News

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier First Reviews: Delivers 'Stellar' Action Along with Big Emotions and Surprising Depth

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan bring charm, introspection, and emotional resonance, as the series shines a light on trauma and legacy in a post-blip world, while exploring ways Avengers: Endgame events continue to inform the MCU.

by | March 18, 2021 | Comments

After a longer-than-expected wait, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is finally here, premiering to Disney+ on Friday, March 19. And while it’s been nearly two years since Avengers: Endgame first premiered in theaters, the story (and some of the major plot-points therein) are still having an impact on our heroes Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) closest friends never were top-tier in the Avengers franchise, but it looks like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is aiming to change that. Can Sam and Bucky rise to the challenge against a mysterious new foe, while also reconciling with their own pasts in order to see where they fit in a post-Endgame world without Captain America? And, more importantly, will the fans want to come along for the ride?

Here’s what critics are saying about The Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 1 (note: reviews are posted under each episode —rather than on the season 1 page — since critics are supplied with new episodes each week just before their debut):


HOW ARE ANTHONY MACKIE AND SEBASTIAN STAN?

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are on top form, with the latter really given the chance to shine as Bucky struggles to find his place in the world. His peaceful sabbatical in Wakanda as the White Wolf is over, so what happens when he’s confronted by the sins of his past? That’s a question this series looks to be setting out to answer, and if this first episode is any indication, that could take the character to some extraordinary places. –Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Mackie and Stan stretch nicely in their expanded roles, finding room to play with both high drama and dark comedy, respectively — an odd couple in emotional beats as much as their actual character pairing. Stan finds touching humor in Bucky’s impossible circumstances (yes, we get Bucky on a date, and it is everything), and Mackie’s expressive eyes and face bookend the episode with two wordless yet striking scenes. We don’t need any explanation for Sam’s grief, doubt, and disappointment when we watch the actor in those moments. –Proma Khosla, Mashable

Between the jaw-clenched brooding and reflective staring, Mackie and Stan find small but meaningful moments to illustrate their innate charms. Mackie’s smile has a natural glow that’s impossible to resist, and he gets to crack it a few times while “Uncle Sam” (yup) jokes with his young nephews or cajoles his sister into a new business plan. Stan, meanwhile, has this simple little moment with a Maneki-neko that’s destined for meme glory (while still conveying Bucky’s deep desire for the world to stop moving, just for a second, so he can catch up). Once these two get together, making enough time for fans to enjoy their natural charisma among the requisite action scenes may be the show’s greatest challenge. –Ben Travers, IndieWire

For Mackie — a prolific character actor many first noticed in his role in “Half Nelson” fifteen years ago — this is an overdue moment in the sun. Mackie’s work in the Marvel films has been consistently strong but somewhat underwritten, given the magnitude of his talent. What is striking about his presence here is that he is permitted to embody complexity. –Daniel D’Addario, Variety


DOES IT STRIKE A GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN ACTION AND DRAMA?

Falcon and Winter Soldier

(Photo by © Disney+, @ Marvel Studios)

On the surface, the action sequences are arguably some of the best seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. –Dewey Singleton, AwardsWatch

The trailers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier promised a lot of action in this series, and the first episode doesn’t have much of it. The few action sequences that are in the premiere are stellar, but this is a show that doesn’t mind taking its time. –Charlie Ridgely, ComicBook.com

Tonally it’s along the lines of The Winter Soldier and the start of Civil War, at least regarding political jockeying and America-centric military issues. That’s both good and bad. On the one hand, the series could delve into some very worthy considerations of what it means to serve, to come home, to feel unmoored by a world that has moved past you; it could even reach Wanda-levels of introspection and emotional resonance regarding consequence. On the other, it could devolve into more of how this first episode starts: Call of Duty-esque mumbo jumbo, murder, explosions. –Allison Keene, Paste Magazine


HOW DOES IT PORTRAY THE POST-BLIP WORLD?

Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)

With this show, we’re able to get more of Sam’s backstory, which hasn’t been much of a focus previously. Poised to perhaps take the reigns from Steve Rogers, we’re able to connect with him on another level; learning more about his family and life before The Avengers. And we’ll also see how he’s dealing with returning post-“blip”, having missed five years, and what that experience is like. –Jordi Sirkin, Jordi Reviews It

By honing in on Sam’s anxiety as a black man on the precipice of taking up the moniker of America’s Aryan saviour, the writers have added a layer of complexity to his character that we hadn’t seen before. Mackie, too, steps up to the plate in a big way, exhibiting a rawness that is hard to come by in superhero fare. –Ben Allen, GQ Magazine [UK]

