Marvel’s ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: You watched the first episode, here’s what to know

The buddy action-comedy show of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you’ve been waiting for is here. 

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is out on Disney+, with five more new episodes streaming weekly on Fridays. This series follows the other recent Marvel show, “WandaVision,” which began airing on Disney+ in January.

So where does the show fall in the MCU timeline? Who was that guy on the plane? And how does the series connect to the movies and the comics? We’ve got answers to your burning questions. 

Here’s everything you need to know about “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” (Light spoilers for the first episode ahead.)

Who is Falcon?

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) inherited Captain America's shield but doesn't accept the heroic mantle at the beginning of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." (Photo: MARVEL STUDIOS)

Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) was a close friend of Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America. 

Sam, a US Air Force veteran, and Steve met while running in 2014 film “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and formed a tight friendship. Captain America left his shield – and his legacy – to Sam.

Falcon, introduced in a 1969 edition of the Captain America comics, is the first African-American superhero to appear in a major comic book (and second Black superhero, after Black Panther). 

In the first episode of “The Falcon and Winter Soldier,” we find out Sam has been working with the Air Force again for the last six months. Sam also gives Captain America’s shield to the government for display at the Smithsonian Institution because, as he said in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” he “felt like it belonged to someone else.” 

We get a glimpse of Sam’s hometown, Delacroix, Louisiana, when he visits his sister, Sarah, and their childhood home. (The comics character grew up in Harlem.)

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan rekindle their buddy action-comedy vibe in Marvel's 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,' premiering on Disney+.

USA TODAY

Who is the Winter Soldier?

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier in Disney+'s "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." (Photo: Disney+)

James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), was one of Steve Rogers’ closest childhood friends.They fought together in World War II, before Bucky was seemingly killed in action, as seen in “Captain America: First Avenger.” 

But Bucky wasn’t dead: He was scooped up by HYDRA, a terrorist organization that’s been around for hundreds of years but is usually associated with Nazi Germany. The group brainwashed and experimented on him, giving him superhuman abilities – though he lost his arm. He did HYDRA’s bidding for the next few decades, until his mission to eliminate Captain America went awry in “Winter Soldier” and he went on the run before teaming up with the Avengers. Shuri, the sister of the Black Panther/King T’Challa of Wakanda, helped Bucky overcome his brainwashing.

Barnes first appeared in the 1941 debut issue of the Captain America comics, but didn’t become the Winter Solider until a 2005 Captain America comic.

Bucky was born March 10, 1917, according to the comics, which means he just turned 104. (Happy belated birthday!) 

When does the series take place?

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” starts a few months after the events in “Endgame,” when half of the population that disappeared in Thanos’ snap — called the “Blip” — returned.

Where we saw them last 

In the closing scenes of “Avengers: Endgame,” an aged Cap had returned the infinity stones, handed his shield and the mantle of Captain America to Sam and said goodbye to both of his friends. 

Bucky and Sam haven’t been the best of friends through the years (see the “I hate you” scene from 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”), but they’ve grown closer through their mutual friendship with Rogers and their work with the Avengers. They also both were among those who disappeared in the “Blip” in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” and have been grappling with their relationships and lost time. Each could use a friend.

Who else is on the show?

Showing some Avenger solidarity, Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) makes an appearance about halfway through the first episode. And expect to see Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), last seen in “Civil War.”

How many episodes? How long are the episodes?

There are six episodes scheduled for the limited series, each running 45 to 55 minutes.

What movies do you need to see first?

Like most of the Marvel movies and the recent “WandaVision,” it might be confusing to go into this one without having seen previous MCU projects. 

If you haven’t seen any of the movies, you’ll want to catch up with “Captain America: First Avenger,” “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” 

Just looking for a refresher? A rewatch of “First Avenger” and “Civil War” should do.

Why did the bad guy on the plane look so familiar?

Batroc, played by Canadian former professional MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre, first battled Captain Rogers in a scene in “Winter Soldier.” He had been hired by Nick Fury to hijack a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship with a team of pirates while Natasha Romanoff uncovered intel on Project Insight.  

He might have lost to Falcon in the episode’s opening action sequence, but this probably isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.

Who is that at the end?

So who’s the new Captain America? No spoilers here, but that’s actor Wyatt Russell at the end of the episode donning the uniform and carrying Cap’s shield. He’s been cast as John Walker, who is US Agent, also known as Super-Patriot in the comics. 

Russell was recently in the Showtime miniseries “The Good Lord Bird” and also appeared in the 2016 “Playtest” episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror.”

Where’s the post-credits scene?

There’s no mid- or post-credits scene in the first episode, but don’t rule out this tradition. The first episodes of “WandVision” didn’t have any additional scenes, but later episodes did.

What comes next?

Here’s everything Marvel Studios has coming this year:

  • “Black Widow” (May 7, in theaters)
  • “Loki” series (June 11, Disney+)
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9, in theaters)
  • “Eternals” (Nov. 5, in theaters)
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Dec. 17, in theaters)
  • “What If…?” anthology series (2021, Disney+)
  • “Hawkeye” series (late 2021, Disney+)
  • “Ms. Marvel” series (late 2021, Disney+)

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