Who’s Who In “WandaVision”

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

As WandaVision‘s central mystery expands across several decades of television history and at least two distinctly separate realities, so too does its cast of characters, both major players and bit parts. And with Wanda raising the stakes dramatically in episode three, it’s becoming more important to tell characters apart and work out the most important details in any Marvel Cinematic Universe property – who’s connected to whom, and who’s working for whom? WandaVision hints at the idea that charming newlyweds Wanda Maximoff and Vision are being manipulated by dark forces lurking within their quaint suburban community of Westview: but after yesterday it’s looking more likely that Wanda herself has a hand in causing the strange events that plague her and her husband from day one of their married life together.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Wanda Maximoff

WandaVision
Wanda Maximoff | cnet.com

Our series’ heroine has always been something of a lone wolf. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, with Vision dead, her strongest tie to the Avengers family was severed – and it looks like she decided to finally follow Hawkeye’s lead and just retire. But Hawkeye already had a family with which to settle down. Wanda first had to build one of her own, which would require her to do…whatever she did to bring back Vision back to life, possibly only in her dreams. Noting how violent her reaction has been to the S.W.O.R.D. logo whenever it pops up in Westview, many fans have speculated that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. (which stands for Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division in the MCU) to resurrect Vision when she went rogue and decided to hijack the experiment, eloping with her android boyfriend into a pocket dimension that she created on the site of the real town of Westview…or which someone else created for her, in order to lure her into a trap. Either way, it’s beginning to look like the citizens of the real Westview are now trapped there with her against their will, and are the real victims in this messy situation.

Allegiance: let’s mark her down as a free agent for now. It may turn out she’s being too heavily manipulated to see the chaos she’s causing, but honestly, it looks like she has a lot of control over Westview and is enjoying her newfound power. So even if she’s not entirely at fault, I don’t think she’s blameless either.

Vision

WandaVision
Vision | indianexpress.com

How did Vision go from being killed by Wanda to being resurrected by Thanos, to being killed by Thanos, to being resurrected yet again in WandaVision? Well, extrapolating off the theory that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. to resurrect the android post-Endgame, my guess is that S.W.O.R.D.’s tech was capable of rebooting Vision – but without any of his past memories, including those he shared with Wanda. Learning this could easily have spurred Wanda to betray S.W.O.R.D. and steal the android’s partially-rebooted body for her own purposes, and would explain why Vision’s memory seems so fragmented. He clearly remembers Wanda, or at least has been convinced to think he does, but he seems clueless about his past, and even his purpose in Westview: unlike Wanda, who enters the sitcom reality with a clear motive to settle down and fit in. But he’s also inquisitive, which will serve him well in the coming days/decades.

Allegiance: I believe he’s linked to Wanda, at least for now. He’ll probably try to exercise his free will as the couple clash in later episodes, but I have a nasty feeling Wanda will be able to tug him along whithersoever she goes. Doesn’t mean we won’t get an epic battle sequence out of it, though.

Agnes

WandaVision
Agnes | hollywoodlife.com

Many of us are so convinced that Wanda’s overly-friendly next-door neighbor Agnes is actually the evil witch Agatha Harkness from Marvel Comics that it’s become almost second nature to refer to her as Agatha. With literally every clue pointing towards this being the case (apart from the similar names, Agnes’ wedding anniversary is the same day the Salem Witch Trials started, she wears a witchy brooch, and even owns a rabbit named for Harkness’ son in the comics), it seems almost too easy a connection to make. Personally, I suspect Agnes will be Agatha in some form or another, and is probably still a witch, but I’m not convinced Marvel isn’t totally reinventing the character as a more sympathetic antiheroine, a victim of manipulative forces. My guess: she’s responsible for luring Wanda into the pocket dimension surrounding Westview at the orders of Mephisto, Marvel’s devil, and is thus aware of what’s going on – but isn’t fully evil.

Allegiance: Agatha Harkness being Mephisto’s right-hand woman in the comics paves the way for Agnes to fill a similar role. But her small panic attack in yesterday’s episode makes me think she’s unwillingly serving the devil and trying to escape from him. There’s an interesting story to be told there about the toxic and abusive relationships endorsed by the same patriarchal system that many classic sitcoms upheld.

Dottie And Phil Jones

WandaVision
Dottie Jones | decider.com

Dottie (and, to a lesser degree, her husband Phil) is perhaps WandaVision‘s biggest enigma to me at the moment, and I’ve cycled through several theories about who – or what – she is. Her high status among the citizens (particularly the women) of Westview strongly implies that, like Agnes, she may be a witch. And with witches and Mephisto going hand-in-hand in Marvel comics, it’s not too much of a stretch to extrapolate that she could be working with the devil to steal Wanda’s twins – after all, she did lead the eerie communal chant of “For The Children”. But I’m beginning to wonder if the lemonade glass exploding in her hand and revealing her red blood (in the black-and-white episode) was an attempt by Mephisto to alert Wanda to the fact that Dottie, whether she’s a witch or not, is also a third-party intruder with her own agenda in Westview.

Allegiance: if Dottie has an ulterior motive for wanting Wanda to hurry up and have kids, what is it? Like Mephisto in the comics, she could be trying to absorb young Billy and Tommy into her soul to increase her demonic power…or, if she’s not evil, she might be trying to protect the children before someone else has a chance to kidnap them.

The Townsfolk

WandaVision
Mr. Hart, Vision, and Mrs. Hart | dailyadvent.com

Despite how it looks, not everybody in Westview has some grandiose plan to steal Wanda’s babies – and now that episode three has confirmed that Westview is a real town in the real world, it would seem that most of the background players in WandaVision are just regular people who got sucked into the sitcom fantasy against their will. Judging by how close Westview appears to be to a large S.W.O.R.D. complex, some of these people might be low-level S.W.O.R.D. staffers, nonthreatening to Wanda. Vision’s co-worker Norm could fall into this category (his actor, Asif Ali, also played a low-level Cybertek employee in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Others, like Herb and possibly the mailman Dennis, might have a better idea of what’s going on – Herb even begins to disclose the truth to Vision, telling him that “Geraldine” arrived in Westview “because we’re all…she came here because we’re all…” before being stopped by Agnes, who confronts him with a panic-stricken expression. We’re all…trapped, I assume? Dennis has his own bizarre run-in with Agnes while walking past Wanda’s house, where they exchange what seems like coded banter.

Allegiance: most of these folks, with the possible exception of Herb and Dennis, probably don’t have any strong allegiances that will put them at conflict with Wanda, Mephisto, or even neighbors like Agnes. If that changes, I’ll be sure to point it out.

