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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier review

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now that Marvel has stretched its creative legs with the release of WandaVision, it seems that they will be continuing to renovate their traditional styles with the new Disney+ series Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The inaugural episode, “New World Order,” addresses the corruption and violence that has arisen from Thanos’ infamous ‘snap’ that saw half the world’s population disappear for five years. 

The episode has set the series up for a darker, more systemic threat than other Marvel productions, and feels more akin to Amazon Prime’s The Boys or Fox’s X-Men series. Discrimination and inequality against the previously assumed dead population has created an interesting new conflict and seems surprisingly politically poignant for the MCU. 

Visually, the episode is stunning. The opening scene is a fast-paced, focused and exciting action sequence that rivals those featured in the multi-million-dollar feature films. I actually preferred seeing Falcon flying through the desert past missiles and helicopters than many of the sequences in other MCU releases. It felt like something fans would expect from the Iron Man movies, back in the early 2000’s; it was clear, simple and compelling, rather than solely flashy or destructive. Then again, I may just be turning into my parents.

Some of the introductions should excite long-time Marvel fans. While Wyatt Russell’s new ‘Captain America’ has already become something of a meme, his reveal was framed as an appeal to nationalism, populism and fear-baiting in an increasingly uncertain world. He was presented as a superhero that carries “American values” and intends to put “America first” — seemingly holding less concern for the atrocities and violence that the rest of the world, or indeed, the universe, continue to experience. 

Another notable moment is when Falcon’s sister finds herself unable to take a loan out due to a lack of consistent income while assumed dead. These instances point to the practical issues and potential solutions that would arise from the events of previous Marvel projects, and the series seems to be answering some of the questions that fans have broached regarding the wider universe after ‘the snap’. 

“New World Order” also seems like a relatively odd title for the pilot; it’s the formal name for the illuminati — a secret deep-state organization conspiracy theory. It could be implicative of the intentions of the ‘Flag Smashers’, an introduced anonymous group that aims to revert the world back to its structure before the return of the departed (as well as destroy national borders and identity). It seems that this organization will end up being the show’s main antagonist. 

As the series progresses, it will be fascinating to see how it approaches the clear contention between the new ‘Captain America’ and the ‘Flag Smashers’. Although the conflict is a bit on-the-nose, Marvel has sparsely converged with the political realm associated with the universe. That being said, it does seem it has set itself up to either support an overtly nationalist superhero or a violent anti-national terrorist organization. So long as the emphasis on corruption and power truly arises as the focal point of the series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier should be able to remain tasteful going forward, and may even provide an insight into common political rhetoric and attitudes from the real world. 

The beginning of this series has been entertaining and unexpected, and it leaves Marvel fans with a lot to look forward to. There’s a lot of different directions that the creators can explore with the introduced plotlines, and hopefully the show will continue to push the MCU to new heights, moving away from repetitive or expected storylines.

Illustration: Violet Colley