WandaVision vs The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: A Marvel TV Report Card

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Derek Wong and Shreya Chaudhary

On Friday mornings, the average teenager can be found up at 3:00 watching Disney+, watching the newly released episode of WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now, with both of the Marvel shows fully released, here are Derek and Shreya’s report card, one from someone brand new to Marvel (Shreya) and the other from a Marvel veteran (Derek). 

 

WandaVision

 

[Shreya’s Take]

WandaVision was the first Marvel show that I truly got to see (thanks to Derek). The first two episodes of WandaVision was a sitcom, so I guess it didn’t really click that it was Marvel. It was more of a “Why is Derek watching a black-and-white sitcom?” But, as it progressed, it was really, really cool. Derek made sure that I noticed all the small details of what was misplaced (starting with a red helicopter). The advertisements were just incredible add-ins as well! And then, near the middle, boom, it broke the fourth wall (sort of) and went more into the Marvel universe. For someone who was not initially into Marvel, I felt like this show can be the perfect ploy for tricking people into getting into Marvel. I really liked how they were able to break that fourth wall to involve more of the Marvel universe. Also, I really liked how the show really traced Wanda through stages of loss. I don’t know; it felt pretty relevant, especially given the pandemic and everything. I will say that the ending wasn’t super interesting for me. I was a bit confused, seeing as Agatha’s main motivation was just to gain power. But, overall, it was great. 

 

Favorite episode: Too many to decide. I liked everything.

 

Least favorite episode: Ep. 08 Previously On

Yes, it was really, really cool to see Wanda’s past, but pausing everything for a whole episode felt a bit much for me. 

 

Favorite character: Darcy Lewis 

Derek and I change our Discord nicknames to people from the shows we watch, and for the WandaVision era, I was Darcy Lewis. She’s amazing: programmer, comic relief, and genius. Every time Darcy came onto the screen, Derek and I would excitedly say that we love Darcy in our chat. Overall, amazing character. 

 

One thing that you would change: I kind of wanted more from Agatha in terms of motive. But power hungry is power hungry, so it’s still fantastic! 

 

Final grade: A

 

[Derek’s Take]

WandaVision would be my seventh Marvel show I’ve got to see, and as a Marvel veteran, I was excited to see what Marvel Studios had in store for us in the TV realm (previous Marvel shows were managed by Marvel TV, a separate production company. Marvel Studios made all the films.) I will have to admit, I was very confused with the first two episodes and they were my least favorite because I didn’t feel that the show really grabbed my attention, but as the show went on, the plot picked up and I understood the relatively mundaneness of the first two episodes.

 

The creative genius behind this show is phenomenal and I love the fact that they made this into a mystery-kinda show where every episode ends on some sort of cliffhanger that leaves room for theories and wild assumptions (the amount of times Marvel fans predicted Mephisto, a Wanda villain in the comics, to appear is insane). Elizabeth Olsen acted the hell out of Wanda, showing us a woman clearly grieving but unable to process trauma in a healthy way (I mean, like imprisoning a town using mind control?) Paul Bettany as Vision was delightful and I will never be able to get baby Vision out of my head now. Teyonah Parris as Monica is a welcome addition, and I can’t wait to see her in The Marvels.

 

All in all, WandaVision did what the film will never be able to do with their characters: giving them character development and character arcs. Wanda and Vision were both minor supporting characters in the films, but now they are able to shine, giving us the nuances that were missing. Marvel will not be able to create something like WandaVision for a very long time.

 

Favorite episode: “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” Episode 7, the Modern Family-esque episode. 

This might be an unpopular opinion (people would usually go for the Halloween episode), but the “probably just a case of the Mondays” meme, Monica getting her powers, Darcy being the entirety of the Marvel fandom, and AGATHA ALL ALONG. Everything is ON POINT.

 

Least favorite episode: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience,” Episode 1, the The Dick Van Dyke Show/I Love Lucy episode. 

I get the point was to reduce Wanda’s trouble into simple, solvable things to contrast her more complex, harder-to-solve trauma, but this first episode really didn’t grab my attention since we knew nothing about the show other than it was gonna be sitcom-like. The first episode is supposed to grab people and I think Marvel also kinda understood that, so they released two episodes on the premiere. That’s my theory anyway.

 

Favorite character: Darcy Lewis. She was so amazing in the few minutes she was able to have. Can we get a Darcy and Jimmy Woo comedy show?

 

One thing that you would change: Agatha’s motives. As Shreya said, Agatha only wanting to gain power from Wanda seems such a disappointment for her story arc. Kathryn Hahn really sells the character, but without her, it falls flat. I understand part of the point was to make Wanda a sort of villain, but come on, I need more bops like Agatha All Along, because it turned out, it WASN’T Agatha All Along

 

Final grade: A-

 

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

 

[Shreya’s Take]

This one seemed a lot more like what I’d imagine a standard Marvel movie to be like. Fighting, characters and references that I didn’t completely understand (but Derek helped me out), and overall, well, a superhero show. Though something that I really appreciated were its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) references to the problems of race in America. It also felt really relevant to current times. I will say that the references sometimes made it a bit more difficult for a new Marvel fan to follow, but I overall loved the characters. I also really liked how almost everyone was morally grey, and there was no distinct “bad guy,” sort of like real life, which I really loved.