“Geraldine”

WandaVision
“Geraldine” | elle.com

Long before WandaVision premiered, it had already been confirmed by Marvel that Teyonah Parris would be playing Monica Rambeau in the series, so “Geraldine’s” secret identity was never much of a mystery. Set photos and promotional material had also revealed that Rambeau, last seen in the MCU as the young and impressionable daughter of retired test pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, would now be working with S.W.O.R.D. in some capacity. If WandaVision were following the comics exactly, this would totally make sense: there, S.W.O.R.D. deals with space and explores alien worlds, and MCU Monica grew up surrounded by aliens thanks to Captain Marvel’s dealings with her mother. But MCU S.W.O.R.D. tackles “sentient weapons”, making Monica’s chosen career path a little more confusing. In the comics, Monica also has superpowers – which I think Wanda might have accidentally given to her when she wrapped Monica up in a hex-magic cocoon and tossed her out of WandaVision.

Allegiance: Monica seems loyal to S.W.O.R.D.; though a conflict could arise if S.W.O.R.D. responds to Wanda’s actions with further violence, and Monica cautions them to go gentle. Monica was raised to see the good in everybody: I think she’ll sympathize with Wanda’s pain, and genuinely want to help her.

“Ralph”

WandaVision
Mephisto | looper.com

In the first three episodes of WandaVision, we’ve learned more random details about Agnes’ mysterious husband “Ralph” than we’ve learned about Agnes herself…but where is he? Who is he, really? Until he shows up in person, we won’t know – but my suspicion is that he’s none other than Mephisto himself, and that his marriage with Agnes is more metaphorical than anything (but literal enough that Agnes actively avoids her “mother-in-law”), a way of hiding in plain sight while observing Wanda. Agnes’ remarks about him paint a disturbing picture of a repulsive character whom Agnes wants to leave, but can’t.

Allegiance: if “Ralph” truly is Mephisto, he serves no one but himself, but freely manipulates those around him, like Agnes, Dottie, and of course, Wanda.

So what do you think? Which WandaVision characters do you want to know more about heading into episode four? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episode 3 Welcomes Wanda’s Twins To Westview

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

Now awash in technicolor splendor, Wanda Maximoff’s eerie suburban reality gets a shake-up in the third episode of WandaVision, with the series’ increasingly dangerous protagonist unceremoniously making room for two new additions to her faux family by kicking out an unwelcome visitor who had slipped through the cracks in last week’s episode. But as the invisible barriers around the town of Westview shrink ever inwards, it seems many of our characters – including Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) themselves – are starting to catch on to the fact that the world they know is actually some kind of custom-made, maximum-security prison…and Wanda herself is possibly the jailor.

WandaVision
Vision and Wanda | cnet.com

This week’s episode strands us in the middle of the 1970’s, an era of acquired tastes: from the over-the-top fashion and hairstyles (I could write a whole separate blog post about Paul Bettany’s hair alone), to a whole new line-up of beloved classic sitcoms to mine for material, including The Brady Bunch; which WandaVision subtly parodies with this week’s opening sequence graphics and new design aesthetic. But though the change in decades has spontaneously updated every character’s appearance and wardrobe (I feel for the citizens of Westview, never knowing what time period’s atrocious fashion sensibilities they’ll be saddled with on any given day), it appears that the story has picked up right where we left off…in the late 60’s. Wanda’s entire maternity spans about a day, during which the world around her moves ahead by years.

Time and space don’t seem to mean much within the poorly-defined boundaries of Westview. Not only is the year and decade changing with each passing sunrise, but the exact location of the town is hard to pin down too…since there doesn’t seem to be anything beyond its outskirts. Wanda’s doctor (played by Randy Oglesby) seems excited to head to Bermuda for a vacation, and even packs his bags and starts his car to leave, only to promptly change his mind with the ominous phrase: “Small towns, you know. So hard to…escape.” Taking all the clues into consideration, it’s safe to say Westview is a prison in that no one is able to leave – that is, unless you get Wanda mad and she telekinetically body-slams you through the side of a house and catapults you out of her mini-universe. I’m not sure that’s a risk worth taking just to get to Bermuda, but hey, it’s an option.

So who’s running the prison? The most likely candidate is still the devil himself, Mephisto, and his henchwoman Agatha Harkness from the comics – who’s probably already shown up in WandaVision as Wanda’s nosy next-door neighbor, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). Once again, we hear from Agnes about her as-yet-unseen husband, “Ralph”, whom many of us believe will turn out to be Mephisto himself: Agnes’ comment that he looks better in the darkness only adds to the mystery surrounding this character.

But this week’s episode also puts a new possibility on the table, and it’s one I never initially suspected: could HYDRA be behind all this? The covert Neo-Nazi organization hasn’t been very active in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Age Of Ultron, where – interestingly – their last major act was unleashing Wanda Maximoff and her twin brother Pietro on the Avengers, in an unsuccessful attempt to divide and conquer the superhero team. But Wanda’s old HYDRA handler, Baron von Strücker, was referenced in one of WandaVision‘s tantalizing commercial segments, and this week’s commercial features another nod to HYDRA, spoofing the Calgon “Take Me Away” advert from the 70’s with an important message about the rejuvenating powers of Hydra Soak: a bath powder that comes in a cute little blue package and features the tagline “find the goddess within” – a possible reference to Wanda’s latent mutant powers, unlocked by HYDRA’s experiments on her? This ad diverges slightly from the pattern established in the previous two, but not so radically that we can throw out everything we’ve theorized.

WandaVision
Hydra Soak | newsweek.com

Some Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been quick to point out the similarities between Hydra Soak and the blue soap used by HYDRA to mind-control citizens of their alternate reality in The Framework, in the long-running MCU-adjacent series’ fourth season. If that is what WandaVision is referencing with Hydra Soak, it’s theoretically possible that HYDRA is using some form of Framework technology to keep Wanda’s mind and spirit trapped in her sitcom bubble, while her unconscious body would remain in stasis – perhaps at some other location entirely. I’m nervous to jump onboard this theory because S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been burned before, but I can’t deny it piques my interest going forward. Forget Ultron infomercials – give me more of that HYDRA mind-control soap!

But I’m not ruling out Wanda as the series’ big bad either. Whether provoked to action by her “mama bear” instincts, or motivated by some subconscious agenda, Wanda once again displays the cool-headed confidence and decisiveness that suggests that she has at least some control over Westview and its people, including interlopers like “Geraldine” (Teyonah Parris), and is in fact holding them hostage as extras for the sitcom she wants her life to be. It’s still hard to say what’s her doing and what’s not – for instance, when Vision gets put on rewind for asking too many questions about Westview, is that Wanda trying to shield her husband from the truth, or someone else stepping in to shut him up? – but Elizabeth Olsen effortlessly conveys the brokenness and bewilderment that makes this mystery work. Wanda herself doesn’t seem to know whether she’s really in control, but she clearly enjoys the feeling: so watching her step into her power and struggle with the consequences should be thrilling.

