Loki: Episode 2 “The Variant” Review

So, as I’ve mentioned last week, I won’t be able to post reviews or recaps of Loki as soon as the episode airs each time, but I will always post on the day it releases. I hope you’ll all bear with me on those days and beware of spoilers moving forward!!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Loki is integrated into the TVA as a special consultant. No one trusts him, but can he still weasel his way into their hearts?

My thoughts?

I’m having a blast with this show. I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to keep up these episodes that are on the long side or not, but I think it really works for the format. There’s a lot of new information, considering the timelines, variants, new characters and so on, which makes me glad they aren’t rushing it or making me, as the viewer, feel overwhelmed. Yes, there is always intrigue and a bit of a cliffhanger, but that is only suitable for a show that airs weekly and needs to keep people hooked.

Let’s break down what we learned and found out this episode:

  • Loki did a little TVA training session with Miss Minutes and got to watch more educational videos. I think it’s funny that they put so much effort in him, considering that they don’t have any faith in him. He’s a smart guy though, so even if he was bored by most of it, he clearly understood the key teachings and information.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • After the Variant has struck again and taken a hostage for the first time (C-20, as all hunters seem to only have designations instead of names), Mobius takes Loki to the scene, where he tries to cause chaos. He clearly has ulterior motives in helping the TVA, but Mobius sees through him. I continue to really enjoy their dynamic, because Loki needs someone in his life who doesn’t buy into his bullshit and knows how to counter his behavior effectively.
  • During a meeting with Ravonna, Mobius has to justify why he wants to keep Loki on. He feigns to not care, but I, just like Loki, can’t help but wonder what sparked that intense interest in the trickster. He really is a specialist on him and I don’t know if it’s because he had to deal with so many of his variants (which were hilarious by the way) or because this Loki is his favorite and he actually feels a hint of sympathy. Either way, it’s fun to watch and try to figure out.
  • Loki is tasked to study the previous variants and that’s when he finds out about the destruction of Asgard. He is such a familiar character to me and I keep forgetting that he doesn’t know about most of these events. Even in the memory theater, he barely watched any scenes, but you could see the genuine emotion in his eyes, despite him covering that all up real quick. I don’t, in general trust Loki, because he is arrogant, deceptive and always has a hidden plan, but I love it when Tom gives us these moments of vulnerability with Loki.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Through the research, Loki comes up with the theory that the variant they are looking for hides within apocalypses, because whatever you do there won’t be noticeable as a time disturbance. He tests that theory with Mobius in Pompeii and I was kind of bummed that this wasn’t a bigger scene. Sometimes I think back to the trailer and how they showed so many things that turned out to be just tiny moments in episodes. It was still fun, but brief.
  • After getting the theory confirmed, Mobius and Loki try to find where the Variant could be hiding. They have a very interesting bonding moment together, as they take a break, where they talk about actual deep life questions. Loki clearly has his quarrels with the blind faith people put in the TVA and the Time-Keepers. I think it’s fair criticism, because as he said “No one bad is all bad and no one good is all good” and there must be a catch. They both ponder their lives and how ridiculous their existence sounds if you spell it out, but yet they do exist. It really makes you think about your own life, despite not being a magical person at all.

Fun fact: Roxxcart has been mentioned several times within the MCU before and seemed to have been some sort of evil corporation. Considering that they now seemed to have caused the apocalypse in 2050, they really did proper foreshadowing with it before.

  • Eventually, Mobius gets an idea and a mission quickly forms. They get to go, but B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) is still there to babysit Loki, because there is no way that woman will ever trust him (as she shouldn’t).
credit: Marvel Studios
  • During the mission, the team splits up!
    • Mobius and some hunters find C-20, who was taken hostage and seems completely out of it. She claims she gave away how to find the Time-Keepers, which peaked my interest. Mobius, a presumably quite high-ranking analyst, has never even met them. Do hunters know where the Time-Keepers are? Ravonna is supposedly in contact with them, and they are very eager to get the Loki matter resolved, but all the information on them is highly classified.
    • Loki “meets” his Variant, who can possess people and move from one body to the next by touch. I’ve never seen “our” Loki do that, so it was really interesting to see a different power. They talk, they fight, they clearly both think they are the superior Loki. Eventually, my suspicions from last week were confirmed though and the Variant was revealed to be Lady Loki. (Although she doesn’t bare much resemblance to her comic counterpart and doesn’t like to be called Loki. Maybe there’s still more there!) She sets off all the reset charges she collected over time at once and therefore bombs the sacred timeline, causing it to split into multiple streams all at once. In short, this means we are definitely getting a multiverse. I think?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • In a final scene, we see Lady Loki disappear through a portal and Loki contemplating whether he should follow her or not. Mobius comes running and doesn’t want him to go, obviously, but I could have sworn I saw actual hesitation on Loki’s part. It seemed to me he was warring with himself on whether to earn the trust the TVA had put in him, or seize his chance at whatever ploy Lady Loki was involved in. He chose the latter and followed Lady Loki through the portal just as the episode ended. 

The show continues to juxtaposition deep existential questions with bouts of humor. I think Loki is the perfect character for that kind of content and the TVA the perfect setting. I honestly didn’t expect them to reveal the whole Lady Loki thing so early on, but it was massively satisfying to have been right on the matter. I can’t wait to see what happens next week and the rest of the season, because they just unleashed pure chaos. I’ve tried to keep this review a bit shorter, as I’ve really just recapped most things in previous posts and they got a bit out of hand, but I hope you still enjoy them and I’ll see you again next Wednesday!

Ravonna Renslayer insert: Last week, I mentioned that Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character was not mentioned by name, but a couple hours after the episode aired, it was confirmed she was portraying Ravonna Renslayer. I thought it would be fun to imagine her bigger part in the MCU based on comic information, even if she supposedly is quite different here.
The thing is that Ravonna definitely isn’t a purely “good” character, so it’s fascinating to me that she is a judge within the TVA. Through tumultuous events, she was often associated with Kang the Conqueror, who is scheduled to appear in Ant-Man 3 (Quantumania), which could mean a link for future appearances for her outside of Loki!

credit: Marvel Studios

PREVIOUS LOKI REVIEWS


What did you think of this week’s Loki episode? Are you enjoying the journey? Did you guess the reveal? Let’s talk!

Loki: Episode 1 “Glorious Purpose” Review

As you can see due to the existence of this post, I have decided to review Loki on a weekly basis (as I did with WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). I won’t always be able to post right after the episode has aired, but will do my best to get the review out on the day of the release. Now, here’s your traditional warning that the following review/recap does include Spoilers and is meant to be read after watching the episode!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

After stealing the tesseract during the Avenger’s time heist, Loki finds himself captured by the elusive TVA. What do they want from him and will he comply?

My thoughts?

