If you’re not a fan of Marvel’s over-the-top superheroes then Marvel’s new superhero TV series could be the show for you.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more akin to a fast-paced, action-thriller than a fantastical, super-powered spectacle. Think The Bourne Identity rather than Avengers: Endgame.
“The whole nature of this show and the questions that it’s asking and exploiting all feel very timely,” says Anthony Mackie, who stars as Sam “The Falcon” Wilson. “We were supposed to come out in August of last year. We didn’t and I don’t know if I always believe that everything happens for a reason but coming out now, at this time, after all these things we’ve witnessed collectively. Even earlier this year, in Washington and stuff. When you’ve seen the show, you’re gonna understand how much more timely it is.”
Mackie is referring to the shadowy terrorist organisation that emerges in the first episode of the series and appears to operate in a similar way to the mob of domestic terrorists that invaded the US Capitol in January. It’s a premise that must have seemed like impossible action-fodder when it was filmed last year before becoming a very real threat in 2021.
But what makes the show interesting is that this isn’t the only threat the titular heroes need to overcome.
The show leans heavily into the demons that both men are dealing with in the aftermath of the final Avengers movie, though you needn’t have seen that film to understand what’s going on here.
Wilson is professionally adrift with money problems – something rarely seen in the superhero world – while Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes is suffering from PTSD-style nightmares while also trying to make amends to everyone he previously, often violently, wronged.
These deeper real-world themes are balanced by the duo’s humorous, antagonistic, buddy-cop dynamic that was developed in their regular, albeit, brief cameo appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series of movies.
“That 10-second scene in Captain America: Civil War was a real jumping off point for us. They’ve paired us together now for a couple of years,” Winter Soldier actor Sebastian Stan says of their first team-up in the popular 2016 movie that led to the duo becoming true fan favourites.
“I think somebody was smart enough to go, ‘Okay, maybe there’s something we can explore here’. Because we’ve never really learned too much about these two.”
Stan promises that the series will deep dive into the psychology of both men while still providing all the exhilarating, bone-crunching action sequences that are expected from the MCU. Indeed, the show’s opening scene is an explosive 15-minute, high-flying chase sequence.
“What other duos are there in the MCU like this? There are none!” Stan laughs, concluding his pitch. “Not of this calibre. They’re both charming men.”
That may be so, but his character, the Winter Soldier, is carrying a sizable amends list for, shall we say, some fairly murderous past behaviours.
“Well, hopefully – I wanted to say everyone, but it’s clear that not everyone is doing this – but we all have to make some kind of amends to the past, right? You do! Because the only way that you move forward is by addressing it and addressing your part in it and addressing whatever those experiences are,” he says. “Then you grow from that and you move forward. I think that aspect of the character is very relatable.”
As is Mackie’s character, the Falcon, a man haunted by the times he’s in. And while America’s gone through some crazy and distressing times of its own the past few years Mackie says he’s hopeful for the future.
“Well, it’s not just America. It’s the entire world except New Zealand. You guys beat Covid. It’s crazy,” he says. “But the idea for me is: America is a very young country. We’re technically a teenager when you look at the age range of countries around the world. So there’s still learning to be had and there’s still things that we have to overcome.
“But I think it’s a generational thing. With each generation, the times, the understandings, the people change and our kids are going to be a better generation because of 2020. The way they look at the world and what’s transpired in the last 12 months. All of their viewpoints and opinions have changed. And that’s what’s most important. Obama got elected simply on the word ‘change’. People want change. I feel like when the kids gets older, it will put us in a better place as a country.”
Who: Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.
What: Marvel’s new TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
When: New episodes weekly on Disney+.
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