Phase Four is well underway as the amazing WandaVision came to a gut-wrenching close earlier this month. Don’t worry, there will be no major spoilers for that series here just in case you decided to skip (but why would you not want to watch such a brilliant series?). There will be plenty of SPOILERS for Falcon and the Winter Soldier so don’t continue if you haven’t seen the first episode titled “New World Order.”
The second entry into Phase Four certainly took us for a ride in the opening sequence but make no mistake FATWS is not going to be just an action buddy cop show. It is clear from the set up this series is going to be dealing with themes of recovery, racism, guilt, identity, and worthiness. Get ready for all the whump on our heroes.
I’m not going to bog this review in too much theorizing but there will be some eventually. To me, that is part of the fun of watching a show like this is guessing what could happen next. So, let’s jump into some thoughts for now and get into some theories later!
The episode takes place roughly six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame and is very rooted in the trials and tribulations of the sudden reappearance of half the population that disappeared five years prior. While there are some people who are grateful, like the man in Tunisia thanking Sam (Anthony Mackie) for the return of his wife, the entire situation is not without its issues. Some issues are addressed briefly in both Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision, but FATWS seems like it will live in the post Blip world.
“New World Order” does a great job of setting up both the characters of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in a post Blip world. Both characters in the movies have always been defined in their relationship to Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans). Now, they get to be whole people with their own personalities, struggles, hopes, and issues outside of whatever mess Steve got himself into this time.
Sam is coming to terms with missing out on his life with his sister, Sarah (Adepero Oduye), and her sons. Judging by conversations between the siblings, Sam was already running from his grief in losing their parents when he joined the military. But it didn’t seem like there was any real resentment there. Sarah most likely had help during that time (from her husband maybe). Then the Blip happens, and Sarah was left to deal with the family business and raising her sons alone. No husband or brother and probably several friends are gone as well.
Sam is trying his best to use his charm and name recognition as Falcon to get the Wilson Seafood Company back on track. He wants for nothing more than the world to return to what it was. Sarah, having survived the five years of loved ones gone, is not willing to just pretend things can be as they were. That dynamic is beautifully played by Mackie and Oduye. They really have you feeling Sam’s determination things will be better through his sheer force of will and Sarah’s hard-earned pragmatism in how the world really is.
The issue of race in America is an aspect I’m glad it’s going to be dealt with, but I have a feeling it is going to be more in the subtext rather than outright talking about it. Sarah’s comment about how the regulations on the SBA loans “always tighten around us” is the most overt comment about systemic racism in the series (so far). But it is clear, Sam being a black man in America factored into why John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a white man, was picked by the government to be the new Captain America just days after Sam donated the shield to a museum exhibit. Did you catch the detail of the person who thanked Sam for donating the shield was the same man who introduced John Walker?
On the other side of the show, Bucky’s arch for the series is deftly set up. Amends for what he has done as the Winter Soldier and what does he want now that he has his freedom.
Bucky’s therapy session makes for some good exposition as to where he is at emotionally. Explaining how he crossed another name off his list in terms of righting wrongs. The conditions of his pardon have him following three rules when doing so. Nothing illegal, no one gets hurt, and he must explain why he is there.
While Bucky obviously violates rules one and two, he does follow the third one to the letter which is quite telling. Clarifying to the corrupt senator he once helped that he is “no longer the Winter Soldier” and he is “James Bucky Barnes.” This little speech seems like it is the most difficult of the rules, which is why he makes an actual effort to not break it.
His amends list doesn’t just contain names of those helped by his Winter Soldier past. It also contains names of those who were wronged by Hydra. Including Yori (Ken Takemoto), the father of an unintended victim of a Hydra hit. Bucky, unsure of how to confess to Yori he was the one who killed his son, ends up befriending the man.
Bucky dealing with the past he had no control over is something I really look forward to seeing. It ties into the themes of worthiness and guilt that Sam is experiencing. Sam doesn’t believe he is the man to fill the massive shoes of Steve Rogers and feels guilty for those thoughts as well as not being there for his family. Bucky is dealing with being made to do horrible things and whether he is worthy of the second chance he has been given.
I know there is so much more going on in this episode that I didn’t cover. The Flag Smashers! Torres is here! Rhodey! Where is Cap? I’m hoping to do another thoughts and theories session mid-week, so come back to geek out some more with me!
Until then, give Cap a wave on the moon!