I jumped into Midnight Library as a book club recommendation with zero expectations – and I must say I really was quite happy with the experience of reading this book.
At first I confess the opening pages did not seem as uplifting as promised, however needn’t have worried! The story is challenging, and at times deeply sad, but ultimately will not destroy anyone’s sanity (I hope)
What I think I like best about Midnight Library is the premise is presented as somewhat fantasical, and could very easily fall off the rails of believability, yet somehow Haig manages to pen quite a grounded story around a far out idea. It’s often the hallmark of brilliant writing when you pick up a book and immediately feel you are where the character(s) are.
I did have a couple of wierd thoughts about the story the book. As Nora explores parrallell universes I couldn’t help but recall some psychology studies that show that people do tend to be specific in their regrets, in that after an adverse event we’ll often ruminate on tiny changes close to the event that could have changed it, we often don’t ‘go wide’ e.g. after a fender-bender we fantasize about tapping the breaks a little earlier, not something like leaving home earlier that day which would have definitely avoided the accident. But the point is the story of Midnight Library kind of catches that thinking as Nora explores further and further into different lives.
Another odd thought is I was reminded a litte of Rick and Morty which is obviously not grounded, but I did have a moment where I wondered if Nora woudl stumble on a more bizzaro parrellel universe.
One final thought – and this is very much a commentary NOT a criticism, but I did find that I am probably a key audience member of Midnight library being the same age as Nora and finding her at times gloomy/nihilisitc thinking relatable. But I did consider that there is an element of entitlement or priviledge to the story of Midnight Library. I couldn’t help but imagine a similar tale but for someone more disadvantaged or whose struggles were more inflicted upon them rather than having a book of regrets. As said I don’t say this as criticism, and obviously the story is specifically about the nature of regret not a literal journey through parrallel universes, it was just a thought I had while reading.
All in all, Midnight Library is a great read – bit of a mid-life crisis type book which is OK. 5 stars
Actually finished this a month or two ago but its taken a while for me to get off my butt to review it…
Equal Rites is an interesting one – being the 3rd book of the Discworld and the introduction of Nanny Ogg, one of the more standout characters of the Discworld. I’d only read this book once before embarking on my re-read-thru.
The first thing that strikes about Equal Rites is the that the story is much more ‘grounded’ than Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic, or more specifically has a narrower focus on the main characters, and while having a bit of a journey there really are just two settings of note, and (hopefully obliviously) the social commentary is much more pointed.
In Equal Rites you can really see the refinement of Prachett’s ability to write phenomanal fantasy, while still not dropping the humour. There are scenes where you could almost forget that you’re reading a form of satire and are actually in the middle of a classic fantasy novel.
Couple of quibbles. Equal Rites is strangely short. I’m not sure if there is a specific reason for this, such as a publisher demand, or a creative decision to keep the story streamlined. It does feel a little like a let-down in that there is an amazing build-up of both magical and socialogical tension and the 3rd act is relatively rushed and resolved faster than the more elaborate novels to come.
Just a note on the message of Equal Rites – for those unaware its basically about a girl destined to be a wizard in a world where girls = witches and boys = wizards. Pratchett is a master of tangling and untangling the issues into a non-preachy story, this is done through a cunning use of character to communicate prejudice and change. Rather than having a polemic type setup where characters tend towards a black-and-white opinion about equal rights, the characters of the book are varied and conflicted even within themselves. No-one preaches (well not much) and no-one is perfect, all the characters struggle and the issue is addressed through this conflict.
Strangely enough I think this book is still pretty relevant today as the fantasy genre continues to have controversy and discussion attached (e.g. see the Will Smith Netflix Movie: Shine) and Pratchett provides a master class in how to address the world through fiction with humour and power.
I literally just put this book down, and honestly I usually let both fiction and non-fiction percolate for a while before pushing my review out. However, for Scary Smart I find myself already typing away to make sense of this crazy/insightful piece immediately.