Compare that to Vision, who needs irrefutable facts and data to back up any decision he makes, and is clearly uncomfortable living in a world where he doesn’t know his place or purpose. Again, we’re seeing the very highest quality of acting from stars who’ve never really had a chance to shine in the Marvel films – and I’m thoroughly excited to see Paul Bettany take us on a journey of self-discovery with the innocent Vision as he begins to exert his independence from Wanda, as I assume he will after learning that his wife re-animated his corpse.

But as the intertwined wedding rings in the closing credits suggest, these two are bound together by something – and now it’s clear that will be their twin sons, Billy and Tommy, making their long-awaited MCU debut at last. In the comics, both boys grow up to be Young Avengers; with Billy becoming a sorcerer like his mother (and one of Marvel’s most prominent gay superheroes), and Tommy inheriting his uncle Pietro’s super-speed (a power which Vision also possesses in the MCU). Billy, in particular, is incredibly powerful – but both boys spent their infancy in the comics being hunted by demonic entities who wished to absorb their strength. WandaVision has teased that storyline, with all of Westview pressuring Wanda to have children and possibly using magic to induce her sudden pregnancy. It’s understandable why the couple are trying to hide that they’re expecting throughout episode three.

“Geraldine” is unlucky enough to be on hand when Wanda goes into labor (nine months early), and helps deliver baby Tommy – after first having a bizarre run-in with the stork painted on Wanda’s nursery wall, which comes to life and pursues her fish-patterned pants. The chaotic scene is exacerbated by an incident on the front lawn, with Wanda’s neighbor Herb (David Payton) cheerfully sawing away at the fence separating his property from Wanda’s with a hedge-trimmer. Following the birth, Vision finds Agnes also outside, questioning Herb about “Geraldine”. Vision confronts the two, and gets a string of vague excuses for their strange behavior – culminating in Agnes implying that “Geraldine” shouldn’t be allowed around Wanda because she doesn’t have a family, husband, or even a home, and Herb trying to let Vision in on some secret about the town only to be silenced by an uncharacteristic outburst from Agnes, who frantically implores him to “stop it!”.

The brilliantly edited sequence cuts back and forth from Agnes’ sinister gossip to the scene inside the house, where “Geraldine” and Wanda are making small-talk while looking after the newborns. Wanda casually mentions that she has a twin, and namedrops Pietro, sparking a glitch in reality as “Geraldine” suddenly blurts out that “he [Pietro] was killed by Ultron”, exposing her true nature as an intruder to Westview. Wanda circles her around the cribs menacingly, and then pauses, catching sight of the sword-shaped necklace pendant around her neck: the same sword she saw last week on a helicopter in her rosebush, and on the mystery beekeeper who emerged from the sewer.

WandaVision
Monica Rambeau | metro.co.uk

But chillingly, when Vision enters the house just a few moments later and asks where “Geraldine” went, all Wanda says is that she had to leave in a hurry. There’s no happy sitcom ending this week: only a haunting shot of Wanda standing above her twins’ cribs, smiling down at her babies. And a final scene, set to “Daydream Believer”, of “Geraldine” flying through a night sky past a Westview billboard and hitting the earth hard, while armored vehicles and military personnel surround her. She’s been flung out of Wanda’s reality, clearly, and back into her own – confirming two things: firstly, that she is Monica Rambeau, an Agent of S.W.O.R.D.; and secondly, that Westview exists in the real world as well as in Wanda’s. In the real world, the town is encircled by roadblocks, force-fields, spotlights and barbed wire…but there are lights in the windows of visible houses.

So is WandaVision the harrowing account of an entire town being held captive by a mutant sorceress and distorted into a sitcom fantasy? I expect more answers when the series returns next week, with an episode some are speculating will recount Monica Rambeau’s adventure in flashbacks, explaining what’s going on outside the WandaVision bubble, allowing us to catch up with old friends like Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, and hopefully clarifying whether the population of Westview is really being forced to wear 70’s clothes against their will.

Episode Rating: 10/10

What’s Up With The WandaVision Commercial Breaks?

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The first two episodes of Marvel’s WandaVision, despite being relatively short to emulate the classic sitcoms they’re based on, were packed full of zany details, hidden Easter eggs, and clues pertaining to the larger mystery that the series brilliantly starts building right from the get-go. It’s pretty obvious at this point that something is deeply wrong in the charmingly antiquated town of Westview, and that both the town and its residents are being manipulated by something – or someone. But perhaps the strangest element in the series so far is its strategic usage of commercial breaks.

WandaVision
The Salesman and Saleswoman | tvline.com

About halfway through each episode, the WandaVision broadcast is interrupted by an in-universe commercial, where a smirking salesman (played by Ithamar Enriquez) comes onscreen, accompanied by an eerily grinning woman (played by Victoria Blade), to briefly explain why we should be purchasing some newfangled household appliance or accessory. At first, this might just seem like a funny gimmick to make the ad-free streaming series feel more like an actual TV sitcom, but these infomercial segments do more than just add to WandaVision‘s retro aesthetic. The products on sale in these segments, and even the salespeople themselves, appear to be intrinsically tied into the series’ over-arching mystery.

As many fans (myself included) have already pointed out, the products have connections to the larger MCU – and, specifically, to traumatic and painful moments in Wanda Maximoff’s life story, which you can read more about here. The first commercial advertises a toaster called the Toast Mate 2000, designed by none other than Stark Industries. Although this episode of WandaVision technically takes place about a decade before Tony Stark’s birth (sort of), it’s clear from context that this innocuous toaster is a symbolic stand-in for the Stark Industries bomb that killed both of Wanda’s parents during a period of civil unrest in her home-town of Sokovia – the impetus for her initial resentment of Stark, and part of her motive for hypnotizing him into taking the Mind Stone. The toaster’s single, blinking red light (a bold use of color in the black-and-white episode), and the device’s unsettling, fast-paced beeping sound just before popping out two fully-toasted slices of bread, makes this metaphor particularly creepy and morbid – but hey, it can apparently warm meatloaf and cherry pie. The machine’s sinister and demanding tagline reads: “Forget your past – this is your future!”.

Before we move on, I’d like to note that the Toast Mate 2000 probably also doubles as a clever nod to one of Vision’s most notable nicknames in the comics, “the talking toaster”…making Vision, quite literally, Wanda’s Toast(er) Mate. This series is so unapologetically weird.

WandaVision
The “Toast Mate 2000” | geekslop.com

The second commercial is much shorter, and has a mini-story to it, more like a modern advertisement. Our salesman is dressed to the nines, clearly getting ready for an evening out, and voice-over informs us that “a man is never fully dressed without two important accessories”, which turn out to be “his special lady” – because misogyny is just as prevalent in these ads as in real-life ones – and “his Strücker”; a fancy, expensive-looking Swiss watch. As the camera zooms in on a display model of the Strücker watch, we can see that its face is marked with the tentacled-skull logo of the Neo-Nazi group, HYDRA. Strücker is obviously a reference to HYDRA scientist Wolfgang von Strücker, who used the Mind Stone to experiment on Wanda and her twin brother in a vile attempt to create a superhuman. It’s safe to say the memory of being locked in a cell for months and exposed to the raw energy of an Infinity Stone was probably uncomfortable for Wanda, at the very least. The watch’s tagline is marginally less creepy than the toaster’s, but perhaps more significant: “Strücker – he’ll make time for you.”

