The highly-anticipated Disney+ debut dominated the social media conversation with new characters, familiar names from the comics, old favorites and one very punchable face.
To look at Twitter's trending topics in the middle of the night on Thursday -- or early Friday if you'd prefer -- you'd think it was primetime television! Instead, it was just the premiere of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Dropping at midnight PT, fans had clearly stayed up late or set alarms to tune in just as it was premiering, as they got virtually every major development, reveal and moment trending in real time.
A dramatic departure from the streamer's first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the mysterious experimental "WandaVision," "TFATWS" is a much more straightforward exploration of life after half the world's population returned, as well as a deep dive into what life is like for the world's superheroes between bouts of saving said world.
It's ... not great.
While the shot itself took top honors on Twitter's trending topics, there were several others that trended throughout the overnight hours, including names like Torres, Rhodey, Yori, Sarah Wilson, John Walker, Steve Rogers and one that might be unfamiliar for non-comics fans, US Agent ... as well as "New Captain America."
It's indicative of just how many major developments were happening in this action-espionage opening hour of what's already promising to be a very fun six hour romp through a very emotionally damaged MCU.
The last one up there is probably the biggest, as fans have been waiting since the end of "Avengers: Endgame" to see if Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) takes up the mantle of Captain America as Steve Rogers clearly wanted him to do.
Well, by the end of this premiere, we finally got to meet the new Captain America, in a dramatic press conference that also served as a huge betrayal. Taking Cap's shield to the Smithsonian, Sam told Rhodey (Don Cheadle) that he felt only Steve could carry it, that symbols are nothing without the right person behind them.
But the U.S. military felt differently. Thanking Sam face to face for returning the shield, the episode closed with that same man effectively betraying the spirit of Sam giving the shield to the Smithsonian's Captain America display by taking it out and giving it to a new man.
That man's name is John Walker (Wyatt Russell), another of the night's trending topics. And we might as well throw U.S. Agent in there, as well, because that's another moniker he goes by in the source material. John has been Captain America in the comics, but he's a far different man than Steve, with a darker streak in him -- as in this dude gets brutal!
With a smarmy grin and a wink to the camera, he quickly became the man Twitter loved to hate. And considering he's not Steve, Sam is going to have a thing or two to say (or do) about him holding that shield, too.
We suspected from the start this series was going to in large part be about who was going to take on the mantle of Captain America. Fans are cool with either of the title characters wielding it in the end. But not this tool!
While fans were not digging the big reveal at the end, they absolutely oved the all-too-brief sequence with Rhodey and Sam at the Captain America exhibit. From the moment we saw Rhodey in the audience, it was clear how connected these two were.
While Steve may not technically be dead, so far as we know, both of these men lost their friends and mentors at essentially the same time. And both carry that burden and expectation that they will pick up and carry the torches of both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.
They carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, and a lot of mourning in their hearts for how much things are changing, and in many ways spiraling out of their control. It's a beautiful moment between two men who clearly respect one another a great deal.
Have they ever taken the time to become actual friends? We've no idea, but we choose to believe they are close. After all, Rhodey is the only Avenger or Avenger-adjacent person who showed up for Sam's speech.
They may live very different lives, but as we've just seen, not so different after all. And this is definitely a friendship we and the rest of fandom could get behind. No, we are behind it, because it's real. They're friends. It's happening!
We don't know how much Cheadle is going to feature in this series, or if this was just a cameo appearance, but we feel pretty confident that he's not any happier about what happened with the shield than Sam and pretty much everyone else, so we really hope we get to see him again.
cw // tfatws spoilers . . . rhodey and sam's friendship was something i never fully thought of and now that we have it I'm going to treasure it forever they've never done a single thing wrong ! pic.twitter.com/ROmcOKpVzu
She may not be a superhero, but we're already in love with Sam's sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), and we're not alone. We stan a strong queen who doesn't need superpowers or a super suit to hold it down.
Forced to make hard decisions to keep her family afloat while Sam was gone for five years -- which is admittedly not his fault -- Sarah is a widower with two kids and the kind of grounded realism that often eludes those flashy superhero types.
The episode opened with Sam in one of the coolest aerial fight sequences we've ever seen and he was badass from start to finish. But he was completely out of his element thinking he could use that same superhero status to secure a bank loan to save the family boat and home.
It was an incredibly callous scene when the banker told the pair that despite their family banking with them for years, they couldn't help. For one, it turns out that Sam not having a job for the five years he was gone is being counted as a mark against him.
They're also told that the banks are just "tightening up" after billions of people suddenly returned just a few months ago. But are they tightening up for everyone, or maybe more for Black families? It's not stated outright, but heavily implied. And Sarah was waiting for that shoe to drop.
She basically humored Sam by going with him, but maybe it was also to try and slap some reality into him that he can't fix this with his awesome wings and fame. Some things require boots on the ground, and his are always sky high. It's no wonder fans are already enamored with her. We certainly can't wait for more of her story.
