The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier left with a real bang, which should be a relief for anyone frustrated with the slow burning of WandaVision. There was an opening action scene, strongly reminiscent of the opening of Cap’s second film (you know, the one where Winter Soldier premiered). There was some fun Bucky action, and even new character Joaquin Torres got to do a little bit more. Just ask yourself, “Why wasn’t this Marvel Studios first show on Disney +, instead of WandaVision? “
WandaVision is clearly the strangest, most experimental show, so it’s odd that it’s the first to come out, instead of something more traditional to get people used to seeing Marvel Studios on the small screen. Both shows clearly represent an increase in budget and star power over the previous MCU TV, doing a good job of feeling like proper Marvel installments instead of rans as well. But it took WandaVision a while to get there, because it smeared sitcom conventions before finally solve in the big splashing battle and setting up future versions.
What is the fundamental reason WandaVision was planned for early 2021: Before COVID-19, Doctor Strange’s next film was slated for May of this year, and Wanda Maximoff is supposed to appear there. This is why there was so much buzz about Strange making an appearance. WandaVision (which he ultimately did not do). Of course, Disney could have chosen to delay the series to air closer to next year, but that would create a hole in the release schedule. And don’t forget: Disney + needs to keep rolling out new content week after week to prevent people from canceling their subscriptions.
But again why not change Falcon and Winter Soldier with WandaVision, and give fans something a little more standard for the MCU before giving them quirky stuff? Why not postpone this last show Loki, too, to make Marvel Studios shows progressively weirder?
The simple answer is that shooting for Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been delayed, pushing the show back from its original location in 2020. But there are also some continuity issues involved – WandaVision takes place only three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, while Falcon and the Winter Soldier is clearly a much later setting, enough time for Sam and Bucky to return to work (and therapy in the latter’s case). But at this point, we don’t know how big the potential link will be between Marvel Studios’ first three shows. We know the two shows so far are at least post-Blip, and that has a huge effect on how the characters on each show perform.
In fact, this is the greatest attraction of Falcon and the Winter Soldier to many MCU fans: we can finally see what the world looks like after Avengers: Endgame. The start of this movie showed us a universe ravaged by the loss of half its population, but we saw next to nothing of what happened after Tony Stark died. Spider-Man: Homecoming played it mostly for a laugh, with all dramatic gravity reserved for how Peter felt about having to take over from Tony (and clean up Stark’s mess).
WandaVision gave us a few flashback glimpses – what it actually looked like when people respawned for example – but for the most part we were cloistered inside Westview and the fantasy world Wanda built. Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes us into the reality of a post-Blip world. Bucky has been pardoned and he is working on his sanity, Sam is reunited with his family and cannot get a loan. It’s terribly mundane, but also deeply satisfying since we’ve spent so long in this universe with these characters. We also care about the little things.
In this way Falcon and the Winter Soldier reminds me so much Star Trek: Picard. Of course, it was nice to see Jean-Luc again, but one of the things that got me excited about this show was that the Star Trek universe was finally moving. move forward in time again after languishing in prequels and reboots for 15 years. The wait hasn’t been that long for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the resolution of End of Game left so many questions about the state of the world that I’m so hungrier for answers, and this new show seems more than willing to answer them.