The commercials are different in style and tone, but they have striking similarities – even apart from featuring the same two actors. They both contain unnervingly sexist dialogue: with the Toast Mate 2000 being marketed towards housewives to save them the embarrassment of burning their husbands’ toast, and the Strücker commercial suggesting that women are accessories to complete a man’s formal attire. This could just be a jab at the insidious sexism prevalent in the era’s marketing (and too often carried over into modern day marketing, including for the early days of the MCU), or it could have a larger thematic meaning we can’t quite grasp yet. Another similarity is with the sound effects: the beeping of the toaster and the ticking of the watch, and how both accelerate rapidly.

If we assume these objects really are meant to represent Wanda’s worst memories, there’s a few reasons why they might be being advertised to her or to others in Westview. Perhaps these ads, like the toy helicopter Wanda finds in her rose-bush, the voice in the radio static, and the entire character of “Geraldine”, represent attempts by S.W.O.R.D. to infiltrate WandaVision using subliminal messaging to get into her head that Wanda has re-contextualized into something that fits with the internal logic of her retro reality. They might be trying to help her fill in the blanks of her past (though if that’s the case, they’re doing an awful job of it, focusing on the things she least wants to remember).

WandaVision
The “Strucker” | esquire.com

To me, it seems more plausible that this is the work of someone like the devilish Mephisto, believed to be the evil mastermind behind WandaVision. And if that’s the case, I think there’s a good possibility that perhaps Mephisto isn’t directing these ads at Wanda herself, but at the other inhabitants of Westview – extracting Wanda’s memories of the most formative moments in her life and selling them off as part of an elaborate attempt to strip away her identity. So far we haven’t seen Wanda herself view or acknowledge any of these ads, and she doesn’t own a Toast Mate 2000, nor does Vision wear a Strücker…but maybe someone else in Westview does. And as more of Wanda’s traumatic memories get sold off, and she becomes more content in her new life as a result, perhaps time is running out for her to wake up to reality – lending a sense of urgency to the commercials, and explaining the sped-up sound effects in both. Mephisto himself might be the salesman, while the woman with him could be another version of the sorceress Agatha Harkness (whom many of us believe is currently disguised as Westview’s resident gossip, Agnes).

Whatever the case, it’s clear that a pattern is being established in these commercials: so keep a close eye on them going forward. Next week’s should logically feature a nod to Wanda’s time with the homicidal robot Ultron and/or the death of her twin brother Pietro Maximoff, and may give us more details about how the commercials fit into Wanda’s story, and who the salespeople really are.

But what do you think? What do you expect from next week’s WandaVision commercial? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

That Grim Reaper Clue In WandaVision Episode Two Could Be Huge

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The first two episodes of WandaVision, which dropped on Disney+ this morning, certainly gave us plenty to talk about – and potentially theorize about. Although it’s still too early to predict exactly what great big catastrophe Wanda Maximoff and her family are headed towards, we can already begin to see clues coming together and potential story threads emerging from the tangled web that is Wanda’s new reality. The quiet suburban paradise that is Westview is not what it claims to be on the brochure, and there’s reason to believe that multiple powers are at play behind the scenes, manipulating the entire town – and especially the Maximoffs – for their own agendas. But what are these agendas? What do these dark forces want with Wanda, or her husband, or her soon-to-be-born twin sons?

WandaVision
Grim Reaper | gamesradar.com

The most prevalent theory in the fandom – and a very convincing one, at that – is that the prime mover of events in WandaVision is Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Christian Satan, and the lord of a fiery pocket-dimension he calls Hell (but which isn’t, technically). This theory is backed up by little references scattered throughout the first two episodes of WandaVision: from the name of Agnes’ adorable bunny (Señor Scratchy is a cute and devastatingly clever play on Satan’s real-life nickname, Nick Scratch), to the fact that Agnes basically just comes out and says it in episode two, noting that the devil’s in the details, but “that’s not the only place he is”. Agnes herself has long been believed to be Agatha Harkness, a sorceress from the comics who is Mephisto’s trusted acolyte and partner-in-cosmic-crime.

And as for who Mephisto is in Westview, well, there are good theories about that too: some fans think he’s Agnes’ mysteriously absent husband, “Ralph”, whom she’s only namedropped about a dozen times at this point. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be “Ralph”…or if “Ralph” then turned out to be the salesman who routinely interrupts the WandaVision broadcast to advertise painful memories from Wanda’s past, disguised as historically-accurate household appliances and accessories…or if the company behind those vaguely disturbing infomercials turned out to be the same company that Vision is working for in Westview – you know, the company where nobody knows what they produce, market, sell, or even do on any given day. It’s all connected, as they like to say in the MCU.

But as you can probably sense, I don’t think Mephisto is necessarily the main villain of WandaVision. I’m sure he’ll be a villain, and I strongly believe he’s the one who’s secretly in control of Wanda’s dream-world, feeding her wish-fulfilment and fantasies to keep her content until the day when she gives birth to her twins, and Mephisto arrives (or more likely sends Agatha – sorry, Agnes) to kidnap the kids and harness their chaotic power for evil in a ritual sacrifice or something similarly unpleasant. But if that’s not main villain behavior, then what is? Well, I think there’s a few ways this could go, actually, but simply put – my theory is that Ultron (yes, that Ultron) is coming back, and he’s bringing a brand new comic-book villain with him.

WandaVision
Ultron | editorial.rottentomatoes.com

I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But let’s start with the opening credits for WandaVision, episode two – a fun little black-and-white animated montage modeled on the Bewitched opening sequence, that follows Vision as he glides through the walls of the Maximoff family residence. Caught up in the moment, you could easily miss the fact that at one point he passes straight through a wall that is, uh, filled with bones. I know I did, the first time around. But more importantly, you might (and I did) also miss the distinctive four-pronged helmet that is lying amidst all those bones – the helmet which belongs to a Marvel Comics villain named the Grim Reaper.

The Grim Reaper, wearing his helmet and wielding a scythe/buzz-saw/helicopter hybrid weapon has featured prominently in a number of comic storylines over the years, so just having him show up in WandaVision as an antagonist would make sense even if he serves no larger purpose. He’s also a powerful necromancer – and maybe that has something to do with the way in which Vision has been restored to perfect health after having his head bashed in by Thanos. Certainly it could be useful, given the Reaper’s helmet is lying in a small graveyard. But I believe there’s more they can do with the character, and there’s even precedent for it in classic comics. Allow me to explain.

