Wednesday remains Marvel review day, even if I might post a little later in the day. As a warning, this will likely happen for several weeks to come, as my schedule has changed a bit. BUT reviews are still happening. Today we talk about What If … Zombies!? and spoilers are ahead from here on out!
What was it about?
When Bruce Banner falls to Earth to warn everyone about Thanos’ arrival, he finds a planet entirely changed and now inhabited by … zombies.
I genuinely thought last week’s episode was dark, but this one was equally (if not partially more) sinister. In general, I was never a huge fan of the zombie genre, but I was curious to see what they would do with it paired with the Avengers and it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a comparison to the comic book storyline (because yes, there were zombies in the comics too), but it worked alright for me. That is … until the once again, super open and ambiguous end. I vowed not to complain so much about the episodes feeling rushed (which they still do), but I also haven’t made peace with the fact that it’s never really a closed story. Sometimes an open end is great, but sometimes … I just don’t know what to do with it. But let’s start at the beginning!
Just like in Infinity War, Bruce Banner crashes into the Sanctum Sanctorum to warn everyone of Thanos’ arrival. However, in this reality, Bruce finds Earth changed and seemingly deserted. That is until Bruce’s henchmen arrive to start a fight, just to be surprised by superpowered zombies in the shape of Tony Stark, Wong and Doctor Strange. It’s not often that I see zombies retain the abilities they had before they were changed.
Bruce eventually gets saved by Hope van Dyne, Strange’s cape and Peter Parker as we find out what happened on Earth.
In this version of events, Hank Pym also went to find his missing wife in the quantum realm, but the reunion went quite differently. Janet van Dyne contracted a quantum virus that corrupted her brain (aka turned her into a zombie) and because of her daughter’s unrelenting search for her, she managed to bring the virus back to our realm and infect large groups in no time. Once the Avengers joined the fight and got turned as well, the fate of humanity was more or less sealed.
If only it weren’t for a small group of survivors that still carried that torch of hope. In a very curious constellation, Hope van Dyne, Peter Parker, Happy, Bucky Barnes, Kurt (one of Scott’s friends, if you struggled to remember him as well), Sharon Carter and Okoye as well as Bruce Banner now, all found themselves in New York, willing to give their all to save the planet.
The group gets a beacon that tells them that a potential cure has been found and in an attempt to get there, they lose a couple members. I have to say that, despite the scenes being fairly brief, the violence was definitely upped quite a bit. I never thought that I’d have to watch Sam get cut in half from top to bottom and Bucky react entirely nonchalantly, but here we are. I mean, he literally said “I should be sad, but I’m not”. To me, there were several quite gruesome moments.
Only Peter, Bruce, Bucky, Okoye and Kurt make it to the base that is supposed to hold the cure, just to find Vision there. He found out that his mind stone creates an aversion within the zombies, which ultimately led him to test his theory. He was able to save Scott, but only his head. A head that keeps floating around and just telling dad jokes. Typical Scott!
This is where Marvel really twists in the knife though! When everyone gets excited about potentially saving humanity, Vision turns dark. In reality, he has been luring people to his hideout in order to feed his zombie bride – Wanda. She is too strong and her zombie-condition can’t be cured, so he instead contained her and fed her, even holding T’Challa hostage.
I did not expect to get another appearance of Chadwick as T’Challa, but my heart sang again. This wasn’t nearly as happy as the last episode he was in, but yeah, I’ll take what I can get.
Ultimately, Vision can’t betray everyone he knows, while he also can’t let go of Wanda. He opts to destroy himself and give up the mind stone to the others, rather than leave her or kill her himself.
A Hulk vs. zombie Scarlet Witch fight ensues, while Peter, Scott’s head and T’Challa are the only ones making it off the base with the mind stone. Thankfully, Wakanda’s shields were strong enough to not have them fall pray to the zombie apocalypse. So, technically, there is still hope that they can fabricate a cure, if only it wasn’t for the small little detail everyone forgot – Thanos arrival.
