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Posts tagged “MCU

Week of 9/20/21 Stargirl and What If?

So, I finally caught up on Stargirl, and got through the first five episodes over the weekend. It’s a show that I watch with my teenage daughter, so schedules frequently don’t mash and I’m perpetually behind. Even now, I’m a single episode behind… That is until the new one premieres tonight!

Stargirl was really the highlight of my television last year. Not only are you pretty much guaranteed to get my attention by invoking and flashing back to golden age DC with characters in the Justice Society,, but it’s also just generally good rollicking superhero fun, heavy on characterization and action, and light on ideology… Sort of the opposite of what the CW’s pattern has increasingly been. Courtney, Stargirl herself is a good character, but even more daring is the fact that instead of going through the bad Dad trope, they actually explore her complex relationship with her stepfather, played by Luke Wilson who steals every scene he’s in. There is resentment there but there’s also some genuine affection there, with a Dad who’s just trying to do the best he can, and isn’t portrayed as bumbling or stupid… But perhaps a little overwhelmed sometimes.

After defeating the Injustice Society last year, series kind of has to start fresh this year, and giving it the whole “Summer School“ hook was a delightful idea. It probably would’ve worked better if the show had managed to premier back in July or so, but I understand that the plague has wreaked havoc on shooting schedules so I’m willing to give them a little slack… Especially when the end result is as fun as this.

The evil daughter Shiv is back, trying to rebuild her parent’s Injustice Society with the kids of the original members. Obviously, that’s going to be the main baddie this year, right? Except there’s something awfully familiar about the black crystal that she’s using and channeling for power. The first episode opens with one of the creepiest little kid sequences I’ve seen in a long time, and even my daughter immediately realized… Eclipso was coming. The Shade also arrives this season as well. The Shade’s been a regular villain when it comes to this legacy, I’ve just finished reading James Robinson‘s excellent Starman run from the 90s, and the Shade is all over that thing. True to form, he’s a villain, but sometimes he’s not… Again, complex. Serious props for challenging writing here.

In the meantime, the gang is all back, and facing their own issues. Hourman still feels isolated and is feeding something that I suspect is Solomon Grundy related in the woods. Dr. Midnight is dealing with her parents divorce, and Wildcat is still trying to reconcile the fact that she killed Brainwave Junior. I know that’s a lot of gobbledygook to throw at you all at once, but it’s genuinely good stuff and propels the whole series developing forward. Despite this, there’s actually a noticeable lack of attractive people standing in hallways talking about their feelings. It’s still there, but not nearly as present as in say, The Flash.


Once we hit episode five though… remember how in the last third of Superman and Lois, it seems like every episode I was saying “this feels like a season finale cliffhanger… Or a penultimate episode right before the season finale“. Stargirl goes right ahead and does it in episode five, with a face off of the new injustice society versus the justice society which results in Eclipso being freed. And man, Eclipso does not disappoint. The make up and look is dead on, increased in detail for television, and every bit as terrifying as I remember him from those crossovers in the mid 90s. It’s shockingly effective. I guess that means I really got a find a good way to bribe Maddie to sit down and catch up on last week and this weeks episode… Because I’m dying to know what happens. Perhaps if I bribe her with more episodes of He-Man

What if continues to be the strongest of all the marvel television series. Perhaps it’s because it’s not truly bound to continuity (yes, I know some stupid editor said “it’s all in continuity”. That’s not really the case, even if you rationalize multiverse nonsense.) but also because it very much feels like episodic MCU. Really, that’s what the movies have been trying to do for a while now, but to get it chopped up and served in bite size half hour portions every week, with different elements of the MCU, played by the same people and featuring the same look in environments… It’s actually really satisfying.

I once said I prefer Doctor Strange in other peoples movies rather than his own, I’m beginning to wonder after his What If episode, if it’s just that I prefer him in smaller doses. What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands actually feels like it could be its own standalone thing within continuity, if they just tweak the end. It’s actually a nice visit with a good doctor in that world, and takes some chances with some of the dark themes it uses. Of course it’s not nearly as dark as Marvel Zombies. My daughter is a huge fan of marvel zombies, she’s collected all the comics, and this is actually the episode they got her into What If. I agree with her assessment, Watching this episode just makes me want an animated marvel zombies series on it’s own. It’s that good. It captures an interesting variety of heroes from different films, and while there’s a decision with the vision that I don’t entirely agree with, it’s really nice to see Tom Holland’s Spider-Man here, as well as getting to see Doctor Strange’s cape, with it’s own distinct personality, acting on its own again. That of course brings us to last weeks episode… A little bit of light-hearted fun before things get serious in the last two. What if Thor never had the maturing influence of a rival like Loki… and had just essentially grown up to be a giant frat boy. I feel like I should take some offense of this, but it’s so much fun and has us laughing so much through it… Also it manages to feature Howard the Duck, and Darcy; two of my favorite characters in the MCU. Can we please get a Howard the Duck series? Put it on right after the marvel zombies series… That’s all I’m asking!

