Updated: Jul 28, 2021
2021. A year of lockdown has kept most people stuck in their homes with little to do or watch. Yes the pandemic has halted a great many things including the slow rollout to Marvel’s Phase 4, but now the MCU is starting to gain some well appreciated momentum.
With Marvel’s constant ensemble movies there is both a need and a demand to give as many characters as possible their time in the sun. And given the scope of the MCU and the deep pockets of Disney, it should come as no surprise that Marvel has now well and truly engrained itself in the world of television as well as movies.
Thanks to the relatively new streaming platform Disney+ we are presented with three new glorious shows: WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and of course Loki. Each one is different, each one unique, all being held to fairly high standards and expectations. So did they measure up? Is there a correlation between enjoyment and how relevant or impactful each show is to the overall MCU? Here’s one humble nerd’s opinion.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
First off is the mysterious romantic drama WandaVision. The literal show revolves around Wanda Maximoff and Vision as they apparently live their idyllic suburban sitcom life, both beginning to suspect that not everything is what it seems.
Mystery is the key takeaway here because the show is absolutely shrouded in it. Right out the gate this is more than obvious even if you’re not completely clued in to the MCU, but it’s intentional and I’m not sure if this was a good thing. On top of the fact that most people, were so confused, I would consider the overall story reveal to be too slow. Honestly if it weren’t for the threat of spoilers I would have happily binged it all in one. The intrigue was supposed to keep me on the edge of my seat but like all spells it wore off eventually, especially in light of eventual unsatisfactory revelations. Like I said before, there were high expectations. So even though it was never promised, Doctor Strange didn’t make an appearance, Mephisto never manifested himself, and Evan Peter’s casting as Fietro was a red herring that slapped audiences across the face. And with a boner joke to top it off too; Disney how could you? What would Deadpool, I mean Mickey Mouse say?
Nevertheless, there is of course much to like and appreciate about the show as well. Such as, WandaVision’s gear shift from sitcom to drama is not only engaging but unexpectedly brilliant. For all its aforementioned confusion and mystery its blend of various genres steers it towards being very interesting to watch and distinctive to say the least. Only a brand as adored as Marvel could pull off a risky experiment like this and succeed. To top it off it’s all supported by a much appreciated inclusion of returning fan favourite characters, including the addition of a newly super powered one.
Naturally, this line-up also includes Vision who was brought back (so to speak) to explore the foundation of the show, this being his and Wanda’s relationship. I’m grateful for this because from my perspective the MCU rushed the chemistry of their on-screen relationship. By Infinity War it felt that even though we’ve barely glimpsed them kindle their relationship they’re suddenly willing to go to the furthest ends for each other. It was in dire need of development and space to breathe which thankfully is exactly what WandaVision delivers on. Vision’s prior death is the elephant in the room, but love triumphs all including my cons towards the show.
Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis aren’t just throwaway characters.
Even after Infinity War Vision still gets the best lines - “What is love, if not grief persevering?”
It's got a powerful and emotional soundtrack.
Do I need to watch it?
You don’t have to but the TLDR is that Wanda is confirmed to have magical abilities and has now officially become THE Scarlet Witch. Whilst Monica Rambeau is a big deal now and will undoubtedly have a larger role to play. She certainly got enough screen time to tee her up for the future, most likely a role in The Marvels next year. Oh and also Vision isn’t dead... again.
WandaVision is strange, comical, heart-warming and heart-breaking so now that it’s all out there to binge I’d recommend anyone to experience all of the emotions. There’s plenty of time to give it a watch before Multiverse of Madness. You might even have a brief moment to go on a nice cabin retreat in the woods and read an interesting book beforehand.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Honestly, even after Endgame it never officially registered to me that Falcon was going to be the next Captain America despite the shield handover, but now that Steve Rodgers is on the moon somewhere his legacy must be carried on by The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
The six episode series felt like an extended Marvel action movie and has the essence of a buddy cop movie if you enjoy that sort of thing. But the premise of the show got me thinking about Sam Wilson in a light I did not anticipate. It never once occurred to me that race would be this central of a theme. It makes complete sense that no matter how good Steve’s intentions were it would never be as simple as passing on a mantle. The world we live in is sadly more complex than that which is why I’m glad they addressed this, and also explore it in a setting where actions are shown to have wider ramifications. Ultimately, the reason I appreciate watching a story about Falcon earning his newly appointed stars, stripes and rank, amongst stopping displaced and disgruntled refugee terrorists is this. Just like the handover of the shield the Snap also happened, and in a connected universe acknowledgement and continuity matters.
Conversely, Baron Zemo’s portrayal in this show is somewhat inconsistent with his introduction in Captain America: Civil War. And I like it. Despite what I said earlier about continuity I’m all for this, probably because what we see in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is more in line with the calculating aristocrat from the comics. Personally, I also think it’s a great direction for Daniel Brühl to take the character in, and could set up the Baron for a marvellous and deserving reappearance.
Another character I want to talk about is John Walker. Someone we love to hate and is filling in the shoes of a hero whom we will forever admire. Wyatt Russell was somehow a great casting choice to embody this and define the American spec ops soldier that is thankfully not a two dimensional bad guy, but instead a blurred anti-hero of sorts. Walker is greatly more complex than I expected and after a period of uncertainty, like Zemo I’m now interested to see where he’ll go.
I have more to say but I’ll summarise:
Cons & Questions:
To me the humour in the buddy cop subgenre is hit or miss. More often than not it feels like it tries too hard to make jokes work and as a result suffers from this. As The Falcon and The Winter Soldier tries to emulate this I have little choice but to feel the same way.
It feels lazy to me that Falcon picked up his Cap combat skills in a montage.
