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.

On Thanos’ ass

My wife just showed me this tweet:

And I horribly disappointed her by not having the slightest idea what the hell could possibly be going on. Apparently– and you’re just going to have to believe me on this, as I refuse to look for it– there has recently been a discussion on The Twitter about why Ant-Man didn’t simply defeat Thanos by crawling inside his asshole and then growing.

Look, damn it, I need something more ridiculous than British money to talk about around here. These are the posts. 🙂

It is unclear exactly how much force Ant-Man is able to exert while growing. In fact, two damn near successive images from this trailer make the problem pretty clear:

You only need about the first thirty seconds, but you see two things here associated with growth: first, whatever system they have built inside the van is strong enough to fling another van off of its wheels and into the air. However, the system in Ant-Man’s actual suit isn’t able to put out enough force to break either the drop ceiling above him or the drywall around him. One assumes that you could use Pym particles to generate quite a bit of force, then, but that capability doesn’t seem to exist in Ant-Man’s suit, no doubt because his actual flesh is weaker than the metal frame of the van.

For the sake of argument, I’m willing to accept that Ant-Man or the Wasp are both able to shrink down enough to get inside Thanos’ suit of armor, and from there, provided that he is not actively clenching, one assumes they could work their way into his asshole if it were absolutely necessary. However, any suit that can’t grow Ant-Man with enough force to break drywall is surely not going to be able to overcome the pressure that the rectal wall of a man able to box the Hulk into unconsciousness could exert.

The good news for Ant-Man is that his suit does appear to have some sort of failsafe in it so that he can’t accidentally grow beyond the point where he hurts himself, or he would surely be larger than the room in the scene above, which I’m pretty sure is from a part of the movie where the suit was actively malfunctioning. I therefore posit that Ant-Man is only able to grow large enough, once ensconced in Thanos’ rectum, for Thanos to notice him, at which point one assumes that Thanos would clench, and things end poorly for Ant-Man, who has no particular level of enhanced strength or invulnerability, especially at that size. If his suit does not have the failsafe built in, Thanos clenches anyway, and one way or another the big purple dude is gonna need an oversized bidet to clean up the mess, which isn’t gonna be pretty.

The correct way, by the way, for Ant-Man or the Wasp to defeat a being on the level of Thanos is not to fly into his ass, but to fly into his ear. I’m pretty certain that the Wasp dropped the Hulk himself at least once by flying into his ear and directing an energy blast directly into his eardrum. Or, in a worst-case scenario, shrink down a bit more and head for his brain, which I’m pretty sure she did to the Red Hulk at one point.

Or, y’know, there’s always distraction. Yeah, this happened. God, The Ultimates was terrible:

In which I finally saw SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

Spider-Man: Far From Home holds the dubious distinction of being the Marvel movie that it took me the longest to get around to seeing. I’ve seen nearly all of them on opening weekend, excepting only this, maybe one of the Thor movies, and Avengers: Endgame, which was derailed for a few weeks by the Ongoing Medical Calamity beginning on the day it was released. This one not only came out during the Calamity but also released on a weekend when I was at a convention and thus out of town. As we don’t really have family-based babysitters available at the moment, we just … never got around to it, until I abruptly remembered it existed and rented it from iTunes last night.

And … meh? Let’s go with meh.

That’s not entirely fair, as basically everything I liked about the first movie was also something I liked about the second, in particular Tom Holland and Zendaya’s performances. Holland is indisputably my favorite onscreen Spider-Man by an impressive margin, and Zendaya does a great job shifting as needed between a sort of forbidding cool and unwilling teenage awkwardness. Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan also probably has his best turn on-screen, and listening to him and Peter talk about Tony is one of the film’s highlights, especially the scene on the plane toward the end of the movie. No, it’s the story that falls down here, and about half of what I didn’t like about the movie is actually Avengers: Endgame’s fault.

To keep it brief, because this isn’t a review of Endgame, a post I never actually wrote: the basic plot of this movie makes no goddamned sense at all, because literally every second of time where Tony Stark knows Spider-Man is alive is on screen in that movie, and then Tony dies, and there is no time at all for him to set up even a single second of the machinations that this film depends on for its plot. My wife made the argument that he set everything up in advance believing that they would be successful and undo the effects of what this movie calls the Blip, and I suppose that’s an argument you can make but I can’t buy it. That’s not a Tony Stark thing, that’s Batman-level planning, and frankly “let me pin a lot of the future of my tech on this dead person coming back to life right before I die” is probably a planning stretch even for Batman.