1991’s Reaper And The Robot story arc featured the Grim Reaper and a familiar robotic fiend, the genocidal super-computer known as Ultron. In the MCU, Ultron has only been utilized once as a villain, rising to power in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and briefly enlisting Wanda Maximoff to his cause before betraying her trust and then acting all shocked when she and her brother Pietro betrayed him in turn. Ultron died a couple times, with Wanda ripping the heart out of his main body, and the last of the robot warrior skeletons into which he had uploaded his consciousness being pulverized by Vision at the end of the movie. But Ultron is almost beyond human comprehension – it’s hard to say for certain that he died, especially now that Vision is out here proving that you can literally have your head crushed TWICE and still come back in some shape or form.

In the aforementioned comic storyline, Ultron takes refuge from the Avengers in an underground lair that just so happens to be situated within a sewer system, where the Grim Reaper finds him. WandaVision episode two, meanwhile, ends with an anonymous character (randomly dressed as a bee-keeper) emerging from a manhole cover in the middle of the road, the implication being that people are infiltrating Wanda’s world through the sewers. This character is wearing the logo of S.W.O.R.D. on their bee-keeping uniform, which would seem to suggest they’re not out to harm Wanda but to rescue her from whatever trap she’s landed in, but that being said, the character in question definitely doesn’t appear friendly – especially not with their face strategically kept in the darkness. It’s gotten to the point where theorists are legitimately considering whether this person is the Spider-Man villain Swarm, an obscure character comprised of a humanoid swarm of mutant Nazi bees under the control of a dead German scientist whose skeleton they hold onto for…reasons. As much as I’d love that kind of a bizarre plot twist, I think it’s far more likely this character is either a harmless S.W.O.R.D. agent from the outside world, or the Grim Reaper.

But if the Grim Reaper is around in Westview, and if Ultron is supposedly down in the sewers, what happens next? Well, in the comics storyline, they meet and team up – with Ultron’s primary motive being to design murderous robotic versions of superheroes, including Wanda’s twin brother, Pietro Maximoff. In the MCU, it might not be possible to do this without first obtaining his body from wherever it was buried: and that’s where having a necromancer on your team suddenly makes sense. Without knowing the themes of WandaVision yet, it’s hard to say how this plot-point would or could be integrated: but I imagine there would be some kind of struggle between Wanda and a resurrected Pietro, perhaps more emotional than physical, and we’d finally see Wanda confront all the regrets and mistakes from her past that she’s pushed into the darkest recesses of her mind. Subtly supporting this notion is the existence of those strange infomercial segments interspersed throughout WandaVision, that hint at parts of Wanda’s past she’s tried to forget: including the death of her parents, and her history as a HYDRA lab experiment. And based on how the series is proceeding, episode three’s commercial will likely bring up another painful chapter of her life – her time with Ultron, and her brother’s death.

WandaVision
Wanda and Pietro Maximoff | popsugar.com

If this storyline is adapted in any way, some elements will surely be altered. Perhaps Mephisto will be involved (in fact, I’d expect him to be), or perhaps Ultron will be radically different from how we last saw him. But with the pieces all falling into place, I can’t not present this as a possibility. We know so little about how WandaVision will play out, this is the perfect time for truly wild speculation.

On that note, what do you think? What are your best guesses about WandaVision, and what villains do you particularly want to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Spider Woman” Moves Forward With Olivia Wilde Likely To Direct!

Spider-Woman, one of Marvel Comics’ myriad of web-slinging superheroes, is set to join either the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or both) at some point in the next few years, but first she needs an origin film: and thankfully, Sony has landed Olivia Wilde to do the job. Or at least, so it is being widely reported – technically, Wilde is developing a secret, female-centric Marvel movie for Sony, but the options for what that could be are fairly limited. It’s almost certain that this movie will follow the beginnings of Spider-Woman’s story.

Spider-Woman
comicsbeat.com

The question of which Spider-Woman, and which cinematic universe she’ll feature in, has yet to be answered. Wilde’s pitch for the film is said to have “completely revamped” the title character, which makes sense but also gives us no clear indication of what we might be getting into: will this new version of Spider-Woman still go by the name of Jessica Drew, or will she be someone else entirely? Will she join Tom Holland’s Spider-Man over in the MCU, or will she be wholly separate?

These questions need answers quickly, and I’m sure we’ll have more information soon because everyone who knows their Marvel Comics knows what this could mean for the MCU if (and that’s a big if) this take on Spider-Woman does in fact come under the Disney/Marvel umbrella, and if she is directly inspired by Jessica Drew: the Secret Invasion storylines begin to write themselves. In the comics, Jessica Drew is a major player in the takeover of Earth by hostile Skrull aliens, who have already been introduced in the MCU as mostly benevolent figures. Drew is impersonated by the Skrull queen Veranke, who uses her disguise to infiltrate organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers. While there hasn’t yet been any explicit hint of an upcoming Secret Invasion story in the MCU, the groundwork is being laid, and a series is rumored to be in development that will follow the story’s events: already, Skrulls have been shown impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home, under his orders, and Fury is working with an entire army of Skrulls at an in-orbit space base believed to be the headquarters of his new covert organization, S.W.O.R.D. – an organization where, in the comics, Jessica Drew herself sometimes works.

Spider-Woman
vocal.media

But all that is wild speculation, and for now we only have to wonder how much of Drew’s backstory will be adapted into Olivia Wilde’s origin film for the character. Drew’s powers (superhuman strength, bioelectric energy blasts, etc) derive from radiation, of course, but her story begins with her living in the Balkan nation of Transia as a child before being adopted by HYDRA and given the fitting codename of Arachne. As a HYDRA agent, she traveled the world, killing and causing chaos in a super-cool outfit equipped with wings, until she was able to break free from her brainwashing with the help of Nick Fury – not unlike the MCU’s Black Widow. Since then, she’s proven to be a dependable ally of the Avengers and other forces of good, and has also worked with Madame Web, an unconventional antiheroine who is also getting her own solo movie. Her own villain roster includes Viper (otherwise known as Madame Hydra), who has previously appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde picks Viper as the first film’s big bad: in the comics, Viper and Jessica Drew form a complicated relationship with Viper actually helping Drew on several occasions and even pretending to be her mother, and Wilde enjoys telling stories that center female relationships.

Spider-Woman
boundingintocomics.com

Wilde’s own previous directorial credits include the popular breakout hit Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age comedy. She is one of a steadily growing number of women joining the Marvel and Marvel-adjacent universes as directors, and she is definitely well aware of that fact: it was reported that she had a chance to pass on this project several times, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to “launch her own female superhero” and accompany other groundbreaking women like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland and Nia DaCosta into the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what she can do with Spider-Woman’s character, and I’m excited to see how/if it ties into the MCU.