Loki, God of Mischief, has always been one of my favorite characters in the MCU. Tom Hiddleston has made the role his own early on, garnering a lot of sympathy from the viewers. I personally always enjoyed that we got character growth and depth to him, but it never felt like he was truly redeemed. It was always, always, always clear that Loki was unreliable and untrustworthy, even if he made better choices towards the end. With this show, we start back at square one though, because all of that development hasn’t happened to this version of Loki yet. He had just tried to conquer New York City and was stopped by the Avengers, so much of what we know about him was still to come, but then he escaped with the tesseract during the botched time heist.

Much like Loki, we get thrust into things without any prior knowledge of the Time Variance Authority or TVA (at least not within in the MCU). I’m going to do my best to break down what we have learned throughout the episode:

  • After having escaped from NYC, Loki is quickly found by the Minutemen – field agents of the Time Variance Authority who capture variants (people deviating from their supposed time stream) throughout time. They have gadgets and technology that we get to learn more about throughout the course of the episode, but that also keep you guessing as to how exactly they work and what they do. Here are a couple examples:
    • a device that slows down the person to 1/16th of their speed, although they continue to feel everything in real time.
    • a reset charge, presumably used to reset a rogue time stream. We later find out that this is a device sought out by a particular variant, who doesn’t hesitate to kill in order to get them.
    • a collar that allows the agents to control the person via a time switch.
  • Our introduction to the TVA and their purpose was done quite humorously. In a brief educational video, which was beautifully animated in a nostalgic style of comics back in the 60s, the TVA’s “mascot” Miss Minutes – a talking clock – explains what’s going on. To summarize, the world was once in chaos, with various time streams in the multiverse all battling for dominance until the Timekeepers took it upon themselves to merge them all and create the sacred timeline.
    Deviating from said sacred timeline could create a Nexus event, which could lead to madness and another multiversal war. If all of that doesn’t ring a decisive bell for WandaVision (Wanda being a nexus being) and the upcoming Doctor Strange movie (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) then I don’t know. We’ve been burned before by speculating too much, but this does seem like a convenient set up for future MCU content.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • With the TVA, there’s also an onslaught of new characters. We don’t really get to find out most people’s names, although Wunmi Mosaku, as a relentless agent, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as a TVA judge, are sure to continue playing important roles in that universe. I loved how Wunmi Mosaku’s character was having none of Loki’s nonsense and I could detect a certain entanglement of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius (the only one we get to know by name).
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Mobius is introduced by being on a case in France 1549. Another routine mission of Minutemen ended deadly for the agents and the TVA seems to know who was behind it. Incidents like this seem to have become a regular problem as of late, with the variant responsible always taking the reset charge after their crime (often characteristic stab wounds). When they interrogated a kid who saw what happened and he pointed towards a glass stain window depicting a devil, I thought they were trying to misdirect us to once again think Mephisto was behind it, but all of the previous comments they had made, pointed towards Loki being the culprit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Back at the TVA, Loki isn’t very cooperative. It makes sense, because he doesn’t understand what’s going on and he didn’t knowingly break the proper flow of time. When he accuses the Avengers of being the real culprits during his hearing, it turns out they were always supposed to travel back in time, but Loki just wasn’t supposed to escape. He is found guilty and sentenced to be reset, until Mobius steps in and recruits him as his asset (against his colleagues reservations).

Interesting fact: During the trial, the TVA refers to Loki as Loki Laufeyson, while he called himself Loki Odinson in the final movie he appeared in (Infinity War). It took him a long time to come to terms with his identity and to see it all reversed was a little sad.

  • From here on out, this is where we go deeper into Loki’s psyche. He tries to use all his old tricks, but Mobius is an expert on Loki’s life and not so easily fooled. Instead, he slowly takes the God of Mischief apart, questioning his life choices and showing him memories of Loki’s life, despite him not having lived those yet. It all accumulates in a couple fascinating realizations:
    • There’s no magic at the TVA and even infinity stones are useless. Somehow, the TVA is the most powerful thing in existence and that humbles even the a god. There were several instances where he seemed in awe and impressed by the agency, which is no easy feat.
    • Mobius told Loki that he was born to cause pain and suffering, so that others could achieve the best versions of themselves and that broke my heart. When Loki watches the death of his mother and father, his heart to heart with Thor and finally his own demise, you could see how it clicked in him that the “glorious purpose” he had always envisioned for himself was nothing but a scam. Losing your purpose like that, however silly it might have been, is usually an experience that changes you fundamentally.
    • When Loki finally admitted that he didn’t enjoy hurting people, but used it as an illusion to mask his weaknesses, you could really see that Mobius understood Loki. He knew that about him all along and just wanted him to admit it so he could truly recruit him for his mission. They are going to be an interesting duo!
credit: Marvel Studios
  • One of the memories shown from Loki’s life, to especially convey his talent for extraordinary escapes, reveals that he was actually D. B. Cooper, a man who hijacked an aircraft in the 70s between Seattle and Portland and was never caught. While I’m sure they thought this was a little fun addition to Loki’s lore, it made little sense to me. He claimed that he did that stunt due to a lost bet with Thor, but when we first meet Thor, he doesn’t seem to know much about earthly customs or anything of the like. Why would he dare Loki to steal a bunch of earth cash?
  • Ultimately, the big reveal was that the variant Mobius needs help with is a version of Loki. I guess he believes that only Loki can outwit Loki, but I didn’t find that reveal to be very shocking. As I mentioned earlier, I already guessed that he was the one they were looking for. When they then showed another team of Minutemen getting attacked in 1858 by a cloaked figure, I briefly thought “What if it’s Lady Loki?“, but they did use male pronouns to describe the variant. Then again, they also used male pronouns for the Power Broker and we all know how that turned out and that I was right …
credit: Marvel Studios

Fun fact: The show made sure to honor Stan Lee by including him as one of the time keepers in a painting. If you pay attention to the background a lot, it also looks like an agent brings in Peggy Carter (or someone who resembles her quite a bit) at one point.

While there was a lot of humor in the episode (I truly can’t get over Loki questioning whether he was a robot or that one agent not knowing what a fish is), it was also surprisingly emotional. Tom Hiddleston knows how to bring a certain gravitas to his roles, even if they are eccentric and deeply troubled gods, which makes his more reflective scenes all the more believable. I really felt for him when he had to deconstruct his life and realize that his oh so glorious purpose was all just a big illusion. I’m so glad we get to see more of him on our screens.

With 52 minutes (including credits), the episode was on the longer end of what we have come to know from the Marvel shows. I don’t know why, but I somehow expected it to be shorter and along the lines of WandaVision, but you won’t see me complain about more content. The start of the series definitely has caught my attention, although it’s very clear that it was used to set up what we will be facing in the weeks to come. Much like with TFATWS, we had to establish where everyone’s head is at before we can jump into the real action, so I’m sure the best is yet to come. However, I also think this will work for the many new viewers, who might not be familiar with every movie, because we rehashed a lot of previous events.


