FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
It’s the premiere of a new Disney+ Marvel show! The first in this new chapter of tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I’m currently covering with MCU March, in case the daily posts somehow passed you by) was WandaVision, a quirky mystery involving magic, family, and grief. That is absolutely not what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is about. This is an action show that could very easily become a political thriller, depending on how the episodes shape up. But enough preamble, let’s dive right in!
The first episode, “New World Order,” opens with Sam Wilson, AKA the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), assisting the US military. A terrorist organization known as the LAF–it’s never explained what that’s an acronym for–has hijacked a plane in order to capture a government liaison. Oh, hey, and one of the LAF guys is Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre)! You know, the kickboxer Steve Rogers fought at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier! One action sequence later and the liaison is rescued and Batroc is… maybe dead? It’s unclear. Anyway, Sam’s military contact, Torres (Danny Ramirez, AKA the kid with illusion powers in three episodes of The Gifted) tells him about another new threat: the Flag Smashers. They believe that the world was better when half the population was missing from Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War, which is… not what the comic Flag Smasher is about. More on that later. Anyway, later at a ceremony, Sam gives Captain America’s shield to the government. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, AKA War Machine (Don Cheadle) asks Sam why he didn’t take up the mantle, and Sam replies that it just didn’t feel right.
Meanwhile, James “Bucky” Barnes, AKA the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is having mandatory therapy as part of his parole, which makes sense because despite helping to save the world, he still did a BUNCH of crimes as a brainwashed Hydra agent. He’s having nightmares about his previous assassinations, a thing he lies about to his therapist. A more productive thing he’s been doing is exposing Hydra agents and allies that he either helped or worked with previously, so that’s cool. He gets lunch with an old man named Yori who encourages Bucky to start dating. But the moment turns somber when Yori remembers his dead son, killed in a way that was never explained to him. Turns out that nightmare was relevant because the Winter Soldier absolutely killed the man’s son on a previous mission. Bucky feels awful about it and hangs out with Yori as a way of checking up on him since he has no one left.
Meanwhile, Torres has tracked the Flag Smashers to a gathering in Switzerland. The group passes out masks and then on command start running around, creating a diversion for a beefy dude stealing money. Torres tries to stop the guy, but he’s unnaturally strong and easily overpowers Torres. Back with Sam, he is trying to encourage his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) to take his help in keeping their family’s fishing boat. A trip to the bank proves fruitless, though; turns out being a hero doesn’t pay very well, and banks have changed policies since half of the world’s population came back essentially (and legally) from the dead. And if that wasn’t enough, Sam has to find out on television like a normie that the government has picked a new Captain America! Though not directly named, we know this to be John Walker (Wyatt Russell), who I’ll most likely talk more about next week.
Action! Political intrigue! Trying to deal with everyday life in a world that was upended when billions of people returned after being gone for 5 years! This is definitely a different show than WandaVision, but I’m all for it. Just like different MCU films fit into different genre boxes, the shows are not going to all be action thrillers or family-orientated mysteries. That’s the nature of the franchise, though, and it probably wouldn’t have been so successful if every movie in it felt exactly the same. Sure, a lot of them feel mostly the same, but there are often enough differences to make them interesting. Plus, never underestimate the dedication of comic book nerds. The comic book market should’ve died out several times by now, but they’ll often insist on getting physical copies, or staying with with a title even if it’s in a bad, bad period. For an example, see me with every issue of Countdown and all of the issues from Chuck Austen’s X-Men run. Nerds know what I’m talking about.
As for the Flag Smashers, they have their origin in a relatively obscure Captain America villain. Introduced in Captain America #312 (1985), Karl Morgenthau was the son of a diplomat who never fit in wherever his family had to move to. Believing the problem to be nationalism, he vowed to abolish the concept of nations, starting with, well… smashing flags. And like, I can kind of see where he’s coming from? There is a definite “us vs. them” mentality associated with patriotism that can become quite toxic. Putting America first can lead to consequences that negatively affect other countries–consequences many people don’t care about because they aren’t happening to them. But, like, he’s a villain in a superhero comic, so his method of trying to abolish governments involved bombing flag factories and threating to shoot people if they didn’t listen to his manifesto. But that was the 80’s; the political landscape of today sure seems more volatile and jingoistic, so it will be interesting to see how a billion dollar media empire handles a social movement that thinks the current status quo is unjust and needs to be abolished. Then again, according to Torres they may want to return to a world where half the people were presumed dead, so nuance may be thrown out the window.
There’s also a character credited as Karli Morgenthau who hasn’t appeared yet, but I’m not so sure that’s who she really is… But that’s for another day.
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