First of, I think the book was a little different to expectations. I guess I expected a more technical book, a review of AI and practical issues relating to them. Gawdat provides us with something quite different, a radical and philosophical take on AI which is just as much about us and society as it is about computers.
In some respects the overall thesis is quite simple – the AI that we create will reflect the society that creates them, so we better stick to some decent values, be loving and kind and generally not be a garbage fire.
That said the complexities of the thesis are quite hard to digest – I did have to laugh there are elements of of this book that feel a lot like that meme/joke from a while back “I for one welcome our robot overlords” as Gawdat talks about the future (or current) AIs that are reading the book, and making sure that we tell our programmes we love them.
Bear in mind this thesis is built up to after a fair dose of caution, in fact the majority of the book si the “Scary” part where Gawdat explains the concerns and worries of AI pointing out where we can go drastically wrong, and explaining some inevitable dystopias. (to be honest my main gripe of the book is that I would have enjoyed much more material on the potential dark futures of AI then was presented)
As mentioned Scary Smart isn’t particularly technical, but there is a surprising amount of detailed information tucked into the book so someone looking for knowledge wouldn’t be disappointed (it’s not all a thesis on lurve), although I confess now I’m hankering for more AI books and Scart Smart does provide ample references.
Overall I suspect that Scary Smart might be a bit much for some – not so much in the scary but in the philosophizing, however in terms of reading something a little different, that challenges one to do and be better and providing unique perspectives you couldn’t go better.
(to be 100% honest AI is an area of interest for my writing and this book was totally aweomse in providing inspiration and insight so I really couldn’t fault it one bit)
I seriously need to get back into writing something so figured I’d do a piece on Midnight Mass:
So just in case the rock you’re living under doesn’t have Netflix – Midnight Mass is the latest from a popular horror creator Mike Flanagan. The story is almost exclusively set on Crockett(?) a severely isolated island somewhere in the US, well designed to be simultaeously modern and isolated and somewhat backwater too.
The overall feel is very much Stephen King’s Salem Lot, in fact there are more than a few parrallells (main characters with a driving charge, gossipy small town, flames) however the odd twist is that the vampire is (willfully) misinterpretted as an angel and we see the bizarre effect of essentially cult formation alongside the spreading supernatural infection.
In the beginning the show does start a little slow but this is used well to weave character themes of guilt and forgiveness throughout the tale rather than making it purely a bloody slaughter fest. Some of the best parts of the show are small character moments where deserving characters get redeemed or shamed as appropriate, its quite a weird juxtaposition to have reasonably deep character moments among mass supernatural violence. Also for all the horror shows I’ve seen Midnight Mass might be the only one that actually kind of addressing ‘realistic’ responses to a supernatural situation, in the sense that there is a wide range of the populations reactions, some people are traumatized, others radicalized, others resistant or conflicted.
There were a couple of gripes, the chief vamp was as little inconsistent, I enjoyed how they added a plot point that it was kinda oblivious to injury to the point it ignored attack but it was kinda written both as evil mastermind and instinctual animal at once.
Anywho defo a much watch for horror fans, and a decent one at that!
When an organism adapts to a new environment, it’s about making changes that better allow it to survive and thrive. With media, that’s probably the goal (even if unstated), but it doesn’t always work out very well.
The most visible adaptations (though this may be the availability heuristic talking) are making movies, or tv-shows, out of books, comics, or video games. I’m sure we can all think of examples of this being a hit-or-miss affair.
It’s been said that there are two reasons adaptations fail: Not enough respect for the source material (i.e. too many changes, so existing fans don’t recognise it, so losing any value from having a known property); and Too much respect for the source material (e.g. including every little detail from the book, making the movie long, slow, and boring). While there’s some truth to this, I…
After the sublime wierdness that was WandaVision I had some mixed feelings about FnWS when it started, not that I thought it would be bad, but more just many questions about what the show would be like. Obviously it wasn’t going to be quite the head-spin and mega-twisty of the previous series, so what would FnWS be?
