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‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ season 1 recap – episode 1: ‘New World Order’

(Courtesy of Chuck Zlotnick)

"New World Order"

Directed by Kari Skogland

Disney +

March 19

By Paige Hua

March 20, 2021 8:07 a.m.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

There is a “New World Order” on the horizon, and “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” delivers it with a haunting timeliness.

On the heels of the staggering “WandaVision” finale, the newest Marvel series premiered Friday on Disney+, missing no beats when it comes to ushering in a post-Blip reality while tapping into today’s anxious and uncertain atmosphere. Set just a couple of months after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the show opens with Sam Wilson’s (Anthony Mackie) heartfelt decision to donate Captain America’s shield to the Smithsonian Institution. It’s a choice made from a mix of guilt and goodwill, setting a defined tone for the episode despite its ensuing murkier plotlines.

While “New World Order” strikes a balance between high-octane action sequences and emotionally complex reveals, the premiere is starkly divided into two storylines – that of the Falcon and that of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The dual paths are fitting for the series’ title, but with no hints of a team-up by the end of the episode, it leaves something to be desired in terms of pacing and cohesion.

[Related: ‘WandaVision’ season 1 recap – episode 9: ‘The Series Finale’]

However, that is not to say their separate storylines are not riveting in their own ways. The Falcon might not have been high on the fans’ lists of favorite Avengers, but after the thrilling opening sequences that show off Sam’s multiple flying maneuvers that visualize exactly why he’s a worthy member of a god-tier team, it would be no surprise if he moved up the ranks. Mackie brings to the table his own sense of suave charm and humor as well, making it clear that he carries no typical Avengers angst.

Sam’s personality is a sharp contrast to Stan’s Bucky Barnes – though that just makes their eventual team-up all the more exciting. Director Kari Skogland does plenty of justice to the Winter Soldier in this first episode, as Bucky is seen dealing with the traumatic aftermath of what has been a long life of war. He struggles through therapy and tries to make amends for the crimes he committed under the mind control of HYDRA. It’s a touching avenue for future character development – one that rediscovers the character of the Winter Soldier years after his eponymous movie in the Captain America franchise.

But despite an initial lack of connection between Sam and Bucky’s storylines, it’s impossible to deny that Marvel chose its villains well for this series. Ominously monikered as the “Flag-Smashers,” the rebel group is explained as preferring society during the Blip and is now hoping to create a world unified without borders.

[Related: ‘The Mandalorian’ season 2 recap – episode 1: ‘Chapter 9: The Marshal’]

The group carries explicit anarchist undertones, but it becomes clear throughout the episode that the “New World Order” might not be referring to the rebel group’s ideology. Instead, the new world order seems to be what Sam and Bucky are grappling with in the present day. With the two pillars of the Avengers now either passed or too old for the mantle, there is a void in the balance of global power – one that Sam leaves perilously unclaimed after giving up the shield.

Chaos becomes a subtle driving force in the episode as Sam wrestles with the family members and events he had missed in the five years in which he’d been Blipped. With everything and everyone he loves being five years older, Marvel taps into a universal truth of wanting to hold on to the familiar. Sam’s struggle to adjust to a completely new reality – one in which parts of his family’s business have to be sold in order to stay financially afloat – is not unfamiliar for audiences that had to deal with the same situation in the past year.

But what’s really refreshing is a new set of characters that infuse life into the show. Sam’s family in Louisiana feels grounded, and with two mischievous nephews, hopefully there’s another set of young Avengers on the way. On Bucky’s side, a bartender and possible love interest found in Leah (Miki Ishikawa) only fuels the possibilities of what new roles are at play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, it’s certainly refreshing that they are all people of color too.

It’s obvious that the pieces are on the board for fresh storylines and villains, but only time will tell if “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” will drum up the same amount of hype and fan theories as those of “WandaVision.”

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Paige Hua | Arts senior staff
Hua was the 2020-2021 Arts editor. She was previously the Theater | Film | Television Arts assistant editor.
Hua was the 2020-2021 Arts editor. She was previously the Theater | Film | Television Arts assistant editor.
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