 

In the show, there was a clear gap: the absence of Steve, the former Captain America. (Also, I didn’t know that the title of “Captain America” can be passed from person to person. I always thought that Captain America was one person and that was it.) In some movies, the absence of a character can be overdone, but I would say that it wasn’t really overdone in this case. For example, between WandaVision and TFATWS, I got a chance to watch Spiderman: Far from Home. It drew on a similar concept of Tony Stark being gone, so someone has to fill that gap (and, in that case, the person who had to fill the gap was Spiderman). There were quite a few similarities between the movie and the show, actually. Both Spiderman and Sam felt as though they weren’t good enough for taking up the role of their predecessor, so they in part gave away the power, only to receive it again. I would say that I preferred TFATWS’s execution of the gap. First, it was much more symbolic than destructive: it was mainly in the shield (and in part in the notebook Steve gave to Bucky). Also, there was a more developed reason why Sam didn’t want to take the shield: the history of African American avengers. Unlike in Spiderman, where there was a lot of pressure coming at Peter to take Ironman’s place, while Sam also had quite a bit of pressure (especially from Bucky), there was another layer of complexity with America’s racial history, which I thought was very well done.

 

Favorite episode: Too many once again. I’m really, really bad at picking favourites.

 

Least favorite episode: None? Can I say that there were no episodes that were slow or disappointing to me?

 

Favorite character: Zemo

I don’t know. I really liked all of the characters (this time, I was nicknamed Sharon), but I think Zemo has to be my favourite because I loved his wit, especially when helping them find where Mother Donya was.

 

One thing that you would change: Can I say nothing besides making it longer? I overall really loved it. Also, possibly making the Donya Madani backstory a little more in-depth.

 

Final grade: A

 

[Derek’s Take]

 

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m biased for Sam and Bucky. I loved them all the way back in Civil War and I was so excited that they were getting a solo show. Sadly, the pandemic delayed the show from its original August 2020 date, but the extra wait (caused by the pandemic) was worth it.

 

The most obvious and poignant takeaway from the show is the struggle of Sam Wilson, a black man in America that was given the famous shield by Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame. Yet, Sam doesn’t accept the Captain America mantle immediately; in fact, he donates it to a museum honoring Steve. This conflict embodies the core of the story: how does a black man fight for a country (in literal stars and stripes) when the country hasn’t always been kind to people like him? This idea is further emphasized with the introduction of the character Isaiah Bradley, the first black super soldier but was imprisoned and tested on by the government akin to the infamous Tuskegee Experiments. This central conflict makes this show one of Marvel’s more political entries, but one that Marvel needed.

 

I also love the continuous attempt at addressing trauma with a character like Bucky. Even though Bucky is an advanced super soldier with a vibranium prosthetic arm, he is still a veteran suffering extensive trauma and PTSD from his time during World War II and his stint as the brainwashed Winter Soldier. The show does a wonderful character study at seeing how one tries to cope and manage such a trauma; Bucky has literally been fighting all his life and all he knows is fighting, so what happens when you take it away from him. Bucky spends most of the series talking about “making amends” but Sam also shows him that Bucky was only trying to avenge his actions while not solving anything. This entire story arc just feels so grounded and human and while actual veterans aren’t 106-year-old former brainwashed assassins, many veterans go through similar struggles.

 

As much as I like to gush about the show, there are some flaws. It’s not as “exciting” as WandaVision per se as the story leaves little room for speculation and wild fan theories that consumed the WandaVision era. Some of the characters have disappointing story arcs and at some points, side characters like Zemo took the spotlight away from the two leads (that includes the Zemo dancing meme). The pandemic did affect this show more than it did with WandaVision as the former required more sets and locations while WandaVision only needed a few locations due to the sitcom nature, so the writers of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had to make changes. Despite the flaws, the deeply humanistic quality and realistic feel (super soldiers aside) of the show gives it the gritty nature that is in some of Marvel’s best shows like Daredevil.

 

I sincerely hope that the future Captain America 4 movie continues this grounded feel (and maybe a 2nd season? Promotion for the finale said “Season finale” rather than “Series finale” like WandaVision). While not perfect, the themes the show explores are needed at a time like today, and I can’t wait to see what next for Captain America.

 

Favorite episode: “Truth,” Episode 5. 

Epic fight scenes? Check. Boat-fixing montage? Check. Characters having adult conversations? Check. Training montage a la Rocky? Check. This episode got everything we wanted and more. I seriously wished the entire season was more like this.

 

Least favorite episode: “Power Broker,” Episode 3. 

As interesting as this episode is, with the introduction of Zemo and Sharon Carter, this episode is the obvious weak link of the season. Zemo took time away from Sam and Bucky, and the pacing was painfully slow. We got little character development and coming from episode 2, an episode filled with banter and energy, the drastic change of pace slowed the middle chapter of the show.

 

Favorite character: Sam Wilson

I love Sam Wilson and he deserves anything. He’s the most level-headed character and a person with sympathy, something that helped him solve conflicts and help Bucky on his recovery. He has conviction, and even though he tries to be a mediator to prevent conflict, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t stand up for what he believes in. Also, HIS SUIT IS SO GOOD.

 

One thing that you would change:

The main villain, the Flag Smashers, were underdeveloped, especially near the end of the show. One of the points of the series was to show that a lot of the time, the villains aren’t truly villains, but the writers failed to make a convincing case with the Flag Smashers. One might be sympathetic of them in the beginning, but continuous out-of-line actions ruined a proper arc.

Final Grade: A