Then in the first scene of the show I was ultra worried: we saw Falcon zooming around off the border of Turkey engaged in physics defying battled with bouncy french dude (actual name) from Winter Soldier. And look don’t get me wrong, the action was fine the dialogue was snappy, all that, but really it just felt kinda flat, I was worried that the show was going to be a series of simliar scenes over some fairly inane something vaguely military something.
Pretty much as soon at that sequence was over the show took a sharp turn into a deep dive that I a. didn’t expect and b. was incredible happy with!
The first twist was that Sam/Falcon decides to place the shield in a museum rather than picking up the mantle of Captain America. His decision isn’t purely based on his own insecurities but his worries of being a Black Captain America. It’s pretty hilarious that pretend not-bigots were trying to get at the series for implying race issues from the first episode when the whole series was about this plot point.
This decision creates a series of tensions – Bucky is upset with the decision, ‘America’ appoints a brand new Captain and we see more of Sam’s personal life where we see his family struggling to maintain their family boat/business.
To be honest I could have watched a series based purely on those issues, but we also are given an overarching plot line of rebels with super-soldier serum (crap I hope I get this plot-point correct) who are fighting against the deportation/resettlement of people returned after the ‘Snap’ (I like the MCU’s attempt to delve into issues arising from the Snap/Blip but I did find it confusing, I think the issue is that following the return of people snapped there are any number of citizenship, ownership and much other issues and at the beginning of the show I believe the prevailing plan that the ‘flag-smashers’ are opposing is to place people returned into the equivalent of refugee camps)
The plot weaves in Wakanda, Baron Zemo, and Sharon Carter who have their own character arcs in response to the various events of the MCU and along with the rest of the fanbase I was oddly drawn and fascinated by the return of Zemo. Many thought that he would essentially be the big bad of the series, but instead he takes the role as a sort of anti-hero protagonist whose goals align with the heroes while his methods most assuredly do not.
What is particularly great about the series is rather than focussing on action pieces the story is effectively about different methods of achieving political goals. Very few of the characters are portrayed as completely evil, or completely flawless either. In fact much of the story is about Sam and Bucky healing rather than defeating the enemy (again which is why I like it so much).
The underlying thematic story of Isiah Bradley gives me goosebumps, its just so perfectly written to show both Sam and Isiah’s change and struggle!
There were a few flaws to the series – at times I think the fit between MCU shallow quippy action didn’t fit with the more complex story of the series (e.g. that first scene I mentioned) but I think in some respects that was almost intentional, showing that the world can’t be simplifed down to action sequences.
Some will also be disapointed in having very little Steve Rodgers resolution involvement – many fan theories were that the series would begin with a funeral for Steve and/or have some input. In fact other than discussion between characters about him there is very little about the previous Captain America. I didn’t really mind it fit with the story to not memorialize Steve, however I think some fans will be annoyed not to know exactly what and where Steve is at. Endgame actually left old-Steve’s fate ambiguous, did he continue on in the MCU timeline as an old dude, some have suggested he might have zipped back to his time-line to finish up his normal life there.
Ultimately my feelings about the MCU is that I am highly pleased that they apear to have utilized the format to tell stranger and deeper stories. I would have been super annoying to have formulaic and familar stories just told each week, both WandaVision and Falcon and Winter Soldier have challenged the MCU to broaden and better the stories and I confess now the question I’m wondering is will future movies have more to offer after enjoying the series so much?
It took me a long span to work through this series – oddly not due to any problems or not liking the show or whatever, but just funny timing of its original broadcast / not having access to it / getting around to the final season on Netlix in the past few months.
In summary my viewing of the show went something like:
saw the first two seasons and 1/2 season three when they first aired
Somehow had access to them at some point in past 5 years (honestly can’t remember) and rewatched up to end of season 5
Finally watched Season 6 a month or two ago.
Promptly had to binge seasons 1-5 again to kind of re-fill in some of the gaps!
Why am I going on about this? Really just to justify my ramblings!
One of my observations about Community is it might be the perfect layered show. Its got depth to over-analyze, its still fun if you don’t, and really you can almost read into it as much as you want and have a reasonably good time!
