THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER: Early Impressions

After nearly a year of avoiding sickness, I called out for the second day in a row today, and not even for the same reason I called out yesterday: I woke up in the middle of the night with my eyes trying to force themselves out of my head, and that was it for sleep for the rest of the night; ibuprofen didn’t cut it at all. My son woke up as I was in the office submitting my absence and, damn near in tears, described the exact same symptoms I had, so he quickly got called out from school too and then both of us went back to bed.

I’m … fine now? Mostly? I guess? Sure, let’s go with that.

We watched the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier tonight, the super short tl;dr version is that I felt like this started off quite a bit stronger than WandaVision did, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

More details, with some minor spoilers (really, there’s nothing especially spoilable in this episode; I could describe it minute-by-minute and I think it’s still as enjoyable): the show starts off with a big set piece as the Falcon rescues an American soldier from a terrorist group that’s trying to take refuge in Libya; this sets up early that this show clearly has as much budget as they want, as it looks every bit as good as any of the movies have. Interestingly, the soldier he rescues is named Torres, which– okay, there might be a spoiler behind that link if you’ve never heard of the character, but he and Sam appear to be friends and he is Somebody in the comic books. Sam and Bucky’s stories don’t actually ever cross over in this episode; Bucky is busy being sad and dealing with PTSD and hanging out with elderly Asian men and being rude to dates, and Sam eventually ends up at his family home in Louisiana, where he attempts to help his sister get the family shrimpin’ business back on its feet and is summarily denied a business loan.

And this is kinda where things get interesting, because the banker blames the Blip as the reason he can’t give them the loan– the world’s population just suddenly increased by three or four billion people out of nowhere a couple of months ago, and none of them have anywhere to live, and it’s a whole giant fucking mess and the banks aren’t handing out loans right now. Plus, you two are, y’know … Black, and well we’re very sorry we can’t help you but oh look at this pile of plausible deniability over here! Isn’t that convenient?

So it looks like the show is headed in some interesting directions even before we get to anything explicitly superheroic; I have been open in believing that the Blip was the worst possible choice to resolve the story mess that Avengers: Infinity War left the MCU in, mostly because of the unbelievable number of unavoidable knock-on effects that it’s introduced. I’m still convinced that there’s no way they can take this seriously enough, especially when you consider that the Blip was literally across the entire universe, but at least they’re trying a little bit, and I’d like to see them dig into this. Bucky is getting some attention, too; Captain America’s man-out-of-time thing was mostly played for laughs when it was addressed at all, but the first thing we see of Bucky is his refusal to play along with his government-mandated therapist, which is very Silent Generation, and a few minutes later you find out that his only friend looks to be in his seventies or eighties.

(I still kinda want to know why he didn’t just go back to Wakanda, but maybe they’ll get to that, and his time there is mentioned during the therapy session.)

I wasn’t expecting this to turn out to be super character-driven, as these two are definitely among Marvel’s more militaristic characters, but so far I’ve really liked what I’ve seen. We’re only getting a total of six episodes, but they’re going to run longer than WandaVision’s did. I’m looking forward to them.

(Oh, one more thing, and just let this roll around in your head a bit: we get several close-ups on Captain America’s shield, the one he gave to Sam at the end of Endgame, throughout this show. That shield in the logo up there? That is not Captain America’s shield.)


I strongly suspect that this isn’t going to surprise anyone, but I have still not seen Alien of Steel, Angry Bat-Themed Ninja vs. Murder Alien or the original cut of Violence League, and I have no plans at all to subject myself to this “Snyder Cut” thing that just came out. If that’s your kind of thing, glory in yo’ spunk, as BB King used to say. I’m not going near it.

On Wandavision, again (spoiler-free)

I think the most depressing thing about the finale of WandaVision, available today on Disney+, is that I really don’t have a lot to say about it, and that’s not a cute way to lead into a 1500-word post. I thought the show started off slow, and not necessarily in a good way, and it ramped up quite a bit after that, steadily getting better until the penultimate episode …

… and then the finale kind of fell flat for me. I have been religiously avoiding spoilers all day today (and, again, this will be a spoiler-free review) and the real interesting thing is that having watched the episode I’m genuinely not sure it was worth the effort. Not that things don’t happen that could have been spoiled– there are some major character developments in the finale and throughout the series– they’re just, and I hope this makes some sense, not the kind of events that spoiling them could have harmed my enjoyment of the show. Ultimately, WandaVision ends up being a very character-driven series about the nature of loss and grief, and if that doesn’t sound like typical Marvel fare, well, it’s because it’s not— there’s a couple of big fights toward the end (if you see that as a spoiler, I can’t help you) and there are some important developments for the future of the MCU in general, but they’re not any of the developments that I thought I might see going into this series in general or this episode in particular.

