If it weren’t for COVID-19, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would’ve been Marvel Studios’ first TV series to roll out on Disney+. That honour now belongs to WandaVision.
While the six-part series — which follows the adventures of test-pilot-turned–Avenger Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and reformed assassin Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) — have missed that milestone, it secured another place in Marvel annals: its director Kari Skogland is the first woman to helm a TV project for Marvel Studios on her own.
Skogland, best known for her episodic work on The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire and The Loudest Voice, says The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (FAWS) requires her to tap into her comedy, action and drama backgrounds.
“It was wonderful to have all the pistons firing,” the Canadian helmer says. “Because very often a project — like Handmaid’s Tale — goes down one lane, and is very specific in tone, but [on FAWS], I am able to embrace many tones.”
Speaking to journos a few days before FAWS’ Mar 19 launch, Skogland also revealed the movies she drew inspiration from. Besides the source MCU movies, she also looked at Lethal Weapon, 48 HRS, Midnight Cowboy, and Easy Rider. “I really go very wide and try to put it in a pot and stir it and come up with something unique for our look.”
Here, we list out five memorable moments from the first episode of FAWS, ‘New World Order’, which would Disney+ claimed is the most-watched series premiere ever on the streaming service worldwide. ( (Warning: This story contains spoilers. Do not read this until you’ve seen the first episode of FAWS.)
1. The series opens with a bang!
Marvel Cinematic Universe is still, well, cinematic. Just because FAWS is a TV series doesn’t mean Marvel Studios has to scale down its action And nothing says epic like a 10-minute James Bond pre-title-worthy sequence (cue to 2:30) involving the Falcon chasing baddies in wingsuits. It’s an exhilarating blend of CG enhancements (pretty sure they didn’t blow up the choppers for real) and in-camera stuntology. For the latter, Skogland studied extreme sports videos and hired an amazing aerial team to pull it off. “We put cameras all over them,” Skogland tells us. “[That way] we really could feel like we were [flying] with Falcon.”
2. Together…but separated
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier do not share a scene, at least in the first episode. It’s a little disappointing but Skogland promises that when Sam and Bucky get together, they’ll bring down the house. “They are constantly ad-libbing,” she says. “Some of those moments are in the trailers. The history of their personal friendship definitely bubbles through. That is something we definitely capitalised on.” Therein lies another challenge for Skogland: maintaining the delicate balance between a buddy-cop comedy and an espionage thriller. “How I try to create balance is to allow the character to really drive everything,” she continues. The viewer should learn something new about their characters after every sequence. “There is an emotional component so you don’t feel like it’s [tagged to[ an action sequence. It should feel very much like a seamless rollercoaster ride.”
3. Welcome to the New World!
FAWS may be a comic-book adventure but it’s rooted in the real-life geopolitics, where threats don’t come from outer space (bye-bye, Thanos!) but within (hello, Flagsmashers, a group that believes the world was better during the Blip and dreams of building a unified planet without national borders). The post-Blip world looks a lot like our present world, one that’s grappling with the fallout of Trumpism and COVID-19. “We are embracing ideas and issues like [the darks side of] nationalism,” says Skogland. The show also examines what makes a hero in the post-Captain America era, and, more importantly, in Sam’s case, “What is it for a Black man to pick up that shield? That is very topical and it’s a discussion that is going on today.” (By the way, where is Steve Rogers? Is he dead?)
4. Superheroes need to pay rent, too!
Or in Sam’s case: Applying for a bank loan to keep his family business afloat. In the scene (cue to 36:26), the loan officer asks Sam a question we’ve always wanted to ask: How exactly do The Avengers make a living? “Is there some kind of fund for heroes,” the manager probes. “Or did [Tony] Stark pay you when he was around?” Sam replies, “There’s a tremendous amount of goodwill.” But pro bono work alone doesn’t pay the bills. It’s a scene that's equally amusing and heartbreaking. After all, Sam has done for the world, he still gets turned down. What the what?! Maybe Sam should’ve called Pepper Potts and ask her to vouch for him. Just saying.
5. Get the man a Tiger!
Holy, product placement! Bucky is seen knocking down a few bottles of Tiger Beer while out on a date at a Japanese eatery (jump to 30:10). What, no Asahi Super Dry? Jokes aside, hardcore fans believe that there’s more to the homegrown brew’s cameo — is it a hint for the later scenes which are reportedly set in Madripoor, an outlaw city inspired by Singapore’s past as a pirate haunt? We have five more episodes to find out.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+; new episodes drop every Friday.