I’m not saying the show is perfect, in some ways far from it, but I’ve enjoyed overthinking, overresearching and reviewing the series. For the rest of this post I’m going to dive into 3ish main points, my overall response to each of the seasons, Jeff’s character development and the whole Jeff and Annie thing – which it turns out is quite the discussion piece online (like wow some people have studied this subject)
Season one of Community is a real blast to watch because it has a sense of the surreal if you’ve already watched the show before. It’s surprising how the show took its time to get into its stride, probably most notably that in the Pilot Jeff is wandering around in sweatpants which NEVER happens in the show again. Troy and Abed take a while to become inseperable and Britta is a lot more dynamic.
The thing that striked me most about Season One is that its much more of a Romcom than later seasons. Community was never particularly heavy on relationships, but its a pretty regular theme and the finale while not too typical is very much a romantic comedy finale. Strangely I actually liked this element, and I thought the writers did it well.
Almost immediately shifts the view away from romance – with Jeff being declared “Gross” and in an odd twist revealing a “friends with benefit” relationship with Britta which basically ends the second its revealed – the odd bit being that by playing the relationship this way it doesn’t have to be barely part of the story.
What also stands out straight away is a turn towards the fantastical and often dark ideas in Community Season two. Like everyone else that writes about it I use the term “grounded” in clear “” but generally Season One is fairly grounded, the story is very much about ridiculous antics of the group – whereas Season Two we start to get fantasical elements. The most notable in my memory is the Trampoline episode, but also Abed’s Uncontrolable Christmas. Something I love about Community is what in my opinion is a confusing but totally appropriate approach to fantasy. Technially speaking while many events are completely bizarre and crazy, nothing impossible actually happens except in character’s minds, however often the boundaries get pushed in ways that take a while to process.
Just in my opinion, Season three is possible the best “finale” for community as (more on this later) this was the last season before creator Dan Harmon was fired, and has a lot of character resolution, and in my opinion the absolutely craziest out there plotlines of them all. While there isn’t necessarily a natural end-point – all the characters are very much still studying etc, it does feel like a tidy moment where even Pierce has a bit of character development “booyah good person”
There is any number of articles on this topic – not only was Season Four the only season not helmed by Dan Harmon, also the replacements did what is generally regarded as a terrible job creating Community. To be fair I think on rewatch its not completely devoid of quality, but the change is very obvious particularly in how some characters are handled and most obviously the crummy plotting (a little more on this with Jeff review)
This season saw the return of Harmon, but also the loss of both Pierce and Troy as main charcters of the show. This is usually where you see more division in fans, many people are quite happy with the season, but others like myself feel that too much damage was done the previous season to properly repair. Although for me more specifically I think there is an obvious tonal shift towards darker more nihilistic development which I found a little depressing. There is a lot of emphasis on the character’s flaws but without happy resolutions.
In my opinion Season Six is a bizarre experience. Carrying on the problems of 5 we lose another MC and again a couple of randoms. Similar to season five the plotlines seem much darker, a lot of the humour is harsh (community has always been pretty mean but usually with a bit of good-spirit, season 6 seems to lose that) I actually kind of liked the finale for reasons which I’ll discuss soon.
JEFF and Character
Community has a strange approach to character development – being much more sophistcaed than your usualy 20 minute commedy shows, while not always sign-posting or dramtically signposting change like a proper “Drama” also the show does not shy away from devolving a character for laughs and does have a fair share of static characters.
I find Jeff a really interesting character study because while I did just say I like the fluffier seasons 1-3 and Jeff’s relatively obvious growth from a jerk to a goody, the darker sadder changes in later seasons are also worth consideration.
To review Jeff’s character, in Season One he’s essentially a fraudulent lawyer who doesn’t think twice about lying to Britta to try and hook up, or trying to cheat to pass his courses. However throughout Seasons 1-3 we basically see gradual change towards accepting the study group, being unselfish and legitimately working hard.
