This article contains spoilers for the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
You know how sometimes, you have two really good friends, and you love them both, but they don't necessarily like each other?
And then, you know those times when you get the opportunity to go back in time and grow old with the love of your life, leaving your two best friends behind to have to deal with each other while you retire at the age of 105? That's basically what's happening on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: You are Captain America and your two best friends are Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and now they have to hang out without you.
The show takes place a few months after the events of Avengers: Endgame and the Blip, during which half of the population of the universe (including Bucky and Sam) was erased and then restored five years later. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has retired and disappeared, and the whole world is wondering where he went.
Meanwhile, Sam has turned Cap's shield over to be put in a museum, and both he and Bucky are trying to move on with their lives in some way. Sam's working with the military and trying to help his sister keep the family boat, and Bucky is trying to make amends for all the people he killed under mind control.
Meanwhile, a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers is wreaking havoc, and, of course, the Captain America shield was not kept in the museum. It now is being used by the "new" Captain America, who made a suspicious debut at the end of the premiere episode.
We haven't seen Sam and Bucky team up yet, but it feels like the shield being used for potentially nefarious purposes is as good a reason as any for them to reunite. But they're not exactly best buds, as Stan explains to E! News in the video above.
"It's like when your best friend takes you to this party and you don't know anybody, and then leaves you there," he says. "We've been left at the party."
Mackie describes the team-up as "challenging" without having Steve there to mediate.
"You have to figure out the rhythm between these two people," he says. "It used to be we would interact through Cap, because we were there as basically Cap's assistants. But now it's more of a thing where we are our own individuals and we have to figure out exactly how do those two worlds match."
Stan says the show adds "a whole other layer" to these two characters that we haven't seen yet, and we might see them acting "out of character" as they get used to this new dynamic.
Fans of the movies should be well aware of Bucky's backstory. He was introduced in the first Captain America movie as Steve's best friend, who was constantly surrounded by women and stood by his much less social buddy no matter what. Then, Steve had to rescue him, and the two teamed up to take down Nazis, leading to what everyone thought was Bucky's demise.
He was then captured and brainwashed and turned into an evil super-assassin, and the Avengers tried to painstakingly rehab him before sending him off to Wakanda to get some real help and a cool new arm made out of vibranium.
Sam, an air force vet, appeared in Captain America: Winter Soldier as a sort of PTSD guidance counselor who helped Steve and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) while they were on the run during an attempt to help Bucky. He then revealed that he had been part of an air force project that gave him use of giant mechanical wings, and he soon became part of the Avengers. This show gives us a much better picture of who Sam is.
"This is really an introduction to Sam," Mackie says. "Presenting him on a stage where people can appreciate him, love him and get to know him."
"It's just much more, I think, for both of them," Stan adds. "You're really taking them out of the shadow of what Captain America is or what we've grown to learn, and you're giving them a pathway to stand on their own. I think even that transition itself is different from what you've seen."
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also stars Emily Van Camp, Wyatt Russell, Daniel Bruhl and Don Cheadle. New episodes arrive Fridays on Disney+.