(Frankly, I feel like the Blip is probably the worst possible way they could have solved the immense story problem that Avengers: Infinity War set up, but that’s a whole other post, and I never wrote it. I think the idea is heinously dumb, and Endgame had a ton of great moments but overall the movie was a clusterfuck.)

The other problem is that I either don’t understand how Mysterio’s powers work in this setting, at all, or I do understand how they work and they’re dumb as hell. So unlike the traditional comic book Mysterio, who actually is able to trigger hallucinations, all of Movie Mysterio’s abilities are linked to these Stark drones that are creating holograms, right? Real holograms, that have no physical presence and aren’t, like, made of hard light or some other fanwank type of stuff? And all of the destruction that the holograms cause in the movies is actually caused by the drones, which, I dunno, blew up the giant column that the hologram just supposedly punched, only without leaving any physical evidence (like, say, bullets) behind? I mean, at no point during the movie is it implied that these drone-things are battering rams. The hologram, which is pre-programmed except where it isn’t, punches something and it looks like it got punched to death, only what actually happened is that the robots shot it or hit it with a rocket or something, and doesn’t the fire monster melt a whole lot of shit? Was that shit actually melted or are we just not supposed to think about that? How much water during the water-monster’s attack was holographic? Did no one wonder where that water went?

(Also: Spider-Man’s powers are kind of fundamentally useless against giant monsters made of water or fire, which is why in both of those battles he doesn’t actually fight the monster, he just jumps around tossing (useless) rocks or trying his best to keep giant things from falling over. The final fight against the drones is awesome, but these were bad giant monster choices for a Spider-Man movie. And part of the reason they had to set it up this way– were the rocks he threw real, by the way? Where did they actually land, since they didn’t hit the monster?– was because if he had ever tried to punch the thing he would have realized it wasn’t real, because Mysterio’s powers in this movie are real real dumb.)

(Did no one notice the giant fire monster wasn’t hot?)

Anyway: they literally show Mysterio rehearsing one of the fights, for crying out loud. So this is all set up in advance. The holograms at times involve Peter’s clothing. And they make a big deal about how Peter uses his “Peter tingle” (I don’t think these films have ever used the phrase “spider-sense,” and I thought “Peter tingle” was hilarious) to fight the last batch of drones, only there should never have been a moment in the movie where the holograms activated his spider-sense and he should have noticed that. All of which could have been avoided if Mysterio’s abilities had been a combination of hard-light, actually physical manifestations of something or another and hallucinogenic gases like the comic book character’s are, which could have plausibly interfered with the, uh … Peter-tingle.

I dunno, maybe this is inside baseball comic-book geek stuff, but that’s what I am, and this film fell down in a bunch of ways that I’m not used to seeing from Marvel movies. I am, for the first time, not hugely psyched about a decent-sized swath of the upcoming MCU product, although there’s certainly a lot that I am, and, well, I set up my Disney+ subscription yesterday, so they’ve got my money. But this is definitely a lower-tier Marvel movie for me despite my affection for the cast. And you’ve already seen it, so chances are I’m not talking anybody out of it, right? We’ll see how long it takes me to get into the theater for Black Widow when that finally comes out.

EDIT, A FEW HOURS LATER: I’m apparently still thinking about this, and this is absolutely one of those movies that keeps falling apart more the longer you think about it. And what the hell is Mysterio’s long-term plan here? Because he keeps making noises about being a big giant (fake) hero like some sort of low-rent Syndrome from The Incredibles, only Syndrome’s gadgets gave him actual abilities and his plan to sell them to everybody made sense, and Mysterio just has his fake holograms, which he apparently wants to continue to use to be Earth’s Mightiest (fake) Hero and not, like, make a giant pile of money or something like that, which seems like a better use for the technology? Dude literally needs a scriptwriter because he can’t think on his feet fast enough, and the one time he has to ad-lib he blows the whole thing and Nick Fury figures out he’s a fake. Are we supposed to notice he’s an idiot? Was that the idea?

What’s this dumbass gonna do when Galactus shows up? Did Earth acquire no new heroes during the Blip? Is his plan to continue to just fake being a superhero, like, forever? How is this not the biggest Underpants Gnome plan of all time?

Bah.

Also, and this will probably be dealt with in future films, and is more a Hmm That’s Interesting than a plot problem, but how long have those two Skrulls from Captain Marvel been running around pretending to be Nick Fury and Maria Hill? Was that actually Fury and Hill who got dusted during the Snappening, or the Skrulls? Because that would actually be kind of cool if the Skrulls have been letting Hill and Fury do double-duty all this time and Fury’s actually been chilling in orbit. My wife pointed out that Real Fury probably doesn’t let Skrull Fury have Captain Marvel’s beeper, which is a legit point, but it’s still fun to think about.