What are your thoughts on the first episode of Loki and its new characters and premise? Let’s talk about it!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ARC Review)

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: June 1, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: alcoholism, parental abandonment, loss of a loved one, adultification, mention of drug use, cheating

Many of my friends would probably gasp at the statement, but Malibu Rising was my first full length novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I had always meant to check out her books, had made plans so many times before, especially because I had enjoyed her novella Evidence of the Affair a whole lot, but apparently never followed through. I’m so very glad I remedied that now.

As we follow the Riva family through the decades, it is somehow easy to fall in love with all these characters. They felt real and flawed and relatable. With so many mentions of people that actually exist(ed), you were almost tempted to look up if their story was based on someone’s actual life.

As you alternate between the siblings Nina, Jay, Hub and Kit as grown-ups in the 80s and their parents June and Mick falling in love in the 50s, it becomes clear early on how these people shaped each other. While I first worried that some of the characters would get lost, there was a great balance between all of them and it felt astonishingly easy to follow their tale. Character traits as well as relationships to others but also money make a lot of sense when you consider the decisions made by those who came before you. It is all interwoven and shows how you can become the person you want to be because of or despite of your upbringing. My heart broke for these characters over and over and over again. I really just wanted to hold them and was proud of how they continued to trust in people and gave their love so freely even after the hardships they endured.

I have to say, as much as the book had me in the first half, it kind of lost me at times in the second one. I was so invested in the fate of the siblings, in their life story, I didn’t even really care if there was a bigger plot to it all. Just following their struggles and growth, seeing them get through it together, was enough for me. However, as much as I had forgotten the big life-changing party was going to take place later on in the book, it still came barreling in in the second half.
While I thought it was already bordering on too many POVs when we just had the siblings as well as their parents, Taylor Jenkins Reid doubled down and introduced many one-off POVs to show just how crowded and wild the party was getting. I understood that some of the fleeting perspectives added to the atmosphere, but overall, they weren’t necessary to further the story in my opinion. It all just became a bit too much and too disjointed for me.

Still, I cannot help but feel touched by all of it! Family and all its intricacies is one of my favorite topics to read about and Taylor Jenkins Reid managed to really bring that home. Each of the siblings was unique in their own way, but it was easy to find part of myself in each of them. The style of writing is engaging and manages to capture the flair of the setting and time period perfectly. I could picture everything in my mind as if I was watching a movie from back in the day. It’s rare that I read about a bunch of siblings who all love to surf with all their heart (something I know nothing about) and still feel so very connected to them. Definitely a read I will continue to cherish!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Very strong start with a bit of a jumbled second half, but still SO MUCH heart!


Do you plan on reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel? What is your favorite one by her you’ve read so far? Let’s talk!

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 362
Release Date: June 1, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

Advertised as “Practical Magic meets Twister“, The Nature of Witches immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard about it (those are legit two movies I adore with my whole heart). As much as I enjoy immersing myself in a high Fantasy concept, there’s something special about magic meeting our contemporary world, which this book does instead.
In this specific instance, witches have always lived among humans and helped them regulate the atmosphere and climate. But humans, as they tend to do in every reality it seems, wanted more. They went against the witches’ recommendations and tried to inhabit parts of the planet that should have been left to nature, always trying to push the limits further, until the Earth could take no more and the atmosphere became too erratic to be tamed by magic even.

As far as general premises go, this was something that interested me right away, because I loved the idea of mirroring our real life climate crisis in a magical way. However, the book only carried this idea as an underlying theme to propel the main character, Clara, further in her journey of accepting herself. Told from her POV, you mostly deal with her inner and very personal struggle. As an Everwitch, she can control magic no matter the season, whereas other witches are at their strongest or weakest depending on the time of year. Clara’s not just the only Everwitch there is, but because it has been so long since the last one lived, no one really knows what her powers entail, just that she is stronger and more dangerous and their only hope at counteracting the humans’ destruction. The danger in her abilities manifests specifically whenever she loses control, because her rampant magic seeks the people she loves the most and kills them, hence why she is reluctant to form any attachment to the people in her life.

While reading the book, I understood where Clara’s trauma came from. Imagine having powers you never asked for and that no one knows how to control, just to see them take every person you love from you at the slightest mistake. The conclusion that you would need to isolate yourself makes sense, but it still put the story in a repetitive loop, because not getting attached to anyone simply isn’t realistic. We are not even talking about romantic love here, but any kindness can make the heart grow fonder. Still, Clara focuses a lot on her romantic entanglements, which include her ex-girlfriend Paige and her current love interest Sang. I was personally more invested in Paige’s side of things, simply because she seemed like one of the few people willing to call out Clara when she was being self-centered and their history was really interesting. Sang, on the other hand, was one of the loveliest and sweetest characters. He was so supportive and exuded a calm that I wish I possessed too, but somehow I didn’t feel the depth of their love as much as it was described on the page.

All of this was a surprisingly quick read as you breeze through the seasons, but despite the dangerous situations the characters were put in, I didn’t feel the urgency of the plot. Usually, when it comes to magic, I try to just accept what I’m told, but I struggled a bit with the logistics. Here are a couple of examples that didn’t make sense to me entirely:

  • Every witch has their own seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) in which they are born, their personality is affected by and their magic is the strongest. However, seasons aren’t technically bound to certain months. They are marked by weather patterns and daylight hours, completely different depending on where you live on the planet. So, if a Summer witch didn’t want to see her powers wane after three months, wouldn’t they just be of better use in a different geographical area?
  • Clara had to live in a shed in the woods all by herself after a fatal incident with her powers, to make sure she wouldn’t get attached to any of her other classmates who lived together in dorms. This technically seems logical, but then they pair her with one person to train her alone, be it a teacher for years or a newly introduced person her age. If you spend time with someone in close proximity and they are your only close contact, you will form an attachment. People tend to grow on you over time, so this course of action was an odd choice for me, because it obviously counteracted what they were trying to do.
  • The big final plan (which I won’t go into detail about) was reckless, could have backfired so badly and was purely based on a hunch. Never mind that we don’t fully understand what happened or why it was necessary exactly, but it seemed to be a cure all.

Finally, this may not have been everything I’d hoped it would be, but the writing was beautiful, especially when it came to the weather and plant life. I also really liked the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were a nice touch and I don’t want to reveal anything, but loved how it came full circle in the final chapters. Something about them worked so well as affirmations, you didn’t even have to be a witch to feel like they could be helpful to you as well.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Very interesting concept and quick read, although it didn’t live up to my expectations!


Do you plan to read The Nature of Witches? What is your take on contemporary magical stories? Let’s talk!

My Thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix Adaptation!

