Saturday, July 13, 2024

MCU Disney+ Shows Mix Popular And Obscure

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Yesterday, we went over the five different films MCU is getting ready for Phase Four. But that’s not all that’s in the works, because there are also the Disney+ shows we’ve known about for a while, this time, contrary to Netflix shows, apparently tying directly into the cinematic universe. SDCC gave us some new details about what we can expect from these. So let’s take a look.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Fall 2020

The first Marvel Disney+ series we’re getting is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which was previously rumoured to start airing next August and now has been announced for fall 2020, meaning we’ll probably get it at the end of August, beginning of September kind of time.

It’s the first of a series of TV shows which will be starring the MCU film actors, so we can look forward to Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson), alongside other returning faces like Daniel Brühl (Helmut Zemo) and Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter).

This is also interesting, of course, for what it tells us about the plot. Last we saw of Zemo, he was being held in a prison facility that defied every kind of human rights agreement, but nevertheless seemed satisfied that his plan had worked so well and that the Avengers were in ruins. Everett Ross seemed pretty determined to never let him out. Yet that was also before the Snap, so it’s not hard to imagine things have changed somewhat. To be honest, the most likely result would have probably been him starving in the prison because the guards responsible for him got snapped, but it’s not difficult to imagine they let him out after half of the world disappeared. I imagine they let a lot of people out of prisons.

The bigger problem is this: why Zemo? Zemo was an important villain to Tony and Steve for what he did to them, and for T’Challa for killing his father. To Sam, he is important only by proxy. It’s a bit different with Bucky at least because Zemo activated the Winter Soldier in him, so Bucky has more of a personal reason to detest him. Still, Zemo wasn’t a particularly strong villain. He did what he needed to do in Civil War, meaning he worked as a deus ex machina to facilitate the conflict between Tony and Steve. But on his own, he’s really not much. So his return for this show mostly makes me wonder why.

Will he try and activate the Winter Soldier again, as was hinted during the SDCC reveal? But why? He’d achieved his goal, the Avengers were over. Will he be a good guy now? I doubt Bucky would work with him unless it was a matter of saving the world, which a TV show is unlikely to delve into. So why Zemo, of all possible villains? Additionally, he’s supposed to show up in a mask, which really doesn’t go all that well with his MCU presence so far, and raises even more questions.

Sharon Carter is probably there to tie the story even closer to Captain America. Given she’s been a rather uncomfortable stand-in for Peggy Carter for Steve in the films so far, this doesn’t exactly look like her character will get more space to shine, but who knows, they might pleasantly surprise us. The show will only have six episodes, too, so it will barely have time to establish Sam properly as the new Captain America. It might be Marvel testing the waters before potentially giving Anthony Mackie the role for an actual film. So here’s hoping they give him enough space to prove himself because I really want to see him shine with that shield.

WandaVision – Spring 2021

This is one of the less impatiently expected projects. Unlike the previous show, neither of the characters – or actors – has an especially big or devoted fan base, and it also doesn’t promise to deal with such an important MCU topic as the future of the Captain America role. Perhaps it was for this reason that Feige revealed the show would tie directly into the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness film, and that Wanda will appear in it as well. That’s certainly added motivation to watch the show!

WandaVision sees the return of Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, of course, starring the two titular roles, and just as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s meant to have six hour-long episodes. Perhaps this, too, will be just enough episodes to establish the new situation, and then it’s jumping to the films.

Feige said the show was going to be “unlike anything they’ve done before”. It’s hard to tell if that was just marketing talk with no substance to it or if they are really trying to go for something different here. Given the tie in to the new Doctor Strange film, it could be venturing into a similar realm of horror and psychedelia, which would definitely be a first.

Olsen, rather predictably, promised a deep exploration of Wanda’s character. Thinking about that, I’m afraid we’re already too late for the part that would be most interesting to delve into. Because Wanda is definitely the MCU character with the most unearned redemption arc. Loki was made to jump through hoops for four films only to be allowed to die heroically, while for Wanda, it was enough to realize she did not quite want to destroy the world – you know, the world she lived in – to suddenly be regarded as a hero, while her very real atrocities, especially those commuted in Johannesburg, were never explored. A show about her could have been an opportunity to explore that, to study her slow redemption that actually happens only after she joins the Avengers and gradually realizes all the mistakes she’s made.

However, given that this all happened five years ago and Feige confirmed the show takes place after the Endgame, I find it extremely unlikely that the show would go in this direction, and it’s much more likely to explore her relationship with Vision – a guy she’d thrown through several floors when she wanted to get out of house arrest, something that, again, was never addressed when we saw their clandestine date, which is also rather disturbing. Please tell me the show will deal with that at least, because I don’t think I can watch them as a couple with that elephant still in the room.