The episode ends with an image of a zombie Thanos, who is wearing an infinity gauntlet with a full set of stones. To me, that means he defeated the remaining people in Wakanda and got the mind stone. I’m assuming his plans for the use of the gauntlet changed with his turn to a zombie, but I don’t know. I could speculate and form a dozen theories, but that’s the frustrating thing with these episodes sometimes. The end could mean basically anything and everything.
What did I learn from this episode? I still remember this thing going around TikTok or Twitter, where someone said that heroes would always sacrifice their love in order to save the world, whereas villains would burn down everything rather than let you go. Well, I think the What If … multiverse proves that our heroes are definitely willing to let it all go to hell for their loved ones. Just some more food for thought, because as the watcher said, all these stories (most of which often turn to a form of horror) started with love and hope/Hope.
Something I appreciate a lot with these episodes is how they replicate certain shots from the bigger MCU in animation. It was especially notable with Captain Carter’s episode, but continued to be utilized throughout the season thus far. This time around, for example, we saw a corrupted Steve Rogers still use his shield and it looked marred by blood, just like it did when John Walker misused it in TFATWS. It’s very smart cinematography, because it easily creates a connection and possible emotional memory to something familiar, but in a very subtle way.
In general, this episode offered a lot of imagery hinting at the fate of characters in different realities. There was Peter with the cloak/cape and him being Spider Supreme in another universe. Then there was Bucky with the shield (“guess this is the end of the line”), stepping up as the new “Captain America” in this version. It’s the little things that often only last a couple seconds, but that can be meaningful to viewers (although Sam is my Captain. Sorry not sorry).
Ultimately, I liked the episode, but I’ve enjoyed others even more. Maybe I’m not the right audience for an anthology series like this, but we’ve made it to episode 5 (which I believe to be the halfway point of the season), so I’m going to keep going with these little reviews/recaps.
Another week, another Loki review is right ahead. “Journey Into Mystery” was a wild episode, so please don’t read ahead if you haven’t watched it yet. This was your obligatory Spoiler warning!
What was it about?
Loki tries to survive after his pruning to get back to Sylvie, while she continues her mission to find whoever is behind the TVA.
For whatever reason, I keep thinking that this show will calm down for a bit, but they really deliver new insanity every single time. While I think that a lot of the theories people had after “The Nexus Event” came true, there was still so much tension, especially in the final minutes. It’s odd to say that it was exciting and yet, it also felt very familiar.
Only one more episode to go and I’m a little sad. We always get the “big bad” showdown in the finale and I’m just a teensy bit disappointed that they stuck to that format again. All three Marvel shows have been very formulaic in their build up, despite being very different in terms of style and content. Just think about it, episode 1 and 2 are always here to reintroduce the characters, then we get to know to the major players and problems of the season, the twist/reveal comes around two thirds into the show, followed by a penultimate episode that ends just before the big fight with the enemy. You can literally apply that to WandaVision, TFATWS and Loki every single time. It’s nice to know what to expect, but it’s also not that innovative the third time around?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break down what this episode showed us:
Loki is now in the Void. It’s a place at the end of time where all pruned people and reset timelines get dumped to be devoured by a cloud-monster named Alioth. He quickly gets taken in by a band of Lokis and learns abut what caused their respective Nexus events (which ranged from killing Thor to simply not wanting to be alone). As per usual, a bunch of Lokis cannot co-exist without betrayal though, so there’s even warring factions. It was hilarious to see Loki be exasperated at how annoying Lokis can be.
Sylvie and Renslayer have a talk, which ends with Sylvie pruning herself to escape. Ravonna is far too calm and casual about her worldview crumbling for my taste. No matter how often it is mentioned this episode, I don’t feel like she is seething or angry at the reveal. To her, it doesn’t really change anything about her purpose, just who she reports to and obviously she wants to know who that person is.
In the Void, Sylvie runs into Mobius, who managed to not get eaten by Alioth thus far. He picks her up in a car and brings her up to speed. In every conversation Sylvie had, be it with Ravonna or Mobius, saving Loki never seemed like a priority to her. Instead, she is single-mindedly focused on getting back at whoever is behind the TVA. As B-15 put it, Ravonna wants it, but Sylvie needs it.
