Performing the Three Episode Test On The Falcon and The Winter Soldier


The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has now premiered on Disney Plus.

Keely Jordan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Whenever I start a new television show, I always watch the first three episodes before deciding if I want to continue with the show. The way I see it, if I am not hooked by episode three, the show is not worth my time. However, with this show, I could tell that I was invested by episode one. I’m going to be breaking down the show’s premise, what I loved so far, and why The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not a typical Marvel property. This review will have spoilers for the first three episodes and most of the Captain America movies and Avengers Endgame. 

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a new Marvel TV show that arrived on Disney Plus three weeks ago. The second Marvel TV show of Phase 4 of the MCU is shaping up to be nothing like the MCU has ever seen before. The show follows Sam Wilson and James “Bucky” Barnes as its titular characters, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. For those not caught up on the MCU, Sam and Bucky were close friends with Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. The show takes place after Avengers Endgame and is about these two characters navigating the legacy that Steve left behind when he gave up Captain America’s title. However, the show is so much more than just that premise, diving deep into issues like civil rights and how veterans are treated in America. 

Episode one, New World Order:  

The first episode engagingly kickstarted the show. Picking up six months after the blip, when half of the population in the world came back, the show begins with a “where are they now” of Bucky and Sam. 

Sam is continuing to work as the falcon. The episode begins with him rescuing an air force captain from a terrorist organization. After the mission, Sam returns to Washington DC. In D.C, Sam decides to donate Captain America’s shield to the Smithsonian. He opts not to take up the mantle. He proclaims that only Steve Rogers is worthy of holding the title of Captain America. There is also a brief cameo from James “Rhodey” Rhodes or War Machine. Sam also reunites with his sister Sarah who has been supporting his family independently since Sam disappeared in the snap. The show does not shy away from showing the black experience. Despite Sam being an Avenger, his family is still struggling to support itself and is on the cusp of losing their boat.

The episode continues by switching the focus onto Bucky. Bucky is coping with the trauma of being the Winter Soldier. He is going to therapy to try and is doing his best to reform for his past. 

Episode one also introduced the show’s main villain, the Flag Smashers. They are a group of vigilantes that liked the way the world was before the blip. Their goal is to tear down all nations and unite the world under one world. 

The episode ends with a big reveal. The government, determining that the nation needed a Captain America, selected a new Cap, a soldier named John Walker. 

Episode 2, The Star-Spangled Man: 

This episode is my favorite episode thus far. It touches upon subject matter that I honestly did not anticipate a Marvel property talking about. 

The episode begins by introducing who John Walker is. He is a soldier who is struggling to live up to the legacy of Steve Rogers but ultimately feels qualified for the job. Bucky takes an immediate dislike for him, feeling like Walker is trying to replace Steve. Sam is disheartened that the government would disrespect his wishes, but he feels like giving Walker a chance. However, Walker shows that he is not deserving of the chance when he talks down to the two Avengers, telling them to stay out of his way. 

In this episode, we also learn more about The Flag Smashers. We learn that they are run by a young girl named Karli Morgenthau. They are stealing supplies and medicine to give to refugees in relocation camps. Suddenly, the motivation of the villains becomes far more human. We also learn that The Flag Smashers are a group of super-soldiers and that someone has recreated the serum that turned Bucky and Steve into super soldiers in the first place. 

Throughout the episode, Bucky chastises Sam for not taking the shield. Their interactions culminate in a scene with Bucky’s therapist. Bucky expresses that he fears that if Steve was wrong about Sam, he was incorrect about Bucky being a good person. 

The two most impactful and relevant scenes of the show thus far happen toward the midpoint of this episode. While looking for leads about the super-soldier serum, Bucky suggests that he and Sam visit a man named Isaiah. Isaiah is a black super-soldier from around the same time as Steve. He forces the audience and MCU fans to face an uncomfortable reality; no matter how good a person Steve Rogers was, he still benefited from white supremacy. While Steve went on nationwide tours and was uplifted as a hero, Isaiah suffered. He was forced to undergo experimentation, he had his blood taken without his consent and later sold, and he was used as a human weapon by the US military.  His treatment parallels the real-life human experimentation performed on black people around that time. 

Directly after this scene, Sam and Bucky get into a verbal fight. Sam gets angry at Bucky for not telling him that there was a black super-soldier. Bucky says that he was trying to protect Isaiah from reliving the trauma that being put in the spotlight would have caused him. Knowing Steve Rogers, the man would have fought tooth and nail to ensure that the government honored Isaiah properly. However, the experience would have been incredibly painful for Isaiah. For this reason, Bucky stayed silent. 

While Sam and Bucky are arguing, police officers, pull up and surround them, guns raised and pointed at Sam. They don’t know who Sam and Bucky are, so in this setting, they aren’t two Avengers arguing; they’re just a black man and a white man fighting. The cops instantly take Bucky’s side and ask if Sam is harassing him, even though Sam is justifiably angry and poses no physical danger to Bucky. If anything, Bucky the super-soldier assassin with a vibranium (the strongest metal in the world in the MCU) arm posed a much greater threat to Sam if their confrontation turned violent, which it would not have. The confrontation ends with the cops realizing that Sam is an Avenger and backing down. Bucky is arrested for missing his court-mandated therapy. 

Episode 3, Power Broker: 

Episode 3 felt like MCU fan service to me. However, it was an engaging, plot-relevant MCU fan service. This episode reconnects fans with Zemo, a character from Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, Zemo was never my favorite character. He was a history buff and a baron of a nation known as Sokovia, a very relevant fictional nation in the MCU. Despite this, he was relatively uninteresting, though he did portray a decent threat as a side villain. 

This version of Zemo is far better. He does my favorite trope of all time when the bad guy begrudgingly assists the heroes for the sake of his gain. He is witty and sarcastic. I hope that he stays a relevant character because he proved to be an incredibly funny comic relief. 

The episode also reintroduces Sharron Carter from the Captain America movies. She was a secondary love interest of Steves and is now branded as an enemy of the state since she assisted Steve in an illegal mission. She is now hiding out in a city that of criminal dealings to avoid detection. 

Other than reintroducing new characters, this episode gave more insight into The Flag Smashers and their motivation. It also showed who made the super-soldier serum. 

In conclusion: 

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier passes the three-episode test with flying colors. In my view, I highly recommend it for any MCU fan and anyone in general. The show was easy enough to follow even without prior knowledge of the MCU. As a fan, it was a treat to see some of my favorite characters return. 

This show is tackling some intense subjects from racial disparity to PTSD and the treatment of veterans in this country. If you are sensitive to these subjects, consider this a strong content warning. 

However, the show is shaping up to be something excellent and is a truly exciting addition to Phase 4 of the MCU.