Phase 4 has ended, and fans have mixed feelings about it. For one, it was the most experimental chapter of the MCU thus far, with the franchise blending genres and entering a more inclusive space with its characters and stories. However, it was also uneven and somewhat aimless, clearly suffering from a lack of direction following the massive success of Avengers: Endgame. Still, Phase 4 might be best remembered as the chapter that led the MCU into uncharted territory: television.
The ever-expanding franchise entered the already crowded television landscape, partly to support Disney+ and partly because the film medium was no longer enough to fulfill its lofty ambitions. Like Phase 4 overall, the MCU’s TV efforts were all over the place and constant enough to finally turn the much-doubted “superhero fatigue” term into a reality. Still, they were far from awful; in fact, some projects were inspired additions, with a few flashes of brilliance here and there. And while the MCU’s entrance into television was bumpy indeed, these projects prove that when Marvel is good, there’s nothing quite like it.
5. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (2022)
As the last of the bunch, She-Hulk debuted at a time when interest in the MCU’s TV efforts was at an all-time low. An Ally McBeal-like story masquerading as a superhero adventure, the show follows the titular character as she juggles her lawyer career and newfound powers. The premise sounds exciting, but the show’s tone was a tough sell, especially in the current political climate. It faced an uphill battle, with many people determined to hate it before it even aired and not enough casual fans won over by its confused marketing; unfortunately, we can’t say it came out victorious.
And what a shame because She-Hulk is surprisingly good. It’s funny, clever, entertaining, and elevated by the ridiculously charming Tatiana Maslany. However, let’s state the obvious: it is not for everyone. She-Hulk is something of an acquired taste, a show that gleefully breaks the audience’s expectations and plays fast and loose with its story, source material, and the MCU as a whole. It’s the definition of “unserious,” and some people responded to its unique brand of meta absurdity. But She-Hulk remains niche, perhaps too much to succeed in the factory-like environment of the MCU.
4. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (2021)
After years of playing second fiddle to Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes finally stepped into the spotlight with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The show followed them as they faced a group of anti-patriots enhanced with the superhero soldier, all while dealing with a new and much less honorable Captain America.
Juggling lofty and ambitious themes with the pressures of moving the MCU’s story forward, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier struggled to find the right balance. Familiar faces from the Captain America corner of the MCU return, although they can’t help but feel wasted by a story that’s never really concerned with their stories. Indeed, the show is all about passing the shield to Sam, a worthy and necessary development that ultimately feels cathartic. More impressively, the series succeeds as a character study for Sam and Bucky, offering them closure for the tragic events of the Infinity Saga and putting them on the right path ahead, which will come in the form of a fourth Captain America film.
3. Ms. Marvel (2022)
Kamala Khan made her long-awaited debut in the MCU in the endlessly charming Ms. Marvel. A straightforward origin story, the show follows the titular character as she receives her powers and struggles to fit in the fascinating but dangerous world of superheroes. Unlike her comic book counterpart, the MCU’s Kamala is not an Inhuman but a mutant, a change that sparked considerable controversy among fans of the source material.
However, the show remains a must-see, if only because of newcomer Iman Vellani’s energetic and fresh take on the character. The girl is a star, dominating every second she’s on-screen and imbuing her character with a sense of awe and wonder that we haven’t seen since Tom Holland’s first appearance in Civil War. Beyond Vellani’s performance, Ms. Marvel is a witty and warm entry into a genre that too often feels cold and formulaic. By showcasing Kamala’s civilian life before her superhero identity, Ms. Marvel creates a moving and poignant portrayal of family and a welcome insight into the Pakistani-American culture.
2. Loki (2021)
The God of Mischief finally took center stage in the third Disney+ show, appropriately titled Loki. The endless fountain of charm that is Tom Hiddleston reprised his role as the mischievous god in a story that sees him come face to face with the mysterious Time Variance Authority. Owen Wilson and a scene-stealing Sophia Di Martino co-star alongside Hiddleston, making Loki a resounding success.
Sure, the TVA makes no sense; in fact, its introduction opens an ugly can of worms that puts into question every choice in the Infinity Saga. However, Loki is a breath of fresh air, an alternate reality tour de force that puts nearly every Disney+ show to shame. Like its title character, the show is larger than life, so convinced of its glorious purpose that we can’t help but fall into its spell. Loki is ambitious to a fault, but it has more than enough panache to sell its premise and disappear before we realize it was all an illusion.
1. WandaVision (2021)
They say the first will always be the best, and in the MCU’s case, it’s true. WandaVision remains undefeated when it comes to Disney+ shows, showcasing two of the franchise’s most underrated and complex characters in a daring and genre-bending story. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany relish the chance to do some genuine and gripping exploration of their characters’ psyches, and Kathryn Hahn is the perfect ingredient to spice things up.
WandaVision is so great because it cares more about its characters than the admittedly fascinating world around them. The show acknowledges how super Wanda and Vision are but is far more concerned with the human aspect of their stories. WandaVision is a beautiful exploration of grief, loss, trauma, and acceptance framed as a superhero adventure. It is also an experiment in genres; the show challenges the confining boundaries of the comic book piece and throws a mix of themes and styles, creating a delightfully chaotic and original story, unlike anything we had seen before. More shows should have WandaVision‘s guts to try something new.
You can view all these Marvel shows on Disney+.
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