Invincible Season 1 – A “How to” on Expanding Superhero Formula

The following review is spoiler-free.

Imagine a superhero origin story that exists in a sort of current MCU-like world where the guidelines of being a respected savior have become so set-and-stoned due to how expansive its population of superpowered beings is. Imagine a superhero origin story interested in a universe that’s heavily connected from planet to plant: a colossus network that stems back to back between both underdeveloped and overdeveloped societies. Earth then only seems smaller in this case, and this world-building that marginalizes our planet seems to intentionally be preparing us for a clashing of both nihilistic and optimistic intel. Invincible seems to be less so a parody of the comic-book genre like some of my favorites from the last decade, and more so just an intensification of it, inciting on what a generation of countless superheroes could awaken overtime.

In some cases does this debut season seem like simply a more intelligent way to work around the already redundant, goodie-two-shoe heroes and extremist villain stories? Sure, this goes over the classic Spider-Man arc of learning to live up to your superhero duties while balancing high school drama, yet it doesn’t mock it, but rather contextually affixes more to it, automatically hoisting its quality past even its inspirers. The show decides to further convince us more so than your average adaptation that what the protagonist and antagonists want are genuinely based on the experiences of their contrasting socialized communities, awakenings, and developed philosophies towards the weaker individuals that they essentially have control over. It’s not so much a “hero rising up to save the world cause nobody else can” tale, but more so a lineage-related one about a hero having to live up to another hero, to glorified legacies, or better yet, a son’s desire to live up to a father. Without spoilers, Invincible obviously explores not just that to which makes it great, but grander things that connect to controversial notions of foreign gods — how either the heart or minuteness of humanity could possibly change them — who also aren’t written as strictly fixed-minded and completely irrational elitists, but of those who follow any rationale to power, just like a human would to the rest of nature for which they have substantial control of. 

Where The Boys (2019-) was intrigued by modern-day media corruption but in a society of superheroes, and now to what Invincible will be to enhancing cliché superhero narratives with richer context, I think I’m starting to genuinely find more hope and fulfillment with companies who are forced to directly butt heads with this comic-book genre’s dominators: Disney and Warner Bros. Marvel and DC may be incarcerated in the hands of just those two studios, with less wiggle room for risky ideas, but that only gives others more of a reason to start adapting superheroes and villains outside of those stories, those that may even eclipse the most iconic legends one day.

Verdict: B+

“Invincible” season 1 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts on Every Episode of Love, Death & Robots Season 2

1. Automated Customer Service

It has the classic yet boring fear perspective of the dystopia becoming technologically reliant on robots, but I think whenever it twists the slasher genre by using cleaning services as a manner of distraction, it can kind of be funny. I like the animation design of the characters though; it reminds me of Studio Ghibli’s drawings of elderly people but converted into admirable CGI reimaginings.

Verdict: 2.5/5

2. Ice

This surreal, off-putting, and marginally shape-warped style of sci-fi animation could make for one gnarly Gorillaz music video; that’s for sure. Sucks how it has to be accompanied by the most by-the-numbers coming of age story ever though.

Verdict: 2.5/5

3. Pop Squad

Jennifer Yuh Nelson found the solution to Children of Men, lol.

The future of ego: only our generation gets to experience life and nobody else; quite parallel to the state of how we’re treating the Earth for future successors don’t ya think? The short is a little preachy — kind of hard to say so much in such little time, so it’s gotta spew it out in chintzy phrases — but this dystopian concept is actually interesting enough to warrant an entire feature-length or video game.

Verdict: 3/5

4. Snow in the Desert

The Age of Adaline meets a Guardians of the Galaxy universe. In concept, it sounds cool, but in execution… eh. Someone definitely thought “Deadpool + A.I.” and then worked off of that.

Verdict: 2.5/5

5. The Tall Grass

At its core, this is a Signs (2003) fan film; let’s be real. The rugged texture in animation is neat though, making CGI look suspiciously like stop-motion. 

Verdict: 2.5/5

6. All Through the House

To be fair though, this would in theory make for a great fear tactic to scare your children into being good for the rest of their lives. Gonna have to try this one day. Santa’s evolved bitches. Better pray I never become a father.

Verdict: 3/5

7. Life Hutch

Okay, now hear me out: what if we made something in the realm of Ridley Scott’s Alien, except the dangerous entity at hand will be as clueless as a pet dog. Charming, right?

Verdict: 2.5/5

8. The Drowned Giant

I think the lesson here folks is that the narrator in this short desperately needs to get laid. This voiceover-reliant piece, while occasionally creative, tries way too hard to be poignant and meaningful with its excessively described stance on wonders never dying through memories and societal unity. Anyways, haha, nothing like making a giant, naked corpse a playground/tourist attraction. Umm…

Verdict: 2.5/5

Love, Death & Robots Ranked

“Love, Death & Robots” season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.

