The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has two episodes now and while the series is my favorite piece of MCU content since Infinity War, the parallels between this show and The Winter Soldier is striking. For the first time in the MCU, we have been given a story that actually mirrors the basic structure and story beats of a previous installment and yet it’s this style of storytelling for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that makes it so compelling. So, with no further ado, let’s look at these fascinating story parallels and what a continuation of this approach for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could mean for the show.
SPOILERS for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier AHEAD!
The Opening Words
How did Captain America: The Winter Soldier begin? With Sam and Steve interacting in this perfect scene that immediately established the two characters as burgeoning friends.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the series opens on a more somber note, showing the incredible contrast between their first meeting and their last onscreen time together in the MCU (the moment when an old Steve Rogers gives Sam the shield.)
The first words we hear are being said by both Sam and Steve.
Steve: “What does it feel like?”
Sam: “Like it’s someone else’s.”
Steve: “It’s not.”
It shows immediately how far the characters’ relationship has grown over the years and that this is now Sam’s story, not Rogers.
Establishing a Change
The first major scene to establish Captain America’s place in the story is this epic action sequence that starts the film off with a bang.
As someone whose first introduction to Captain America was in The Avengers my ultimate analysis of the character was that he was pretty lame in a fight. If you remember, in The Avengers there’s a scene where he can barely take on brainwashed human agents and has trouble fighting the Chitauri. Plus, he was in a ridiculous tight star-spangled suit.
How do you make Cap a cool character in the MCU after his role in The Avengers? You dress him in an all-new dark blue suit to show the tone of the character has changed and you put him in an awesome action sequence where we watch him take down foes way more efficiently than what we saw in The Avengers.
The same happens in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Falcon has always been able to handle himself in a fight but this is the very first time we get to see him working solo. So how do you immediately remind us of his legendary Avenger status? By creating a ten-minute-long sequence that has Sam doing everything, from hand-to-hand combat to aerial maneuvers that’ll make Iron Man jealous.
Plus he, like Steve, gets an outfit upgrade. We see that he’s sporting red and white and there are noticable stripes in his new look. Not only does it reference his comic book look to show that this is a Falcon who has come into his own but the red, white, and stripes represent how close he is to being Captain America but there’s something still missing; a turning point in his evolution as a character that will allow him to be ready to take on the mantle that Cap presented him with.
Plus, they both fought this guy.
Visits to the Smithsonian
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier Steve is still grappling with the fact that he lost everything and everyone he ever loved. He’s a man out of time, an exhibit is created to celebrate him, and he goes to visit the Smithsonian, for it is the closest link he has left to the likes of Bucky, Peggy, and an era he was removed from.
For Sam, it’s a much different story. Steve Rogers is gone, the weight of the responsibility of being Captain America is on his shoulders, and it is this burden that he cannot withstand. For him, Steve embodied every aspect of the symbol and he cannot personally see himself replacing such a person.
It is here, in this beautiful exhibit, that he relinquishes the shield but like Steve, it is in the Smithsonian where his true story begins.
Two Lost Super Soldiers
Steve Rogers, still left in limbo for living in a world that he doesn’t know, visits the VA to talk with his newfound friend, Sam Wilson. He’s alone, he’s kind of down and out, but he finds a relatability in Wilson.
Sam asks him late into their conversation, “What makes you happy?”
And Steve replies, “I don’t know.”
This shows that Steve doesn’t know what to do with his life when he considers finally stepping away from being a soldier.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier we learn that Bucky is taking therapy. We know he has nightmares, he’s alone like Steve, and he’s lost the thing that mattered to him most in the world; his best friend, Steve Rogers.
When the therapist tells him, “You’re free.” and he responds, “To do what?” it immediately establishes the idea that he’s a lost soul waiting to find purpose. He wants peace but he can’t get it until he finally reconciles with his past demons and he can’t reconcile with his demons unless he faces them. But how does he face them? Making amends isn’t working. But something will and I can’t wait to see what that is.
A Shocking Turn of Events
Captain America: The Winter Soldier moves along at a slow-burn pace until a certain sequence that pulls the rug out from the viewer and the entire MCU as a whole; Nick Fury’s ambush/death.
Nick Fury is the cornerstone of the first Phase of the MCU. He’s there to confront Tony and get the wheels in motion for The Avengers initiative, he saves Tony’s life by keeping him from continuing his destructive behavior, he’s there for Steve to let him know what’s happens when Rogers wakes up, and he’s ultimately the person who brings The Avengers.
The last person you would expect to die in the MCU is Nick Fury but that’s what seems to happen nearly halfway into The Winter Soldier. It jolts the bigger story into motion and begins to force Cap to reevaluate his position as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.
For this story, it’s not exactly a violent event that completely changes the scope of the story but it deeply affects the title characters in big ways. And that is the debut of a new Captain America via John Walker.
When Sam gave up the shield he expected it to be a museum piece, not a ploy for the government to go behind his back and crown a new star-spangled hero. It’s gut-wrenching. And for Bucky, the legacy of his friend is on the arm of an imposter whose first thought to introduce himself to us is a wink at the camera. Immediately we all know that this isn’t the Cap we know and it shakes up the series instantly.
The Government Guys Showing Their True Nature
It’s a crucial point in The Winter Soldier. Nick Fury has just “died”, S.H.I.E.L.D is apparently compromised, and Cap’s not sure who to trust. He has a conversation with Secretary Pierce and when Pierce asks Steve why Fury was in his apartment Captain America doesn’t offer an answer.
Pierce then proceeds to say, “Anyone who gets in my way is going to regret it. Anyone.”
The line subtly hints at Pierce’s more ruthless nature in that moment and the idea that he’s the true antagonist of the film.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, John Walker is given a bit of backstory and depth that makes him seem like not such a bad guy. And then it is this moment right here where everything changes.
He immediately switches from “Ooh, I’m the nice guy who’s now the new Captain America” to someone who seems like he can be pretty dark. It’s clearly foreshadowing the big moment of confrontation between Sam, Bucky, and Walker while also alluding to the idea that this new Cap may be the primary antagonist of the entire series.
It is these parallels that I found the most striking and have already displayed some serious evolution of both the characters and the MCU as a whole.
But what new parallels could happen in the upcoming episodes to affect the story? Well, I have an idea. One actually, and it’s a big one.
In the vein of Pierce becoming a surprise villain in The Winter Soldier it would be fitting for Zemo to become an unexpected ally. We already know that the next episode will feature Bucky and Sam going to talk to an imprisoned Zemo for information. And from what I can glean in the trailers and tv spots, our mere glimpses of a masked Zemo seems to scream, “Bad guy!” but it very well may be a ploy. One that’ll surprise the audiences, provide particular depth to the character, and rewrite the character specifically for the MCU.
Whatever happens next, I am loving the tone of this show, its particular attention to racism in a natural and unforced way, and the banter between Falcon and Bucky is top-notch. I mean I literally can’t stop smiling every time they’re onscreen.
The fact that we still have four episodes left is astonishing and I just can’t wait to see what’s in store next week.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a fantastic day.