I don’t generally review TV series week-to-week because episodic shows don’t provide much to write about outside of recapping plot points. My lone exception was season two of The Mandalorian because I wrote about the toys I’d want to purchase. I wrote a short essay about the end of WandaVision, and I’ll probably do the same for The Falcon & the Winter Soldier after all six of its episodes have aired.

However, I was provided with the first hour of Falcon, which is roughly the first sixth of its story. It’s a 40-minute episode before credits. (The credits on these MCU Disney+ shows are movie-length, which always feels a little funny to me.) This introductory episode introduces us to the essentials — Sam Wilson’s (aka the Falcon) home life with his struggling sister and nephews in Louisiana, Bucky’s (aka the Winter Soldier) continued regret and attempts to make amends after returning to civilian life, and the development of new terrorist organizations in the wake of the Snap and the Blip as seen in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Perhaps most importantly, this episode showcases Falcon’s fighting abilities in a movie-quality aerial fight sequence. It happens early on in the episode and exists for Marvel Studios to say “Trust us, this isn’t Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. here. This is the MCU on your TV.” The Falcon & the Winter Soldier originally was slated to come first in the Disney+ lineup before COVID-19 reshuffled the schedule and put WandaVision first, but this remains a loud, impressive statement of purpose. WandaVision was very much its own thing (at least for the first few episodes), but Falcon promises to be a return to the MCU we know and love, very much in the vein of the Captain America films made by the Russo Brothers.

A lot of the press for Falcon has been about this being Anthony Mackie’s time to shine as the lead of a big outing rather than as a supporting character. That’s a good approach to advertising it; Mackie’s spotlight is well-deserved. It’s kind of an open assumption that this story will end with him becoming Captain America and that Marvel’s architects are planning something in the future with him playing the role as per the conclusion of Endgame. The next Avengers movie? Who knows. Regardless, it’s nice to have an entire story about what it means for Sam as a character to don the shield, both as a hero who deserves it and as a Black man in America.

That’s not to say that this episode promises a big, socially conscious discussion of race in America, or that we can really expect such a thing from the MCU. But like WandaVision‘s handling of grief, the key to what makes the MCU feel relatable and what will allow it to grow is continued use of larger social issues in the context of family-friendly thriller narratives. I’m excited to see where Falcon takes these ideas and if they incorporate some of the more interesting twists on the origins of Captain America from the comic book.

Of course, this show promises to be a two-hander, and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has a B-plot in the episode setting up his story as well. I wasn’t quite as enamored with the plotting here. It’s kind of clear what the little reveal will be at the end. There is important setup for Bucky’s motivations going forward, but I’m really ready for the two of them to get to bickering and what-not.

What Would I Buy?

I already own a Falcon-as-Captain-America (Falcap) figure thanks to my buddy John, who gave it to me a few years ago. This is based on his comic book appearance. Falcap was a wasted idea in the comics who never got his time to really shine as Captain America, and I’m hoping Mackie has better chances to prove himself as the sentinel of liberty. The costume is so, so great, though.