An Episode by Episode Review of Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Episode 1: New World Order

I’m glad to see that they’re FINALLY giving Bucky’s character the bare minimum of humanity, something that’s been almost entirely looked over even after the FIVE (yes, FIVE) Marvel movies he’s starred in. He’s got a checklist quest now to redeem those he had forcibly done wrong during his days as a soldier for Hydra by transpiring some pity friendships, trying to see if it’ll land his PTSD to the side for a change. As a weak spot though, the episode bounces mediocrely when it comes to commentating on the aftermath of Endgame: a five year disappearance that resulted in a graceful reappearance of half the population which then unfortunately counteracted an economical plumage, as one could imagine, is insinuated with Sam’s sister Sarah’s corny bank loan MacGuffin, but it is what it is. The episode ends off interestingly, however, with our introduction into the government capitalizing off of a hero’s legacy.

Verdict: C+

Episode 2: The Star-Spangled Man

I appreciate how, like WandaVision, the show sort of is working in the meta by having Sam and Bucky represent the point of view of the Marvel fans, opposing the new that has invaded their lives with this replacement of Captain America. This episode may be the funniest the MCU has ever been too next to Gunn and Waititis’s work, with that hilarious shot of the two walking and John Walker feeding to give them a lift, or the forced couples therapy Sam and Bucky encounter. The two’s hateful chemistry sort of craps itself based on loose strings a couple times, but it nonetheless is reverent enough to be contagiously funny, as well as reflective of each others current pothole life conditions, taking one another’s failures out on each other. The action in this episode also surpasses the previous; I really dug its re-inclusion of the super soldiers in a more down to earth way, relating itself back to the experience of Bucky that the show has chosen to follow. 

Verdict: B-

Episode 3: Power Broker

GRC, ay?

Good idea bringing back one of the MCU’s top villains, Zemo, who’s philosophy has always made more sense to me than his actions, fitting in appropriately with the show’s continuing theme of celebritization of Cap’s image/shield that ultimately overlooked other heroes through this twisted, singular idolization. I find it funny how Madripoor is just like the underground hitman environment from the John Wick movies; Sharon Carter’s return even featured her going full badass John-Wick-mode herself; she’s now hiding in a criminal underworld due to the Hydra reveal that left the company she once worked for under investigation. Anyways, the action sequences are beginning to remind me a lot of Winter Soldier now! I’m starting to feel a little something for the antagonists now too despite me wishing that they had a more in-depth background outside of just being terrorist Robin Hoods; their struggle of being swindled deeper and deeper into their poverty after the five year disappearance ended in Endgame is, however, actually something fairly hooking compared to what that treacherous “Sam’s sister can’t get a loan” side-plot tells us in those regards. GRC… damn you. 

Verdict: B-

Episode 4: The Whole World is Watching

“Isn’t that how gods talk?”

John Walker has officially hit a peak of desperation to live up to a god-like image such as Captain America — ahhh, hence a flaw with power glorification that the show is smartly sticking to. I admired how interested this particular episode was with the hypocrisy of fighting supremacy with supremacy; it has me now digging the tv show style for the MCU; it gives us more breathing room for thoughtful discussion, and also MORE quality action spectacle and decent side-plot quarrels that actually advance the characters empathetically or messages further way more than a movie’s length could. Oh yeah, and that final scene signifies a big departure from Steve Rogers: instead of killing in battle, Walker kills a defenseless man needlessly; the government is going to hopefully be out of their asses for once now that their ill-minded Captain America revival scheme has hit a dead end. Again, power glorification = flawed; Walker was already a hero to the nation before becoming Captain America, but the expectations that came with it ruined him. It’s so nice to see a superhero franchise (of all the franchises, one about powerful beings) become a little more self-aware with this kind of stuff! Some people have already said this, but the show is also beginning to fling off some Daredevil vibes with these themes. Anyways, this episode in particular though: easily one of the best pieces of media the MCU has ever put together. 

Verdict: B

Episode 5: Truth

A little too preachy at times for me, but this episode gives fans some safe moments of closure for our lead characters. Walker is thrown under the bus as we would expect from a government wanting to save their own asses, Zemo politely accepts submission to Wakanda, Sam and Bucky have some bro-time together by helping build Sarah’s ship, and we get further background on Isaiah’s time as a supersoldier hero and prisoner, leading to Sam’s revelation to take or to not take on the Captain America name? And, of course, the episode sets up for a big showdown to come in the finale — no surprises there. This is probably my least favorite episode thus far besides episode one, but it’s fine enough. That fight sequence at the beginning though was quite the hustle.

Verdict: B-

Episode 6: One World, One People

*sigh*

I really hate when a medium that’s been consistently somewhat poignant has to drop the ball by concluding itself with a classic “uhhh, the government is gonna change because ya fellas know now that it was actually YOU who created the bad guys all along” 50-minute preach ceremony. This final episode isn’t entirely hopeless though; I will admit, there’s admirable intention in how the show desires using a black Captain American to console the revival and recognition for past black heroes, but it’s all done so f***ing conveniently to wrap bows around every issue this show set up initially like it’d be that simple to accomplish to begin with. I’m fine with everybody having their happy ending conclusions here (Bucky’s is the best) but my golly is John’s and Sharon’s rushed to hell. It’s a chore trying to find ways to conclude like five different side-plots with happy endings in the blink of an episode after nearly five entire hours of proceeding struggles, and coincidentally enough, a couple of them just s**t themselves out of pretty thin air! You know, Marvel, that things can be left open-ended because you are a FRANCHISE, right? You can have time to think before doing something completely stupid, right???

