sam, as it did in the climax of last week’s episode, it reflects his reluctance to take on the role. The gravity of his decision to give up the shield weighs heavily on him and Mackie plays that weight flawlessly. For Bucky there’s an annoyance that Sam chose not to take up the shield given to him by Steve in Avengers: Endgame. It creates a kind of buddy-cop dynamic which Mackie and Stan appear to revel in playing. They bicker like an old married couple and play in to Marvel’s comedic sweet spot.

“Star-Spangled Man” also ups the ante on the series’ action. We had the excellent opening sequence with Falcon last week. This week it’s the fight atop a series of moving trucks which has been teased in the trailers. Though the green screen feels a little off at times, the scene itself is incredibly well choreographed. It confirms that TFATWS is the stylistic follow-up and maturation of Captain America: Civil War. Honestly that was my biggest hope for this series and it has been confirmed so easily by this one, gritty, brawl.

The final tease these week has the Flag Smashers in the wind, S.W.O.R.D. cropping back up and Zemo ready to appear. The stage is set for TFATWS to become the epic adventure we all know it can be.

Verdict

With all the pieces moving nicely around the board, “Star-Spangled Man” is a flawless follow up to last week’s series premiere.

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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