Feige also promised some other MCU characters appearing on the show, which is interesting. Unless he’s talking about cameos, it’s likely to be the more low-budget actors, so who could be there that has anything to do with Wanda or Vision? Looking through the characters they were connected to until now, for Vision there is Helen Cho as his “mother” of sorts and Rhodey as his only remaining colleague from after the Civil War, both of whom I’d love to see come back. Rhodey seems unlikely – going by his rather gaping absence in Far From Home, I think they buried him with Tony Stark – but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Helen Cho, who could bring him back to life, perhaps alongside Shuri, which would be absolutely awesome.

As for Wanda’s connections, there could be someone from her HYDRA pat emerging. Apart from that, the obvious possibility would be some of her Team Cap colleagues – mostly likely Bucky or Sam, since she spent the longest with her. But I’m not sure to what degree they wish to have all of their shows interconnected. It’s entirely possible they want to focus on WandaVision’s tie-in with Doctor Strange, and so will steer clear of any connection to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

However, the one name Feige did specify – and another pretty obvious hook to get more people to watch it – shows it can be someone entirely unexpected because we will be getting an adult Monica Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris. That is at the same time absolutely awesome, and completely out of left field, given her non-existent connection to the titular characters. The big question here, of course, is whether the will get the comics superpowers. As Spectrum, Monica Rambeau – who served as Captain Marvel for a long time – can transform herself into any form of energy, which gives her pretty impressive powers, and powers of the sort I could see being related to Vision and Wanda. The accident in which she gets those powers could easily be connected to what triggers the plot.

Given her presence, it begs the question of whether Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers will show up for a little bit at least. One wonders whether if that was the case, Feige wouldn’t have teased it – it would be sure to draw a lot of people in, even though it might discourage some others – but the show comes out in 2021, after all. There’s still next year’s Comic-Con to get us fully hooked. I’m definitely hoping we get at least one appearance of Monica’s mother, Maria!

The release date was given generally as “spring”, but given the tie-in with Doctor Strange, which premieres at the beginning of May, we can probably expect this show to start in March, to get all the episodes out and give people time to watch them before the film premieres. Mark that in your calendars.

Loki – Spring 2021

Loki is in the opposite situation to WandaVision, in that there is enormous hype about this show because Tom Hiddleston has scores of devoted fans. That also means there’s zero motivation for Feige to give out any info because let’s be honest: people would watch this if this was just six hours of Hiddleston talking.

However, we did still get something. Most importantly, we got a confirmation that Loki will take place in the universe that branched off the main MCU one as we know it in Endgame, after Loki escaped with the Tesseract. Or, well, it might not end up being a different universe – for all we know, the show will end with Loki back in prison on Asgard and thus bring it in line with the events of Thor: The Dark World.

In the meanwhile, though, Loki will “go to a lot of different places”, as Feige said. Hiddleston also put his two cents in, saying we have to remember that at this point in time, Loki “is still that guy” from the Avengers. Well. Given that it was effectively confirmed that Loki was being influenced by Thanos through his sceptre to act the way he acted, I’m a little worried about what exactly he means by that. Loki is no saint or a hero at this point, but it also seems obvious enough his time with Thanos or the Chitauri was not pleasant in any sense of the word. We know how Thanos is even to his “daughters”, after all. So I hope they won’t go too overboard with the villain angle.

Hiddleston also talks about being excited and the show, which he actually seems to know a bit about, being new territory. Most of that is probably marketing talk, but alongside the promise that Loki goes “to a few different places,” it gives me hope for some exploration of the Nine Realms. We’ve never seen Alfheim in the MCU, the realm I’m most excited for, and we’ve only had a very small glimpse of Vanaheim. Since these are both associated with magic, but also would be familiar to Loki, they are places which would be quite reasonable for him to go to – perhaps Alfheim more so, since there’s presumably less of a chance to encounter random Asgardian warriors.

Of course, what I want the most from this show is Loki going to Jotunheim and making peace with his Frost Giant heritage. Hiddleston talked about character development, after all, and since at this point in time Loki, after finding out about being a Frost Giant, had a breakdown where he almost destroyed Jotunheim, tried to kill himself, spent a year with The Other and then tried to conquer the Earth for Thanos, I think it would be a very reasonable direction for this show to go. Finding out about his heritage was where everything went wrong for Loki. It would make sense to go back to where it all began and try to head in a different direction from there. Loki could also go to Jotunheim with…not the best intention, and change his opinions along the way. Both would be amazing.

There’s also, however, the unpleasant alternative. In the female Thor comics, Frost Giants appear as the villains. We’re getting a Thor film at the end of 2021 which is said to have been inspired by those comics. A possible tie-in between the Loki show and the Thor film emerges, a tie-in that I really, desperately, do not want to see. I’m hoping that the time discrepancy – Thor will take place after Endgame, Loki after Avengers 1, there are 11 years between these – will save us from it, but I admit, I am worried.

There’s one more thing I want from this show: to see Lady Loki, and to have Loki’s non-binariness officially acknowledged in the MCU, like it was in the comics (and is in the myths!). Feige teased more LGBTQ* inclusion in the upcoming Marvel projects when he talked about Valkyrie’s wlw storyline in Thor: Love and Thunder, but we’ve all learned to be careful with promises like this.

