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.

ON WANDAVISION: THE FIRST TWO EPISODES

…meh?

We watched the first two episodes of WandaVision last night. To be clear, this is all that’s been released so far, and I’m still not clear (and I’m not looking it up) how many episodes are planned for this season or what the release schedule is. The real short version of this post is that right now after two episodes I’m not sure why this show exists or what it’s for, and I’m kind of bewildered by the super-positive reception it seems to be receiving so far.

Minor spoilers, but if you’re familiar with the concept of the show there’s really not a lot to spoil.

The thing is, this is a Season 5 mystery, not a first-episode-of-the-series mystery. When last we saw these characters, Wanda was at the big fight at the end of Endgame and Vision was still dead, having had the Mind Stone ripped out of his head by Thanos before the Snap– and because he died before the Snap, as far as we know he stayed dead. Did Tony bring him back? Maybe, but we’ve not been shown that prior to now.

So I guess we’re supposed to be wondering why Vision isn’t dead any longer, and probably wondering why this series is, so far, mimicking crappy TV sitcoms from the fifties and sixties and abruptly bouncing into Technicolor at the end of the second episode to enter the seventies. There have been a couple of hints that something else is going on; the color red, and a weird dude in a beekeeper’s suit, and a couple of moments where Wanda sort of freaks out and takes control of what’s going on around her.

The problem is I don’t care. Here’s what I mean by a Season 5 mystery: if you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, imagine that Dawn’s first episode was the series premiere. The viewers knew that something weird was going on from the jump, because we’d had several seasons to get used to Buffy and her family and we knew ferdamnsure that she didn’t have a little sister, and she’d never had a little sister, and so Dawn’s first appearance sparked curiosity. This, on the other hand, comes off to me as more of an okay, this is what we’re doing, I guess sort of thing, and the fact that they’re leaning so hard into the fifties and sixties tropes when those shows were bad is, at least to me, not a smart move. I spent all of both episodes waiting for the minute of footage where Something Untoward Happens, because of course this isn’t how things are supposed to be and can we move on to getting some answers, please, because the A-plot where Vision is having his boss over for dinner is insanely not interesting. Like, that sort of boring-ass plot worked in the 1950s, or at least I guess it did, but in 2021 it’s all wasted time, because there’s no earthly reason to care.

Is there something about Wanda’s personality or hobbies or something that makes reverting to old sitcoms make sense? Dunno; we don’t really know anything about her. I know, because I follow these sorts of things, that the actress calling herself Geraldine in the second episode is actually Monica Rambeau, who is low-key the main reason I’m watching the series in the first place– but that’s not in the episode at all. In a Season 5 mystery, we know that the dude playing Vision’s boss is actually Mr. Frumblegumph from his actual job and the neighbor lady who’s being so nice is actually the villain from Season 2, so we should keep a close eye on her, or whatever. This? If I hadn’t known that Monica Rambeau was in this show, noted the name of the actress playing her, and then seen that name in the credits, I’d have no reason to think anything at all about that side character.

I mean, I don’t hate it, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll watch more of it because 1) what the hell else do I have to do right now and 2) Monica Rambeau, but this wasn’t the home run to me that a lot of people seem to think it is, and I really don’t know where those folks are coming from. Hopefully a few more episodes in will have moved onto something real and not this contrived-ass mystery.


A quick moment, though, while I argue with something that I’ve, uh, not actually seen anyone say so far: one thing I do like about the show is that so far this program has been aping the 1950s and 1960s but there are Black and Asian people in the cast and they have not felt the need to be Historically Accurate and made all these white folks racist as hell. I feel like if I look hard enough I’m going to find someone complaining that “Geraldine” was just treated like another member of the cast when in the real 1950s show she’d be blah blah blah blah and I’m glad they decided to just ignore that.

Star Wars and stuff

This post is going to be kind of grab-baggy, so be prepared for that, and there will probably be various and sundry spoilers for various and sundry things, so be prepared to potentially be spoiled somehow on basically anything I mention.

The Mandalorian continues to be … a thing, that I watch. The show annoys me as often as it entertains me, to be honest, and reintroducing Boba fucking Fett back into continuity got directly on my damn nerves no matter how much of a badass Temuera Morrison is in the role. The show’s structure is kind of aggravating, too; I’ve talked before about how video games seem to be imposing their structure on serial storytelling, and this show is really big on episodes that feel exactly like side quests in video games. Plus, for a bounty hunter, Din Djarin sure doesn’t hunt a whole lot of bounties. Baby Yoda (Grogu, whatever; I’m actually fine with the name) has basically eaten the show. That said, I thought the show’s most recent episode did some really interesting narrative stuff, including shortcutting past what I thought was going to be an entire episode about breaking a character out of prison ended up dispensing with the entire “breakout” by basically having one character pull some strings and dealing with it in two minutes.

The show’s budget is also completely out of control, in a good way. It looks gorgeous, and it doesn’t skimp on … really, anything at all. But I feel like I spend at least half of each episode sighing.

While I’m talking about Star Wars, I may as well point out that I’m working my way through The Clone Wars, and … well, that’s a thing I watch too. I’m mostly interested in filling in my knowledge of Ahsoka Tano’s backstory, so sooner or later I’ll move on to Rebels. I’m not loving the show, though, so it’ll probably take a minute. Also, the more time I spend watching Stormtroopers shoot at people and miss or droids shoot at people and miss, the more it starts to actually get on my nerves. Turns out there’s a limit for this stuff after all.

Then again, this has happened:

… and, damn, I am so back in. I didn’t know how much I needed a Patty Jenkins Rogue Squadron movie until seeing this teaser, which blew my damn mind. I spent the whole thing thinking she was either talking about Captain Marvel 2 or, for some reason, Green Lantern, which seems kind of an unlikely announcement for a Disney production. So when she pulls that X-Wing pilot helmet out … damn.

Let’s see, what else? There was a teaser for Ms. Marvel, too:

I have kind of checked out of the MCU since Endgame and especially Far from Home, which is easy for me to say when the global pandemic has seriously curtailed any actual chance I might have to watch any new programming. But this? This is what I want, and Iman Vellani seems like the perfect actress for this role. I also continue to be hugely psyched about WandaVision, mostly because of Monica Rambeau’s presence in the program.


I have reread R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic in the last couple of weeks, and I finally, finally got to start reading The Burning God, book III of that trilogy, today. It was the right call to reread the first two books again, which 1) reminded me of just how phenomenally good the first book was, and 2) made me realize that the second really is just as good as the first one. This series really isn’t for everyone, I still stand by that, but my God is it an amazing piece of work. I can’t wait to see how Kuang wraps up the trilogy with this final book. The rest of my unread shelf can wait.

I haven’t missed a day since April 5…

… so obviously I can’t let that streak break just yet.

Not that I have anything in particular to say, mind you. I’m still kinda pissy about that school boar meeting yesterday; it’s flat ridiculous that we’re this far into the year (and this close to our supposed return) and we still don’t have the vaguest idea how so, so many things are supposed to work. But really, I could do that rant any day.

Here, have the trailer for WandaVision, and muse upon the fact that somehow I never wrote a review of Avengers: Endgame.