My expectations for Falcon and the Winter Soldier were pretty low. I'd never been particularly interested in either character despite the fact that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favourite MCU films. But I liked the first episode of the new series which aired a couple days ago. It's not as intriguing as WandaVision, it's even kind of boring, but I appreciate it for not being obnoxious or egregiously stupid.
The episode, like, apparently, several upcoming episodes, was directed by veteran television director Kari Skogland who also directed an episode of the Netflix Punisher series so this is her second outing in the MCU. She does a decent enough job--the action scenes are fast moving, if a little predictable--the moment I saw the helicopter with the open sides, I knew Falcon was going to fly through. I saw someone on Twitter describe the opening as a military recruitment ad. I guess if the military had guys with wings, sure.
He doesn't really have a superpower, does he? Just mechanical wings? I never read any of the comics with Falcon. According to Wikipedia, he was briefly a mutant. Maybe the MCU will reintroduce that idea as part of their interminable X-Men teases. At the moment, he's just a guy with mechanical wings, which makes him a less powerful version of X-Men's Archangel, I guess.
As a character in the MCU, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is kind of a blank slate. He's always just been around either to react as the normal modern human guy to Steve Rogers or to be part of the CG super-mob in a busy Avengers fight scene. This episode opens him up a little, giving him a sister and nephews (who amusingly call him "Uncle Sam") and a family legacy involving a mouldering old boat. There's a kind of interesting scene where they try to get a loan from the bank for the boat. I like how the bank employee is insensitive but not cartoonishly horrible when he's oddly focused on taking selfies instead of talking about loans. Still, the scene feels truncated, as though there was a longer version where he actually explained why Sam's government contracts were insufficient. The episode handles The Blip a little better than other things in the MCU--certainly better than Far From Home--and there was just the barest hint of how billions of people suddenly turning up might have affected financial institutions.
Sam still feels insubstantial but I can see him possibly becoming interesting. Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has a lot more baggage to work with and I liked his awkward date. Though actress Miki Ishikawa reminded me of the typical MCU child actors--as seen in the Ant-Man movies and WandaVision--whose flatly chipper line deliveries make them seem manic and partially deaf. Sebastian Stan isn't bad though I don't understand why so many Star Wars fans want him to play Luke Skywalker so badly.
I think there's reason to hope the series will improve in quality once we get to scripts by John Wick's Derek Kolstad. I'll tune in in any case.