Yes I'm keeping the titling convention I came up with for WandaVision. Why? Because I have no creativity.
Anyhoo… Warning! Spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier after the picture!
Note: Parts have been edited and expanded for clarity about where the Wilson family lives and how that history relates to the story being told.
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One ep of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (or FAWS because there are far too many words in that title and the first one you can jettison is "the" as far as I'm concerned) down and five more to go.
This was the intro ep so too early to talk about how the story is going and if it's telling the tale it wants to tell. Instead let me talk about overall impressions as well as the New Orleans of it all. Because this show has combined both Marvel and New Orleans history for me and thus was made for me personally, thank you everyone involved.
Before we even get into the show I want to give a shout out to the excellent job being done by the people editing together the trailers. There's been some beautiful work done on those with audio/visual beats being hit so precisely I could cry. For those of us in fandom I'm reminded of Vordeel's work which is a high compliment. (Seriously, compare the audio/visual pairings in this with this to see what I mean.)
Moving on to the show, I like what they're doing with it. I like that it's a slower pace that's allowing us to get into the character's heads and feel the weight of their thoughts and emotions. It creates a slow build which makes the visual impact of the new Captain America that much more of a gut punch.
I have mixed feelings about the action scene. On the one hand it was beautifully done. I absolutely love the creativity the stunt coordinator, Hank Amos, has put into ways for Sam to use his wings. They're not just about flying, they're about turning a melee fight into more of a 3D space and not just about movement but protection. (Oh for a clear shot of what Sam's wings look like when he's using them as a shield, huh?)
The entire sequence was great and the fight in the air made me think back to the barrel of monkeys sequence in Iron Man 3. Wild to think that in a few years we've gone from that being a major and impressive set piece in a flagship movie in the MCU to this even more impressive sequence in, what was at the time of planning, an experimental idea for a new streaming service. It makes me excited for what action pieces we're going to get in the next five episodes.
But the flip side is that the entire thing felt hugely out of place. Not just compared to the overall tone of the episode but even where it fell. Don't get me wrong, I love clothing related ASMR as much as the next person (for real, you should see how many Costube channels I'm subscribed to on YouTube) but using Sam getting dressed and then giving the speech at the Smithsonian as the bookends for the action and the Flag Smashers setup was just odd. If you had to include the action - and I understand why they did - I think it would've been better served to start the episode with it directly and then move to everything else. Just that one adjustment would've made a world of difference.
Of course one episode isn't nearly enough to judge by, but I do like the signs we're seeing regarding the understanding of how to use the characters they have, particularly when it comes to the question of a Black Captain America. Rhodey is literally the only hero on Earth right now (since Fury is presumably still in space) who could've and should've been the one to have the conversation with Sam about taking up the mantle, and I'm glad they knew that.
Obviously a Black showrunner and head writer doesn't need my white ass giving approval of the handling of racial issues. But I do want to tip my hat as appropriate to the continuing impact of being in a post-Perlmutter world where these issues can even be brought up in the MCU in the first place. The concept of superheroes being people living in a complicated society is part of what makes Marvel comics what they are. (As opposed to DC which skews more towards superheroes being gods attempting to live among humans. Also interesting, but different.)
Let's talk about that a little bit, particularly in my own area of expertise.
The New Orleans of it All
Obviously I am thrilled that my desire for the show to lean in to the New Orleans location is coming true. Even though Sam and Sarah walking around in multiple layers of clothing and even coats is the most "Tell me you didn't film in New Orleans without saying you didn't film in New Orleans" thing I have possibly ever seen.
(New Orleans does get cold, don't get me wrong, but generally speaking layers=death by humidity. Oof.)
One thing that I wanted to highlight, though, because it's a blink and you'll miss it moment if you don't know the history, is the line that the Wilson family has been in New Orleans for generations.
As I've discussed previously, New Orleans is built on two things: hatred of English speaking Protestants, and slavery. Saying the Wilson family lived there for generations makes it explicit that Sam and his sister are descended from enslaved people.
Now yes, I get that in general sadly most Black people in America are descended from the enslaved. But setting their family near New Orleans affects the racial dynamics being presented by the show and the show knows that. Anthony Mackie is from New Orleans himself. He knows this.
Understand New Orleans was and is one of the greatest port cities in America. Import/Export was the New Orleans economy. The primary import was the enslaved. The primary exports were the crops from plantations and also the enslaved. The actual lifeblood of New Orleans was slavery.
[ETA: To clarify, the stated location of the Wilson family is Delacroix, Louisiana. However Delacroix is 45 min from New Orleans and has always been connected to New Orleans in terms of trade. Historically Delacroix held sugar plantations in addition to being where you could find fishing and trapping. The Wilson family fishes now but would not have been brought to Louisiana to fish then. Which in and of itself adds layers to their history and why the business is so important to them. This is enough of an edit for an already done post, though, so I’ll do that dive if it comes up more in future eps, promise.]
Moreover, Louisiana to this day still shows this history. Not just in things like which places were hit hardest by Katrina, but in how you can walk through neighborhoods and see sprawling mansions on one side of a block and tiny run down railroad apartments on the other side of that same block. The economic divide right there without even crossing the street because those apartments are where the slave quarters were.
Sam and his sister are living in a town where every single day they are seeing reminders of the horrors done to their family. In some cases literally, because many of the old slave quarters are still in place and available to tour alongside the plantation houses and the lessons you get on how fashionable it was to have faux bois on your walls.