It’s been a fun week, and if you get tired of superhero stuff, pop over to Netflix… There is a new season of nailed it up there, which is the most entertaining (if a bit mean-spirited) baking show you’ll ever see.

 


Superman and Lois Return, Loki concludes!

First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Flash for not making me wait two weeks to resolve a cliffhanger the way that Superman and Lois has. The Godspeed war has been consistent, fun, intense, and genuinely good stuff. I still wish they’d stop race swapping characters, but at least Impulse was fairly well done.

Over on Superman and Lois, my biggest observation is that Elizabeth Tulloch just keeps getting better. I look at her, and I just see Lois Lane. She may be the best Lois I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying something. It’s a hard role. You have to balance softness and femininity and the occasional damsel in distress role with being hard-nosed, persistent, brilliant, and brave enough to give off a vibe of this isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun in my face. Some Loises veer too soft, like Amy Adams, Noelle Neil, and even sometimes Teri Hatcher. Others just get way too hard, like Margot Kidder, or Kate Bosworth. Phyllis Coates may have been the only one I ever saw balance it perfectly for her era, but Elizabeth Tulloch’s version is unprecedented in how well-rounded it is.

It may help that she’s at a different time of life. She’s emotionally grounded with her two sons, and we don’t have the on-again off-again, will they won’t they, Superman or Clark debate. She’s chosen Clark, and in fact, was never so shallow as to be infatuated with Superman. I like that. And either way, knowing that they end up together and have established this long lasting relationship, it adds character and depth and just makes her more likable. But she’s still tenacious, she’s still a reporter, and a force to be reckoned with.

I put all this out there, because this week is really her episode. We do get some stellar stuff with John Henry Irons as Steel, but with Superman being mind controlled on the other side of the planet, this episode is really all about Lois taking charge, convincing them not to kill Superman, and trying to support Lana’s family as they suffer the backlash from the community that got possessed by alien beings. The series is just so good, and Steel looks great (although he needs a better helmet). But I got plenty of resolution, in fact, once again I almost feel like it’s the end of the season… Even though I know it’s not. Edge is imprisoned and still planning something nefarious.

As good as the Flash and Superman were, we then have… Loki. Seriously, what happened to Loki?

After such a great episode last week, we come back for the series finale, and… nothing happens. This episode is literally just people talking at each other. Mostly people talking at each other from one side of the desk to the other. It’s an oral history of the marvel multi-verse. That’s all. Nothing happened. Even during a brief sword fight, it really is only there to mask the fact that they’re still just talking back-and-forth. I am utterly disappointed, and genuinely bored. And I’m getting an enormous amount of heat from Loki STANS online, not just because I think it was a wasted opportunity, but because I didn’t think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Literally. I tried to find nice things to say about it, amazing music, beautiful imagery, and I mean that. It IS a gorgeous show, with some of the best music I’ve ever heard in television. There was also one cute bit that made Miss Minuets, the animated clock girl look very sinister – but after that intro, nothing happens! Not a single thing happens in this episode! It’s all just exposition… and me saying that seems to offend some people. The common response is “it’s setting up phase 4!“ I’ve heard that 1000 times. I understand. I agree actually, Kang is the big bad and it’s setting up the multi-verse. But there still was no story to this series! Iron Man set up the MCU. So did Thor, so did Captain America. And all of them manage to tell individual adventures while setting up the universe. They didn’t just info dump us and walk away. I literally had somebody tell me “I’m tired of adventures, I just want to see the set up for the new movies and the character development!“ Well that’s not really what the MCU is it? It’s comic book adventures. You want a balance between worldbuilding and story (interestingly, episode five hit that balance perfectly). Say 80% story and 20% world building. Loki has that ratio flipped on it’s head, completely backwards. Of all the MCU TV shows, this one has had the absolute LEAST story.

Moreover, there’s no character development here. Loki is the same person at the end of the series that he was in the beginning. He’s not even a character, he’s a sounding board for exposition who occasionally provides positive affirmation for Girl Loki. And Sylvie? She’s also the same character from the beginning to the end. She is the best Loki ever, and that’s all. There’s no heroes journey, there’s no great awakening, the series just… Is. Someone tried to tell me this is a masterclass in storytelling. (You’d have to tell a story for that to be true). Someone actually told me I need to read Shakespeare and I’ll appreciate it more (Shows how little they know about me. Also, try Wagner instead. Loki is far more rooted in the epic northern tales than in Elizabethan England).

I don’t hate Loki (although the MCU stans are really making me dislike it more every day) but I am disappointed. This could’ve been so much more. This could’ve been Doctor Who and Rick and Morty on crack. And it should’ve been. Instead, all we got was a history textbook. A D&D source book. Tom Hiddleston (Who is still brilliant in the role – pity he isn’t given anything to do) staring charmingly at the camera, but no storytelling, character development or adventure of any sort. I could cut this thing down into a 100 minuet film and still get all the necessary world building and character introductions in with better pacing and less filler. (About 80% of episode one, the Sylvie stuff from two, all of episode five and about ten minuets of three, four and six).

All I can say, is I hope What If and Hawkeye are better.