Marvel Television

How ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ Will Explore Deeper Themes in Six Episodes

When showrunner Malcolm Spellman first signed onto The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he was told that it would be the first television series to come out on Disney+. This meant Spellman had to figure out how to bring the Marvel filmmaker experience to the silver screen. Working with director Kari Skogland, Spellman knew he wanted to bring the action but also bring a lot of the serious implications of being a hero post-Blip, surviving PTSD, and the weight of possibly being a Black Captain America. 

With the pandemic, plans had changed and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is now following behind the hugely successful WandaVision, but that isn’t deterring Spellman or Feige. Feige says despite the changes, he guarantees that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is more action-packed with a deep understanding of these two characters that have never really been explored before. 

(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

“It was really meant to prove that we could ourselves to the audience and to Mr. Mackie and Stan there that just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s not going to be as big as it could possibly be as a movie,” Feige explained during The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Global press conference yesterday morning.  “We were working just as hard on it and putting all of our blood, sweat, and tears into it, which is why in the first episode that I think most of the journalists on this Zoom have seen, it really starts off with a bang. If we are going to do a series with Falcon and Winter Soldier, we need to at least start off with the best action that we’ve ever seen.”

Besides the intense action sequences, Spellman told TVLine earlier this year that he wanted race to be part of the discussion, especially as Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie) was hinted at taking on the Captain American mantle, “I believe that Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a nice progression with the mantle that [Black Panther director Ryan] Coogler and Chadwick [Boseman] left us. I really do believe that these giant Black icons are necessary, not only for Black kids but for white kids to start to absorb — our people as being big and heroic.”

Even in the first episode (not a spoiler), there is a discussion on the world after those who were Blipped have returned and the socioeconomic impact it had caused for our heroes. PTSD and the responsibility of the Shield are mentioned as well. Spellman says he has a plan for how he was going to weave all of these themes into the six episodes. 

“I think a huge part of that was process, in that we didn’t just tackle one episode at a time, we spent months just doing this,” Spellman explained. “We refer to it as vertical storytelling as features. Features are compressed time and immediate action, they all build towards one event. A series allows horizontal storytelling, and the rhythm of the storytelling is completely different in that characters can befriend each other and fall out and evolve in a much different way. So by focusing on that horizontal story, and spreading across all those things, you’re talking about spreading across where these characters’ journey is going to be.”

(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Skogland focused on the “buddy cop” partnership between Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam but also knew she had to dig deep into their character backgrounds to follow the themes Spellman focused on. “So we really had to go in deep character and be able to sustain that so it was also looking at how to do that — how to have a signature,” said Skogland. “You know, the camera, the nature of leaving where we put focal planes, how we see Bucky while he’s in therapy, all the different ways that we could be more intimate with these characters so that we get to know them.” 

Stan says the fact that both Bucky and Sam are soldiers who dealt with PTSD after fighting in wars and against the Big Three — androids, aliens, and wizards — is one of the things that bring them together. 

“There’s mutual respect,” says Stan. “As everybody knows, PTSD is not something that just sort of, you’re done with. It’s really something that one has to continue to grow with and to become better at dealing with. It’s a major part of our show and it grounds both of these characters in very realistic ways.”

(L-R): Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Feige reminded people that Tony Stark’s PTSD from being an Avenger was explored during the entire third Iron Man film. He shared, “It’s always about exploring what’s great about the Marvel characters is, as you’ve always heard us say, their flaws grounding something for crazy and extraordinary in science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural as the MCU can get. It’s grounding the character experiences and emotions of the character. That’s always by far [been] the most important anchor for any story we’re going to tell and there has been a lot of trauma for these characters over the years.”

It is easy to forget the trauma of the characters with the flashy action scenes and potential love interests, but Feige says they really think about what they would do if they were in that situation. “If you think about it, which we do, we think about what if we were these characters? What if we did this? There would be horrific elements to that that would have repercussions years down the line and that is very fun to explore.”

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

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