With the opening episode filled with big scale action, the return of an MCU villain and the introduction of some new antagonists – The Flag Smashers – as well as an entirely new Captain America, it’s surprising that it didn’t feel overstuffed or rushed in any way. Thankfully, the episodic format allows some breathing space – and there were still time for some quieter, more personal character-led moments to delve into the lives of our two leads, in a way that wasn’t really possible in the movies. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and, to a much lesser extent, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) were characters we saw a lot of, but didn’t get to delve into their lives much beyond their service to the larger plots; yet they both did wonders with the screen time they had – and they made a great odd-couple pairing with a love/hate relationship.

It’s great to see them finally reunite in this second episode, even if it doesn’t feel particularly organic and – a little like last week’s Nu-Cap reveal – does come a little out of nowhere. Speaking of the new Star Spangled Avenger, no time is wasted in getting to know him, in a rousing opening sequence that does well to endear him a little to viewers in the wake of last week’s surprise unveiling.

Wyatt Russell’s Cap-replacement John Walker has a lot of work to do to get our heroes on his side, however. With Sam having seemingly lost his opportunity to wield the shield, can Bucky do anything to convince him to take on the responsibility that Steve Rogers chose him for?

There’s plenty of opportunity in this episode for Mackie and Stan to play off each other – and it’s brilliant. They have some fantastic scenes together here – it’s brilliantly written and very funny indeed in parts – and again, I’m already lamenting the fact that there are only six episodes in this ‘season’.

With a few great surprises – especially for comic book fans familiar with mini-series Truth – and the inclusion of some very topical socio-political commentary, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has yet to put a foot wrong. It ends on quite the cliffhanger too – though there’s no big mystery to unravel here, which made WandaVision such a delight to discuss between episodes, it feels like a big, globe-trotting spy thriller blockbuster and is event television in its own right, just in a different way. Those not already on board with the MCU’s brand of comic book adaptations aren’t going to find anything to convert them here, but for those of us deeply invested in the universe, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a hugely satisfying addition to the lore so far.

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