Was it worth watching? Yes, definitely, and it’s great to see Marvel finally putting some energy into their female characters– Wanda herself, Agatha Harkness, Monica Rambeau and Doctor Darcy Lewis all have substantial roles, and as a lifelong fan of Rambeau in particular it’s great to see her finally on screen. Do I want more? Absolutely, but I’m going to get more, that much is clear, and it’s exciting. And the show deserves some credit for reinvigorating an interest in the MCU that had been seriously flagging after the dual disappointments of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. You could make an argument that that reinvigoration was inevitable, and you’d have a point, but the show still did it. I don’t know that it’s a reason for a Disney+ subscription all on its own, but I suspect that’s not a particularly relevant criticism, as anyone invested in Wanda Maximoff enough to consider getting a Disney+ subscription just to watch her show almost certainly already had one anyway. If all the stuff that they already have plus The Mandalorian wasn’t enough to convince you … hell, you’re probably not reading this in the first place.

So we’ve got a week off now, I think, and then straight into Falcon and the Winter Soldier, another show that I’m not hugely hyped about but I’m still watching anyway. There’s pretty much something Marvel happening damn near every week for the rest of the year; I just hope I don’t actually have to go into a movie theater to see Black Widow in May. I’ll have both my shots by then, but still. Stream it and overcharge me, guys, I’m good for it.

Hey, Disney, let’s make this happen

Saw Gerrera needs a Disney+ TV series.

That’s it, that’s the post.

I mean, I can elaborate a little bit, mostly by riffing on the idea that Gerrera is enough of an anti-Empire extremist that he’s considered a terrorist by the people who blew up the Death Star, and I find that to be endlessly fascinating, and I also could watch Forest Whitaker read a phone book. That said, Gerrera is old by the time Rogue One happens, and if they wanted to cast someone else in the role and set it in between the Clone Wars and A New Hope that would be fine too.

I am spoiled by Marvel; they’re giving shows to everybody they can think of and a lot of them sound great. My favorite characters are showing up all over the place. Star Wars is … not so much, just yet. I’ve given up on ever getting official confirmation that Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were a couple even if I’m willing to die on the hill that says they were, but … just give Saw a damn show.

The end.

The chair again, and a question

I admit it: I’m kind of achy. This chair has so many different ways to tweak it that I’ve spent all day fiddling and changing things, and I haven’t figured out an optimal way to sit in it. Part of this is my desk’s fault; the front of my desk is lipped in such a way that getting my legs underneath my desk while still reaching my keyboard comfortably isn’t exactly impossible, but requires some precise settings from my chair. At any rate, I’m not worried that I’m going to turn on it or anything– I just need to figure out how I want everything set and I’ll be fine.

That said: look at that image. The chair can actually recline back farther than that; I don’t think that guy is at full recline.

Is there anyone out there who thinks they could do that in a desk chair without freaking the fuck out? Because one of my major peeves with desk chairs (and even recliners, sometimes) is Sudden Unexpected Rocking. I react very poorly to unexpectedly feeling like I’m going to fall(*), and leaning backwards that far in a desk chair– or, truly, even close to that far– is simply not possible for me. My wife tried it last night and got maybe to 110 degrees before she decided she’d had enough. But you see these people in the videos about these chairs just leaning all the way back without a care in the world, and I want to have whatever magical ability they have that’s allowing them to do that. Because I seriously can’t.

(*) I have said many times before that I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of falling. People react like this is contradictory, and it’s not. I don’t care how high off the ground I am so long as my feet are planted securely, but I can and have very recently had serious panic moments from a brief involuntary shift in my center of gravity while sitting in a chair. I have never had a problem in an actual rocking chair, though, something I sit in all the time, and if you can give me some insight into why a desk chair or a recliner might trigger my lizard brain and a rocker doesn’t, I’d genuinely love to hear it.