It doesn’t take long until we get a Sylvie-Loki reunion, where I’m pretty sure he had to stop himself from just running into her arms, while she stood there. I wish this episode had finally put a label on what their feelings for one another are, because I feel like that is single-handedly the most controversial topic of the season. Loki trusts and believes in Sylvie, which is rare and monumental for him. She puts her faith in him as well and they prove that they are stronger together, but … what are those feelings? They stare into each others eyes all lovey-dovey, hold hands with intertwined fingers, share a blanket (and yes, they are both technically Jotun and shouldn’t be able to feel cold and might have both pretended to be cold to get closer? Or we have major story inconsistencies …), but at the end of the day Sylvie still said “I never had a friend before”.
I don’t enjoy prescribing romantic feelings to people that don’t actually share them, but not even Herron (director) and Waldron (showrunner) managed to not contradict each other on what the Sylvie-Loki-relationship is. One of them said it doesn’t have to be romantic and the other one confirmed it is. Now the fandom invented a whole term just for Loki (“selfcest” has been in my mentions way too much since) and no one knows what to think anymore. Some clarity would be nice, because this back and forth (“I’ve never done this before”/”I don’t even know what we’re doing”) is getting on my nerves to be honest.
The Mobius and Loki scenes on the other hand couldn’t have been more heartfelt and clear. It was so lovely to see them reunited and hug. Mobius calling Loki his favorite will sustain me until next week and I just cannot wait for him to burn the TVA to the ground.
Fun fact: There were SO many Easter Eggs in the Void. If you saw that jumping figure in the mason jar when the Lokis descended into the underground bunker, you just got a tiny glimpse of Throg (=Thor + frog). They really did him dirty with that cameo, but it was a nice comic book reference. Other references included but aren’t limited to a giant Yellowjacket helmet, the Helicarrier, Chitauri Leviathans, Mjolnir, the Thanos Copter, …
When Sylvie decided to enchant Alioth, I knew it was going to be hard. The VFX team did an outstanding job though and it looked absolutely epic. All the Lokis really did the most with their powers and they truly are so much more powerful than we knew. They have such a broad variety of powers.
Classic Loki really was the MVP this episode. He went out with a bang, laughing like a maniac and fulfilling his very own glorious purpose – the way he was supposed to!
Finally, who is behind the veil at the end of time? Many people think it has to be Kang, but I believe Jonathan Majors when he says he’s not in the show yet. It would be a great link to Ravonna and potentially Ant-Man 3, but there’s still one more option – King Loki. If I remember correctly, he was shown in the trailer, but didn’t appear yet. (We had Classic, Kid, Boastful, President and Alligator Loki though). Obviously, there could still be someone behind King Loki and that someone could be Kang (kind of like Thanos was behind Loki’s actions in the first Avengers movie), but I’m just trying to lower expectations. We don’t want another Mephisto situation … and the pattern in previous Marvel shows proved to us that the “big bad” isn’t someone new (It was Agatha all along and Sharon Carter was the Powerbroker).
So, I liked that we were right about pruned people and things ending up in the Void. It was an easy guess and therefore made some scenes last week less impacting. Knowing that Mobius and Loki were likely fine really took out the severity, but it’s still always nice to be right. I’m not sure if I prescribe to the idea that all Lokis are the same, but I can get behind the idea that Sylvie is the only truly different one. Maybe that’s what makes her so special? We shall see, but I definitely love her by now. The truly sad thing is that (no matter if I believe in the Sylki relationship or not) I have a feeling that Sylvie might not make it past this season … they can’t actually let a Loki have nice things.
I feel ready for the finale now, but at the same time I dread that it’s over. I found myself very attached to the Marvel shows this year and to know there’s “only” movies coming in the near future doesn’t exactly have me at ease.
You know how it works, but I will repeat it either way that the following review/recap of episode 5 called “Truth” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will include spoilers and is meant to be read after watching the show! You have been warned!
What was it about?
Walker has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, while Sam turns inward to figure out his next move.
I don’t believe a lot of the sites that spread rumors about cameos and episode lengths (we all know where that got us wit WandaVision), but “Truth” really was the longest episode of the season thus far. I’m phrasing it like that, because if we detract the endless credits, it really was only fives minutes longer than previous ones. Still, I enjoyed it a lot.
