‘New World Order’ – Falcon and Winter Soldier Series Starts Out Super Strong

Warning: spoilers for the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier!

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, played by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan respectively, quickly became a much-loved duo following the development of their on-screen friendship in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Sarcastic and seriously passive aggressive, they’re beyond entertaining to watch together, and trailers for the Disney+ miniseries starring the pair seem to suggest no different. The first episode of the series, titled ‘New World Order’, lets us catch up with Sam and Bucky as they adjust to their lives six months post-Blip-return and post-Steve. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the second instalment of Phase 4 of the MCU, following Wanda Vision – the first Disney+ Marvel miniseries. The opening scenes are action-packed as we see Sam, in full Falcon-attire, working with the US Air Force to rescue one of their own in Tunisian airspace. But the action doesn’t take up the entirety of the fifty-minute episode, and we’re quickly brought up to speed about what Sam and Bucky (who are yet to reunite) have been up to in their personal lives.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / The Falcon and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier in Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

One of the my favourite things about Marvel miniseries is that the episodic format allows for an unprecedented amount of personal and intimate depth that we never quite got from the movies. We’ve already seen it on WandaVision, with Elizabeth Olsen putting on a remarkable show as Wanda trying desperately to cope with Vision’s death… by subconsciously capturing and brainwashing an entire New Jersey town. Having returned from being snapped away by Thanos five years earlier, Sam is living with his sister Sarah (played by Adepero Oduye) and his young nephews in New Orleans, trying to help with her financial difficulties while facing some of his own. Meanwhile Bucky, having been pardoned and now under the supervision of his cynical and government-appointment therapist, is trying to amends with those he wronged while acting as The Winter Soldier. One of those people is Yori, a spirited old man living in Brooklyn who struggles to cope with the death of his son, as he doesn’t know the true circumstances under which he died. Later, we come to realise that Bucky knows how Yori’s son died because he was there, as the Winter Soldier, and, having to get rid of witnesses to his previous acts of violence, killed Yori’s son himself. Bucky’s guilt around his Winter Soldier days is certainly going to be an important and central theme in the show, let alone to the development of his character.

‘New World Order’ ends with the arrival of John Walker (played by Wyatt Russell) – the US government’s answer to the loss of Captain America and what he symbolised. Walker is holding Steve’s iconic vibranium shield, which Sam gave to the government earlier in the episode to be displayed in an exhibit dedicated to Steve. Even though Bucky and Sam have zero direct contact in this episode, though not for Sam’s lack of trying – Bucky’s therapist calls him out for ignoring Sam’s texts – it’s easy to see exactly how they’ll be brought together again. Walker’s sudden appearance isn’t going to bowl over well with either of them as Captain American’s two closest friends. As well as Walker, Sam’s new Air Force buddy Joaquin Torres (played by Danny Ramirez) is investigating the Flag-Smashers – a new terrorist group made of those who believe life was better during the Blip. They’re clearly in for a lot of action and adventure, in traditional Marvel-style, as they handle multiple enemies while reckoning with the personal and emotional aftermath of what happened in Avengers: Endgame.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson in Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Although The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has in-effect hit the ground running, setting up the storyline for future episodes with ease, it will be interesting to see how it measures up to WandaVision. Despite being entirely different in its premise, inspiration, and characterisation, WandaVision, with its slow burn and phenomenal storytelling, has undeniably left its mark on Marvel fans, meaning that despite any differences The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has some very tall orders to fill. Debuting so quickly after the finale of WandaVision also means that comparisons between the two are pretty much unavoidable. The series is also set to star Emily VanCamp, who will return as Sharon Carter – Peggy Carter’s niece, Steve’s brief love interest, and Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also starring is Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau, the leader of the Flag-Smashers; Don Cheadle reprising his role as Tony Stark’s best friend James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes; Georges St-Pierre as Goerges Batroc leader of criminal group LAF, and more.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+.

Disney’s WandaVision is Confusing yet Amazing

Warning: spoilers for the first two episodes of WandaVision!

Disney+ has finally released the first two episodes of the long-awaited WandaVision miniseries. Set after the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the series follows Wanda Maximoff / The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as they cycle through the decades and well-known TV tropes as a newlywed couple in the American suburb of Westview. Given that Vision died, at the hands of Wanda no less, during Avengers: Infinity War, his resurrection has certainly confused some. But if there’s one thing about WandaVision it’s that all is not as it seems…

