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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: New World Order

"You're free."
"To do what?"

As with any new show, we’re introduced to a cast of characters. A tone is set, and the stage is littered with conflicts big and small for our heroes to contend with. Despite the opening battle, this show has more in common with its small screen brothers and sisters such as Daredevil and Jessica Jones than it does with either the FX laden spectacles it springs from or the narrative theatricality of its predecessor WandaVision. This was a story about everyday people with normal problems thrust into highly unusual circumstances. Plus a few kick-ass fight scenes. And explosions. You have to have a few of those.

This show differs in that the characters bring with them 10 years of cinematic baggage. First and foremost is the toll the Blip continues to exact on every level. It weakened international alliances, wreaked havoc on economies and upended family dynamics. It also boggles my mind that something so destructive is given such an inconsequential name.

Regardless, its effects have impacted Sam and Bucky in profound ways. Bucky has lost his best friend and only connection to this time and place. Something brought home by the fact he brings flowers to a first date and hasn’t gone dancing since 1943. The loss is made worse because unlike Steve; he spent almost 90 years as a prisoner of war turned guinea pig turned mindless assassin for Hydra. Now that his mind is once again his own, he’s a man outside of time trying to make amends for atrocities not of his making but carried out by his hand.

He does this by bringing the people he placed in positions of power to justice, using means only semi in line with the terms of his pardon. He is less successful in his attempts to befriend those he has harmed. After all, how does one atone for killing a man’s son? If his therapist is to be believed, this leaves Bucky in his own personal hell, sleeping on the floor of his sparsely furnished home, and haunted by nightmares.

For Sam, the issues are more mundane. Missing five years of his nephews’ childhood and not being there to help with the family’s fishing business. As a widow and a single mother, his sister Sarah had to make hard choices in his absence. While he may understand her reasons for those decisions, he doesn’t agree.

Now that he’s back he deserves a say on selling the business, and he votes no. Sarah believes this is either to assuage his guilt for his absence or part of his hero complex. Unfortunately, he soon learns his hero status isn’t enough to save the family’s struggling business. And his attempts are only causing his sister more pain.

That Steve left his shield to Sam is another weight on his already burdened shoulders. Sam once claimed he did what Steve did, only slower. However, in his heart I don’t think he believes anyone is equal to taking up Captain America’s mantle. Not him, and certainly not someone chosen by the government. I should note this storyline is ripped straight from the comics.

Although I agree that the Flag Smashers is a horrible name, it too is from comic book lore. Originally it was the name of one of Captain America’s supervillain foes. Here it is an underground organization fighting for a unified world without borders. In theory, this sounds fairly benign. In practice, they carried out at least one large-scale theft masked by violence and the manipulation of dozens of followers. They are the most obvious contenders for the season’s Big Bad, but I'll hazard a guess they are either pretenders to the throne or a front for the true evil.

The only connection between the Sam and Bucky’s stories is the mention that Bucky has been ignoring Sam’s texts. Whether that’s from resentment that Steve chose Sam over his best friend or simply because Bucky is wallowing in his own misery remains to be seen. Though a stranger donning Captain America’s uniform might be just the thing to bring them together.

There were other tie-ins to the MCU movies. Mixed martial artist Georges St-Pierre reprised his role of the villain Batroc. Now a member of the disposable LAF. An organization with no real agenda other than to show off The Falcon’s spiffy new look and upgraded tech. Don Cheadle’s Rhodey also makes an appearance as a voice or reason and expounder of exposition. Despite my healthy dose of snark, their appearances put a smile on my face.

But I was far more interested in Sam’s attempts to salvage his family’s legacy and Bucky’s need for redemption than in the opening aerial dog fight or the Flag Smashers heist. Sam had no emotional investment in defeating the LAF other than completing his mission. I didn’t know Torres well enough to be more than curious to see if he was a good guy or a turncoat. At least Bucky’s memory/nightmare had emotional stakes, even if carried out by the emotionless version of himself.

That said, I have no idea how the Flag Smasher’s agenda or the introduction of the new Captain America will be woven into Bucky’s redemption story and Sam’s family drama, but I can’t wait to find out.