Speaking of rushed, I can’t say the first half’s big-battle climax was any good, giving us a really cliché and unprepared heroes-work-together accumulation (like WandaVision) that leads to a villain’s death which the show insists we feel sympathy for, but at the same time it’s hard to given how vaguely they’ve monotoned these antagonists throughout beyond the GRC lore. To add more wood to the fire though, you KNOW how damn vague this show’s reach for a message was when Sam had to give his semi-inspirational speech to the government to stop being asshats with little to no specifics; it literally boiled down to a classic “y’all should like change, ya know? I don’t know specifically how you people will figure it out, but just listen to and enact my liberal demands from your conservative perspectives, okay?” speech. Who knew all you had to do to stop a corrupt country from making borders and creating injustices for heroes is to just ask them if they can on live television after almost dying at the HANDS of the people they were against in the first place? I know they now know that they caused the terrorists to terrorize in the first place but YEAH RIGHT these government officials would just flip all their coins immediately because of that! Marvel should only be able to seam into this far-fetched fantasy logic as long as it doesn’t try to integrate it with our real world, which it has embarrassingly done in this final episode unfortunately. 

I despised the acting direction for the final battle in this episode, as well; just really shoddy delivery which tonally conflicts with the great acting of the previous five episodes. The editing, choreography, and composition was a bit janky in the climax too; maybe stick to those tightly constructed combat fights in earlier episodes instead of having to blow your load with as much visual galore as your budget can handle, Marvel! Just a thought!

Verdict: D

Overall Show Verdict: C+

2021 Ranked, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is now streaming on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part II of V

Yeah, not surprised Rian Johnson has a feature on the supplements for the Criterion release of this; I didn’t expect the cinematic origin to The Matrix, Minority Report, Inception, and White Christmas/San Junipero to be a cute little “who-dun-it” if you look past all its terrifying, psychedelic scares of human-computer malfunction/deletion and the overbearing reality crisis of our own skeptical universe. Dang.

For a nearly four-hour mini series that almost feels entirely expositional but more so in a pseudo-psychological way where you’re not sure whether or not what you’re listening to should actually be taken into consideration as it could be just false precepts to help put you directly into the ever-warping mind of our disturbed main protagonist, World on a Wire is a masterful adaption of the classical philosophical argument that’s brought up in the 1964 novel Simulacron-3 regarding realities controlled by other realities… and maybe controlled by even more realities, and so on so forth. Opposed to The Matrix though which takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape of a ruling alien race dominating humans through a virtual reality, World on a Wire seems more concerned with the technology’s place when present in modern society. 

A cybernetics corporation is in search for testing societal theories through an almost predeterminable methodology: a computerized reality that either absorbs the success of an idea firsthand or bites the bullet of it entirely to therefore benefit the “real” world as it applies its observations to avoid or recreate such experiments for themselves. The mini-series seems to suggest that if there is a God looking over us, there may be another God looking over him, and by “God” I mean a plethora of them, all representing different personalities and ambitions, good or bad, just like, well, people; wouldn’t any artificial world-building suggest such a motley of creators? 

This may not necessarily be Fassbinder’s best work in terms of acting directions (I won’t deny that I laughed a few times at some dramatic reactions/revelations) but it’s not that shocking to behold when you realize how out of bounds this kind of story seems so far in this director’s filmography, opposed to his previous projects where he tended to be vastly more concentrated on the characters rather than the plot. However, visually, this is on par with his previous year’s work, holding no punches to make every shot seem compositionally rich with its expressionistic camera movements or blocking fractures, the colorfully concentrated lighting, and the futuristic variant of luxurious, dream-like set pieces to accompany it all. The buzzy score is fittingly unpleasant, as well. 

My proudest take away though that I got from this was watching people (even the fancy, professionally suited businessmen) who have spinning chairs at their office desks ACTUALLY spin in their chairs. It’s nice to see a filmmaker that finally gets it: no sane person wouldn’t do that s**t 24/7 if they’re blessed enough to have one.

Verdict: A-

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“World on a Wire” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day (1972)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part I of V

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a director use zooms this tellingly and consistently before; for those who say they’re a jarring technique in film that should be secluded more, think again!

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day is about the most charming, inviting, warm and cozy mini-series I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Like, HOT-DAMN, this is just so utterly wholesome and crowd-pleasing that it kind of has me baffled why it seems to be a bit obscured from Fassbinder’s central filmography. It probably has to do with its political origins, being such a liberal-geared show broadcasted during a right-winged obsessed Germany, it would make sense this got shelved for so long before just now being restored for the public to bathe in all eight hours of its empathetic glory. 

