The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Ep. 1 clues, takeaways & predictions
The time has finally arrived for the first episode of Disney+’s second Marvel Cinematic Universe series, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and while it may not be quite as plot-heavy as its predecessor WandaVision, there is still plenty of exciting moments and reveals to unpack!
Clues: Sam’s Stepping Back, Bucky’s Making Amends and There’s a New HYDRA in Town
The episode opens with Sam on a mission in his titular suit to rescue a military Captain Vasant after he’s abducted by a criminal organization by the name of LAF. While neither the Captain or the organization currently have an explicit history in the world of Marvel Comics, we’ll see what comes in the following weeks.
During the mission, we see the two other persons of interest being a member of the U.S. Air Force Joaquin Torres, who some fans might recognize from the comics, and Georges Batroc, who first made his MCU debut in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a pirate taking a S.H.I.E.L.D ship hostage though was actually hired by Nick Fury to allow Natasha Romanoff the chance to steal confidential files exposing the HYDRA conspiracy. Batroc, also known in the comics as Batroc the Leaper, is leading the efforts to abduct Vasant but narrowly escapes Sam destroying the helicopter he’s in.
While resting after the mission, Torres reveals to Sam he’s tracking a mysterious organization known as the Flag-Smashers, who are looking to unify the world without borders and enjoyed how society was following Thanos’ snap. Sam asks that Torres keeps him in the loop as he continues monitoring the group.
Sam returns to Washington to address that Steve Rogers gifted him the iconic Captain America vibranium shield at the end of Avengers:Endgame, with James “Rhodey” Rhodes in attendance of the conference, though announces he is retiring the shield and mantle of Cap to the Smithsonian as he believes it’s time for the country and world to continue forging their own paths and embodying their own positive morals and values other than those put forward by Steve.
Meanwhile, Bucky is shown killing an enemy of HYDRA in a flashback as well as an innocent witness, awaking from the nightmare and refusing to acknowledge it in his therapy session, which is a condition of his pardon by the US in an effort to ensure he doesn’t revert to his brainwashed past state. It’s shown he is currently working to make amends by helping bring former HYDRA pawns to justice while following the rules of no illegal actions, no hurting anyone and indicating to everyone on his list he is no longer The Winter Soldier, he is Bucky Barnes and is making amends, followed by a smile.
We get a brief glimpse inside Bucky’s book of names, which includes: A. Rostov (possibly Red Barbarian or Agamemnon), P.W. Hauser (likely Wilhelm Hauser, though also possibly a nod to Stan’s I,Tonya co-star Paul Walter Hauser), F. Gannod, I. Tahlazar, H. Zemo (I think that needs no explantation), H. Henrikson, N. Sari, T. Osman, L. Kaminski (possibly a nod to Marvel Comics writer Len Kaminski, who helped write numerous issues of Iron Man and War Machine), M. Kaminski and C. Kusnetsov (possibly a reference to Soviet scientist Doctor Kuznetsov, who created the robot Udarnik in the comics).
Bucky’s ignoring Sam’s texts and isolating himself as he tries to figure out his path forward since the only peace he’s found was in his time in Wakanda when he wasn’t drawn into a fight, though with his therapist being a veteran herself, she criticizes that someone’s who has seen as many bodies as they have only finds true peace in action. Despite this isolation, Bucky is trying to make friends with an older man in his neighborhood, frequenting a local sushi bar and the old man asking the bartender on a date with too-shy Bucky. We also learn that the old man, Yori, had a son who died though he doesn’t know how or why and it’s later revealed when Bucky visits him after bailing mid-date that his son was the innocent witness he killed in the earlier flashback.
Meanwhile Sam is reuniting with his sister and nephews, who all aged during The Blip after he was written out of existence and learns that his sister is planning on selling the family fishing boat as she can’t afford repairs and it’s costing her more money than she’s making from the business. Not ready to sell off their family legacy, Sam pushes for them to try the banks again for a new loan and despite the banker being star-struck over Sam’s hero status, he has to reject the request as Sam showed no form of income for five years, given he was gone, and that the Avengers don’t have any kind of payment plan set up and rely on goodwill from the public.
We later see that Torres has traveled to Germany to track down the Flag-Smashers and comes across an impromptu gathering in which a robbery occurs and a superpowered being lands from a few stories up with bags of cash and hands them off to two seemingly similar-powered cohorts before going off to fight against some cops. As Torres tries to apprehend the leader, he is easily overpowered and knocked out, sending the video footage he captured to Sam.
The two are interrupted by Sam’s sister showing him a news broadcast announcing that the Department of Defense and President have elected a new Captain America, who greets the crowd with waves and the camera with a wink before more can be explained about him.
Takeaways: Sam’s Looking for a Legacy, Bucky Needs a Purpose and Cap’s Got a Brand New Bag
The premiere for the latest MCU series was filled with an absolute treasure trove of character moments and evolution not previously seen in the franchise for its titular heroes, namely in the mental state of Bucky and a near-aimless Sam. The latter might still be going on missions under his Falcon mantle, but without his best friend Steve to live up to and the pressure of being gifted the shield and his family legacy coming apart financially, he’s struggling to find his own legacy. Bucky is certainly showing signs of growth, slowly making new friends, attending his therapy and making amends, but it’s definitely clear he also is lacking a sense of purpose in his life if it’s not a mission. While Bucky’s book of names certainly acts a treasure trove of potential future introductions from the comics, certainly the inclusion of Helmut Zemo on his amends list and the knowledge the villain will don his iconic purple hood poses an interesting question as to how he will fit into the story of the Flag-Smashers. Last, but certainly not least, there’s new Captain America John Walker, a brightly-grinning beacon of hope for the country though those who know him better for the comics are certainly prepared for an eventual heel turn.
Predictions: Sam Will Accept The Mantle, We’re Getting a New Falcon and More Explosions
Sam might have declined to take on the shield of Cap for the moment, but the series’ introduction of Torres and the mini bot extension of Falcon’s exosuit named Redwing does point towards the comics’ evolution of the character from his former mantle into becoming the latest Cap for the world. In the 2012-15 Marvel NOW! relaunch, Sam is appointed as Steve’s replacement after he ages into an old man and in the first six issues of Captain America: Sam Wilson, he helps rescue Torres after he is abducted by the Sons of the Serpent and turned into a human/bird hybrid and after defeating the supervillain group, Sam agrees to take Torres under his wing as the new Falcon. While human experimentation in this form may be a little outside of the grounded realm the MCU is currently in, especially this series, the strong bond Sam and Torres have already shown in the first episode and this series’ path of exploring the former’s search for a legacy, it’s highly likely that we will see the young Air Force member brought into the Avengers fold as a new iteration of the Falcon.
In the comics, the Flag-Smasher was a sole villain rather than an anarchist group, but in addition to the mantle the series has also borrowed the name of the original supervillain Karl Morgenthau, with Erin Kellyman portraying Karli Morgenthau. Morgenthau, the son of a diplomat who was trampled to death in a Latverian embassy, used his terrorism to spread an anti-nationalist sentiment and formed the society ULTIMATUM, whose mission was very akin to the show’s group, and was a frequent villain of Captain America. Unlike Karli, the comic book version of the villain was not superpowered but instead a mastermind and highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat, so it will be interesting to see where the series takes the villains, though given their anarchist message and mission, it’s highly likely we’re going to get a lot more explosions than we’ve already been given.