4 out 5 Redwings

Parting Thoughts:

Sam's wings were originally government issue. He can't be the only one who can do what he does.  That said, he does seem to have some cool new tech. Stark's legacy, perhaps?

Quotes:

Steve: "How does it feel?"
Sam: "Like it's someone else's."

Sam: "Subtle. Got it."

Sam: "Trust me. Every time something gets better for one group, it gets worse for another."

Torres: "So you didn't like... fly him to the moon?"

Barnes: "I had a little calm... in Wakanda. And other than that, I just went from one fight to another for 90 years."

Sarah: "What's going on? You got Mom's sneaky look on your face."

Barnes: "What are you doing?"
Leah: "I'm reading your mind."
Barnes: "Please don't."

Leah: "You know there's no word for someone whose kids die. Because it's the worst thing that could happen."

Sam: "There's no such thing as on time. There's only early or late. Pick one."

Loan Officer: "I've always wondered. How do you guys make a living?"

Sarah: "What are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to?"

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

13 comments:

sunbunny said...

Awesome start. I hope Bucky and Sam team up sooner rather than later. I was so outraged that they took the shield from Sam ostensibly to put it in a museum but then gave it to some random guy!? That felt was such a gut punch. I don't know about the comics, but here it had racist overtones as did Sam and his sister being refused that loan.

Who is keeping all the tech up to date now that Tony is dead? Shuri? Bruce? We saw Sam repairing his wings on his own and I'm left wondering if that's going to be an issue.

At first I thought Bucky's elderly friend was one of his war buddies. I wonder if that's what we were meant to think.

SO glad they didn't start of with a funeral for Steve as was the rumor.

Great start to a show I've been highly anticipating and great review. Can't wait til next Friday!

taiey said...

Maybe the reason there's no word for someone whose kids die is because for most of history those words were 'mother' and 'father'.

Shari said...

Thanks Sunbunny.

It's strange. I noticed the racism underlying the Loan officer's conversation with Sam and Sarah immediately. But I didn't think about implicit racism of stating Sam did the right thing by giving up the shield only to have it given to a white man of their choosing. I think it was because I knew about the comic book storyline in which the government chose a new Captain America. I've since done a little more digging. There was also a storyline about the government not liking the "optics" of a black Captain America. We'll have to wait and see how the MCU choses to tell their version.

Anonymous said...

New Cap looks evil, whether he's Hydra or not. Poor Sam, but he should let his sister run her buisness her way, even if he has a share in it.
Poor Bucky, felt bad for him here.
Good start.

JBA said...

It's weird, because I also noticed that there is racism implied in the loan officer scene, except that his questions, race aside, are normal questions. It's something I've thought about before; do superheroes get paid? Not just in Marvel movies or, specifically, the MCU, but in any stories, including the ones by DC, do superheroes get a paycheck? And while it was always nice to think they get some sort of stipend, the truth is, they probably don't. Not for nothing, I'm sure they don't usually have to worry about basics; if Falcon or Hawkeye or Superman or Green Lantern walked into a store, I can't imagine the owners charging them for their basic groceries. But when it comes to something like getting a loan for a mortgage or financing a car, any bank would have to ask every one of them these same questions. Many superheroes have alter-egos with jobs (Clark Kent works for a major newspaper; Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are billionaires with their own businesses, etc.) But I suspect that if Scott Lang (Ant-Man) went into a bank, asking for a loan, he would be asked the same questions, and without a reliable source of income, he would be turned down, too.

So, that said, that scene is not implicitly racist, even though I can tell they are leaning toward that angle. I suspect that is also what is going on with giving Cap's shield to John Walker (but I don't know what direction they are going to go with that character; I don't want to spoil anything, but the character in the comics is not a bad guy, but he isn't a very good one either. If you want to learn about him, you can find him in Wikipedia, under his later name: U.S. Agent). I kind of hope they aren't going in the racist direction with this, especially since Sam chose not to carry the shield. If they wanted to make it about race, it would be more dramatic (and a much more definitive case of racism) for the shield to be taken from him and given to Walker. In this case, Sam had it and could have taken up the mantle, but instead CHOSE not to. I don't know, but I'm very curious to see where they are headed. Looking forward to the next episode!

Anonymous said...

What other name should the 'blip' be given....The emolation....The Evisceration....The deletion....the dusting......The snappening

Anonymous said...