With vintage clothing, outdated language (one character actually says “gee willikers”) and boisterous hairstyles, the first episode feels like it was taken right out of a 1950s sitcom. There’s also some great historical humour that makes the time period more than obvious – when Vision tells his boss that his wife is European, his boss responds by saying that he doesn’t break bread with Bolsheviks. Much of the show’s humour comes from Wanda and Vision’s inability to fit into their new surroundings as a majorly powerful superhero and a literal computer. We watch as the newlyweds step into the 50s suburban dream – complete with traditional gender roles and a white picket fence. In the first episode, after they spend the day trying to determine what a vague heart means on the kitchen calendar, they have a comedically chaotic dinner with Vision’s boss Mr. Hart and his ‘lovely lady wife’ Mrs. Hart. This episode immediately tells viewers that WandaVision is taking a radically different approach to the superhero-filled action that we usually associate with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But, although quirky and funny, we soon get the sense that something is not right.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

For me, the instant giveaway was during the first few seconds of episode one. Instead of crediting Olsen and Bettany as the stars of the show, we see only Wanda Maximoff and Vision listed as the main stars. Later, we again get that nagging feeling that something is wrong during dinner with the Harts. Mr. Hart begins to hound the couple with questions on little details that they are unable to answer. Wanda and Vision can’t remember when they got married, why they moved to Westview or even where they lived before – possibly representing the questions that we have as the audience. In another hint that there is something else going on, Mrs. Hart tells her husband to leave them alone because “they’re setting up their story.”

As the credits roll at the end of the first episode, the camera zooms out to show us that we are not the only ones watching Wanda and Vision navigate the 50s – they are also being watched from a S.W.O.R.D. base in the present-day. We are watching a show-within-a-show. And this is where things get quite confusing, but also very fascinating. More than likely, the shows’ episodes are being created by Wanda herself as some sort of coping mechanism in the wake of Vision’s death while S.W.O.R.D. monitors her closely. S.W.O.R.D. (The Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division) is one of the many intelligence agencies that exists within the MCU and specifically monitors extraterrestrial threats to Earth. Those that have kept up with Marvel shows would have seen subtle references to S.W.O.R.D. in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D series finale a few months ago when Daisy, her sister Kora, and partner Daniel Sousa were seen travelling through space, with Daniel jokingly calling them the ‘Astro Ambassadors.’ Seems like an allusion to me!

The second episode tells us even more than the first by explicitly showing us that we are watching the actual mayhem that exists within Wanda’s mind. While talking to another woman from her neighbourhood, a voice suddenly blares through the radio and calls to Wanda – asking if she can hear them. Someone, most likely a S.W.O.R.D. agent, is trying to reach Wanda where she has retreated into her own mind. Towards the end of this episode, after Wanda suddenly becomes heavily pregnant in the blink of an eye, she and Vision watch frozen in horror as a beekeeper crawls out of a manhole in the middle of the night outside their home. Wanda, visibly distressed, simply says “no” and consciously rewinds time to mere moments before. This eery beekeeper further indicates that S.W.O.R.D. is heavily involved in the show’s events, as he dons the organisation’s logo on the back of his suit. Wanda’s ability to alter the present at will is a major sign that she is in control here.

While they add to the vintage feel of the episodes, the oddly intriguing commercial breaks that occur during the show also suggest this. In these two episodes we see old commercials for a Stark Industries toaster and a Hydra watch with the name Strücker on it. In the first advert the camera pointedly zooms in on a flashing red light on the toaster while the music creates suspense, deliberately creating an air of tension that makes you feel like something bad is on the horizon. The toaster is apparently meant to symbolise the Stark Industries bomb with which Wanda and her twin brother Pietro (also known as Quicksilver) were trapped after it fell on their home in Sokovia, killing their parents. Just in case you forgot, Wanda and Pietro (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) came storming into the MCU hell-bent on getting revenge against Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) for his family’s role in the death of their parents in Avengers: Age of Ultron – also the film in which Vision became a sentient being. The Hydra watch is a clear reference to Baron Von Strücker, the man that used the Mind Stone to give the Maximoff twins their unique abilities. Wanda’s personal history is definitely going to be central to the show’s future episodes and thus understanding exactly what the hell is going on.

Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

As someone that is not a Marvel master, but still a big fan, I did have to do extensive Googling after watching these episodes in order to fully make sense of what I had just seen. For those that are even less into the MCU than I am, the show definitely has the potential to be far too confusing and in turn disappointing. While the first two episodes offer hints that there are big things (and some answers) to come, some people might not be patient enough to wait it out if they have to consult Google after each thirty-minute episode. So far WandaVision is an undeniably intriguing insight into the devastating chaos going on within Wanda’s mind. By employing a combination of bold symbolism, contemporary comedy, great acting, and intense visuals, Disney has formulated something insanely unique. WandaVision is an adventurous and striking addition to the MCU and marks the first installment of Phase 4 of the extensive franchise. With seven more episodes to come, WandaVision has time to establish even more intrigue before answering the many, many questions us viewers have.

The first two episodes of WandaVision are available to stream on Disney+. The next episode will be released on January 22.