The Falcon and the Winter Soldier just premiered on Disney+, and unlike WandaVision, it's a more conventional foray into television for Marvel Studios. And the first episode feels like half a pilot. And that felt like the writers did it on purpose. Back in the 1970s, pilots for TV shows tended to be the equivalent of 2 episodes. Around 88 minutes, which is the length of an average feature film. They had act breaks and the first half was usually all set-up, ending in a kind of cliffhanger so that part 2 was all pay-off. Episode TV usually had self-contained arcs or a certain degree of story progression within the weekly runtime. This may be the case with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The first 47-minute episode was all set-up. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is still a superhero working with the military no covert ops. He has chosen not to take up the mantle of Captain America because he's wary of the burden of being a symbol for an entire country. He's also quietly tracking a secret group while visiting his sister, who's now in charge of their late parents' fishing business. Sam finds his name and reputation as an Avenger isn't good enough to second a bank loan to keep the business going because he and his sister are black. It's a pointed commentary on race and class discrimination in America that's sharper than you expect Marvel Studios stories to be. Meanwhile, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is in therapy and avoiding violent action as part of the condition for his parole and has befriended the father of one of his victims in an attempt to atone for his murderous past. In Europe, the secret terror group has begun to make its move. The first hour ends with the US government giving the shield to a new Captain America, John Walker, because they believe the country needs the symbol, betraying Sam's wish to keep the shield in a museum as a memorial to Captain America. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier do not meet up.
By the end of that pilot episode, the show has yet not become what its title promised. Sam and Bucky have not met or teamed up yet. There are two set-pieces: Sam's rescue of an officer from terrorists and Bucky's memories of an assassination. The rest of scene-setting for both the heroes' lives. No story arc is resolved within the hour. The main plot has not kicked off yet, assuming this is a serialized story. A slow-burn pilot is often standard for cable shows these days. The decompressed storytelling reflects the slowed-down pacing of the comics now where an issue is one long set-up instead of a self-contained arc within that issue next to the longer ongoing serial plot.
That means this pilot episode is not complete. It's probably going to take the second episode to finish setting up the premise of the show, which is the Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up together to fight the bad guys. The producers and showrunners promise that this 6-episode miniseries sets up another status quo by the end. That means it's probably more of a six-part MCU movie than a standard serial.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming weekly on Disney+.