MCU TV Shows and the House of Mouse: Ruminations and Rankings

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
NOTE- IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THESE, DO NOT READ. SPOILERS MAY BE DISCUSSED.

For some time now, I have avoided getting Disney+. After all, I had Netflix. I had HBOMax. I had Apple+. I had Amazon Prime. I had Paramount+.

I was done with streaming services, and a little burnt when it came to the MCU. After Endgame, I need a nice, long break.

I think it was Malthaus who once said, "There is a certain inevitability to things." And that inevitability came in the form of an offer for Disney+ and Hulu at an absurdly low price. Basically, free. That's right, thank you Bob Chapek (and the winged howler monkeys that you serve) and your need to increase subscriber numbers over such mundane metrics like "revenue" or "profit."

Ahem. Anyway, I started by watching all the Disney+ live action MCU shows (I'm still getting through What If? slowly). The experience has been both good, and lacking, and I'm using this post to elaborate on some of my thoughts about the MCU on Disney+.

But first, RANKINGS!

Toppest tier
1. Ms. Marvel

Good
2. Moon Knight
3. WandaVision
4. Loki
5. Hawkeye

The Rest
6. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

I'm not going to justify or explain this, other than I think that #1 is indisputable, #2-#4 are roughly equivalent (but I prefer 2), and I think that #5 is a lot of fun, but is just competent as opposed to great, whereas #6 is just competent without being fun.

Now ....


A. What The Mouse is Doing Right with the MCU TV Series.

1. Taking chances. The only one of the six shows so far that is even close to a "standard" superhero show is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Even Hawkeye is a decidedly off-kilter and funny Christmas story. The experimentation, from the sitcom stylings through time of WandaVision through the pop sensibilities and visually inventive choices of Ms. Marvel are a wonder to behold. Heck- my two favorites (Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel) both manage to incorporate elements we don't often see (Middle Eastern / South Asian themes) ... one in a serious and dark manner, and one with joyous celebration. They aren't playing it safe, and I like that.

2. Good acting This shouldn't be overlooked, but the Mouse gets the serious actors for the shows. I mean ... Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke are in Moon Knight. Regardless of what Marty Scorsese might think of the superhero-ization of film and media, the MCU is attracting top talent, and you see the quality.

3. Great sets, great directing, great visuals. No, I don't mean the "pew pew pew" CGI. But just ... wow. I wasn't a huge fan of Loki (s'alright), but the sets for the Time Bureau were amazing. The evocation of bureaucracy through color and brutalism was pitch perfect. Almost all of the Marvel shows are, for the most part, feasts for the senses.

4. They are fun. Fun can be overrated. Sometimes you want something dark (like Moon Knight), but for the most part, you see all the small touches- Pizza Dog and Trust A Bro Moving Company, for example, that make you inordinately happy. Or the wedding scene in Ms. Marvel. The shows have a great time, and it's fun to watch.


B. What The Mouse is Doing Wrong With MCU TV Series.

1. Villains. Just like the movies, Marvel can't seem to get villains right. Here me now and believe me later- the entirety of these six shows had one good villain. Think about that for a second. Still thinking? That's right. Arthur Harrow. He was a villain that was genuinely chilling. He tried to convince the hero to join him, and when that failed ... killed him. Not with a fancy trap. Just shot him. Not to mention sowing seeds of distrust. That's how you do a villain. What about the other shows? Who was the villain?
WandaVision- Wanda? Okay, maybe the Gummint? No? How about Agnes?
Loki- The Kang Who Remains? Really?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier- Systemic racism? Our fear of the other? Oh, wait, something something super solider.
Ms. Marvel- Gummint.
Hawkeye- see below.

Now, compare that to Netflix's Marvel shows in their first season. If you watched them you remember.
Jessica Jones / Kilgrave
Punisher / Jigsaw
Luke Cage / Cottonmouth

....and, of course, Daredevil / Kingpin. That might be the most instructive. Because Kingpin is the villain in Hawkeye, as well! In fact, it's Vincent D'Onofrio, again. And yet ... is there a person out there ... a single person, that felt that the Kingpin in Hawkeye caused the same terror as the one in Daredevil? Because I didn't- I honestly didn't even think they were the same character. In Daredevil, Kingpin was terrifying. In Hawkeye, Kingpin was barely a roadbump, mostly used to give the hero a fight at the end. Ugh.

