The world’s broken. Everyone’s just looking for someone to fix it.
Months after half of Earth’s population was snapped back into existence due to the efforts of Iron Man and the Avengers, the world makes an effort to move on and find a new normal. Offered the role of the new Captain America by Steve Rogers himself, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon decides it’s best that the world not focus on empty symbols, but instead remember the men, like Steve, who gave those symbols weight. However, when new world order groups like the Flag Smashers come on the scene with enhanced abilities, the US government decides it’s time for a new Capt. America of their own choosing: All-American hero and veteran, John Walker.
While Sam deals with the news of Steve’s replacement, Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier is making an effort to fix the mistakes he made as Hydra’s assassin over the past century. In therapy and performing his own step-by-step program to make amends, Bucky’s world is shaken when he learns of Sam’s declining of Cap’s shield, and of John Walker. Begrudgingly following Sam on a mission to uncover the mystery behind the Flag Smasher’s enhanced abilities, they’re taken on a chase through Europe, struggling to work together, and run into even more problems when John Walker arrives on the scene with his hot shot sidekick, Battlestar aka Lemar Hoskins. Thoroughly beaten by the Flag Smashers, Bucky reveals to Sam a secret he’s kept about another enhanced soldier, much like Steve Rogers; Isaiah Bradley.
From the beginning, Falcon and the Winter Soldier presents itself less like a superhero or sci-fi show, like that of WandaVision, and more of a political and military thriller, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Its opening of Sam packing up Cap’s shield to bring to a donation ceremony to the Smithsonian carries the reverence of a veteran preparing for the memorial to a fallen comrade. But, if the tone wasn’t strong enough, Sam’s mission as the Falcon against French terrorist Batroc, previously seen in The Winter Soldier, carries the message home of what kind of show this is going to be.
What is surprising, though perhaps it shouldn’t be, is how it approaches the topic of racism and economics after the Snap (I’m not calling it the Blip). We’re given a peek into Sam’s personal life and family as he travels back to New Orleans to be with his sister and nephews and handle the selling of their family’s fishing boat. Despite being a hero, an avenger, a military contractor, and meeting all of the requirements for a loan to help their business, they’re denied a loan for reasons of “the economy”, or more likely “being black”. However, this racism may not be apparent to some. The banker makes good points about the economy being in flux after billions of people were snapped back into existence and banks are making it even harder to apply for loans. So, to drive the point home about racism and the differences between white and Black America, we witness Sam and Bucky being harassed by police, presuming to check on Bucky’s “safety” because he and Sam were having an argument.
With the introduction of Isaiah Bradley as one of the first Black superheroes, and the privileged status of John Walker’s Capt. America, who thinks Sam and Bucky should “stay out of [his] way” (seriously?), these themes of inequality and racial injustice are only going to become more apparent. Even the Flag Smashers, whatever their ultimate goals are, claim to act on the ideals of economic equality and fighting for the people who were abandoned by their government during the Snap, and are now even more desperate as the government tries to go back to the normal status quo of giving the lion’s share of resources and wealth to the wealthy and powerful.
What is Isaiah Bradley’s story? Who are the Flag Smashers? Will John Walker succeed or fail in his role as the new Captain America, or will Sam pick up the shield? Hopefully, these questions and more will be answered in upcoming episodes.