At the end of the last instalment in the Avengers saga, we saw an old, wrinkled Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, who had lived a fulfilling life when he went back in time to return the stones.
He abdicated his responsibilities as Captain America and asked Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, to take up his mantle.
Watch the trailer of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier here
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier sets off from this point and extends beyond the internal conflicts within Sam Wilson to much broader and more pressing issues like the refugee crisis and systemic disenfranchisement of the Black community in America.
Although the story is not as whimsically creative as Wandavision, it is still a worthwhile miniseries with a fresh premise, an articulate portrayal of real-life circumstances and cleverly plotted connections to other Marvel films and shows.
Malcolm Spellman's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is the latest Marvel miniseries directed by Kari Skogland. Following the success of Wandavision, Marvel has released this mini-series on Disney+ hoping to climb to the pinnacle of success.
Probably for the first time in the MCU, a show has tapped into so many serious issues that everyone from geeks to the average layman will be able to relate to. On top of that, if you are looking for quirky bits, shocking easter eggs, heroic action scenes or simply entertainment, you are in luck as well.
What is the show about?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier depicts a world in chaos and desperate need of a beacon of hope, a hero. We observe our favourite characters - Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) -coming to terms with the fact that the Cap is no more.
A bereaved Sam (Anthony Mackie) seems to be in a denial about accepting the role of Captain America and repeatedly claims that the shield does not belong to him. However, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) insists he snaps out of it and does what needs to be done.
In the meantime, the US government appoints another Army Veteran, John Walker, as the new Captain America - leading to a strife between Bucky and Sam. But neither Sam nor Bucky do not have the time to deal with these as stormy clouds gather around the horizon in the form of "Flag Smashers" - a group of anarchists whose goal is to unite all refugees and take control of the global political order.
Apparently, they have recreated the super soldier serum (used to create the Winter Soldiers). Their goal is to revolutionise the global order by giving control back to the people. Thus begins a series of cat and mouse chases where our heroes try to unravel the mysteries behind their power, ways to defeat them or persuade their leader, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), to put an end to this madness.
But how good is the show?
First, let's talk about the story, which is a bold attempt with thought-provoking sub-plots.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is incredibly class-conscious in the sense that it portrays the ultra-billionaires as the true villains of the story. It depicts a semi-realistic version of the struggles of refugees all around the world - the constant relocation, displacement and systematic disenfranchisement that eventually prompts the attempted revolution by the Flagsmashers.
It goes even further by incorporating the silent struggle of the Black men behind every success story of the White American populace in the form of Isaiah Bradley, a Black Super Soldier, who was supposed to be the Captain America.
Instead, he was tortured, experimented on and left for dead by the US government. The show comes full circle when it makes history by officially giving the mantle of Captain America to a black man and the fans are loving this idea. Isaiah Bradley also gets his recognition as his memorial is launched in the Captain America Museum.
For the first time in The Falcon, we see an avenger embracing a grounded life - doing chores like any ordinary human and prioritising his family over anything. We see the struggles of Sam's family; representative of the average Black household living in ghettos where the odds are stacked against them to such a degree that even the Falcon cannot do much about it.
Amid these difficulties, we see Sam juggling his responsibilities as an avenger and to his family through much trial and error and eventually coming to terms with his grief, indecision and regret.
Quite similarly, we also witness Bucky dealing with PTSD, as his awful past as the Winter Soldier keeps haunting him in his dreams - reminiscent of the struggles real-life veterans of war often go through regularly.
So, when Bucky was finally able to confess his crimes to his friend Yuri, the father of one of the victims, it felt authentic, fulfilling and heart-breaking.
The central storyline left a lot to be desired
Firstly, the motivation of the antagonists - the Flagsmashers - seemed a bit confusing. We witness the group looting banks, bombing innocent people and causing utter mayhem which often feels inconsistent with their core goals.
At first, they bomb a building full of innocent people after which Kylie claims it to be a necessary sacrifice. However, such a senseless murder spree on her part made it really difficult to empathise with her struggles, especially when she whimsically planned to kill John Walker.
At places, it felt like the writers were caught up between portraying her character in a typical "good vs bad" dichotomy. Karli's endgame strategy to capture global leaders was also quite flimsy and which eventually got her killed.
To be perfectly candid, Karli's actions throughout her character arcs were often inconsistent.
Coming to the relationship of Bucky and Sam, in the previous movie, Captain America: Civil War, we have seen a fiery and gripping repartee of these two heroes. As the encounter was short, we expected to have an elaborated explanation of this duo's relationship. Sadly, it was a bit underwhelming.
Then came the character of Zemo who barely added any value to the story as a villain and more often than not, things just got served to him on a silver platter. Case in point: Zemo's escape amid the chaotic action sequence between the new Captain and the Dora Milaje, where he just walks out the door without our heroes even noticing.
Furthermore, the fight between John Walker and the Dora Milaje was unwarranted and could easily be solved through mediation.
The portrayal of John Walker - the new Captain America - also felt very forced. Walker's character felt like a third wheel to the transition arc from Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson. Walker's descent into madness where he publicly created a horrific scenario seemed a bit childish which, however, the series portrayed as an act of revenge.
At so many places, the story felt loosely tied together by contemporary subtext, artful cinematography, unexpected twists and thrilling action sequences that often featured the Falcon and his redwing - the Winter Soldier, the New Captain America and the Flagsmashers.
However, the last two episodes of the show made up for most of it. The cathartic montage of Sam Wilson embracing his role as Captain America and his inspiring monologue about the refugee crisis sent shivers down our spines.
Intricate details and easter eggs you may have missed
The series began with a filmy chase and some wild mid-air moments where Falcon is seen with his adorable redwing, which resembles the bird that supports Falcon in the comic books. We also saw Torres, his air force liaison, directing to fight Batroc. Torres, according to the comics, is rumoured to be the next Falcon.
The most burning question of this series is: Where is Steve Rogers?
Even in the first episode, we have seen a suspicious tone when Sam replied to Torre's curiosity about Steve being alive. When James and Sam were walking through the museum, we saw a list of the names who were missing when Thanos snapped.
Surprisingly, most of the names were random and it included many of the crew members of this series. However, none of them uttered a word about Steve's death.
Furthermore, why did Bucky kill his good friend Yuri's son? That also remained unclarified. A funny fact was John walker appearing on the morning show at night and hopefully, it has some logical explanation as well.
Zemo's success in fulfilling his dream of killing all the super-soldiers was another most surprising twist in the story.
However, the question remains as to why Zemo decided to go back to prison instead of escaping. Sharon's revelation as the powerbroker - the enabler of Karli's rise as a flag smasher - will also have important implications for upcoming movies and series in the MCU.