2. Pew pew pew. I am using this as a catch-all term for "third-act problems." The MCU on TV still excels at the world building; but it still wants to end every series with a climactic, and stupid, fight to wrap things up. Most of them lack emotional resonance and often are the least interesting parts of the shows. WandaVision's was particularly bad (look, they're flying and going pew pew pew). But even shows like Moon Knight, which otherwise leaned heavily into some more experimental concepts, had to have the "big bad" fight at the end which, IMO, took the wind out of the sails of the show; I was grateful for the "cut scene" that they used to get through it. Perhaps the only show that managed to have the climactic battle AND do it well (as Loki mostly avoided it) was Ms. Marvel, which had the more delightful high school setup instead.


C. Finally, What is the Big Void With the MCU that I am Increasingly Worried About?

Now I am getting to the issue that has me concerned. Overall, I really enjoyed the TV shows. But here's the thing- the person I watched them with ... isn't really into superheroes. But they watched and they really enjoyed some of them, and for Ms. Marvel, expectantly asked when the second season was coming out.

....and that's the issue. Right now, it looks like the only show that is definitely getting a second season is Loki. We know WandaVision is a one-shot. We know Falcon and the Winter Solider is a one-shot. It looks like Hawkeye is a one-shot (HA!). Despite the ending of the series, it looks like Moon Knight is a one-shot. And Ms. Marvel ... looks like a one-shot, too (yeah, there's a movie, but that's it for the TV SHOW).

And that's the problem. Look, I like limited series as much as the next person. But TV shows do certain things better than movies! Take Ms. Marvel- it was really good for a lot of reasons, but one of the things that was so good about it was that it had such a charming and interesting cast. I want to spend more time with them. I want to hang out with them, in New Jersey, for another season (or three).

But that's not how the Mouse is using these series. These aren't TV shows. These are (for lack of a better term) "expanded movie introductions." Want to find out more about the characters in the movie, The Marvels? Well, watch Ms. Marvel? Not sure what is happening in Dr. Strange 2? Probably should watch WandaVision!

Maybe I'm wrong, and this isn't a problem. After all, these were good. But ... they aren't TV series. That's not the purpose. And that makes me a little sad, especially when they are good. They can be more than just movie-adjacent content.


Anyway, that's what is on my mind. Feel free to explain why I am correct in the comments.
 

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wicked cool

Adventurer
i agree with you on the villians. its almost like they are afraid to bring in good villians . its the hulk tv of the 70's all over again. the villians are basically redshirts

i aslo agree they are mostly prequel shorts for the movies. None of these shows have a "red wedding" moment and none have had the moments of daredevil when he went up against kingpin. Very smart for someone to realize they have to be rought over


Wanda was the villian in wandavision and i did love wanda in dr strange however its mostly alternate universe stuff or a what if story/ her reaction was reminscent of anakin in revenge of the sith

Julia dreyfus was potentially the most interesting villian due to her recruiting tactics

hope your wrong on the one shots. i want more moonknight or at least moonknight teamup with another hero

based on trailers shehulk looks to be more of the same but its early
 

Mercurius

Legend
I haven't seen any of these, even though Moon Knight was one of my favorite superheroes as a kid. I also haven't seen any Mandalorian or Boba Fett, so should probably get a month subscription to Disney+ to binge-watch.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
i agree with you on the villians. its almost like they are afraid to bring in good villians . its the hulk tv of the 70's all over again. the villians are basically redshirts

Nothing they’ve done so far compares to this scene from the first season of Daredevil.

ETA- I chose the extended version I found, because it encapsulates why the handling of the villains is so much better in the Netflix shows. I know that people complained about how the Netflix Marvel series would sometimes "pad out" the run times, but here we see the advantage of being able to linger. That is perfect. Even today, when I think of Kingpin ... I think of him making an omelet. I think of the rows of suits. I think of how everything is perfect and immaculate. I think of the care and the control ... especially the control. And finally, I think of what that control is keeping under wraps. That is a villain. A villain that provokes both sympathy by forcing us to understand .... and terror.

Disney+ MCU shows aren't doing that.

The villains, roughly, fall into three categories-
1. Comic Relief. I love the TrackSuit Mafia (Trust a Bro!) as much as the next person, but they aren't ... terrifying.

2. The Not Villains. Whether it's the original Loki, the nu-Loki (Sylvie), or variations on the theme (Karli, Yelena, Echo, etc.) you have opposition, but they're just misunderstood or not on the same side or using the wrong means or haven't been redeemed yet.