It has been no secret just how very excited I was for the Shadow and Bone series (as well as the Six of Crows duology) to be adapted by Netflix. While the streaming platform doesn’t always get it right, I was really optimistic early on and the trailers looked fantastic. Before I watched it, though, I caught up on all the books as to really know what I am talking about (only Rule of Wolves is missing for me now, but that’s irrelevant for the show at the moment) and even before going into details on my thoughts, I think they did a great job!

Obviously, the Grishaverse is huge and vast and has quite the fanbase because of the books series. But not everyone has read those and Netflix offers a platform that exposes the material to millions of people all over the world. Not everyone will be happy with everything, but I would like share my personal opinions in the following post.

*I could not do this without going into detail on some topics, so this might not be for you if you want to go into the show with as little knowledge as possible. SPOILERS ahead!!!*

THINGS/CHANGES I DIDN’T LIKE

I want to get the “bad” things out of the way, because some of it really irked me. It did not overshadow my enjoyment entirely, because I binged the show in a day, but I find it necessary to point them out regardless.

  • Casting Jessie Mei Li as Alina was a beautiful choice. Jessie is a ray of sunshine and hence amazing to watch as the sun summoner. They have great chemistry with on screen partners and I’m so very glad they got cast for this role. In the books, Alina wasn’t biracial though. This was a choice made to bring more diversity to the on screen adaptation, but where they went wrong (in my opinion) was by adding anti-Asian slurs and racism to portray the treatment of people from Shu Han. Nowhere in the books was this kind of racism ever present and we are dealing with a Fantasy world where Alina already faces enough struggles and could have dealt with a number of different circumstances that made her feel othered if that was what they wanted to portray so badly. Every time they inserted a slur such as “rice-eater” or “half-breed” it felt forced and unnecessary and I imagine hurtful to certain audiences. The problem is that they never contextualize this behavior, because they simply claim that being at war with Shu Han is enough to warrant the hostility, but that’s really not the take they thought it was.
credit: Netflix
  • Amplifiers in the books, while still kind of barbaric, are jewelry made out of bones/scales/claws/etc. and can be anything from a necklace to a bracelet or ring. Grisha can only have one amplifier in their lifetime (yeah, I know exceptions exist) and can never take it off. The Grisha who killed the animal the amplifier is from has the power over it. I think that’s all pretty cut and clear, so, why did the show change them into some kind of body horror?
    When the Darkling puts the antlers on Alina, she does not get a badass necklace, but rather the antlers fuse into her collar bone, making it an extremely uncomfortable scene to watch. I worry about this change, not just because she eventually absorbs the antlers into her body entirely and they are not visible anymore at all, but also because it makes me feel that the producers thought putting a literal collar on a person was not horrific enough and they needed another violation of Alina’s body to showcase the Darkling’s evil nature. Apparently, people wouldn’t be put off enough by his disregard for consent and need to control everyone around him.
  • Speaking of the Darkling! Due to budget constraints and everyone adoring Ben Barnes (he is a great actor), they opted to not show the Demon in the Woods short story as part of a flashback, where the Darkling would have been only 10 years old, but rather showed a grown up Darkling. In that tidbit from the past, he seemed enamored with a Grisha called Luda, who did not exist in the books, but came across as a love interest in that scene. Her death causes the creation of the Fold, making it feel like fridging (where the girlfriend/wife/love interest of the male protagonist dies in order to propel his story). In an interview with Insider, the showrunner explicitly said they weren’t trying to do that and even actively tried to avoid it, but nothing in that scene told me they weren’t romantically involved. (You can read the interview here!)
    Also, I keep calling him the Darkling, because that’s how I knew him for 7 books. Yes, his first name is Aleksander, but in the books that’s revealed very late. His name is a mystery and Alina is the only person in that world to know it, which felt special, but here he just throws his name around like it means nothing. The show really humanised him a lot.
credit: Netflix

GENRAL STUFF I ENJOYED OR NOTICED

The following points that I will mention were neither huge mistakes nor masterful choices. I just collected some of my thoughts that I found interesting or necessary to mention to give you all a complete picture.

  • As someone who has read all the books, short stories and anthologies (Language of Thorns and Lives of Saints), I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the Grishaverse. However, had I been someone who didn’t have that prior knowledge, I could have easily seen myself struggle with some of the concepts. They really barely explained anything to do with Grisha orders, amplifiers or something as simple but vital as the belief systems (Fjerdan god vs. Ravkan sainsts etc.). I doubt that anyone could understand some of the important components to their full extent having none of that knowledge and background info. Whereas I understand it’s difficult to include, a little more would have been appreciated from my side.
  • While waiting for the show to release, I always said that I did not care about the faithfulness of the story, but rather about the accurate representation of the characters and their personality and I still stand by that. Yes, Jesper should have been played by a dark-skinned actor, but Kit Younger has his personality DOWN. And not just him, EVERYONE either behaved exactly like I imagined they would (even if they didn’t all look like they had in my head) or even improved on the characters by playing them softer and with more nuance and vulnerability (e.g. Matthias Helvar). I cannot wait to see who they will bring in for the twins, Nikolai and Wylan next season.
credit: Netflix
  • The overall pacing and the amount of story they packed into this first season was well handled. From what I heard, the showrunner has a three-season-plan, which would correlate nicely with the three Shadow and Bone books. I really hope that the next season would also start implementing the Six of Crows plot, because this was a nice prequel to their characters, but I need to see the big heist happening. However, since everything is more interconnected, they might change things up further and I’d be excited to see what that looks like.

SOME IMPROVEMENTS

In some cases, I even think that the show did better than the book. Having the ability to show several points of view, whereas Shadow and Bone the book only offered Alina’s side really gave them the chance to explore the characters some more. Also, it probably helped that the producers already knew about all the later books Leigh Bardugo wrote as well. Here’s some changes I thought worked well:

  • When I first read Shadow and Bone, I hated Zoya. She literally broke Alina’s ribs and just treated her terribly, because she was jealous. Early on in the books, there are few redeeming qualities to Zoya and while she improves over time, I always felt a grudge until I got her side of things in King of Scars. While she starts out similarly in the show, I was grateful that they allowed an insight into her backstory earlier in the season than in the books. She is such an important character, but I think audiences would have struggled later on, just like I did while reading, if they hadn’t softened her up.
  • I think I am part of a small group of people who actually liked Mal in the books, but I think Archie and the writing on the show made the character so much better. They scratched unnecessary and childish jealousy scenes (which was annoying but fine in the books, because they were younger) and genuinely made his connection to Alina seem sweet and fated. I’m so happy people are now actually rooting for them.
  • Milo the goat is the real MVP.