The Falcon show features the boffo action opening, and also a richer exploration of the lives of those left behind in the Snap and of the internal contradictions of being a Black superhero in a country that doesn’t fully embrace Blackness than Marvel has ever approached. –Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

Spellman and his writers have a blast with the post-Endgame world, using the space allowed a TV series to ask questions that movies simply don’t have time to address. Do Avengers get paid? What actually happens to a nation’s infrastructure when billions of people reappear after five years? The nerdy world-building is given room to breathe and it’s a hoot. –Jacob Hall, SlashFilm

Now, with his mind finally free of Hydra’s influence, Bucky is a 104-year-old man trying to find peace — or at least his version of it. In many ways, Bucky’s story is a sadder version of the one presented by Steve Rogers. After Steve was thawed out from the ice by Nick Fury, fans only got to see brief glimpses of him readjusting to modern society. The Falcon and Winter Soldier gives viewers more time to see Bucky attempt his rehabilitation tour. –Tim Adams, CBR


IS THE PRODUCTION VALUE WORTHY OF THE MCU?

Sebastian Stan in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Primetime Emmy–nominated director Kari Skogland (The Handmaid’s Tale; The Loudest Voice) is easily the biggest standout here, as she brings a very unique eye to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of the camera angles she utilizes throughout the first episode feel so intimate, it’s almost like you’re inside the characters’ heads, a trick that works especially well in Bucky’s therapy scene. The premiere does feel familiar — staying true to the tone set by the Russo Brothers in The Winter Soldier and Civil War — but under her direction, everything feels oddly fresh and exciting at the same time. –Rohan Patel, ComicBookMovie.com

The excellent production values and interesting writing/directing is what make The Falcon and The Winter Soldier worth watching. –Allison Skornick-Rose, Flick Direct


ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)

As enjoyable as it is to catch up with the two leads (while being treated to some jaw-dropping action), this is definitely something of a slow burn which drops plenty of hints about what’s to come without rushing into bringing in characters like Sharon Carter and Zemo. –Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

With a timeliness its creators could not have predicted, “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” will likely grow to feel as necessary to our national conversation as “Wandavision” did this winter. Possibly even more so, with themes of national chaos and what “American values” really mean.
And, maybe most importantly, how we move forward. –Brigid Presecky, Impressionist Media

The series has so much inherent potential to be a breakthrough moment for action storytelling, so long as it leans more into the unique skills of its nimble characters, and not just what makes them flashy in short bursts. –Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has yet to reach its ideal cruising altitude but it’s smooth, slow climb that promises to take viewers to new, exciting destinations. –Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premieres Friday, March 19, on Disney+.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