3. The Big Bad. Something something yawn. They aren't very interesting. And if, by some random chance, they accidentally venture into being interesting (cough Agnes) you can be assured they will get a chance to redeem themselves in some fashion in the future and be in category 2.
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
IMO, Kingpin was much more effective in Daredevil as he got a considerable amount of screen time. We got to see him as an ever present threat. In Hawkeye (which I enjoyed), they only had 6 episodes, and they held Kingpin back to be a surprise at the end of episode 5. It was a nice surprise, but it minimized the amount of Kingpin we got. On top of that he never interacts with Clint!
 

jolt

Explorer
The thing I found creepy about Kingpin was that he had this huge array of suits, watches, and cuff links, but always choose the exact same ones (until Vanessa comes on the scene).
 

nevin

Hero
NOTE- IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THESE, DO NOT READ. SPOILERS MAY BE DISCUSSED.

For some time now, I have avoided getting Disney+. After all, I had Netflix. I had HBOMax. I had Apple+. I had Amazon Prime. I had Paramount+.

I was done with streaming services, and a little burnt when it came to the MCU. After Endgame, I need a nice, long break.

I think it was Malthaus who once said, "There is a certain inevitability to things." And that inevitability came in the form of an offer for Disney+ and Hulu at an absurdly low price. Basically, free. That's right, thank you Bob Chapek (and the winged howler monkeys that you serve) and your need to increase subscriber numbers over such mundane metrics like "revenue" or "profit."

Ahem. Anyway, I started by watching all the Disney+ live action MCU shows (I'm still getting through What If? slowly). The experience has been both good, and lacking, and I'm using this post to elaborate on some of my thoughts about the MCU on Disney+.

But first, RANKINGS!

Toppest tier
1. Ms. Marvel

Good
2. Moon Knight
3. WandaVision
4. Loki
5. Hawkeye

The Rest
6. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

I'm not going to justify or explain this, other than I think that #1 is indisputable, #2-#4 are roughly equivalent (but I prefer 2), and I think that #5 is a lot of fun, but is just competent as opposed to great, whereas #6 is just competent without being fun.

Now ....


A. What The Mouse is Doing Right with the MCU TV Series.

1. Taking chances. The only one of the six shows so far that is even close to a "standard" superhero show is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Even Hawkeye is a decidedly off-kilter and funny Christmas story. The experimentation, from the sitcom stylings through time of WandaVision through the pop sensibilities and visually inventive choices of Ms. Marvel are a wonder to behold. Heck- my two favorites (Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel) both manage to incorporate elements we don't often see (Middle Eastern / South Asian themes) ... one in a serious and dark manner, and one with joyous celebration. They aren't playing it safe, and I like that.

2. Good acting This shouldn't be overlooked, but the Mouse gets the serious actors for the shows. I mean ... Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke are in Moon Knight. Regardless of what Marty Scorsese might think of the superhero-ization of film and media, the MCU is attracting top talent, and you see the quality.

3. Great sets, great directing, great visuals. No, I don't mean the "pew pew pew" CGI. But just ... wow. I wasn't a huge fan of Loki (s'alright), but the sets for the Time Bureau were amazing. The evocation of bureaucracy through color and brutalism was pitch perfect. Almost all of the Marvel shows are, for the most part, feasts for the senses.

4. They are fun. Fun can be overrated. Sometimes you want something dark (like Moon Knight), but for the most part, you see all the small touches- Pizza Dog and Trust A Bro Moving Company, for example, that make you inordinately happy. Or the wedding scene in Ms. Marvel. The shows have a great time, and it's fun to watch.


B. What The Mouse is Doing Wrong With MCU TV Series.

1. Villains. Just like the movies, Marvel can't seem to get villains right. Here me now and believe me later- the entirety of these six shows had one good villain. Think about that for a second. Still thinking? That's right. Arthur Harrow. He was a villain that was genuinely chilling. He tried to convince the hero to join him, and when that failed ... killed him. Not with a fancy trap. Just shot him. Not to mention sowing seeds of distrust. That's how you do a villain. What about the other shows? Who was the villain?
WandaVision- Wanda? Okay, maybe the Gummint? No? How about Agnes?
Loki- The Kang Who Remains? Really?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier- Systemic racism? Our fear of the other? Oh, wait, something something super solider.
Ms. Marvel- Gummint.
Hawkeye- see below.

Now, compare that to Netflix's Marvel shows in their first season. If you watched them you remember.
Jessica Jones / Kilgrave
Punisher / Jigsaw
Luke Cage / Cottonmouth

....and, of course, Daredevil / Kingpin. That might be the most instructive. Because Kingpin is the villain in Hawkeye, as well! In fact, it's Vincent D'Onofrio, again. And yet ... is there a person out there ... a single person, that felt that the Kingpin in Hawkeye caused the same terror as the one in Daredevil? Because I didn't- I honestly didn't even think they were the same character. In Daredevil, Kingpin was terrifying. In Hawkeye, Kingpin was barely a roadbump, mostly used to give the hero a fight at the end. Ugh.