Still, despite the teasing of Stan and Mackie during their announcement, of all the Phase Four project, Loki is by far the most likely candidate for a non-straight non-cis character, unless one of the What If…? episodes (see below) goes full fanfiction and decides to deal with a universe where everyone is gay. Well, Loki and The Eternals, I suppose, since that has big enough of a cast to include a character diverse in sexuality as well, but given that it wasn’t teased there and the film is coming out next year, I have my doubts. I can’t believe they would miss an opportunity to queerbait if there was one.

Loki is announced for spring 2021 as well. Considering they’re unlikely to have two shows overlapping, we can probably expect it in May, to close the spring with and see the summer in. See? Seeing Jotunheim would be refreshing in the hot weather!

What if…? – Summer 2021

What if…? is where Marvel decided that fanfiction is amazing and they should try their hand at it.

No, I’m not being entirely fair. Comics use a lot of the same principles fanfiction does, and this is Marvel bringing them to the screen, playing with alternate realities. But because this is something just a bit weird, and also because it would presumably need a lot of characters with expensive actors whose contracts have ended, this will be an animated series.

A big portion of the actors will still be there, though, voice-acting. We’ll also get The Watcher, played by Jeffrey Wright, who “observes the multiverse” and sometimes intervenes. Presumably, these interventions will be what creates those alternate realities we will be watching.

Feige also said this show would deal with ideas they had for MCU that were not used, which is interesting because it’s something a little bit different than the name alone would suggest. Hearing What if…?, I imagine a series where, in a decisive moment, a character made a different choice and what followed. What if Tony Stark hadn’t revealed he was Iron Man immediately, like in the comics? Or what if Steve Rogers had managed to get the Tesseract and himself safely to the allied forces? What if Thor hadn’t acted like a complete asshole and attack the Frost Giants over a “princess” comment and thus wasn’t exiled, or what if Loki didn’t try to kill himself? In fact, pretty much like the comics under the same name that was published in the 70s and 80s.

But I don’t think any of these are the sort of things they’ve ever truly considered for the MCU, so it seems this show will be less closely tied to MCU canon and will be more about exploring different options. I have to admit it’s a bit less interesting for me, personally, because I like playing with single-point departure alternate universes. However, what Feige teased should provide more space for creativity and new things and characters and angles, so generally speaking, it’s a good thing and makes it sound a little less like a fanfic project.

The summer release date is interesting – are they really going to risk putting the show out there during the holidays, when most TV is on hiatus? As an animated series, it’s probably expected to make less money than the live-action ones, but still, is it a good idea to compound it with releasing it at such a risky time? But Loki is likely to run from May to June, so either they will have two shows at the same time, or they have no other space for What if…? left to fulfill the summer promise. But then again, do you have anything better to do on summer nights?

Hawkeye – Fall 2021

The last of the announced shows is Hawkeye, which, perhaps surprisingly for those who only see the name, will not be chiefly about Clint Barton, but about Kate Bishop. He, played by Jeremy Renner as usual, will mostly be there as a mentor figure who will teach her the ropes.

What’s interesting is they seem to actually want to go with the separate character Kate Bishop, instead of merging Hawkeye’s daughter with this character, as people generally assumed would be the case after Endgame. It’s a little mystifying, to be honest. Clint sacrificed everything to be with his family, so you’d think he’d focus on them now. And Kate’s origin story, while quite compelling, is not something so unique as to require keeping at all costs, and having a tie-in in Endgame would have helped the character significantly. We don’t know the casting for Kate Bishop yet, though, so we can hope it’s because they want to go for a more diverse casting than someone playing Jeremy Renner’s daughter could really warrant.

There’s not much else to be said about the show. Kate’s comics motivation is, among other things, that Hawkeye saves her during an Avengers mission. This could tie the story to one of the past Avengers films, but it could also tie it to his time as Ronin. That would be preferable in the sense that it would give his Ronin more time to shine than those about five pointless seconds he got in Endgame.

We don’t really have a clue which comics they could be drawing inspiration from, so there’s not much to be said about the plot. But we have over two years until it comes out. With an announcement for fall 2021, I’m expecting it to run from September to October (this show will be a bit longer, with eight episodes planned), to put it before Thor 4 and to be symmetrical with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier from 2020. We have plenty of time to learn some more news.

That’s it for the MCU announcements so far. Feige effectively said they have more planned – that they have the following five years, meaning phases four and five, planned – but that they decided eleven announcements, plus a few honourable mentions, was quite enough. It’s not clear whether phase five will include more TV shows, and frankly, it will probably depend on how well the Disney+ service does. With about five films announced for it already, it’s not like they really need more to film it. Still, would be nice. Would be even nicer if it didn’t require us to pay for another subscription.

All images courtesy of Marvel

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