A new era of Marvel is upon us, both on screen and off.
We've now seen the first seasons of the franchise's first three high-profile Disney+ TV shows, and while not every minute has been perfect (much like a regular Marvel movie), they've only made the future more exciting, in more ways than one. The prospect of more high-concept superhero shows is thrilling, and so are the potential stories that are possible thanks to the explosive ways WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki ended their seasons.
In some ways, the shows are hard to compare, since they're entirely different genres and styles. But in another, major way, all three shows serve as sequels to Avengers: Endgame and lead directly to the next era of Marvel movies. So, let's do a little deep dive into the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of Marvel's big jump to prestige TV.
WandaVision found Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living a happy little life inside their own rapidly changing sitcom. Eventually, we learned that Wanda created her sitcom world in her grief over Vision's death in Infinity War, and is capable of a kind of chaos magic that only the most powerful witches can even dream of. The end of the season found her isolated in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, working on her magic and hearing screams from her sons, who may or may not actually exist.
The Good: WandaVision felt like a whole new world of television, which was a little ironic since its first three hours were basically episodes of classic sitcoms, with little hints that something was amiss in Wanda and Vision's perfect little world. Olsen and Bettany gave stunning performances and there was something so joyful about the myriad of TV send-ups, even if it all ended with a devastating exploration of Wanda's grief.
The Bad: WandaVision set up so much and hit at such a fragile time in our collective emotional states (late pandemic winter) that there was no way it could ever satisfy everyone. The ending wasn't bad, but it was quieter and less of a bombshell reveal than many Marvel fans were theorizing, and that was a little bit of a bummer if we're being honest.
The Ridiculous: Evan Peters' presence, as the recast version of Wanda's brother Pietro, is still baffling. Was it actually an in-universe nod to his role as the same character in the X-Men movies, or was that just a funny joke for fans? Does he have anything to do with the multiverse or not? Why was his name Ralph Boehner?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (or Falcy Winty, as we've taken to calling it for short) paired Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in a sort of buddy comedy/violent road trip drama that took them both on some necessary emotional journeys in the wake of Steve Rogers' retirement. Bucky made some amends and began to move on from his past, while Sam finally accepted his role as the new Captain America.
The Good: Mackie and Stan turned out to be an excellent odd couple, and there were so many great moments sprinkled throughout the show, even if they sometimes felt disjointed. The scenes where Sam and Bucky simply got to talk to each other normally were some of the best ones, especially if they took place on a boat in New Orleans. They made the show feel more grounded than any other Marvel project so far.
The Bad: There was just too much going on here, and somehow both too few episodes and too many episodes to make this work. Sam's reluctance to become Captain America became tiresome when we all knew that was how the season was going to end, but the show also needed more episodes to actually delve into all the issues it tried to address—racism, treatment of veterans, income inequality, the realities of half the universe disappearing and then reappearing, whatever Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp) was supposed to be doing, etc.
Especially after seeing the impressive visuals of Loki, something about Falcy Winty felt unfinished, like there was a potential there that it never quite reached, though we assume there will be plenty of opportunities to hear more from all of its characters.
The Ridiculous: Ahem, Sharon Carter. She was apparently some powerful figure called the Power Broker, but we don't even know what that means. And we sort of wish the new Captain America had a slightly less plastic/3D-printed-looking suit. And everything about Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl).
Loki followed the adventures of its title character after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when the Avengers went back to 2012 to steal an infinity stone from themselves. The heist went wrong, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who was then an evil criminal who had just been arrested, stole the stone for himself and went time-hopping. He was then apprehended by the Time Variance Authority, an organization that kept the sacred timeline in check, and asked to help track down one of his own variants who was wreaking even more havoc than he could imagine.
That variant turned out to be a woman calling herself Sylvie, who was determined to get to the people behind the TVA and get rid of them for destroying her life. Together, she and Loki discovered that there was actually just one man running the whole operation, as an attempt to keep his own variants from waging a multi-universe war.
The first season ended with Sylvie killing that man, likely unleashing his variants upon the multiverse.
The Good: For the most part, Loki felt like the MCU fully realizing its TV potential. The ending was as thrilling as the beginning promised, and it created such a distinct world that felt separate but also fit right into the rest of the MCU. Loki has been such a central figure in so many MCU stories and became such a fan fave despite his murderous habits, so it was truly a thrill and a delight to see him reckon with himself, both literally and figuratively.
The Bad: Our only issue with Loki was with Loki himself. The first Avengers movie was Loki at his most evil, before all the character development he experienced before his death in Infinity War, and TV Loki didn't feel like that same evil guy. That's probably a good thing, because trying to root for that Loki would have been pretty hard, but it still felt like we were missing a chapter when we caught up with Loki in the first episode.
The Ridiculous: On a show that imagines a universe where Loki is an alligator, "ridiculous" is the name of the game.
All three shows so far have their moments, and it's possible that nothing will ever be able to recapture the magic we felt while watching WandaVision for the first time, but Loki is everything we wanted and more. Now, we're just excited to have so much more to look forward to (including Loki season two), and wondering what could have been if Agent Carter could have been a Disney+ miniseries instead of a canceled ABC drama. We wouldn't say no to a revival!