@JBA

While it wasn't overt racism it was hinting at institutional racism that is borne off how things were built rather than the person in front of you.
The bank scene for example I dont think the guy was being unreasonable either and I think the scene would have worked better if it was just the sister. Her point was she had been denied several times already. Falcon coming just showed the depressing reality that heroes dont get paid, (something I always liked about Daredevil and Spiderman stories) and another consequence of being blipped.
While Sam chose not to take up the mantle obviously due to the internal pressure of being the new Captain America, part of that comes from would he be accepted externally as Black Captain America. He gave the shield back in a ceremony for the Smithsonian so it was meant to be retired rather than passed on.. But the first thing they did was find the 'right' and 'best candidate' to be the face and poster boy that represents America, that went against Caps 'dying' wish on who it should be. Similar to how Visions last requests were treated.
While we weren't shown a selection process or if they had other candidates the final selection is clear who they were more comfortable giving the moniker too.

sunbunny said...

Anon II, some people had been calling it the snapture, although somehow I think that downplays some of the seriousness of half the universe dying. But it was funny :)

JBA said...

To the Anon who replied: Good point.

To Sunbunny and the Anon who wasn't sure what to call it: Based on what I saw in the movies, I believe they are calling what Thanos did five years ago the "Snap" and everyone reappearing is called the "Blip". I think they are considered two different terms for two different events.

I am glad that they are talking about repercussions of the blip itself. It is easy for us to think of the blip as a wholly good thing (everyone who disappeared is back) but we didn't really think of all the really bad things that would happen as a result (i.e. an infrastructure that no longer supports everyone). They only delved a tiny bit into it in WandaVision, so I hope they get more into the details of it in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Josie Kafka said...

Shari, excellent review!

I absolutely enjoyed this episode, and based on trailers for the next episode, I'm going to real enjoy more Sam/Bucky interactions. I guess I'm keeping my Disney+ subscription for a while longer.

Disney, I feel like you've successfully manipulated me!


Regarding racism in banking: it's real. Here's some proof: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/11/business/jpmorgan-banking-racism.html

"This year, researchers for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that black mortgage borrowers were charged higher interest rates than white borrowers and were denied mortgages that would have been approved for white applicants."

So the loan officer absolutely asked Sam and his sister the same questions that white customers get asked. And then he didn't give them a loan even though he might have given it to those white customers.

JBA said...

Josie,

Definitely no argument there. There is absolutely racism in the decision-making process that exists about who the banks will lend money to. My only point is that, in the context of this show, Sam does not have an income. None, whatsoever. So, by himself, no matter what color his skin is, he would not get a loan. If Scott Lang (himself a white man, with no reportable income) had gone for a loan, he, too, would have been denied. They didn't give us enough information about Sam's sister (I'm a little behind; I haven't watched the new episode yet, but as of the first episode), but if her income was not enough to justify a loan, whether due to racism or not, Sam's presence as an Avenger, would not benefit her, because he has no additional income to show. So, if they are going for a message that the bank is being racist, it has nothing to do with Sam; only his sister. She, presumably, has some sort of income. Sam, for the purposes of repaying the loan, has no reportable income, and we don't know if he has any kind of collateral. Does he own a car? A house? The only thing we know he owns (co-owns) is a boat, which is not in good condition. It doesn't even appear sea-worthy, which means it is not collateral, either; it's junk.
I'm rambling, but my point is simply this: if they want to make some sort of statement that the bank did not give a loan for racist reasons, having Sam tell the manager he has no income and no collateral is not the way to go. Because no matter who you are, where you're from, what race, creed, religion, or orientation you are, without a job, a residence, or legal tender, you aren't getting a loan.

Shari said...

JBA,

Sam was quite clear about having government contracts as proof of income. The loan officer's complaint was that he had no credit history for the last 5 years. Which would have affected half the population, regardless of color. So the question is, if half of the population would be denied loans or is that an excuse to deny certain people. Sarah seemed to think it was. The show seems to leave it up to interpretation. At least as far as this episode goes.

RandallJosephSmith said...

Those wouldn’t fit because the blip was when everyone returned. When everyone died it was the snap. The snap was Thanos, the blip was Hulk.