VERDICT

I loved seeing some of my favorite characters brought to life on the screen. My expectations were high and I could have easily been disappointed but I was really pleased with how everything came together. Shadow and Bone is by no means flawless, but the effort they put into wanting to do the material justice came through. I honestly didn’t know if I would understand the involvement of the crows before watching, but it was integrated beautifully and they provided some of the best parts of the season. If you enjoyed the books, I think you will like this as well. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone books, but only enjoyed Six of Crows, I can easily see you liking this better. 

credit: Netflix

Previous Reviews from this books series and Leigh Bardugo’s work:


Have you watched Shadow and Bone yet? Do you plan to? What were some of your favorite and least favorite moments? Let’s talk!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 6 “One World, One People” Review (Season Finale)

This is the review/recap for the season finale “One World, One People” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. As per usual, the following post is full of Spoilers and meant to be read after watching the show. Proceed with caution!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Sam takes on the mantle of Captain America and faces off against the Flag Smashers in one final battle (with the help of more than just his trusted friends). 

My thoughts?

Let me tell you, this episode was a rollercoaster of emotions for me! I cheered, I cried, I was in awe. In all sincerity, I don’t remember the last time I was so proud and appreciative of a character as I am of Sam Wilson. What Anthony Mackie brought to this role and what they allowed him to explore on this show was such a fantastic feast to watch and I’m forever grateful they chose these characters to dig deeper.

However, as much as I loved this journey I also have some small quarrels with the finale and as per usual, a lot to talk about. Without further ado (and because I know how lengthy these posts get) let’s dive in!

  • Sam Wilson is now officially and without a doubt in the world Captain America. I think that’s the most important part of the episode, so I just needed to get that right out of the way. Not only did he get new wings from the Wakandans, but also a badass Captain America suit to go with it and I couldn’t be happier. I love how he called himself Captain America when he showed up, how the cc captions called him Captain America the entire episode and even bystanders, because he truly is everything Cap stands for. I’m not exaggerating when I say I squealed with joy every single time it was said.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • From last episode, we pick up again with GRC being on lockdown and getting evacuated but in actuality kidnapped by the Flag Smashers. Bucky is already on scene, Sharon is also there as support (for a second I thought she was a skrull, but she just wore a mask) and you can be sure that John Walker is on his way as well. As always, the fight choreography is outstanding and the action really goes on for the majority of this episode. There’s fights on different fronts and between different people, they really tried to cover their ground with everyone here. I don’t really see the point in rehashing all of them, but here are some noteworthy developments:
    • Sam vs. Batroc: It was interesting to see Sam actually use the shield to fight for the first time. Not all moves worked perfectly yet, but he had a really good handle on it and that training montage from last week paid off.
    • Bucky will always prioritize saving people over fighting someone and it was so nice to see him smile when people thanked him for that. He’s a good guy and the winter soldier no longer has a grasp on him.
    • When Walker showed up, I wasn’t on his side. That man is deranged and needs psychological help. I am still shocked his DIY shield didn’t crumble to pieces, but I did feel sad when he confronted Karli and she said that Lemar’s life didn’t matter. It showed just how far she was gone and, once again, her willingness to sacrifice people for her cause made her inner circle waver in their trust and loyalty to her. They still went with her plan, but she was beyond jaded at that point.
    • Walker was presented with a similar dilemma as Bucky. He could either go after Karli or save a convoy of GRC representatives and I was not sure what he would do, but he ultimately also opted to help people rather than fight. I honestly wasn’t sure that’s what he would go for, but I also don’t know how I felt about that “redemption arc” for Walker in general. As I said above, he is an incredibly unstable man and that’s due to untreated PTSD among other things, but his “team up” with Sam and Bucky just felt off. I get that they had a common foe in that moment, but it made me feel so uncomfortable to have him on the good side?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • I almost called it one of the biggest reveals of the episodes, but it really was pointing towards it all along, so, I’m going to call it one of the confirmations of the season and that’s the fact that Sharon is the Power Broker. I know that a lot of people will not be happy with that development and it is far removed from comic book Sharon’s persona. I don’t think it’s out of character for MCU Sharon, but I can definitely see fans being upset that a character they liked wasn’t treated right by the movies/shows … again.
    In a heart to heart with Karli it is revealed that Sharon is indeed the Power Broker. She had taken Karli in because she reminded her of a younger self, but whereas Sharon wants to control the world that hurt her, Karli wants to change it, making their differences irreconcilable. I don’t think we got a lot of Sharon’s reasoning in that scene, the audience rather has to piece that together on assumptions what she had to go through while in exile. Believe me, I don’t fault Sharon for what she did and making the most of her skillsets, but I would love more depth to it.
  • In a last battle between Karli and Sam, he refuses to fight her. No matter how much she wants him to hit her back, he stands firm, but in a stand-off, Sharon takes it into her own hands to save Sam and kills Karli in the process. I’m sure this hurt Sharon, because she was her protegee, but I can also see her doing it as an insurance policy so that no one knows her identity as the Power Broker (just like she presumably killed Batroc because of the same reason – I phrase it like that, because we never saw a body after the lights went out).
  • Karli ultimately dies in Sam’s arms, apologizing with her last breath. I’m sad that’s how Karli’s story ended, making her a martyr when other characters were given redemption instead. All the while, Bucky and Walker use the Flag Smasher app to round them up and arrest them.
  • One of the most beautiful and meaningful moments of the episode and the first real emotional scene after the fighting is done comes when Sam talks to the GRC. His speech is live-broadcasted everywhere as he presses for the GRC to reconsider their stance and does so masterfully. His words really hit home and I was with him every single second of that scene. It all boiled down to how you use the power you are given, a message that has been woven into the series as a whole.
  • As the Flag Smasher super soldiers were supposed to get transported to the Raft, we can see their car explode. It was caused by Zemo’s butler, who ultimately made sure that Zemo’s plan to not let any super soldiers (aside from Bucky) live was being seen through. I honestly didn’t expect to see him again this episode, but oh wow, did he look happy when he heard that they did not survive the explosion. I can’t help but wonder what he would do if he knew that Walker had taken the serum too. Does he know?
  • Valentina also came back this episode and is still as mysterious as ever. I cannot tell who she is working with, but she officially made John Walker U.S. Agent and I did not like that one bit. I suppose it was always going to go this way, but the fact that he gets to operate officially as U.S. Agent after what he did as Captain America is wrong on so many levels.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Bucky really listened to Sam last week and made some more amends. We can see him telling Yori the truth about his son and then gifting his notebook with all the names crossed off, accompanied by a thank you card, to his therapist Dr. Raynor. It was brief, but none the less emotional and I am happy to see Bucky on a journey to healing.
  • Whenever Anthony Mackie and Carl Lumbly (as Isaiah Bradley) have shared the screen this season, they have given us amazing scenes together. This finale was no exception and my heart soared when Isaiah admitted that Sam was someone special. You could really see that glimmer of hope returning to his eyes and it made me so happy. Even more emotional was the moment Sam showed Isaiah and Eli an installation in Steve Roger’s museum, which was specifically dedicated to Isaiah’s life and good deeds. Him returning his history to him, making sure people would never forget what he sacrificed ever again – I love when a story comes full circle!
credit: Marvel Studios
  • The season ends with Bucky in Sam’s hometown, joking with kids and letting them play with his arm and people fawning over Sam. The music, the atmosphere, the imagery – everything was so much brighter, happier and more hopeful and I adored that as a conclusion! Also, I could have just interpreted too much into it, but I liked that Bucky was on Sam’s right in that final shot, because Steve is always going to be on his left.
credit: Marvel Studios