2. Pew pew pew. I am using this as a catch-all term for "third-act problems." The MCU on TV still excels at the world building; but it still wants to end every series with a climactic, and stupid, fight to wrap things up. Most of them lack emotional resonance and often are the least interesting parts of the shows. WandaVision's was particularly bad (look, they're flying and going pew pew pew). But even shows like Moon Knight, which otherwise leaned heavily into some more experimental concepts, had to have the "big bad" fight at the end which, IMO, took the wind out of the sails of the show; I was grateful for the "cut scene" that they used to get through it. Perhaps the only show that managed to have the climactic battle AND do it well (as Loki mostly avoided it) was Ms. Marvel, which had the more delightful high school setup instead.


C. Finally, What is the Big Void With the MCU that I am Increasingly Worried About?

Now I am getting to the issue that has me concerned. Overall, I really enjoyed the TV shows. But here's the thing- the person I watched them with ... isn't really into superheroes. But they watched and they really enjoyed some of them, and for Ms. Marvel, expectantly asked when the second season was coming out.

....and that's the issue. Right now, it looks like the only show that is definitely getting a second season is Loki. We know WandaVision is a one-shot. We know Falcon and the Winter Solider is a one-shot. It looks like Hawkeye is a one-shot (HA!). Despite the ending of the series, it looks like Moon Knight is a one-shot. And Ms. Marvel ... looks like a one-shot, too (yeah, there's a movie, but that's it for the TV SHOW).

And that's the problem. Look, I like limited series as much as the next person. But TV shows do certain things better than movies! Take Ms. Marvel- it was really good for a lot of reasons, but one of the things that was so good about it was that it had such a charming and interesting cast. I want to spend more time with them. I want to hang out with them, in New Jersey, for another season (or three).

But that's not how the Mouse is using these series. These aren't TV shows. These are (for lack of a better term) "expanded movie introductions." Want to find out more about the characters in the movie, The Marvels? Well, watch Ms. Marvel? Not sure what is happening in Dr. Strange 2? Probably should watch WandaVision!

Maybe I'm wrong, and this isn't a problem. After all, these were good. But ... they aren't TV series. That's not the purpose. And that makes me a little sad, especially when they are good. They can be more than just movie-adjacent content.


Anyway, that's what is on my mind. Feel free to explain why I am correct in the comments.
I think if marvel can get away from the every movie has to be a potential earth/universe destroying threat and get back to more mundane stories like spiderman, and the original ironman they would do better. I think you are on to something with the little mini series. Ms Marvel and Loki were more memorable and enjoyable than the last two Thor movies.

I'd love for some of these superheroes like MS marvel to just become a TV series. they could string along several of these series and let them tie into movies along the way. I think it would make a healthier world building ecosystem. I was a comic geek as a kid and read all I could get and even I'm getting tired of watching every superhero defend the World/Multiverse/Universe. Can I just see some hero's save people from the mundane old greedy villains that are out there?
 

nevin

Hero
IMO, Kingpin was much more effective in Daredevil as he got a considerable amount of screen time. We got to see him as an ever present threat. In Hawkeye (which I enjoyed), they only had 6 episodes, and they held Kingpin back to be a surprise at the end of episode 5. It was a nice surprise, but it minimized the amount of Kingpin we got. On top of that he never interacts with Clint!
I think the reason the Netflix series were so good was the hero's were just operating in thier own bubble, occasionally crossing each other. A villain like kingpin would never get any serious time in plot to save the universe but he was so much better and so much more entertaining than Thanos. The best thing was we got to see the full him why and how he became kingpin.
 

Mezuka

Hero
Nothing they’ve done so far compares to this scene from the first season of Daredevil.

ETA- I chose the extended version I found, because it encapsulates why the handling of the villains is so much better in the Netflix shows. I know that people complained about how the Netflix Marvel series would sometimes "pad out" the run times, but here we see the advantage of being able to linger. That is perfect. Even today, when I think of Kingpin ... I think of him making an omelet. I think of the rows of suits. I think of how everything is perfect and immaculate. I think of the care and the control ... especially the control. And finally, I think of what that control is keeping under wraps. That is a villain. A villain that provokes both sympathy by forcing us to understand .... and terror.

Very good clip but all along I was scared his bathrobe sleeves would catch fire. That is a very unsafe thing to do! :p
 

Mezuka

Hero
Streaming shows remind me of the big tv productions they used to do in the 80s, like Masada. They were in fact extended movies presented over 3-4 nights. It was awesome.

The concept of 'episodes' as we've known it may be dying because of streaming services. But it will remain the format for regular TV because of the ad blocks.
 

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