As Marvel expands to the streaming universe on Disney+ it allows for exploration of thoughtful themes. In WandaVision it was about what grief can cause in someone who can change her reality. After seeing her arc in the movies we knew what she had lost. Now this longer form of storytelling allowed it to be elaborated upon. The same happens in the second streaming series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
Each hero in the title has something to face. Even though Steve Rogers/Captain America gave him the shield on the movie screen. Sam Wilson/The Falcon must face whether he is worthy to bear it. Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier is now living a life where he can no longer be turned into a mindless assassin. It leaves him in a world which he wonders if it can forgive him his past. The entire first episode deals with understanding where these characters are in a world where Thanos has been defeated and half the world has reappeared after five years.
Along the way the question for Sam evolves into the possibility that the world isn’t ready for a Black Captain America. Writer Malcolm Spellman explores that completely. It arrives in the place you expect it to by the end. It makes the decision for Sam to take up the shield the end of a process instead of being bequeathed to him by the previous owner.
For Bucky he needs Sam to believe in himself because it allows him to believe in redemption. The bookends on the series are Bucky’s connection to a relative of one of the people he killed on a mission. We know he will have to face this person by the end.
The villains are also given shades of gray. If half the world disappeared. What happens when they come back and displace those who spread out into the open spaces? The organization that feels the need to violently protest is called The Flag Smashers. They want the world to realize they need to be seen, too.
What also makes this series so much fun is the action sequences. This is a return to those set pieces with heroes and villains fighting in interesting places. The beginning of the series is a high-flying fight as The Falcon swoops through helicopters chasing someone he needs to save. Throughout the series director Kari Skogland shoots these with a great sense of focus.
There are lots of connections to other parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with surprising people showing up. I enjoyed everything about this series. Both first series are adding so much to what we know of this next generation of Marvel heroes. When they move back to the silver screen it will be with better feeling about all of them.