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‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ shows Marvel’s ‘WandaVision’ wasn’t a blip

Entertainment

(CNN)Marvel has seemingly cracked the code for its streaming efforts, seizing on underdeveloped threads and relationships from its blockbuster movies and giving them room (OK, about six hours) to breathe on Disney+. After the risk-taking format of “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” feels more conventional based strictly on its muscular premiere, while offering a welcome showcase for Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.

“Captain America: Civil War” seemingly stumbled upon the chemistry between the two as a squabbling odd couple. The conceit here is what happens to them post-“Avengers: Endgame,” without the red, white and blue icon that connected them.

That question, at least, has to wait, as the two characters — Mackie’s the Falcon, a.k.a. Sam Wilson, and Stan’s World War II super-soldier Bucky Barnes, looking great for 106 — initially operate on parallel tracks.

    Indeed, in the same way “WandaVision” spent several chapters before laying out its cards, this show appears to be in no hurry to disgorge its secrets or offer break-the-internet moments, exhibiting understandable confidence that fans will stick around while the first episode fleshes out the characters.

      That’s not to say the opening hour — directed by Kari Skogland (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and written by Malcolm Spellman (“Empire”) — is uneventful, beginning as it does with a rousing action sequence involving a military mission that looks as good as just about anything you’d see on the big screen.

        Still, those eager to watch the two swap insults while throwing punches instead get an introduction to Sam’s family and an update on how Bucky has been passing the time, adjusting to life after his days as a near-unstoppable assassin.

        The main theme of “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” actually dovetails nicely with the challenge that Marvel itself faces, after a year with postponed movies and the departure of signature characters that helped launch the company on its dominating path.

          “We need new heroes,” Sam is told, a reference to the chaotic times following the defeat of Thanos that seems particularly significant, both to the show and to Marvel on a broader level.

          Marvel and Lucasilm have shrewdly constructed their series to take advantage of their streaming home’s weekly episodic strategy (or as the kids used to call it, “television”), turning each Friday’s drop into the equivalent of a movie premiere when there weren’t any major ones to speak of. Subscribers staying up late or waking at the crack of dawn to watch new installments presumably won’t cancel for the next six weeks, and by then “Loki” will be on the horizon.

            In that sense, this series — originally intended to lead off Marvel’s Disney+ roster — perhaps inadvertently fits the moment. As the Falcon and Winter Soldier unite to fill the void left by the loss of their friend, the show is serving a similar purpose for those who last saw them in a crowded theater, emerging from portals and ready to help save the world.

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