The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: “The Star-Spangled Man” Review

After getting off to a strong start by setting up its characters, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier continued with an episode filled with both humor and poignancy.  Both Sam and Bucky face struggles and challenges, and things are far grayer than anyone realized.

The New “Captain America”
Following his introduction and instant hatred by the entire fan community online, we get to know John Walker (Wyatt Russell) more as a person and why he’s taken up the shield.  He has the all-American background and in a weird way kind of represents exactly what Captain America was supposed to be from the beginning.

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He feels very corporate product…

Back in The First Avenger, Steve was initially only meant to be a piece of propaganda, but he wanted to do more.  And that’s partly why everyone hates this new Captain America so much.  To be fair, he is doing missions and admittedly did swoop in and save Bucky and Sam (which they won’t admit), but he also eats up the publicity and fame as well.

Plus no one likes change, so it’s really no surprise that he quickly became not only the most hated MCU character, but one of the most hated characters in TV history (even more than Skyler in Breaking Bad).

Lost Souls Apart
Whereas the first episode just featured their simultaneous stories separately, here we see Bucky and Sam on screen together and it goes about as well as you could predict based on their previous interactions.

Steve really was the unifying force that kept them together and it’s fascinating to watch them struggle with that now.  Bucky resents Sam for not accepting the shield and title, and Sam has some clear regret, not realizing that they were going to give it to someone else.

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Sam was usually used for comedic relief and never really got his own arc, but with this series Anthony Mackie is able to demonstrate a wide range of both dramatic and comedic skills.

Their completely different backgrounds and zero shared life experience make it hard to bond.  Bucky is a man out of the time like Steve was, only without his support system.  And Sam is just trying to piece his life back together but he faces challenges he really shouldn’t.

There’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene where the two are arguing in the street and the police come out, immediately assuming that Sam is causing trouble.  Of course when they realize who he is they back down and admire him.

But the fact remains that before they knew he was an Avenger, they make a quick judgement about him, and believed him to be a threat.  It’s a difficult and painful subject, but it’s very real and its inclusion helps ground this series in reality.

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This scene also includes the introduction of Isaiah, another super soldier who was left out of history for a similar reason. Sam feels that as a black hero, he should have been honored the way that Captain America was.

Lost Souls United
As of now the only thing that the two can agree on is they don’t like Walker and don’t want to work with him.  The bitter but humorous relationship between the two is the very heart of the series and Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie do a great job with it.

They have a real “odd couple” chemistry to them, which makes the couples counseling scene with Bucky’s therapist all the more funny.  But when they actually work together, they make a really strong team and have more in common than they realize.

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Their interactions can get petty, but they’re very entertaining.

Both characters had great admiration for Steve and everything he stood for, rather than the showiness of Captain America image.  And when they put their minds together, they stumble upon a group of super soldiers with possible connections to HYDRA, and they both have the same thought of who they should consult next (hint: it’s a villain we’ve seen before).

Last week, the series premiere helped set the stage for the characters, and this episode did a great job of getting the plot moving.  With only four more episodes, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is poised to be a thrilling and fun self-contain miniseries.

What did you think of this episode?  What do you hope to see next week? Let us know in the comments!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming exclusively on Disney+

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