Post-credit scene: Once again, the final episode had a post credit scene where we see Sharon Carter getting her full pardon, as Sam promised he would make sure she’d get. It’s clear that she is going to use her reinstated title to further her business as the Power Broker, setting her up to be a future antagonist.

credit: Marvel Studios

I think it was clear that I loved a lot of moments in this final episode. I do have my quarrels with the lack of depth for Sharon as the Power Broker, because that was all very vague, but could also be a potential set up for future seasons/movies. And in addition to that, I didn’t like this attempted “redemption” for John Walker. I’m not sure that really conveyed the right message there, but then again, they didn’t say he was good … for now. I’d much rather focus on the character development we got for Sam and Bucky and how much I’m going to miss them for now. I am sure we will see these characters again in some of the upcoming movies, but even more so, I hope we see them once more for a season of

Captain America and the Winter Soldier

(although I think it should be Captain America and the White Wolf, but baby steps)


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Now, let me bid you goodbye with these weekly Friday reviews for now! I might see you again when Loki comes around. Please let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested in! And of course, let’s talk all things Captain America and the Winter Soldier!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 5 “Truth” Review

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!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Walker has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, while Sam turns inward to figure out his next move.

My thoughts?

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.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • 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.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • 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.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • 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!
credit: Marvel Studios

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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What did you think of Truth? Did you enjoy it or wanted something more action packed for the penultimate episode? Let’s talk!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 4 “The Whole World Is Watching” Review

As I say every week, here is your little Spoiler warning for the following post, which is a review/recap for episode 4 “The Whole World Is Watching” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Proceed with caution if you haven’t watched yet!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Bucky buys some time with the Dora Milaje in order for Zemo to help them find Karli. All the while, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins are also on their trail.

My thoughts?

This episode – there’s a lot to unpack!

When Sebastian Stan said that episode 4 was one of his favorite episodes (please don’t make me look up that particular interview, there’s been so many), I thought it would be full of banter and fun, but this episode was really dark. I’m not sure if it was just me, but even some of the one-liners that were put in for comedic relief didn’t hit home as much as in previous episodes and just felt out of place at times.

With only two more episodes to go, the narration is getting tighter, although I still feel like we are far from being able to tie things up. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has brought up so many different topics and while they start to all come together instead of being separate stories, it’s still a big undertaking for the remaining screentime. I’ve thought about this ever since WandaVision ended, but I am not sure The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will end on a real conclusion either. I could see them using these shows to set up future movies in a more elaborate way, especially since they are so hell bent on making all the content one big universe and interconnected.

credit: Marvel Studios

After last week’s appearance of Ayo, which really shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering that Wakanda would never let Zemo just walk free (Sam warned Bucky), we start off this week with a little flashback. Six years ago, Ayo (alongside Shuri and possibly other members of the Dora Milaje) was instrumental in freeing Bucky from the grasps of the Winter Soldier. I don’t think anyone could feel untouched at Bucky’s smile when he finally realized he was free. He owes so much to the people of Wakanda, for giving him a refuge when needed, restoring his arm and mind and you can see he does not enjoy having to barter for Zemo’s life, but he needs him. Ayo grants Bucky an 8 hour extension until they come for Zemo, therefore setting the timeline for the episode.

Side note: Marvel has not been great at featuring a lot of LGBTQIA characters so far. I am not saying there are none, but they are few and far between, so, please don’t ship Ayo with Bucky? I know it’s tempting, but Ayo is a canon lesbian in the comics and I’d really love it if they didn’t erase her sexuality.

So, let’s try and break down what all happens:

  • Sam, Bucky and Zemo visit a GRC camp of internationally displaced people in order to get some information on Donya Madani. Sam suspects that since she was such an essential mother figure for many people in the camp, there would be a wake or funeral with Karli in attendance.
    While no one really seems to trust Sam or Bucky, Zemo made some new friendships with children by offering them Turkish delight. Not going to lie, I was very conflicted about how to feel. For one, don’t let strange men give your kids candy and second, it just had very odd White Witch of Narnia vibes for me. Ultimately, he did get the information they needed, but ever since Zemo’s return he has always made sure to stay useful.
  • While Sharon is still in Madripoor and not a huge part of the episode, Sam remains in constant contact with her, after asking for some more help. She uses her resources to be the eyes and ears of the team via some surveillance. Sharon also mentions that the power broker went “apeshit” when he heard about Nagel’s death. Despite last week’s episode title, we still don’t know much about who the power broker is. Sharon having taken on that mantle was just one of the theories, but there have been many indications that we have not met all the players yet. With only two episodes to go, I hope they won’t take until the last minute to reveal the identity.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • John Walker and Lemar Hoskins unfortunately intercept Bucky, Sam and Zemo before they can get to Donya’s funeral and therefore Karli. However, the scenes that follow are the beautiful proof of why Sam Wilson should be the next Captain America instead of John Walker.
    While Walker is eager to just grab Karli and fight, Sam can sympathize with her struggle and would rather want to talk. During their scene together, you can clearly see Karli opening up and realizing that her actions could be perceived in different ways than she intended and that Sam has a point. If it hadn’t been for John waltzing into their conversation, Sam might have actually gotten through to her and a lot of the coming pain could have been avoided.
  • In the ensuing chaos, Zemo manages to shoot Karli (not fatally) and destroy the serum she had kept safe until then. That is, all except for one syringe, which John Walker pockets for himself.
  • Back at Zemo’s hideout, things escalate further. When Walker and Sam almost go head to head (without the shield), the Dora Milaje interrupts to take Zemo. Like so many times before, Walker makes an utter fool of himself and starts a fight with the Dora Milaje. Time and time again, he proves that he does not know when to stop or when not to fight. His first go to response is violence, even when he cannot win, maybe because it is the only thing he has ever done.
    Eventually, Bucky and Sam step in because Walker and Lemar thoroughly get their asses kicked, which Zemo uses to his advantage and flees. A noteworthy observation from that fight is that the Dora Milaje knows how to disarm Bucky (quite literally, by removing his arm), which he wasn’t aware of prior and seems like a huge deal to me. For those wondering what she said to him in Wakandan after the arm fell to the ground, she said “Bast damn you, James”. Bast is a Wakandan deity.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Karli, trying to regroup with her fellow super-powered Flag Smashers, realizes that she can’t fight on several fronts at once. Not only is the power broker after her, but also the new Captain America, so she makes a decision to contact Sarah Wilson and suss out if she can get Sam on her side. I think contacting and threatening Sam’s family was not only a bold but dangerous move. There’s no way he would have ever taken to that threat lightly.
  • The meeting gets interrupted by the fact that Walker found the Flag Smashers hideout and is attacking them, sending Sam, Bucky and Karli on their way to help. While Lemar gets taken in order to separate him from Walker, it turns out that John already took the serum to be on an even playing field with the other super soldiers. As everyone fights to support their side, Lemar eventually gets free and jumps in to have his friend’s back. Karli, possibly underestimating her strength, but maybe just trying to win, deals a fatal blow to Lemar. This is the final drop for Walker, who had been on edge for a while now and cannot take the loss of his friend. In a frenzy, he pursues one of the Flag Smashers and publicly executes him with the shield. This scene is all the more darker when you think back to the fact that this particular Flag Smasher was a fan of Captain America when he was a child. As I watched on in horror, the people witnessing the scene filmed it in shock, making the episode title come true in this devastating moment.
    Not only was this scene a gruesome reminder of real life footage of police and other people committing violence against people on tape, but it was also a direct cinematic parallel to Civil War. Steve Rogers once held that shield up to crash down on Tony, but instead of decapitating or killing him, he disabled the power source of Tony’s suit instead.
  • I am furious that it was Lemar who died. That viewers once again had to see a black man brutalized on TV (just like it was really unnecessary to show Monica get shot in slow motion in the finale of WandaVision), but the show set it up this way, so that it could not be any other character. He was the only one Walker would care about so much that he would snap. And while I do not like John Walker, who has forever disqualified himself as a worthy Captain America, I think Wyatt Russell is playing the nuances of the character great. As much as it pains me to watch him.
credit: Marvel Studios