So what are your feelings on a Spider-Woman movie? How should the character’s backstory be adapted? Who should be cast in the lead role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 5 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

Landing unexpectedly in the 1970’s, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves confronted with their biggest moral conundrum yet, as they begin to realize just how many alterations they’ve caused to the timeline: HYDRA is rising to power within S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ranks decades earlier than expected; characters who should be dead are still alive, well, and plotting world domination; and worst of all, groovy fashion is in (okay, well, technically that’s not their fault, but I think we can safely assume that 70’s fashion is the unfortunate side-effect of some rift in the timeline).

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Phil Coulson | tvline.com

But this is exactly what I wanted to see! When the season started off, I was very worried that the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. would somehow be able to hop from time period to time period without ever breaking anything along the way – maybe because I was still reeling from how badly-written the majority of season 6 was, and I was worried we were in for a repeat of that disaster. But we’re not: five episodes into this final season, and I can safely say that every member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is feeling heavy consequences for every action they take – and they take a lot of actions, some well-informed, some very impulsive and reckless. Curiously, looking back with the advantage of hindsight, I almost feel like Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) had the right idea when she gave the order to try and kill a young Wilfred Malick. Considering everything Malick has already done to try and take destroy S.H.I.E.L.D., that no longer seems like it was such an impulsive or reckless notion.

On the flip-side, I’m happy she didn’t get to kill him back in 1931, because then he wouldn’t be around to trouble S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1970’s, where he manages to do plenty of damage before meeting a (literally) untimely demise. Wilfred Malick (Neal Bledsoe) is exactly the type of antagonist this season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D should have had from the outset – in fact, he’s the type of antagonist that any show should have: he’s wily and conniving, effortlessly manipulates the happily oblivious idealists running S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 70’s (we’ll get to Rick Stoner in a moment), and doesn’t play nice with his enemies. He also has a massive ego, something that tends to happen when you’re given complete control over a network of Neo-Nazi terrorists living like parasites deep within government organizations all around America. Malick’s reign over HYDRA has been extended, thanks to the timeline meddling, and he’s been able to add an extra six years to his lifespan, allowing him time to complete his master plan: a weapon, known as INSIGHT, capable of targeting and eliminating thousands of U.S. citizens suspected by HYDRA of being potential threats, either currently or in the future – Peggy Carter, Nick Fury, Victoria Hand, and even a very young Bruce Banner all end up on Malick’s list of targets. Filling out HYDRA’s ranks in this episode are Malick’s sons Gideon and Nathaniel: the former of whom hilariously tries to flirt with Daisy, not knowing that she will eventually kill him when he’s much older; and the former of whom was supposed to already be dead, but is still alive somehow. At the very end of the episode there’s also a tantalizing tease that Nazi scientist Daniel Whitehall will make his return to the show, probably while trying once again to murder Daisy Johnson and dissect her body.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Melinda May and Phil Coulson | goquizy.com

Of course, 70’s S.H.I.E.L.D. has no idea that any of this is going on right beneath their noses – the atmosphere of the episode, despite it dealing with some very dark and dramatic topics, is fun and light-hearted, from the ridiculously over-the-top opening credits to the jokes about bell-bottom pants to the party going on at the Swordfish bar (which has been redecorated once again) and the silly INSIGHT birthday cake that someone baked for Wilfred Malick, apparently. And, of course, there’s General Rick Stoner, (Patrick Warburton) who was kind of incompetent but also pleasantly optimistic about everything. I love how he fell hard for Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) while she was disguised as the character of “Chastity McBride” in 1973, and still recognized her immediately when he saw her again three years later.

In fact, let’s start our discussion of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. team with May, whose new power upgrade is one of the best (and most) utilized in this season so far – probably both because it’s important and can be used in a lot of clever ways, but also because it’s conveniently cheap. May just has to stand near someone and she instantly feels and imitates their emotions. She knows before anyone else when a situation is about to go downhill, and she also has a bunch of comedic moments: like when she’s in a bar, and starts unintentionally mirroring the drunken giddiness of everyone around her.

Least utilized this week are probably Daisy and “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). The former has the advantage of being able to bounce off S.H.I.E.L.D. team newcomer Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), and her hacking skills do come in handy once or twice, especially since, as she herself notes, 70’s computers don’t have firewalls; but she only gets to use her Quake powers once. The latter, meanwhile, is still trying and failing to use her own Inhuman abilities, which have been malfunctioning for the past few episodes and don’t show any signs of being reparable: that being said, Yo Yo has had to deal with losing both her arms before, so I’m confident she’ll get through this latest struggle intact. I just want the show to do something big with her character before the end – she’s always been one of the most interesting Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’d hate for her to be sidelined now just because her powers are too expensive for the series’ CGI budget.

Surprisingly compelling this week is Director “Mac” (Henry Simmons), who I haven’t said much about this season because he’s mostly just been standing around and giving orders: but here, the big twist is that he can’t bring himself to give the order to flood the S.H.I.E.L.D. Lighthouse (and stop INSIGHT in so doing) because his parents are prisoners in the base and will drown if he does. Instead, Mac’s decision is to let INSIGHT launch and then attack it with missiles from the Zephyr One – that bit, to be honest, is a little underwhelming because it only takes one direct hit from them to blow INSIGHT out of the sky, but it does now expose S.H.I.E.L.D.’s position, something Mac ominously forebodes.

Meanwhile, Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) is on his own mission: to do what he couldn’t in 1931, and finally pull the trigger on Wilfred Malick. It’s cool that he’s finally getting personally involved in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mission, and I enjoyed seeing him take the leap at the end of the episode, shooting Malick dead mid-monologue.

Unfortunately, with Malick dead, I assume we’ll have to deal with more Chronicoms – who are still, with the exception of Enoch (Joel Stoffer) – mind-numbingly boring, from their monotone outfits to their blank facial expressions. I am, however, at least mildly interested to understand why Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) seems to have some sort of technology implanted in her body, something that Enoch appears to know about and which could suggest that the Simmons we’re seeing in this season is actually some sort of LMD like the version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) we’re also currently following. If this is a fake Simmons, then where’s the real one? Happily married to Fitz in another timeline, hopefully?

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | laughingplace.com

Finally, we need to talk about Daniel Sousa. While the episode ends with both him and Daisy Johnson as prisoners of HYDRA, he has the most time to shine throughout the episode, as we explore his character’s shock at being transported somewhat unwillingly to a new era. The “fish out of water” trope can be tiresome, but there’s something fresh and fun about the way Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is handling it with Sousa’s character – it’s humorous to watch him try and wrap his head around the concept of 70’s fashion norms (trust me, he’s not the only one perplexed by those), but it’s also interesting how he reacts to other, more meaningful things: he’s clearly confused by the team’s lack of a structured hierarchy, and he shows obvious disdain for some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more questionable tactics. I think he’ll be a exciting character to follow into the finale, as he could be another who, like LMD Coulson and this new, super-powered May, feels like he wasn’t given the chance to decide his own fate.