This 1972 television program is one galored with power dynamics, including but not limited to a grandma in control of a new lover and a man in control of a best friend. But, probably the most telling connective piece of tissue to the story’s parallel to social work would be the fathers of the story who are often in control of their family; Fassbinder exposes the humiliating authority complexes that come with it and how when taken away shows true vulnerability and desperation — it reminds me a smidge of what PTA’s The Master attempted to convey about leaders, but made with a less glamorous approach and for good reason. Fassbinder sees hostility as a harm of judgement and proper action, but then again it can also come forth as a fruitful method to right the wrongs of lower/middle-class disadvantages, hindered by the higher-class decision swindlers; same goes for the ideology of silence: it’s a shield against trouble yet it is one rarely effective in resolving social frustrations, even in the casualist of affairs. A time period unprotected to capitalism and embracive of governmental exclusiveness sort of requires one to expect and hope for a counteraction of citizens to take measures into their own hands; it’s sort of sorrowful realizing that this is a reality that’ll likely never end for any country even today, as self-interest seems to be an impenetrable attribute no matter who you are, but its inspiration of good-minded uprising is very much a human motivation and ambition worth living for; it gives us a purpose if anything, as oppression and corruption calls for that within its victims — a bittersweet outlook! 

It’s honestly surprising how much I loved this too, because it is very much a piece of archetypal melodrama catered to an identical formula for every episode with its “in order to improve society we must work together to accomplish it” resolutions, and I will admit that that’s what’s holding me back ever so slightly from giving it a perfect score as it got slightly repetitive by the end and I desired a little more adversity in those regards like we get in episodes 3 & 5. But, in all fairness, Fassbinder’s execution here is so absolutely dialogue-detailed and candid with new wisdom to discuss in every single scene about human nature, perfectly acted and holy engaging in its characterizations, and consistently optimistic yet rightfully challenging to truly earn those moments that it actually warranted the numbing simplicities of the narrative’s familiar and convenient structuring. 

I’m very much for how supernatural the score can get in this mini-series too; it reminds me of Punch-Drunk Love a bit: replicating emotions in ways that feel unworldly, exaggerated, and surreal. 

Verdict: A

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“Eights Hours Don’t Make a Day” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Hot Take: Disney’s Latest Television Series WandaVision Doubted its Potential WAY Too Much

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WANDAVISION

Someone at Disney headquarters is obsessed with The Truman Show and, for the most part, I’m all for it. 

WandaVision‘s straight-to-streaming existence seemed like a last hope for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) during the global pandemic of “you-know-what” after having it’s highly anticipated blockbuster Black Widow pushed back now TWICE from its original release of May 2020. Believe it or not, WandaVision is the first MCU-related thing to come out in over a year, and while that may seem like a pretty short time frame to most people, if you’ve been conditioned to the MCU’s speedy rate of releases then this gap actually feels more like a century than just a year. 

Introducing the philosophy of Christopher Nolan’s Memento: would you rather live in a world of fiction that gave you a convincing purpose in life or would you rather live in the reality of your situation with nothing to lose? We’re taken directly to the 50s, 60s, 70s… who knows? It keeps changing! Black-and-white to color television, boring office job roles, the stay-at-home wife duties, etc.. Wanda and Vision are an odd couple, one with unlikely abilities in fact, but they’re determined to make it work amongst their fairly normal neighborhood and town of Westfield. Yet, something isn’t right. This world they’re in isn’t right; it feels surreal. The people here feel like characters from a show I used to watch, characters from a reality I wish I lived in. The guilt of what’s really happening here is beginning to sink into Wanda’s fantasy — *gasp!* — and at every chance it comes she must deflect it, avoid it and lock it away again like it was never there to begin with. Wanda is living in a fictional reality where her husband isn’t dead, but very much alive. However, that reality is burdening the lives of real people who are used to fit roles in her ideological society. The town of Westfield is actually one brimmed with innocent civilians under the mind control of Wanda herself. They’re trapped in her roleplay of an alternative universe in which she had lived happily ever after.

Question though: does WandaVision actually build off of the philosophy of living in fiction rather than reality or does it water it down for a more juvenile audience? Is what I’ve said here, all there is to Wanda’s story? 

The first three episodes were admittedly my favorites given their creative attempts to make a legitimately entertaining take on the “weirdos must learn to live in a normal neighborhood” type narrative. The mimicking of the mental and physical states of our lead character Wanda through visual expressions as the world seemed to follow the heartbeat of her own were not only often hilarious to witness, but a sign of Marvel breaking artistic boundaries for the better — it really did feel like top-tier material that the studio has done thus far especially in terms of characterization. When I look back at what I’d consider the highlights of WandaVision, I’ll certainly be recalling the amusing magic show where Vision the “robot” gets “drunk” on bubblegum caught in his steel mechanics and Wanda having to fix his shenanigans live in front of the town audience, or the pandemonium of Wanda birthing the twins where the surrounding neighborhood begins structurally imploding as the pain of labor is symbolized through the sitcoms colorful set components. 

Yet, of course, the season must have its exterior plot handled though, right? Smartly so too, however, in the financial and critical department, as the reactions to the show’s first three episodes were undoubtedly polarizing with many unadventurous followers of the franchise calling it a pointless ploy and demanding the tiresome MCU formula back. Indisputably, episode 4 of WandaVision arrives as a half-hour exposition dump, but at least a cheaply gratifying one where the inpatient fans get most of their questions answered, and the show achieves maintaining the average viewers attention. With a property so giant in fan-size, this was technically the smartest decision the company could make, even if it sacrificed the qualitative stretches that the mini-series could’ve potentially gained in the “progression” of a good-old-fashioned mystery. 