TCA 2017 BBC America spider-man zombie royal family halloween suspense award winner Winners Character Guide Disney Channel book adaptation Mary Tyler Moore comedies justice league Pop TV reboot GIFs Universal Pictures Opinion Fall TV what to watch DGA renewed TV shows MCU TNT cancelled TV series ESPN Interview Creative Arts Emmys Paramount Pictures rt labs critics edition Premiere Dates The Witch south america dark USA Network posters medical drama Focus Features scary movies fast and furious TV Land comic book movies unscripted cancelled obi wan TCA Winter 2020 HBO Max serial killer Family dc cancelled television 2017 live event First Look sag awards screenings Election Holidays japan 79th Golden Globes Awards versus Rocky TV renewals parents streamig Mystery Black History Month IMDb TV Adult Swim broadcast Marvel Studios Comic-Con@Home 2021 films summer preview prank spy thriller Musical ID PBS Showtime thriller batman Syfy Turner Disney streaming service PlayStation DC streaming service natural history critic resources Set visit sitcom crossover TV One festival Musicals Hear Us Out transformers Superheroe Best Actress MGM green book twilight Mudbound Trivia USA Mary poppins Film Festival nbcuniversal razzies harry potter video japanese Sony Pictures docudrama fresh spain Hollywood Foreign Press Association Lionsgate a nightmare on elm street Legendary TCA Awards Masterpiece movie social media Tokyo Olympics cooking Sci-Fi Horror game of thrones quibi VICE Amazon Studios CW Seed Prime Video The CW documentaries Awards Tour WarnerMedia Biopics mockumentary Polls and Games American Society of Cinematographers APB Pop breaking bad remakes adenture streaming italian Thanksgiving miniseries Nat Geo pirates of the caribbean Western venice LGBT Spring TV Spectrum Originals First Reviews Amazon Prime Video chucky 2016 History YouTube Premium television Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 71st Emmy Awards PaleyFest telelvision Travel Channel Oscars 4/20 Awards GLAAD Mindy Kaling summer TV Black Mirror streaming movies summer TV preview RT History video on demand saw cults Hallmark CBS All Access Certified Fresh hist period drama Countdown new york strong female leads king kong SundanceTV Sundance Now hispanic heritage month Anna Paquin stand-up comedy indie 94th Oscars stop motion Marathons Best Actor australia all-time black comedy child's play cops The Academy Fargo popular zero dark thirty french Tags: Comedy AMC IFC Dark Horse Comics slashers Avengers Netflix Christmas movies Binge Guide historical drama best Winter TV tv talk 2019 Peacock South by Southwest Film Festival comic rt labs Universal Trophy Talk robots space 2015 Superheroes TBS dragons Animation Ellie Kemper latino YouTube Spike comic book movie Britbox Song of Ice and Fire Pirates franchise boxing foreign talk show Crackle The Walking Dead free movies Schedule live action LGBTQ know your critic supernatural 93rd Oscars Wes Anderson Sneak Peek reviews Discovery Channel Rock hidden camera ABC Signature Nominations nature zombies Fantasy Music kids Ghostbusters discovery Action Apple aliens BAFTA marvel cinematic universe Paramount Network National Geographic blockbuster Baby Yoda golden globes Summer Calendar heist movie psychological thriller anthology joker archives Starz Brie Larson cartoon ABC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Nickelodeon YouTube Red Year in Review Kids & Family cats CNN rotten scary cars The Walt Disney Company Watching Series OneApp DC Universe Neflix Walt Disney Pictures Sundance TV Stephen King Disney Plus HBO superman police drama Best Director dceu binge Sony adaptation Writers Guild of America legend witnail CMT directors TIFF Epix Apple TV+ cinemax See It Skip It Television Academy Tumblr james bond indiana jones leaderboard crime drama based on movie Cannes BBC Funimation Pacific Islander 2021 universal monsters 72 Emmy Awards romance NBC king arthur HFPA FXX BET Awards Marvel dexter travel Holiday Paramount 73rd Emmy Awards DC Comics art house Classic Film superhero biography political drama toy story Super Bowl women Chernobyl sequels name the review war stoner dreamworks Teen ratings Best and Worst Exclusive Video boxoffice Red Carpet vampires book psycho finale Pride Month Reality MTV sports new star wars movies BBC One feel good E3 casting Esquire kaiju mcc HBO Go cancelled TV shows news die hard 1990s Fox Searchlight spanish Toys Extras werewolf Trailer mutant satire Comedy Central laika vs. Broadway Turner Classic Movies DirecTV Amazon Prime facebook Emmy Nominations The Arrangement composers TV movies Rom-Com children's TV football Star Wars comiccon mission: impossible international Disney+ Disney Plus obituary Logo Amazon anime ViacomCBS rotten movies we love A&E Academy Awards diversity New York Comic Con Television Critics Association 90s spanish language golden globe awards E! Arrowverse elevated horror Infographic Reality Competition Lifetime asian-american politics Pixar Christmas action-comedy Oscar trophy screen actors guild monster movies Valentine's Day gangster marvel comics Paramount Plus young adult Film disaster SDCC NBA IFC Films kong Heroines worst movies hollywood Marvel Television Box Office FX on Hulu Photos Captain marvel sequel Tubi festivals Acorn TV canceled TV shows hispanic TV ABC Family mob comics romantic comedy criterion theme song docuseries TCA crime thriller Warner Bros. President Ovation Tarantino A24 slasher X-Men Food Network WGN documentary spinoff crime rom-coms Cartoon Network TLC Alien BET Drama SXSW true crime blockbusters worst Elton John Cosplay FOX rt archives 21st Century Fox lord of the rings 2018 Fox News animated RT21 Video Games biopic Freeform GoT Hallmark Christmas movies doctor who toronto Podcast Netflix comic books scorecard basketball 20th Century Fox Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Women's History Month singing competition Hulu christmas movies independent Grammys trailers Emmys revenge 45 VH1 technology El Rey jamie lee curtis science fiction Comics on TV Vudu dramedy emmy awards series genre ghosts Tomatazos Country Martial Arts olympics VOD Rocketman Pet Sematary dogs Star Trek game show SXSW 2022 San Diego Comic-Con Shondaland Bravo MSNBC Lifetime Christmas movies deadpool OWN Comedy spider-verse Disney godzilla black target sopranos Best Picture teaser 24 frames Comic Book 99% AMC Plus 007 Columbia Pictures movies Quiz TruTV concert Shudder The Purge new zealand Lucasfilm jurassic park Instagram Live high school nfl adventure FX ITV Endgame classics Crunchyroll Apple TV Plus halloween tv 2020 Sundance aapi interviews scene in color CBS Mary Poppins Returns critics NYCC blaxploitation debate canceled Image Comics richard e. Grant TCM YA wonder woman