On the one hand, there was a lot happening and happening fast, but this felt like a more quiet episode compared to the others. We finally got some really great introspective moments with Sam and I cannot wait what it will lead up to in next week’s finale. Considering that this was the penultimate episode and we still had a lot of loose ends, I thought it made everything come together and moved it towards a singular destination quite well. I’ve mentioned this before, but I doubt any of the MCU shows will be completely resolved in their storylines, but I like where The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is headed.
Let’s break down what happened in “Truth”:
Sam and Bucky don’t hesitate to confront John Walker after his unhinged execution of the Flag Smasher. In his delusion, he still believes he can be Captain America and that the man he killed was actually responsible for Lemar’s death. The fight that ensues is brutal and results in a glitching arm for Bucky, ripped off wings for Sam and John Walker’s arm getting broken in order to take the shield from him. In a gesture that could be an admission that the shield is rightfully his (but had underlying tones of disgust for it being soiled with blood), Bucky throws the shield to Sam, who cleans it.
We haven’t seen much of Torres in the past episodes, but he still is as much of the upbeat puppy as when we first met him. I don’t know if I am projecting on him, but it always feels like he is fangirling over Sam and Bucky just as much as me. When Sam turns to leave and Torres reminds him of the broken wings he left behind, Sam tells him to keep them, turning this into another hint that Joaquín Torres will be the next Falcon.
John’s murder spree is a huge international incident and we soon see him stripped of his title, authority, benefits and retirement. I wish real life consequences for perpetrators like him would also be as swift, but at least they held him accountable immediately, even if he doesn’t seem to have to serve any kind of sentence? The people in charge credit their lenient decision on his infallible behavior thus far, making Walker get even madder, because he only ever did what he was told. I can’t help but agree that these people made him into who he is now, or at least were partially responsible for it. Letting him just walk off still seemed incredibly dangerous though.
As Walker and his wife talk about their next steps (he wants to run away, she wants him to meet with Lemar’s family) we get an appearance I did not see coming. Enter Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine! (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) I can’t tell who or what exactly she will be in the MCU, but in the comics, she was a former SHIELD agent turned terrorist, also known as Madame Hydra. She used to date Fury but also flirted quite a bit with Steve, which led to a frosty relationship with Sharon Carter, who was dating him at the time. All of this obviously won’t be replicable on the show, but there are many possibilities for her role in all of it. Is she the power broker? Does she work with the power broker? Is she feuding with Sharon here as well? It’s interesting to introduce a character like her so close to the finale and it definitely isn’t a good sign that she is interested in Walker.
Last week, Zemo ran off, but it didn’t take Bucky long to find him in Sokovia and confront him. While Zemo tries to convince Bucky one last time that the only option to contain Karli is to kill her, he eventually just seems resigned to his fate when he gets taken in by the Dora Milaje. I’m glad Bucky came around and worked together with them. It seems like this was the end of Zemo’s storyline, which was a little anti-climactic, but at the same time necessary? He will live out his days at the Raft to pay for his crimes (which will be much harder to escape from), he did what he needed to do for our heroes and he even took the liberty of crossing off his name from Bucky’s book. There’s not much more he could possibly add in my humble opinion, unless you were just here for his snark and charm, which was obviously fun.
Sam, now in possession of the shield, meets with Isaiah to learn about what happened back in the day. The parallels of his accounts to real life events such as the Tuskegee experiments are still chilling. And you understand Isaiah’s anger and reluctance to have any part in this star-spangled madness, but at the same time you can see Sam struggling with what he learns. We as the viewers KNOW that Sam is everything Captain America is supposed to be. He deserves to carry that shield and title, but does America deserve him in that role?
“They will never let a black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting black man would ever want to be.”
After his talk with Isaiah, Sam goes home to his sister and nephews and a series of really amazing scenes follow. This episode showcased the importance of community, as Sam called in some favors and was gladly helped, because his family always made sure to help others as well. There’s a montage of Sam and Bucky, who joined him, fixing the family boat. Just two guys working side by side, no words needed. Sam and Bucky also finally have that heart to heart that they so direly needed, where Bucky admits that neither Steve nor he ever considered what it would feel like for a black man to be handed the shield. I liked that he acknowledged being unable to put himself into Sam’s shoes and apologizing for his previous behavior. That self-awareness is a great step in the right direction and their bonding moments are everything to me.