I do like the inclusion of Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis, however, as there’s an obvious “meta” to their existence, mimicking our very own confusion towards the existence of those first three episodes. It’s an exterior, secondary world to the one that exists in Wanda’s mind, and I wasn’t bothered by it being there at all to separate the audience from the fiction and reality of the situation at hand. Monica’s character, previously seen in Captain Marvel, didn’t do much for me though. She basically ends up belief-wise back to where she started at in the beginning. Her arc is literally a straight line as far as I’m concerned besides the fact that she gets some new kickass superpowers! The best supporting character in WandaVision, although, comes strictly down to the return of Vision. I appreciated the sort of, almost “lite” existential crisis he went on while he slowly began absorbing what exactly was happening in his situation, slowly finding out that he was an “idea” from Wanda’s head rather than a “real” person. Again, it’s another exploration that Marvel could’ve drawn-out and examined a little closer, but is mostly played out casually, like an afterthought at the end of the day.

As rough as the transition from episodes 1-3 to 4 are, I do however appreciate how the show maintains course from thereon out with its contained balance of the sitcom aesthetic and the trademark modern MCU layout. In a way, this complete excavation of every era of the sitcom genre feels like an unapologetic love letter, and it shields it appropriately in the show’s own narrative happening between the people versus Wanda. Episode 5 and 6 pose as the return to 80s (Father Knows Best) and early 2000s (Malcolm in the Middle) stylizations, and even grow into more modern sitcoms displayed in Episode 7 (Modern Family, The Office, etc.). On top of that, the show progressively amps the desperation of Wanda’s conflict more openly, showing us the grimmer side of how far she’s willing to indulge in her sick fantasies and how aggressive she can be in executing them. 

Karma hits her like a brick, however, as we find out in the kind of shocking yet sometimes overly melodramatic — as many MCU films tend to cheap-play, rinse, reuse and recycle for so many of their movie’s climaxes — seventh episode that reveals Agatha as the “true” villain of the show; she plans to mind control Wanda like how Wanda mind controlled an entire city. Karma sure does bite! Then we get to episode 8, however, being my second least favorite of the season, which is surprising considering it’s the one that arguably has the most “character development” of any other episode. My issue with it though is that it’s, in reality, just “recap development”, mainly composed of elements we already know of when it comes to the story of Wanda, just explained in grave, textbook detail, treating the audience ultimately as idiots. It’s funny how the beginning 5 minutes of the episode are only there to give Agatha a spot to shine for awhile until her entire antagonistic character is transformed into a cheap outlet to pose ANOTHER exposition dump again on the audience, this being not only one that summarizes the origins of Wanda’s radical condition, but also as a way to slowly spell out the ever so simple motifs of the show, as if the audience couldn’t have already deduced them by the previous episode’s events alone. 

Essentially, Previously On takes us back to the Age of Ultron, where violence against the Soviets by “American machinery” ironically birthed the “American dream” in Wanda. But we saw and learned or insinuated this already in that Avengers movie and throughout Wanda’s journey in the previous episodes of WandaVision; we know most of this! Yet, this 40-minute episode is simply here to cater for an audience who either hasn’t seen that movie, hasn’t been paying attention that well to the show, or cares about a couple origin details that could’ve been expressed easily in a more compact amount of time. This episode is just blatant proof of a show that could’ve easily been trimmed down in time to increase quality; it’s okay to trust the audience sometimes! The single good excuse for these time frames of elongated explaining on the show is that well, to accept that this program is made for mainly kids, but I’m sure the MCU fanbase wouldn’t be too happy about me saying that and I’m sure some of the darker material in the story would say otherwise as well. 

We must give Elizabeth Olsen a giant round of applause though, cause her performance damn well makes the episode worth something. If the last 10 minutes of Previously On were just the entire episode too, I would’ve much rather preferred that sort of spiel of information than the preceding 30 minutes that pulled an actual recap of insignificant Wanda “fun facts” to evoke emotional nostalgia from the audience.

Okay, now time to dive into the opinion that hopefully won’t upset readers too much… *sigh* I kind of hated The Series Finale? Umm, this is going to be a really obscure comparison I’m about to make here that only late 90s or super super early 2000s kids like myself will understand, but the ending of this is almost identical to how Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows played out? Yes, Bionicle, a LEGO franchise, made a movie in 2004 that was straight-to-DVD and clearly devised just to advertise toy products. In that narrative, there’s a central villain that convinces the leading “hero” of an almost Avengers-like team of warriors to pursue the potential of how evil he can be. This central villain tries to manipulate this hero into becoming a villain with her cheese-talk of ultimatums and destinies, but in the end, the hero tricks her into believing that he had become convinced of her ideologies and that she had won in the end — for pretty much no other reason but audience deception. Of course, she realizes eventually that she had been bamboozled and that it was a ploy all along; this hero actually still has some morally righteous spark left in him! The warriors win in a very quip-filled battle and ultimately defeat the evil. Problem solved. Oh yeah, and one of the heroes tries sacrificing himself so that the nearly corrupted hero could become good again. Hmmm… 

Obviously, that entire phenomenon was written for an obscure, very young audience, at what can be assumed on an extraordinarily low-budget and furthermore as simply a quick-jot advertising ploy, so the fact that the script for it is pretty cruddy and lovey-dovey, doesn’t come as a surprise. Yet, that movie is FRIGHTENINGLY close to how the final episode of WandaVision was written. Yep.