I’m beginning to suspect that the conflict between fate and free will is going to be a major element in the upcoming finale, as the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. come to terms with what they’ve done to the timeline and try to work out how to fix it – if they can. I’m just hoping that Daniel Whitehall shows up fairly quickly, because now that I’ve been reminded of just how excellent HYDRA vs S.H.I.E.L.D. fights can be, I don’t want to put up with anymore of that Chronicom nonsense.

Episode Rating: 8.9/10

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 4 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. AHEAD!

Waves were made on last night’s episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the resulting ripples will probably dramatically affect everything that happens during the rest of the seventh and final season of the long-running series. S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA and a host of time-traveling Chronicoms meet and clash in a three-way battle centered around the life of one man – legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), whose mission to deliver dangerous Russian technology to Howard Stark (MCU namedrop!) puts him on a collision course with death.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | bustle.com

But while HYDRA – and HYDRA’s leader Wilfred Malick (Neal Bledsoe), the very same one whom the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reluctantly rescued in 1931 – wants Sousa dead because he knows the extent of their infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Chronicoms want Sousa dead because…well, actually it’s still a little unclear why they want anything…the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly make the decision that they want to save Sousa’s life. It’s a bit of a dramatic heel-turn for Director “Mac” (Henry Simmons), who was fervently against killing Malick in the 30’s, and in the absence of any better explanation I’ll just assume that Mac came to the conclusion that he was outnumbered: Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) and “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) both make it very clear in this episode that they support altering the timeline, while Deke (Jeff Ward) goes back-and-forth right up until the moment when he meets Wilfred Malick again for the first time since literally saving his life, only to realize that the man he was so adamant about rescuing then has predictably transformed into a tyrannical killer over the past two decades.

Yes, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are still stuck in the 1950’s, and this week’s episode is filmed entirely in black-and-white to reflect that: Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) narrates the episode like a cheerful, quirky private investigator in a classic murder mystery – delivering exposition in a way that feels fresh and fun, while also providing seamless scene-transitions. This is truly a Coulson episode: from his first scene, handcuffed to a desk and musing on his predicament, to the revelation that he swapped places with Daniel Sousa on the night of Sousa’s imminent assassination, letting Sousa live while simultaneously cleverly deceiving HYDRA – the version of Coulson we’re seeing in this season, while still an LMD (Life Model Decoy), is nonetheless abundantly more entertaining than the “evil Coulson” who befriended and later betrayed the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the sixth season. And of course, he’s still alive by the end of this episode because no matter how many bullets HYDRA fires into him or how lifeless he may look while floating face-down in a pool, he’s a robot and thus nearly invincible. We actually haven’t seen anything yet that has posed any physical threat to him – his challenges have been mental and emotional so far.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
denofgeek.com

Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is facing similar issues, and we even get some much-needed answers to why she’s been acting so unusual these past few episodes. Turns out, she may have lost her own ability to feel emotions in the season 6 finale, but she gained the power to feel others’ emotions when they’re near to her. Last week, we saw her abruptly panic during the attack on Area 51, which apparently was caused by everyone around her panicking. This week, while standing next to tech genius Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) onboard the Zephyr One, she suddenly gets uncharacteristically giddy about science – and later, in Sousa’s vicinity, she gets freaked out, mirroring his own reaction to seeing the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents’ sleek, futuristic aircraft. It’s unclear how large a role her new abilities might play in the rest of the season, but I’m intrigued. Considering how emotionless the villainous Chronicoms have been shown to be, I wonder if May could possibly tap into what little humanity they have. After all, we know some Chronicoms are capable of feeling – just look at Enoch (Joel Stoffer).

In fact, we get a glimpse at Enoch’s new life during this episode, when Coulson enlists him to essentially be S.H.I.E.L.D.’s phone operator. It appears that Enoch hasn’t changed much in the two decades since getting stuck out of time, though the bar he works in has been redecorated. I’ll be interested to see if we follow his subplot through the rest of the 20th Century – the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appear to be headed to the 1970’s after their next time jump, judging by the use of Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” to close out the episode.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Daniel Sousa | meaww.com

There are several big twists, of course, but the biggest one by far is the fact that Daniel Sousa actually survives and ends up on the Zephyr One by the end of the episode – and even gets an offer from Coulson to essentially join the team on their final mission. Coulson, in fact, has the best line in the episode while inducting Sousa into the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. family: “Welcome to life after death. I’ll tell you all about it.” If Sousa does serve as a team member (and at this point, I don’t know if he has alternatives), we could see him in the final showdown between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, whenever that is. The post-credits stinger shows HYDRA and the Chronicoms teaming up to take out S.H.I.E.L.D., with the Chronicom leader bringing Wilfred Malick up to speed on everything that’s happened.

That can mean only one thing: S.H.I.E.L.D. is in for a lot more trouble in the near future (well, technically the past, I guess). As long as the series continues to serve up this kind of quality content, I’m good with that. It was about time some waves were made.

Episode Rating: 9/10

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON 7, EPISODE 2

Coming off a solid premiere to the series’ seventh and final season, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finds new ways to tie back into the canon of the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, subtly hinting that more connections between the two are on the way as the team continues their journey through the Marvel timeline. Much as they might have liked to not interfere with the course of history, the truth is that was never going to work – and episode 2 is where it all starts falling apart.

We pick up right where we left off last week, with the Agents coming to the realization that, to save S.H.I.E.L.D. from an invasion of Chronicom aliens, they must save Wilfred Malick (Darren Barnet), the man behind the creation of the shadowy organization known as HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s arch-enemy in later years. While Director Mack (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) unknowingly escort Malick on one of his missions, the rest of the team works against the clock to try and figure out what he’s planning, why the Chronicoms want him dead, and whether his life is really worth saving.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons | tvline.com

The answer to the first question is revealed fairly early in the episode, and is what brings this episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D into conjunction with the events of the MCU – Wilfred Malick’s secret mission, disguised as a job bootlegging illegal alcohol, is to deliver vials containing the ingredients which will later make their way into the Super Soldier Serum: the very same which will one day course through the veins of both Johann Schmidt (HYDRA’s Red Skull) and Steve Rogers (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Captain America). Through this chance encounter, yet another link is forged between the two enemies.

But as for that last question – is Wilfred Malick worth saving? – well, that’s a question that haunts everyone on the team, but especially Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Not only does she argue bitterly with her teammates about how they can feel comfortable allowing the future head of HYDRA to survive, but she even takes the initiative in one critical moment and tries to have him killed. Her assassination attempt fails – mostly because Deke isn’t really the best person to carry out any sort of plan, much less one that involves killing someone. But in the long run, that’s probably fortunate: since without HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D. would never be formed and Captain America would never be created.