It is followed by some tough love from Sam, resulting Bucky to want to do the work and not look to others to define who he is anymore. He wants to make those people on his list, the ones he has wronged, feel better instead of making himself feel better about what he did. And while there are many, he just needs to start with one and I wonder if we will meet Yori from episode 1 again. Either way – baby steps. They part ways, but it is pretty clear that they will always be there for each other when needed, because they are a team, whether they want to admit it or not.
The montage of Sam training with the shield was everything! He doesn’t need superstrength to wield it either.
Sam also has a lovely moment with his sister after they fixed the boat. She ends up not wanting to sell it, making Sam incredibly happy, because that boat is part of their history and it would be a shame to let go of it. This mirrors the conversation he had with Isaiah, where he revealed that the government erased him, his history. They had been doing it to Black people for 500 years and to not let Sam get his history taken away was a great moment. Also, while Sam told Bucky to not let others define who he is, it is Sam who needs the reminder from his sister that Isaiah cannot dictate how he handles the legacy of the shield. The continued connection between the scenes was amazing.
Before I forget it, Bucky and Sarah meeting was the cutest thing ever! Despite Sam telling Bucky to not flirt with his sister, I ship it. Their smiles were so wide and genuine and adorable.
Sharon, once again, was only briefly in this episode and I have no idea what to think. She called Batroc, who we remember from the movies as well as the first fight scene in episode 1 of the show, to get him a job. She was responsible for him not rotting in an Algerian prison and it sounded like she was the one calling the shots on his last mission. A mission where he fought the Falcon and now wants revenge on him. If you didn’t believe Sharon was involved in some shady stuff before (which you should, considering that she was literally an illegal arts dealer in a city full of mercenaries and pirates), you should now. I am unclear what her end goal is and I’m a bit impatient about the show holding back on her story so much.
At the end of the episode, a fed up Karli is ready to attack. The GRC is holding a vote on what to do with the refugees and she is not about to just let them to do what they want. In order to reach her goal, she is partnering up with Batroc, who wants to kill the Falcon in return for his help. (Did Sharon just set up Sam? Or did she use Batroc to get to Karli?) Every episode, Karli’s inner circle questions her more and we could see they weren’t thrilled to work with a known criminal. I wonder how deep their loyalty to her really runs …
Back home, Sam realizes what Karli has planned and gets the box Bucky brought from the Wakandans (a favor he called in and which Ayo seemingly granted, although she had just told the White Wolf to make himself rare in Wakanda) to join the fight in New York City where the GRC meeting is attacked. We still don’t know what’s in the box! Is it new wings? Is it a Captain America suit? It BETTER be the suit! I cannot wait to find out!
We have a post-credit scene again! The first one of the season and it shows Walker making his own shield, clearly still not having let go of the idea that he is Captain America and has to avenge Lemar.
In general, I thought it was a really good penultimate episode. We moved along quite a lot in the plot, got great character moments for almost everyone, but especially Sam. I wanted that for him so bad and the show delivered, even if there is still a lot of pain involved. I honestly am excited and cannot wait to see what the finale holds in store for us! A showdown with Walker and Karli is more or less guaranteed.
Fun fact I posted last week, but wasn’t sure if everyone saw: Marvel has set up a tourism website for Madripoor, which you can visit under exploremadripoor.com. It will let you click through several pages with hidden images and wanted posters. If you need passwords to enter certain areas, I also got you!
The art auction can be entered with the code “sharoncarter” and the docks with “powerbroker”. When you are in the container area, you may also search for any random container you like by entering a four-digit-number. E.g. 1273 will show you Sharon’s wanted poster, whereas 4261 was the container Dr. Nagel was in and will show footage from episode 3. Allegedly, some containers used to show names of X-Men such as Mystique, but have since been removed.
AND the string of numbers on the wanted posters for each character feature the date and issue the characters made their comic book debut. As I said, Marvel and its little details.
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