Speaking of boots on the ground, the other new character battling it out with Sarah as most popular online has to be First Lieutenant Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez), who proves himself absolutely fearless by taking on one of the season's big bads by himself.
While we don't know how it all connects, Sam and Torres first make a connection during that awesome aerial fight with -- did we mention Batroc the Leaper (Georges St-Pierre) is back? -- a new group calling themselves the LAV. Torres is his officer on the ground and does a great job of providing support, earning him Sam's respect.
Later, Torres proves his mettle again by attempting to infiltrate the other big bad force, known as the Flag Smashers. Only it's Torres who gets smashed into the ground when he tries to go up against one of them singlehandedly. And we're pretty sure this guy has superpowers.
Let's just say, Torres definitely has the heart and courage to be a superhero himself. And, as comic book fans certainly know, his name rings a bell within the Marvel pantheon of heroes. And, in fact, he's associated with a very familiar hero's name.
In the comics, Sam does at one point take up the mantle of Captain America, stepping in for Steve Rogers. When he does so, a new Falcon emerges to become his partner, as he was for Steve. That man's name is Joaquin Torres. There are a lot of differences between the two, but the name can't be a coincidence.
Could this be a hint as to who's going to be carrying what title, and which pieces of equipment, by the end of this series? Anything is possible. And if it does, well, Marvel can rest easy knowing their newest (possibly) hero is already a fan-favorite.
Obviously, the shadow of Steve Rogers loomed large over the entire opening hour, but apparently the conspiracy theories within the MCU are even larger than that. We loved hearing Torres spill a little bit about them, but especially when he asked somewhat earnestly if perhaps Steve was on the moon.
We'd laugh, but we've seen some of the conspiracy theories that people believe on this Earth, so maybe we'd best be quiet.
Fans got his name trending as they watched, both for the hilarity of the theories, but also for how beautifully he was honored and eulogized by both Sam and Rhodey. Oh, and there was some more outrage about who the government thought could replace him, but we know that's not gonna last.
One of the sweetest sequences in this premiere was seeing the softer side of The Winter Soldier aka James "Bucky" Barnes aka everybody's already obsessed with Sebastian Stan's portrayal of this character. As beloved as he's always been, he touched even more hearts with his beautiful friendship with an old man named Yori (Ken Takemoto).
It wasn't made clear until closer to the end why they were friends, but it was a genuine friendship that was so sweet. We found ourselves wondering if somehow Yori was old enough to have known Bucky before he became Winter Soldier, but the truth is far more tragic.
While Sam and James never met up in this episode, their stories instead happened parallel. And while Sam offered us a glimpse into his personal life, James' story was all personal life. There was not a single moment of violence from the man last seen on Wakanda seeking peace and tranquility. Look, if he's not willing to be honest about it, we don't see why we have to -- besides, it was for the cause of good, which makes it okay, right?
When his story picks up, Bucky's lying his way through therapy sessions and trying to figure out how to live as a civilian. One of those things he lied about was a nightmare he had about one of his killing sprees as an agent of HYDRA.
Later, after Yori hooked him up with a very cute waitress named Leah (Miki Ishikawa -- and we hope to see more of her, too!) as the world's best wingman, the truth emerged. We already knew that Yori had lost his son while he was traveling abroad with a "wrong place, wrong time" explanation that offered no closure.
When the date brought it up, James fled to Yori's apartment, but still couldn't bring himself to say but suddenly became clear with one photograph. One of his victims from the dream was Yori's son. James killed him, or more specifically the Winter Soldier killed him.
Another immediate fan-favorite character, and wonderfully framed sequence, was that lengthy session we got to sit in where we saw that some people aren't going to put up with Bucky's smarmy shit.
As beloved as James is by Marvel fandom, in this moment, we think his therapist (Amy Aquino) might have been even more loved for how she handled him. She took him down for his lies, absolutely made him accountable and every time she grabbed her "passive aggressive" notebook, she scored a win.
As much as he resisted, she absolutely knows how to work him. It was a thing of beauty to watch. But it was so much more. We've toyed with the idea of superhero trauma, but this was a deep dive into the PTSD of the kind of life James lived, and how he's coping and trying to move forward. It's also advocacy for the value of therapy, even if he is resisting it to the hilt right now!
Yes, he's lying to her pretty consistently, but at the same time, he is at least somewhat trying to get with her program and see if he can't find some normalcy in his life. After all that violence we're denying happened when he took down a corrupt politician he had helped position while with HYDRA, he did tell her this was part of his atonement program. So he didn't violate all three rules.
The moment where the therapist took his phone and basically called him out for having no friends, shirking Sam's messages -- they both lost Steve, after all -- and isolating himself was so poignant. It rings even more true during these strange times.
But mostly, it was her strength opposite such a strong personality that really impressed fans.