Agatha — now one of my least favorite characters of the entire MCU despite Kathryn Hahn trying her best to make it work with her quirky personality — is constantly throughout the big battle giving Wanda the classic and over-bloated “give in” talk; her whole existence truly did become just a pushing-point to convince Wanda to ironically do the right thing; wtf? But, Wanda tricks her with a POINTLESS deception scheme — cause remember the audience exists and they ought to be shocked now and again because they cut off the central mystery of the show four episodes in — where Agatha believes to have manipulated and sucked the powers out of her. Oh, and you know how it is, Wanda wins, punishes Agatha — despite Agatha low-key being the one to wake her out of her evil addiction to torturing town people — and flies off scot-free while Monica gives her the thumbs up. Yeah the whole, “if it were my mom, I would’ve done the same thing” comment that Monica makes is kind of a savage comment given there’s still hundreds of forever psychologically scarred people now at your doorsteps who have to suffer with possible memory-dementia. But, ya know, the show must insist to the audience that Wanda doesn’t deserve further consequences, and we should cheer on and on for her recovery and the “sacrifice” that she made. And yes, Vision is the one comparable to that Bionicle hero in that older children’s movie I was referencing who was willing to immolate himself for the saving of his beloved friend who he was convinced was becoming evil, and so on so forth…

So basically my hypothesis is if you liked the final episode of WandaVision you damn well better like Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows too at least!

You may retort to me though, “But, Evan! Wanda at the end sacrifices her kids and her husband to save the town that she imprisoned? Isn’t that something new — besides the fact that she’s sacrificed Vision already before in Infinity War — and deep, and poetic, and emotional, and character-growing, and etc. compared to that strangely specific kid’s movie you used to watch as a wee child?” Almost true. Yet, you must not know the MCU by now! If they’re willing to force these main characters to make a heartbreaking decision then they must be rewarded with compensation. Do you really think those people are dead forever? First off there’s a third Vision now out there with all of the second Vision’s memory intact. Lastly, thanks to the second end credit scene of the episode, we now know that her kids are still out there somewhere. Coppppp-outsssss…

I will admit though, the Vision vs. Vision fight in this episode was EPIC. They took the quirks of his personality and seemed it cleverly into how two of his own copies would actually escalate themselves to in a fight against one another while considering their almost invincible physicalities. And they brought up the Ship of Theseus allegory! It’s like I’m back in school again! 

There is one last complaint though that I have with the finale and maybe the entire show is how they treat the people of Westfield. It feels anti-first-act-of-Endgame in a way, where they’re used mainly as a ploy to shed guilt on Wanda yet the consequences of her atrocious actions are never truly sought with hatred. In fact, the entire show pushes you to hate this other character more (Tyler Hayward) who does get arrested at the end for good cause, yet, I don’t know; Wanda basically enslaved hundreds of people into who knows how long of brain damaging torment — at the fault of either her powers, a free-will mind, or a “combo” of those two things; we’ll never know — and yet the show never hits home how atrocious that crime is because she is still painted as the “anti-hero” at the end of the day, who only did it because of the loss she had suffered, which is weirdly comparable to the Civil War MCU villain Zemo or any antagonist already presented in this universe that at least didn’t have a “kill everybody cause why not and stuff” rationale. All she gets at the conclusion of the episode are dirty-looks and a questionable friendly wave goodbye from her new super-powered pal as the other “bad guys” are whisked away to prison. I wish Marvel shined some ambiguity in their definitions of heroes and villains a tad more cause the illogically biased siding in these narratives is fatiguing and preposterous! 

My experience with WandaVision reminds me far too much of my situation with HBO’s Watchmen series, where I had found each episode to be solid besides its concluding disaster. But, that’s important to recognize: I can’t deny how much I enjoyed the first six episodes of this show, truly. Wanda, furthermore, has fulfilled the potential of being maybe one of the better characters in the MCU with her cynical philosophy of choosing fictional salvation through the suffering of others. HOWEVER, the plot surrounding her ends up not doing too much justice to the concept or aim in which the story is steering at, unfortunately, and I think most importantly the quality of previous episodes have actually whittled down for me because the mystery that they had brought up feel so melodramatic looking back at them now for what just resulted in a trite as hell, childishly manipulative and tonally hesitant blockbuster cage fight. By episode 9, mere to nothing is actually expanded on in the themes that the show presents in its inception besides the predictable “sacrifice” or, I don’t know, the five stages of grief that fans are obsessing over for little reason given it’s primal commentary on the progression of those actual stages.

I do believe though that future MCU projects should consider implementing the paid-off ambitions that this show delivered in its first six episodes while at all costs avoiding at least its devastatingly bland final episode. The show was so close to greatness! It’s decent enough howbeit if you stick to those first six episodes and make up your own ending, but these gosh darn MCU entries are always so close to grasping high-end quality and it ticks mwah off that they rarely try to reach it! Stop teasing us!