A lot of this episode talked about whether the super soldier serum should be taken at all. I loved Sam’s quick answer to never wanting the serum compared to Lemar’s immediate opposite response when asked the same question. The episode showcased different opinions, such as Zemo’s radical belief that all super soldiers are a form of supremacy, the Flag Smasher’s need for action and their conviction that superheroes no longer have the luxury of keeping their hands clean, but also the thought experiment that it might just amplify your inner self and with that who you truly are. There was a lot of talk about how it never corrupted Steve Rogers, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if they squandered the chance of others doing great with the serum. People like Isaiah Bradley for example.

In general, while I do enjoy the emotional depth this show has given Bucky, I hope they will refocus more on Sam in the final episodes. We know there’s more coming with him and the shield as well as in his hometown with his family, but he deserves the spotlight. His name comes first in the show title and in terms of depth, he has taken a bit of a backseat so far, even if some seeds have been sown about his personal struggles. Mostly though, he has just been worrying and wanting to take care of others, be it Bucky, Sarah, Sharon or now also Karli. He cares a whole lot, as a true Captain America would, but I also want him to be taken care of.

It’s not often that I have to sit with an episode for a while and I am not sure I found all the right words to express myself in this recap. Something about an unhinged John Walker just terrifies me apparently, because I felt sick by the end of that last scene. The end credits, while I didn’t see any changes in the imagery, also reflected my dampened mood with a more somber outro song. It’s the little details that Marvel takes care of that I appreciate so much.


Fun fact: 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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How do you feel about the events of The Whole World Is Watching and the progression of the show? Let’s talk!

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: April 13, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, Islamophobia, racially motivated hate crimes, loss of a loved one

Hana Khan Carries On releases soon and I cannot wait for everyone to get a chance to read this book. Set in one of my favorite places on this planet (Toronto), the book is a bold romantic comedy playing out in the world of rivaling halal restaurants, but it is also so much more than that. Let me explain!

Hana is a fantastic narrator, which makes sense as she hosts her own podcast and pursues a career in the radio industry. I loved following her thoughts and quarrels from the get go. We quickly learn that she is a South Asian Muslim woman in her twenties and daughter to immigrant parents, who juggles many things in her life even before the real drama starts. While there were always hints at what all this book would ultimately deal with, it starts out with all the makings of a romantic comedy that promises rivals to lovers excellence. There was an immediate attraction and familiarity between Hana and Aydin even when they clashed. They are not afraid to play dirty in order to come out on top, which leads to many a regretful decision. The fire and sparring between them was definitely fun, even when it was easy to guess the big revelation they’d both eventually have to face.

Around the halfway point of the book, the story shifts into something more serious though. As I said, the groundwork for this was laid, because this book was never going to be “just” a romantic comedy. While out with Aydin and her cousin, Rashid (who is visiting from India), Hana encounters a group of hate-filled racists and the situation soon escalates on a much grander scale than she could have ever anticipated. It’s never easy having to come to terms that there are people out there who want to harm you and push you out of a country you were literally born in. It was even more painful when no one came to Hana’s aid (please never be that person when you see someone being attacked. Not doing anything is being complicit), that is until she found the courage to seek refuge in her community.

As much as Hana Khan Carries On is about love and finding your place in the world, it is also about family – the one you are born with and the one you choose. This was an excellent example of how gratifying being part of a community can be and how they can help you through the darkest times. Hana always had to deal with people who were willing to talk over her (a boss using covert racism to undermine her ideas, a co-worker so desperate to fit in that they sold out and a myriad of other characters that show up and will have you wringing your hands not to punch them), but she also had people in her corner willing to go to bat for her and you were right there with them, rooting for her when she found her voice and spoke up. And that’s not an easy thing to do, to stand up to people knowing that it will leave you vulnerable. But she had a life made up of choices, choices she was very grateful to have, and she wanted to make the right ones.

I really loved reading this book and to follow along as Hana uncovers family secrets and finds her voice. I cannot possibly put myself in her shoes, but I was filled with pride and joy at her development regardless. There’s no denying that I would understand if people would rather not be faced with reliving that particular trauma when seeking out a romantic comedy, but I personally appreciated that there was no sugarcoating of racist situations like it happening still. Those parts will never get easier, but we’re not doing anyone a service by ignoring them either.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An amazing romantic comedy, if you are also prepared for hard-hitting reality.


Would you like to read Hana Khan Carries On? I seem to pick up at least one “You’ve Got Mail”-esque book per year now and I have no regrets! Let’s talk!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 3 “Power Broker” Review

As always, the following review/recap for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will include SPOILERS! Read on at your own discretion.

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Sam and Bucky break Zemo out of prison in order to investigate the provenance of the new super solider serum, meeting an old friend on the way. In the meantime, Karli proceeds with her own plans to help the people.

My thoughts?

Can you believe we have already reached the halfway point of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? The plot keeps on moving, clearing some things up while also raising new questions. This episode felt a bit slower to me than previous ones. There were a lot of locations involved with beautiful but lengthy exhibition shots that felt like filler and made it seem a bit scattered at times. Still, I cannot help but praise the stunt coordinators and choreographers, because every episode delivers on top notch action scenes that never get boring to watch.