Chair!

Two months ago, I ordered a new office chair. There was nothing particularly wrong with my old office chair other than the hydraulics were just starting to fail under my exceptional weight and a small tear in the upholstery in the seat that wasn’t worth complaining about. But I spend a lot more time in my office chair lately than I ever have before, what with working from home and all, and the chair was at the least ten years old, since I had it at our house before this one. It’s possible that it’s considerably older than that; I simply don’t remember buying it.

And I’m grown, y’all, and I make grown-up money, so I decided if I was going to buy a new desk chair, and if I wanted it to last another ten years I was going to pay for the chair I wanted and not worry about it.

Enter Secret Labs. And today, this box showed up:

God, I need to dust my damn bookshelves and clean the carpet. Jesus. I swear I don’t live in filth, it just looks like it.

Anyway.

That box probably weighed fifty pounds holy shit. I thought “Nah, it couldn’t have been that much” and looked up the specs? The chair weighs eighty pounds. It’s rated for users up to 390 pounds, so I can get as fat as I want. The FedEx dude actually hiked the thing up onto one shoulder to get it to the house and then volunteered to put it inside for me (I saw him coming and opened the door, since I thought I’d have to sign for it) and holy shit am I glad he did because it would have been a damn struggle for me to get inside.

This is what I saw when I opened the box:

So, okay … don’t touch the backrest recline lever. I got you. Don’t need to be told twice. I don’t know why I’m not supposed to touch the backrest recline lever, but I’m not gonna argue with my brand-new chair.

I make fun of unboxing videos, but I should have made an unboxing video. I’ve never seen anything packaged like this. You’ve seen how hardware gets packaged in furniture before. This is the hardware in my chair:

That’s a plastic branded sleeve around custom-cut foam, and we’ll get to the screwdriver in a bit. But back to that lever I’m not supposed to touch. The very top thing in the box was the chair back, and after removing that I was greeted with this sight:

Ok, dawg, I got you. Don’t touch the backrest recline lever. I took the seat out of the box and took the plastic wrap off of it:

That lever I’m not supposed to touch is underneath this cardboard strap which is glued shut and tightly wrapped around the seat, making it impossible to actually touch the lever.

I put the casters on the legs and attached the back to the seat. This was strongly suggested to be a two-person job but I really didn’t have any trouble with it. Then I took a deep breath and very carefully took off the cardboard strap around the Lever of No Touchy-Touchy. And saw this:

It is so important that this lever not be touched that 1) the box tells you not to touch the lever; 2) the plastic wrap around the seat tells you not to touch the lever; 3) there is a cardboard strap under the plastic wrap that also protects the lever, and then the lever is secured in place by a frightening red screw.

Back to that box of accessories. That screwdriver in there? The screwdriver that is not only custom-made and branded with the SecretLabs logo but is magnetic so that the single screw bit in there satisfyingly snaps into place when you attach it?

That screwdriver’s sole purpose is to remove the red screw.

I am hoping and praying that this thing fits standard screw bits, because if it does I’m keeping it forever.

It served its purpose:

The Lever of Doom is there so that you can recline the seat back, which I’m actually not going to do all that often. It reclines to damn near flat, which seems … maybe not advisable, given how centers of gravity work? I dunno. They seem to think it’s okay to sleep in this chair but I don’t see myself doing it that often.

You guys may remember that I used to sell furniture for a living. Furniture, as you know, is frequently made of wood, and is made, one way or another, far away from the place where we sell it, which is also kinda far from your house. So packaging of furniture is kind of a big deal, and a frequent gripe of furniture salesmen is that if these companies spent $5 more per box on packaging, they’d save thousands of dollars a year on damages. We had pieces that were packaged so poorly that I’d warn people we’d probably have to order them two or three times to get one with no damage, just because of bumps during travel. It’s not the furniture’s fault! It’s the shitty packaging.

This is the inside of the box after I took everything out. I could have drop-kicked this box down a flight of stairs and there would not have been the slightest damage to the contents.

This is not showing the several other foam blocks and sheets of foam that were scattered around my living room by this point. There was a piece of foam in there that was specifically cut to set the chair on while putting it together. It was in the instructions to do that.

Anyway, I finished putting it together:

And here it is in the office:

And a back view, just because:

Gotta love new toys.