WandaVision Math: 

1.Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience = B

2.Don’t Touch That Dial = B

3.Now in Color = B

4.We Interrupt This Program = B-

5.On a Very Special Episode = B-

6.All-New Halloween Spooktacular! = B-

7.Breaking the Fourth Wall = C+

8.Previously On = C+

9.The Series Finale = D

Final Verdict: C+

2021 Ranked, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

“WandaVision” is now available to stream on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: The Sopranos Season 2 (2000)

The gang gets religious: scares of near death, visions of hell, signs from the grave; the guilt, or more like, the fear is invading the Sopranos organization to nearly all members including those of the family. S**t’s gone so south that even the psychiatrist has to see a psychiatrist! In season 2 of The Sopranos we also seriously witness up-close the selfishness of the mob business, as Tony begins bleeding other families dry so that he can maintain a business and feed a family he can barely keep together himself. Yet, it’s eating him alive, finally allowing his sins to burn into his consciousness. 

I think I prefer season 1 marginally over this, specifically cause it spent more time and was dead focused on dissecting the psyche of a mob leader through the intriguing relationship between Tony and his psychiatrist Jennifer, which was arguably my favorite part of the show in general, but season 2 has definitely upped the ante on stakes when it comes to the health of all our demented crime characters. Their life ain’t getting easier that’s for sure. 

Verdict: B+

“The Sopranos” season 2 is now available to stream on HBO Max.

A Quick Recap of Rick and Morty Season 4

You know, for a show that has one of the most cancerous fanbases out there — standing just below something such as the hostile Star Wars community — the series itself is… still pretty funny and consistently creative! Why can’t people just silently have fun with this material and not have to compare each other’s dicks on whether they liked it or not? 

So, as a recap for this season of Rick and Morty

Morty uses the guidance of a forever changing knowledge of his death to determine his ongoing actions while a hologram Rick attempts to con him into dropping it to reboot real Rick back to life. Morty and Jerry attempt to take down a Black Mirror-type dating app that’ll very likely exist in our own future while Rick tries to find the origins of a pile of s**t that’ll lead him to an unlikely friendship. Rick demeans the art of heisting in an excessively eventful episode that’s complex for the sake of verbosely meta-memeing on “complexity” itself. Rick finds… another unlikely friend… and has to go save him with Morty and Summer in the driest R&M episode thus far — sorry, not sorry. Morty advances a snake planet by killing one of their own and replacing it with a snake from Earth, forcing Rick and Morty to time travel the species into experiencing the same tragic historical events as humanity went through to eventually befall self-apocalypse. In the most meta-that-it-has-to-constantly-remind-you-it’s-meta episode of the show yet which uses Bong-Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer as a setting influencer, Rick and Morty find themselves trapped in an allegory that literally epitomizes the show’s relationship between viewer and narrative. Summer creates a new, humanized civilization for a face-sucking race of aliens that Rick and Morty decide to violently terrorize for fun. When Rick’s fake acid plan fails after running into the funniest group of villains known to the show, Rick is challenged by Morty to make one of his supposedly bright ideas into reality instead, being a device that can let you respawn to a save spot in time of your choosing, allowing oneself to live a life with mere consequences. Rick and Beth help raise his army of half-planet-blooded children while Jerry strives for a purpose in life after his family vacation is vetoed. Two Beths find out that one of them is a clone that Rick created which then escalates to a blockbuster-ish finale. 

In conclusion, it’s undeniably the rockiest season of the show so far — it’s almost like half of season 4’s episodes yearn to be B-rated, try-hard versions of the beloved Ricklantis Mixup special from season 3 — but as you can see, the trademark “culturally literate ludicrousness” of it all that makes this series just so damn entertaining is still quite active and running, ultimately overruling the season’s blatant drawbacks. Yep, this is Rick and Morty alright. Classic stuff.

Rick and Morty Season 4 Math:

  1. Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat = A-
  2. The Old Man and the Seat = B+
  3. One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty = B-
  4. Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty = C+
  5. Rattlestar Ricklactica = B
  6. Never Ricking Morty = B
  7. Promortyus = B
  8. The Vat of Acid Episode = A+
  9. Childrick of Mort = B-
  10. Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri = B

Final Verdict: B

“Rick and Morty” season 4 is now available to stream on HBO Max.

The Mandalorian Season 2 Lives up to Its Predecessor by Being Straightforward in Story and Commercially Intelligent in Details

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead for The Mandalorian Season 2

So, did anybody else notice how the first FIVE episodes of The Mandalorian season 2 follow a very identical formula? Mando needs specific information/resources so in order to get this/these information/resources he must do a favor for/strike a deal with a specific group of brand new characters that’ll likely involve him in a dangerous mission. This unequivocal fact could make-or-break some fans who have started paying attention to the repetitive nature of this season of Disney’s #1 streaming program, and while I would say it ultimately damages the quality of the season to noticeable capacities, it’s nowhere near enough to completely snap the enjoyment of seeing eight anthological-like episodes bombarded with K9-leveled set design detail and world building facets. The simplistic aroma of the Mando + Baby Yoda dynamic amusingly flies on as well, working its way up to a still mildly interesting storyline with little complexion — remember, “complexion” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” It’ll likely have the Star Wars fanbase satisfied alas after being terrorized by the past few Disney feature-lengths that prioritized insanely scatterbrained plotting and excessive stakes over old-fashioned hero arcs. 