We’re also at a point in the show where we have met most (but not all) the important players and it becomes more difficult to balance showcasing each character each episode. I enjoy that they, for example, had very few shots of John Walker this episode, because he got a lot of screen time last week. Instead, we meet old friends and new foes. Let’s dive into everything in a bit more detail.

  • We start off the episode with an ad (which we should be accustomed to from WandaVision by now, but always feels a bit odd to me still) for the Global Repatriation Council – or GRC in short. This organisation is supposed to help people who have returned find their footing in this new and changed world again. They make it look wholesome and good, but Karli and her group know that people are forced to live in crowded camps, getting little to no medical assistance and that governments regularly withhold necessary provisions.
    We also get introduced to someone dear to Karli, who ultimately dies because of the conditions at the camp, furthering her struggle. It adds more depth to Karli’s and the Flag Smasher’s rebellion and explains why people want to rally behind them. During a heist for provisions, Karli shows that she is done playing nice though, causing an explosion and killing several people in a building and therefore proving that she is dangerous in her grief. If she isn’t careful, it could soon create doubt in her character as I don’t believe everyone will like her radicalization.
  • All the while John Walker and Hoskins are scrambling for clues concerning the super soldier serum, showing a growing darkness and Walker getting more unhinged, Bucky and Sam follow their own lead by visiting Zemo. I think the show gave Zemo a great reintroduction to the universe, making his character shine in his own way. There wasn’t too much detail we knew about him, but he now carries himself with more bravado and charm than what I remember from the movie. His prison break was well crafted (when did Bucky have time to set all that up?) and he is sure to cause much tension. There is no way he can be trusted, but within a couple scenes he proves that he is useful (and not just because it turns out he is filthy rich).
credit: Marvel Studios

Once the new team consisting of Sam, Bucky and Zemo arrives in Madripoor, this is where things really kick off. So much information is learned there, but as always I’m going to try and break it off into smaller bits and pieces:

  • In order to not get immediately killed, the threesome have to pretend to be their old selves or someone different entirely. While Sam offers some great humor-filled scenes as The Smiling Tiger, it was jarring to see Bucky having to be the Winter Soldier again. Aside from people filming this and me worrying that the footage getting out could possibly nullify his pardon, I cannot imagine this didn’t take a toll on his mental well being. It warmed my heart to see Sam constantly checking in with him to ask if he was okay. They can pretend to be annoyed by each other all they want, but in the end, they care!
  • Things get a bit more complicated from here on out and I hope I won’t make it too confusing. It basically boils down to the boys making a mess and having a bounty put on their heads, them learning about the doctor who created the serum and having to get saved by the one and only Sharon Carter.
    She is different from when we last saw her. After being on the run for years and still not welcome in her home country, she is disillusioned of star-spangled awesomeness and has hustled her way up in Madripoor instead. She doesn’t hesitate to tell things as they are and the boys probably couldn’t have made five steps in that city without her. Sam ultimately convinces her to help them in exchange for a pardon from the US government. I’m not sure he has the sway to really make that happen, but she does agree to it.
  • Once they find Dr. Wilfred Nagel, (a reference to the comic book doctor who actually gave Isaiah his super strength) we learn that he was originally recruited by the CIA and was given genetic material from Isaiah in order to recreate the serum. After the blip, his project had been abandoned and he was employed by the Power Broker to continue his work. Zemo, who likely doesn’t want to see any more super soldiers in his lifetime and has made a point about how people glorify them and put them on a pedestal, goes to the drastic measure of simply killing Dr. Nagel and destroying the entire lab. It takes a shootout with the mercenaries that are at their heels to get them out of that place.
  • So, who is the Power Broker? There’s many theories going around about this. We know the Power Broker is an independent third party, not affiliated with a government. They have considerable amount of money and obviously power. They, too, are on the hunt for Karli since she stole the serum, but who is behind them? My bet is on Sharon Carter herself for now.
    Her appearance was mighty convenient and the way she exited those docks seemed like she was backed by someone powerful, or is possibly that powerful person herself. As always, I could definitely be wrong, but I also wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. I don’t think it would make her villain either. She had to do what she did to survive and no one can blame her for thriving and being good at what she does. Did you see how she took out a dozen mercenaries by herself? I would not mess with her.
credit: Marvel Studios

The entire ordeal in Madripoor made Sam reconsider his stance on the shield. He felt like he shouldn’t have given it up to the museum, but rather should have destroyed it, to which Bucky immediately replies that it has too much meaning and that he would rather take it for himself to become the new Cap than see it gone entirely. Such a small statement, and yet it carries so many implications with it. We know that Sam doesn’t feel ready to carry the shield, despite Steve having left it to him. Imposter syndrome is real and we have additionally seen the struggles he faces because of race and how a Black super soldier was treated by the government before, I understand his hesitations 100%, but I also think that statement hurt him a little bit. There was this flicker in his eyes and I hope it was the spark needed to get Sam Wilson on the road to actually becoming Captain America one day! It’s the ride I am here for.

Towards the end of the episode, we see Walker and Hoskins puzzling together the pieces of Zemo’s prison break with them going off the books and on the hunt for Sam and Bucky. I would be surprised if this doesn’t end in some sort of showdown between the duos.

At the same time, Sam, Bucky and Zemo are following their next lead already. When Bucky first said he needed to go for a walk to get some air, I thought he actually needed alone time (silly me), but he found trackers like bread crumbs and followed them to let us meet another surprise appearance – Ayo!
As Sam mentioned earlier on in the episode, Wakanda would not take lightly to Zemo being freed. Ayo, as part of the Dora Milaje, having been King T’Chaka’s security detail on that fateful day in Vienna when Zemo caused his death, would definitely be the last person to let his escape slide. I loved that Bucky immediately recognized the Wakandan tech and I’m very interested to see how he is going to stall her so she won’t go killing Zemo while he needs him. They definitely left us on a great cliffhanger here.

credit: Marvel Studios

Ultimately, I keep enjoying the show. I keep feeling engaged by the storyline and wanting to know what happens next. I am not trying to decipher as much as I did with WandaVision and rather try to just enjoy the ride, hoping that they will make it all come together in the end. By now, they have so much previous history to consider and need to be careful not to contradict themselves, but by adding small and fun callbacks to old scenes (e.g. the mention of “Travel Man” by Marvin Gaye or Sam/Bucky refusing to move the car seat for the other person, …) they seem to be on the right way, making it all feel connected.

Side note: Marvel has got to stop putting their characters all over the world and then having the actors and glorified extras butcher the languages. It’s painful and completely takes you out of the setting at times, because all authenticity is gone. I appreciate the efforts of making it global, because the world is larger than the US, but there’s a better way to do that.


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What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you enjoying the show? Let’s talk!