Exclusive First Look at 'The Falcon and The Winter Soldier' Streaming on  March 19 | Marvel

After the success of Disney Plus stablemate WandaVision, it seems weird to think that the latest addition to the MCU’s ever-expanding continuity might end up being a bit of a disappointment to viewers who were drawn in by the kooky sitcom stylings and nicely unfurling mysteries of the first post-Endgame continuation of Marvel’s cinematic saga.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is certainly far more conventional than WandaVision, though that should surprise no one. Following on from the climax of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (the always superb Anthony Mackie, whose effortless charisma has always made him a hugely watchable, genuinely likeable hero) is using his somewhat unique talents to assist the military with dangerous aerial missions. He’s also struggling with not feeling worthy enough of taking on the mantle of Captain America. Meanwhile, Bucky aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan – who’s always done great work with the character) is haunted by the terrible things he’s done while under the influence of nefarious forces and is doing what he can to make amends.

I don’t wish to spoil the rest of the setup here, but there’s a lot going on; the first episode does well to establish the current instability of the MCU’s world and there’s a lot more scope to explore the protagonists in more detail than their appearances in big, ensemble-focused blockbusters ever allowed. Though it opens with a huge action scene – that really wouldn’t feel out of place in a big screen Marvel movie – the pace is a lot more measured here, thanks to the space allowed by the episodic format. That’s not to say that the episode feels slow in any way – a lot of ground is covered and there’s multiple threads being set up for the rest of the series to follow up on.

The spy thriller format recalls the tone of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which still stands as one of the MCU’s most satisfying entries (and it’s the film in which, not coincidentally, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier – albeit not Bucky Barnes – made their debut). It sure does feel big in scale at times; it’s impressively shot too, along with being well written and with great nods to both movie and comic book continuity – a trick that the MCU has been pulling off effortlessly for years.

The only gripe I have is that the final scene seems to come out of nowhere, though it’s intriguing and definitely does the job of a cliffhanger very well indeed. Aside from that, it was fantastic to catch up with a surprising number of familiar faces (including the welcome return of a bad guy that I thought we’d seen the last of in a previous MCU entry) – and the show feels like it’s going to be another that generates a great deal of buzz for Disney Plus; the weekly format making each episode feel like an event.

With only six episodes comprising the first season, it already feels like I’m going to be wanting much more by the end. I’ve no doubt that there’s a lot more good stuff in store over the course of the next five episodes and – just with it being more conventionally structured and straightforward in its action thriller stylings – hopefully it avoids the slight disappointment with one or two of WandaVision’s final reveals (Ralph Bohner, I’m looking at you).

Sam and Bucky always made a great odd-couple pairing in the movies, with the few scenes where that was shown – it should be a lot of fun seeing their love/hate relationship develop further over the coming weeks.

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