Not everyone, however, makes it out of this timeline unscathed – or even makes it out of this timeline, period. The quiet, contemplative Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) accidentally gets left behind in 1931 at the end of the episode while the rest of the team escapes through an unexpected time window. Thankfully, he uses his wits to get a job at the speakeasy owned by Ernest Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who forged a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Agents during their stay in his timeline, and even gets to take a ride on the Zephyr One during this episode, marveling at modern technology behind his wildest imagination and demanding to know whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is really a group of Martian space invaders. The stinger at the end of the episode sees Koenig probing Enoch for information about how to make robots – seemingly hinting at an explanation for why he has so many descendants in the future, and all of them are identical.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yo-Yo Rodriguez | telltaletv.com

Agents “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) come out of their escapade in 1931 having sustained several more traumas. Though it was teased in the premiere that Yo-Yo hadn’t completely recovered from the incident in season 6 when she swallowed an alien bat and was almost killed by the resulting parasite, it is made explicit here when she fails to use her powers during a tense moment, prompting interrogation from Daisy. May, on the other hand, is still suffering from gaps in her memory and terrifying hallucinations sustained during the season 6 finale when she battled the death goddess Izel: she doesn’t know where or when she is, and she’s angry when she sees the LMD version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), knowing full well that the Coulson she knew and loved is dead, and unwilling to let herself be tricked into trusting another duplicate of him.

Overall, I feel this episode is actually stronger than the premiere for a number of reasons. Yo-Yo, May and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) each get to play a part in the action, whereas the premiere left them waiting on the ship, essentially just twiddling their thumbs. The character work is a little bit stronger, as is the dialogue. And while I appreciated last week’s storyline focused on saving Franklin D. Roosevelt, this week’s episode benefited from being able to plunge us into the action and the drama without needing any red herring diversions to deliver exposition.

Speaking of action, there’s one standout fight scene when May and Enoch clash in the hangar of the Zephyr One: Enoch, re-outfitted with upgraded Chronicom tech, is almost winning until May (who, I might add, is still just recently awake from a coma) traps him and goes to town on his synthetic skull with a fire-extinguisher. I’m very excited to see where May goes in this season – it’s not at all unusual for her to use brute force, but her behavior in this episode is sending up red flags all over the place: she’s responding to her near-death encounter in season 6 much like how Coulson reacted when he found out he had been resurrected early in the series. If that’s a parallel that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is interested in exploring, I’m here for it.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Enoch | meaww.com

Once again, the Chronicoms are the weakest part of the story, and their villainy is tame and uninteresting. I was more intrigued by the possibility of HYDRA agents showing up to try and protect the Super Soldier Serum, but only one – a woman named Viola (Nora Zehetner) – actually appeared in person, and even she was either unconscious or unwillingly spitting out information in a German accent most of the time.

Now, all we can do is wait and see in which era of Marvel history the Agents will be dropped next – and whether or not they’ll get involved in any more MCU events on the long, uncertain road to the finale.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Head For Madripoor!

The Mandalorian has concluded its first season’s massively-hyped run, and now everybody seems to have one question, and one question only: what do we watch on Disney+ now, while we wait for the second season of the Star Wars serial?

Well, for the moment, you’re going to have to stick to whatever else you’ve been watching on Disney+ in between Mandalorian episodes: you could catch up on The World According To Jeff Goldblum, or binge-watch a gazillion old movies that you never even knew existed. You could just rewatch The Mandalorian, if that appeals to you. But don’t worry: Disney+ has some particularly exciting new content coming next year – Marvel Studios’ The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will drop on the streaming platform in the fall of 2020, and I’m here with all the latest updates and info to tell you why you should be excited for the series.

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (or TFATWS: the series’ title is absurdly long, and I have no idea who came up with it) will follow the adventures of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes in a post-Avengers: Endgame world crawling with villains and criminals of the worst sorts – Baron Zemo, the mastermind behind the Avengers’ downfall, will make an appearance, having apparently escaped from prison since the events of Captain America: Civil War; alongside him will be white Southern conservative John Walker, a homegrown hero turned brainwashed zealot who, in comics published during the Reagan administration, unofficially donned the Captain America moniker in response to Sam Wilson, a black man, carrying the hero’s title – just as there will be multiple Black Widows in Black Widow, TFATWS could introduce a conflict between the two Captain Americas, and explore the larger question of what it means to be the face of the USA, and who has the right to earn that honor. It’s unclear just how deeply Marvel wishes to dive into this political discussion, but if done correctly it could be a risky, important story that demands to be told at this moment in American history.

While unconfirmed, it looks like Zemo and Walker will be joined by a third villain – Arnim Zola, the disembodied conscious of the Nazi scientist who set up the foundations of the HYDRA organization after the Second World War. Zola’s functional brain/super-computer was destroyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it seems that the evil genius could have found a way to live on, perhaps through the form of his children, Jet and Leo. Minor antagonists could include Battlestar and Songbird. But the biggest surprise of all, and the most recent one, is the revelation that parts of the story may take place on the fictional island of Madripoor.

"The Falcon And The Winter Soldier" Head For Madripoor! 1
comicvine.gamespot.com

Madripoor, a wealthy island paradise located off the coast of Singapore, is a crime-capital in the Marvel Comics Universe, having attracted numerous villains to its sunny beaches and seafront cities – and, thus, just as many heroes. And, interestingly, many of the characters who have visited the island in the comics are characters with upcoming Marvel movies and Disney+ shows: Hawkeye and Kate Bishop staged a daring raid on a Madripoor hotel to save Hawkeye’s reputation from being publicly ruined; Shang-Chi defeated a dragon dwelling in the ocean beneath the island; and the X-Men, including Wolverine and Magneto, have also visited on occasion. We don’t yet know who will inhabit the island in TFATWS, but it wouldn’t surprise me any if Baron Zemo had set up shop there to recruit his very own team of villains – possibly the legendary Thunderbolts, possibly a different group. Characters who could show up on Madripoor include crime lord and martial artist Tyger Tiger, who was installed as governor of the region by Tony Stark, and the mysterious vampire Sapphire Styx; both characters would provide good opportunities for Southeast Asian diversity in the Marvel roster.

Madripoor is such a fascinating location, it would also be exciting if it continued to feature in future Marvel projects – while the Hawkeye series could potentially make a stop at the island getaway, I’d love to see it as a prominent location in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, where our hero could get into some crazy fights and action sequences amongst all the casinos, hotels, and dazzling beachfront villas and boulevards.

Filming for the Madripoor sequences will likely take place in Puerto Rico, where the series is expected to film at some point early next year.

What do you think of Sam and Bucky shipping out to Madripoor, and what characters and comic-cameos do you expect to see there? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!