I think it’s reasonable to infer that season 2 of The Mandalorian is much more keen on manipulating nostalgia to provoke the potential of the program. Knowing Disney’s track record, the company will jump on any product they make that becomes popular to evoke as much financial opportunity as they can. So, whenever the second season isn’t bringing back old characters or jabbing at references like gunfire to either set up future properties they’re planning to release or simply finding a way to raise their ratings from fans, I’ll admit, there are often some innovative implications that can be spotted in The Mandalorian; some of which I’d even go as far as to say outshine the first season’s endeavors. From warped dragon slaying, to giant alien-spider infestations, to sly commentaries on the evolution of religion (?!?!), and to the abundance of meta alterations to the Rebellion and Imperial lifestyles after the destruction of The Empire, it can be said that The Mandalorian isn’t just mindlessly following the blueprint of what Star Wars has already done before. 

To be frank, I can give you easy episode examples to prove this. Let’s start off with “the best for first”: Chapter 13. This piece of the season is the grimmest I’ve seen Star Wars yet visually. It has this muddy, green/yellow tint to it that just puts you into such an uncommonly dangerous environment. The clean special effects, variety in creatures, and attention in ancient architecture is also quite flawless in this episode too; it may just be the most alluring showcase of an atmospherical set piece that I’ve seen in Star Wars history? It more importantly, however, expands on the purpose and relevancy of Baby Yoda/Grogu as an independent character with substance and how he’s not just an aid to Mando’s own arc which many could argue is what Baby Yoda was used as in season 1. Chapter 13, on top of that, offers one of the coolest battles in Star Wars yet: a coinciding battle that involves a western showdown between Mando and an army, and a Jedi duel between Ashoka and a new antagonist, Elsbeth. The episode, additionally, doesn’t suffer from as much of the botched writing conveniences as other episodes in this season do — as a Star Wars piece, in its own rights, it is SUPER pristine. My only major qualm with it is that it does express crucial details often with hefty exposition dumps. Still, would it be fair to say that this is BY FAR the best Mandalorian episode thus far? Yes!

Or, going forward, Chapter 15, for instance, which is this weird balance between Mad Max Fury Road-like action spectacles, western table revenge shootouts, and this oddball arc that Bill Burr’s character has where he spits out some very Bill Burr-ish (no surprises there) type philosophy on the similarities between imperials and any other group hungry for ruling — which, he then immediately retracts by the end of the episode by being sort of a hypocrite? Anywho, watching all those stormtroopers cheer like hardy, friendly teammates; now that was the most surreal event I’ve seen in Star Wars since Chapter 10 — over-hated episode, by the way — when those X-wing pilots pulled over Mando as if they were cops! 

Lastly, the Chapter 16 finale…. It’s pretty decent! Predictable and convenient? 100% Jam-packed with fan service porn? 100% But, was it an appropriate way to end off a harmless two season adventure with action-heavy sequences and simple-minded emotional impacts? 100% It’s a cute, Pixar-ish, teary-eyed and <<<corny>>> — sorry fans, it just is; face the truth that you may sometimes fall head over heels for the trickery of storytelling cheese — ending that hardcore fanboys and girls are going to go bonkers over after being treated with sheer storyline conclusion garbage for the past couple decades now with most Star Wars properties. 

Then again though, about that fan service, who wouldn’t crave seeing Boba Fett sit on Jabba’s old throne king-style? The shameless TV show plug-in at the end for it made me crack out loud, however. Of course you would, Disney

Point being, I give the show “creativity” bonuses for how out of the box it can get with its side decorations despite how straightforward its main plot is. Sure, the season can sometimes feel repetitive, the plotting is just prosaic fare, and the dialogue still kind of sucks too. But as far as ***STAR WARS*** standards go, if we’re looking at the franchise’s overall/recent track record, this second season of The Mandalorian is to infinity and beyond in comparison.

Yo, but Mando is probably at the point now where he’s wondering how many more small towns he’s going to have to save. He be like: “Favreau, Filoni, we get it, you like Akira Kurosawa movies. Yes, Lucas did too, we get it. Cool beans, you’re cultured, but I’m done with saving and inspiring these random towns!”

The Mandalorian Season 2 Math:

Chapter 9: The Marshal – B

Chapter 10: The Passenger – B

Chapter 11: The Heiress – B

Chapter 12: The Siege – B-

Chapter 13: The Jedi – B+

Chapter 14: The Tragedy – B-

Chapter 15: The Believer – B

Chapter 16: The Rescue – B-

Final Verdict: B

“The Mandalorian” season 2 is now streaming on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: The Sopranos Season 1 (1999)

Tony Soprano lives between the classic scenarios of “would you rather A) live being feared by most, or B) live being loved by some?” Therapy may be required if you follow primarily under the laws of option A.

The endlessly talked about show that set the stone for 21st Century television, The Sopranos is a meta take on the gangster genre that isn’t near overbearing with its changes to the norms. If you mix some serious mommy issues into the pot and top it off with a lot more poignant dissecting of the criminal mind than one would expect, then you have yourselves a pretty gamechanging first season! I like it a lot so far! 

Verdict: B+

“The Sopranos” is now available to stream on HBO Max.