(I'm not saying the tours are necessarily a bad thing. Education is good. There's just levels to how to handle it. If you want more on the subject let me point you towards Michael Twitty as one of many historians who can speak to this issue much better than I can. Also because Michael is awesome. He's got a new book out, you should get it.) (Note that is an Amazon Affiliate Link.)
Now keep this in mind as you think about Sam and Sarah at the bank. We're told not only has their family been in there for generations but they've done business with the bank for generations too. To all appearances, this is a local neighborhood bank, not a worldwide conglomerate.
Remember where New Orleans' money came from? Yeah. Sam and Sarah are having to dress up nice and mind their Ps and Qs to try to get a loan from an institution that exists because their family was tortured.
Keep that in mind as the white guy banker asks Sam to do flappy bird wings for a selfie.
(The white guy banker who, in all likelihood, is descended from the people who owned Sam and Sarah's ancestors by the way.)
So yeah. I'm loving how there's depth to what they're addressing here. Hopefully the rest of the show keeps it on this level or even deeper, because we need stories like this to be told.
(Again, not that you need my white self to give permission.)
I'm Still Aware Bucky Is A Character On This Show
I haven't forgotten Bucky. It's just that the poor boy has no hope of competing with my almost pathological need to start talking about New Orleans history at the slightest provocation. No fault of his own, I promise.
I must admit the thing which stood out most to me in Bucky's storyline was the use of camera angles. Which I know sounds like a "As a model he's got a great face for radio" kind of compliment but I mean it sincerely. I liked the tight closeups during the therapy session to show how trapped Bucky felt in his mind and by the therapist's gaze. I also liked how it contrasted later when he went on the date and the camera at first stayed outside of the restaurant window, showing how detached Bucky felt from himself as he's making these steps towards normalcy. Right now Bucky's story is primarily about how he lives inside his own head, so using visuals to get us to identify with that is a great way to go.
At the moment I'm giving a side eye to Bucky's therapist. Given my personal history I have a hard time seeing therapy represented badly in media, even as I understand that therapy is no different from any other profession in that regard. So it's possible this is my bias and trust issues or it's possible that Bucky's therapist is a Hydra agent for all we know.
No spoiler there, just my feelings. I will say that I did like that she's a veteran. Regardless of where said therapist comes from, somebody like Bucky needs somebody who has also seen some shit and thus won't be thrown by anything Bucky mentions.
On the topic of Bucky, I hope that they do something with the fact that Bucky is a hero who has one arm. It'd be great to see something like a little kid who also has a prosthetic looking at Bucky and seeing themselves represented in him. I won't call it a fail if that never happens, but I think it would be nice.
As always, random thoughts that don't fit in elsewhere:
- RHODEY!!! I know I already mentioned him but still. RHODEY!!!!
- Redwing has tiny red duck feet and I love him.
- Dear god the amount of core strength Sam has to have to hold his position while flying. Respect.
- I assume a lot of money was spent on the 10 minute action sequence, but it's nice they saved some of the budget to afford the orange filter to ensure the audience knew that we were in Tunisia.
- Or perhaps that's from the money they saved by attaching a dead badger to SebStan's head instead of buying him a proper wig for the flashbacks.
- I did like that even though they were clearly trying to save money here as well by using waist-up shots, when you saw Rhodey in full body there were (I assume) LED lights used to hint at his leg braces underneath his pants.
- I was slightly disappointed to find out Bucky wasn't hanging out with Yori because they are both senior citizens. I choose to believe that it was still at least something of a factor and not just about Yori's son.
- After four years of the past POTUS, the impact of the insult of the new Captain America hits hard. You just know if Donnie had the ability to do it he would've declared Kid Rock the new Captain America or some shit.
- Speaking of the fake Cap, #NotAmericasAss is the hashtag I saw someone else come up with and I am absolutely going to put a stool next to that beautiful joke and milk it to death, thank you for asking.
- Because I'm me, when Sam stepped away from the podium at the Smithsonian I couldn't help but picture the reporters there going "What? WHAT???" because he didn't have a lavalier mic on even though he kept talking.
- Also because I'm me I kept making "get on with it" gestures at my monitor whenever Bucky was like "It wasn't a dream" because clearly we're building up to the moment he says "…it was a MEMORY" and then there's a shot of SebStan looking emo. Like we get it, move on now.
- The therapist mentioning that Bucky doesn't have friends or family feels like foreshadowing.
- Making me wait 26 minutes to meet Sam's sister is way too long. YES I CHECKED THE TIME.
- There was some nice subtle worldbuilding in the scene outside of the bank. A car drove by which wasn't a new model and had a mismatched door, and there was a camp of homeless people on the neutral ground. Not sure if this is meant to indicate that Sam and Sarah live in an economically struggling neighborhood or if, when you combine it with how Westview looked when Wanda arrived, this is one of many hints that the post-snap world in general is still suffering. (I know WandaVision and FAWS were made independently of one another, but it could still be a directive from Feige that everywhere should look like it's still hit hard.)
- On that topic, maybe give the homeless folks the food before you go into the bank? It's just going bad sitting on the back of your truck like that. (Though for real the best gumbo I ever had I bought from somebody selling Styrofoam containers of it out of their trunk near the French Quarter.)
- Sam: "I'm always repping NOLA." Thanks, Sam. Nola says she likes you too. =)