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The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 1: The Illusions of Freedom and Choice

The wait is finally over! At long last, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier‘s first episode is available on Disney+. Titled “New World Order”, this episode has everything from funny banter to existential crises. So let’s break down the episode. Of course, spoilers ahead! I’d definitely give the episode a watch before delving into this review.

Right off the bat we’re thrown into Falcon’s world. We see him dressing up for an event and stashing Steve’s iconic shield into a bag, a hint of what’s to come and the turmoil Sam’s about to face. We quickly discover that he’s rejoined the U.S. Air Force and is tasked with rescuing one of their operatives before a group of terrorists takes him over the Libyan border. It’s an engaging action sequence and a great way to kick off the series.

Sam’s life is exciting, but on the other side of the spectrum, Bucky Barnes is leading a mostly quiet life. He’s struggling with the idea that the world is peaceful now, that there’s no enemies threatening the planet or catastrophes to defend against. He’s in therapy and is working to correct the mistakes he made as a Hydra superweapon. But it’s a difficult process, and he has nightmares about his crimes. Those nightmares follow him into the waking world, where he’s befriended an old man named Mr. Nakasima. Through one of his recent nightmares we come to understand that Bucky killed Mr. Nakasima’s son, something he feels tremendous guilt over. And yet every time he tries to come forward with the truth, his fear holds him back. Though he’s on a path to correct what he did, he seems to take two steps forward and two steps back each time he comes close to forgiveness.

Bucky isn’t out on the field anymore, which is refreshing to see. But Sam’s gotten a taste of home life outside of his work. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Sam comes home to help his sister with her business. She’s been struggling for the past five years, and her frustrations are clearly defined and understood. Sam’s doing everything he can to help, even using his fame as Falcon to try and gain some leverage. But even that falls short. It makes for a sympathetic scene, where Sam’s trying so hard to save the family business and change things around. His sister is more grounded in reality. She’s already accepted the drastic measures she needs to take, even though it’ll be difficult.

Sam’s made some difficult choices already too. After Steve bestowed the shield to him, Sam’s clearly been wrestling with the idea of taking up the mantle of Captain America. He says that the shield feels like it belongs to someone else, and in a way, he’s right. But that drives him to donate the shield to a Steve Rogers memorial, sealing the shield’s fate as a relic of the past. It’s clear Sam doesn’t believe he’s the right man for the job. But that decision comes back to haunt him much quicker than expected.

Right at the end of the episode, we get the biggest twist of all. Not only has the shield been taken out of the memorial, but it’s been given to a new Captain America. The United States government proclaims that they need a hero now more than ever, someone with a symbol to get behind. We’re introduced to the new Captain America (who is probably John Walker based on the trailer and cast list). The episode ends with Sam and his sister watching the broadcast of the new Captain America wielding the shield with shocked and betrayed expressions.

While this episode has a lot of fun moments, it mostly sets up the world after the Thanos snap and how things have changed. Life may be peaceful now, but peace doesn’t exist for our two heroes. They’ve had to adjust to the fact that they’re not needed anymore, not in the same capacity. Bucky is free to roam as a civilian, but the government is watching his every move and he’s constantly fighting himself over past mistakes. Sam’s been busy as Falcon, but his status as a hero doesn’t carry much weight anymore. He doubts his ability to carry Steve’s legacy, and next episode he’ll likely have to wrestle with the fact that someone else has been given the shield. Steve asked Sam to take the shield, not some random cherry-picked government agent!

And let’s not forget the introduction of the Flag-Smashers. Going into this series, we knew they’d be one of our main antagonists. They might be the catalyst for Bucky and Sam’s reunion, but right now Sam’s the only one with some ties to the group. It’ll be interesting to see how and why they team up and what connections Bucky will have to the Flag-Smashers. Maybe one of their goonies is on his “Forgive Me” list.

This is an exciting start to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier overall. It asks just the right amount of questions and introduces us to a world where our heroes struggle with their own inner demons. The world may be at peace, but Sam and Bucky aren’t free of their responsibilities, and their memories and time as heroes guarantee that they themselves won’t be at peace for a long time.

Are you enjoying The Falcon and The Winter Soldier so far? What are your hopes for the next episode? Let us know in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

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Kayleigh Clark

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