Steve Rogers and later Bucky Barnes are the only super soldiers... until they’re not. Like what transpired in Civil War I’m not a fan of numerous super soldiers cropping up like no tomorrow because a threat is needed to defeat. It partially diminishes the characters uniqueness when there’s so many of them, and does so to the point that I kind of advocate Zemo’s (the BAD GUY’s) goals.
What happened to Sharon? Why is she acting so out of character? Is she a Skrull? She has to be, right?
Pros & Highlights:
"They will never let a Black man be Captain America."
An amazing scene and a great performance. Speaking of...
Do I need to watch it?
No The Falcon and The Winter Soldier acknowledges that the MCU’s world is still turning off screen, but I would safely say you don’t have to watch it to be clued in to the wider story. Like Wanda becoming the Scarlet Witch it does set up Falcon’s character as the new canonical Captain America, but we already knew that after Endgame.
If you want or will find satisfaction in watching Sam Wilson develop as a character before his next big theatrical outing as the new Cap then why not give the show a watch? As abovementioned you’re not missing out, but his journey is his own and the show has made me respect him as more than just a side character. Besides, it’s really nice to get back to some good old fashioned Marvel action. At the very least it’s a good palette cleanser after WandaVision’s slow mind-bending mystery, especially given the next show walks a similar line in terms of curiosity and narrative setup.
Loki ‘when he dies he doesn’t’ Laufeyson makes an unexpectedly expected return as the god of mischief. It seems fitting that this is last chronologically of the three shows given it is not only the most entertaining and impressive, but most significant of all. For All Time. Always.
What makes a Loki a Loki? Well, for the show it comes down to a myriad of charming characteristics, some of its hallmarks being the shows unexpected twists, great character moments, and stunning musical score. The Disney+ series managed to pull off the incredible feat of keeping me consistently engaged because yet again character development is what crafts this into another high-quality show. The MCU’s Loki has always been adored by many fans because we know he isn’t a straight villain (no pun intended) which is why we want to learn more about what makes him tick, and so does Owen Wilson. The show’s premise of watching this baby blue icicle grow as a person whilst he continually chases down his true purpose perfectly fits into the Venn diagram of what the audience wants and what the MCU needs.
In regards to Owen Wilson, he and Tom Hiddleston have incredible chemistry that is great to watch. Loki and Mobius don’t get along, but at the same time they do. Their challenging repertoire and witty back and forth exchanges demonstrates what I wanted to get out of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier but didn’t. Both sets of partners have their differences for a while but the difference here that makes time detective and time intern’s relationship work on an infinitely better level is this. Somewhere along the journey they realise that they respectively brought out each others’ better sides, and to finish it off they acknowledge this and their consequent friendship. It didn’t have to be and wasn’t mushy or overly emotional, it just made me empathise and engage with the characters more which can only result in a more satisfying experience.
Another dynamic duo I have to discuss is Loki and Sylvie. Them together is a matchmade I would have never thought possible let alone root for. “...forming this kind of sick, twisted, romantic relationship. That’s pure chaos. That could break reality; it’s breaking my reality right now.” Me too Mobius, me too. Even Wanda and Vision’s relationship which I thought was rushed feels different in comparison somehow. Maybe it’s Hiddleston’s fantastic performance in episode four's interrogation but what makes this mischievous romance feel better (and less disturbing) is purely because it makes sense that the only person a Loki could truly love is himself. Loki being what they've been through has always lacked self-love but this was a surprising approach to their character development. What makes a Loki tick you ask? Well...
Christophe Beck did a bang-up job putting together WandaVision’s soundtrack, but nothing compares to what Natalie Holt brought to the table for Loki. Words can’t describe how inundated and euphoric I feel whenever her score kicked in. Particularly...
An unexpected win for the Bi's.
My only con:
Episode three was the only one that felt slow and lacking as if it was the first part of a two-parter. At the time it felt unsatisfying with its midpoint ending but now that it’s all out I’m good.
Do I need to watch it?
After the disappointment of WandaVision’s lack of tie-in to the MCU I was hesitant to commit to the very evident Kang-based Easter eggs and accompanying theories that presented itself throughout Loki. However, we were rewarded with a brilliant show that ties everything together and sets up the future quite literally courtesy of the conqueror himself. Aside from a confirmed season 2, in regards to the overall MCU a multiverse (of madness) has been unleashed and unquestionably another (secret) war. What’s not to be excited about?!
From beginning to end Loki is a fun non-linear journey to go along leaving you with the wish for this time-hopping adventure to not be over quite yet. It piqued my interest more times than I can count and delivered on the hype in a way I could have never pictured. After Thanos’ defeat and a close to the Infinity Saga the MCU once again has a glorious purpose, and I for one can’t wait to watch it all unfold. Thanks Sylvie.
Disney+ has opened a new path whereby the MCU is able to explore characters in a new and maybe even brighter light. Each show goes into never before ventured depth that is both formative and amazing to watch as a fan. Each lead (actor) was a side character but now are main protagonists in their own rights getting the spotlight they truly deserve. Compared to the usual 2+ hours a movie can give audiences are given a treat, even if some shows remain as limited/mini series. However, this ever increasing content is enough to satiate eager fans’ desires... for the moment.
Additionally, I’m biased as a comic book fan but yeah there might be a correlation between enjoyment of a Marvel Disney+ show and how relevant and impactful it is towards the MCU. This factor isn’t necessary at all for it to be a good show or enjoyable to watch, but the people watching this are all fans who've all been along for the journey. Most of us have invested well over ten years into it. Why wouldn’t I want to keep the eternal flame of comic book passion going? These shows if anything have just allowed myself and others to stoke that fire.