Despite being a bit of a shambles Season four signposts a darker twist. At the end of Season Three we see Jeff look up his estranged father’s details and Season Four shows us their painful reunion. Unfortunately this plot isn’t well developed but unhappily we hear about Jeff’s ongoing problems with real connection with others, even through seasons 1-3 Jeff admits that he can still barely look his friends in the eye without insecurity.
Seasons 5-6 reveal a much darker and depressed Jeff, he puts himself into a delusional coma or something by drinking scotch and taking anti-aging pills, much of his ‘speeches’ are about accepting how crappy everything is. And essentialy the finale is about Jeff having to finally accet that his friends will move on, and he is (apparently) destined to teach at Greendale to rinse and repeat with whoever comes through. While its gloomy overall it is on oddly bittersweet charater arc for Jeff, bacially to have finally grown to connect with others, needing to accept those others moving on. While the series could have ended like a rom-com and more positive I do feel the impact of the finale is stronger.
I wouldn’t normally delve very deep into relationship dramas of a show, but others have and I want to as well.
Just to recap, much is made of the relationship between Jeff and Annie (or perhaps lack of) and there is an incredible amount of analysis out there – but first to summarize:
Basically while the original conceit of the show was Jeff trying to hook up with Britta but his fake study group hijacking the plans, by the end of Season One it looked like the story was leading to an actual but more genuine relationship, except that Jeff ended up kissing Annie.
From there is a not inconsiderable amount of material, toying with their attraction but nothing anything really happening. There are multiple moments throughout the show that seem to indicate that its not going to happen, only to have more moments revealing the opposite.
In the end he have a final convesation between the two where Jeff expresses his love, they share a kiss and Annie rides off into the sunest (well the airport but what evs) and Jeff returns to the remaining team at Greendale.
From there we seem to have three schools of thought and analysis, and my goodness there is analysis, people have watched these moments and tried to interpret body language to get answers.
School 1 says: basically what we see is what we get. Yes they love each other and kiss goodbye but that’s the end of that, damn you Dan Harmon for 6 seasons of teasing.
School 2 says: its a “goodbye for now” there are pretty clear indicators of openness to a potential future relationship, Annie says about Season 7 there are a lot of “Variables” while looking at Jeff and it sounds more like she is considering the practical variables in having a relationship in the future rather than the meta topic of Community Season 7
School 3 says: actually they hooked up after that event, and even though Annie does leave they’re either planning for him to go to her, or Annie to come back. The evidence for this is discussed in this link: https://mattaf30.medium.com/community-finale-was-the-jeff-and-annie-endgame-8cb1a8b51af5 but the very short summary is that they both seem happy and comfortable from the heart-to-heart which is interpretted as being they’ve started up the relationship rather than got closure on it.
Personally I’m completely open minded, Jeff does afterall fantasize about having a super-hot group of red-heads as a study group which kind of undermines the idea that he is now going to be with Annie, but over-analyzer bring up interesting points about their interactions going foward.
To be honest I’m just glad there are people out there willing to go this deep into stories that allow me to reflect on their smart observations.
Just as a final note, there is still chatter about a movie. I’m torn, while I’d defintely watch the heck out of it, I feel like there are just too many pitfalls to continuing the story, who knows though, maybe it will be everything we need in 2021.
Any other Community Fans out there? Tell me your thoughts!
Of all the adaptions about these days Dota could have been the most confusing, and yet somehow the creators have crafted something with standalone strength while still being satisfying to players (well at least this one)
For those unfamilar, Dota 2 is a MOBA, debatably one of the originals in fact. Its a style of game which doesn’t exactly lend itself to story plot (or does it?) basically ten players choose a character, and two teams of five duke it out until someones ancient is destroyed. The main source of story, if any, is from character’s brief lore which can range from undeniably dark to borderline comical, but usally just deals with their origin rather than any ongoing development.
But in a strange way this openness makes for good adaptation. Having so much of the plot open means its difficult to really annoy anyone with creative choices, and I suspect even if elements of Dragon’s Blood isn’t suitable people will be more comfortable with it just being an adaption.
Anywho – I was surprisingly satisfied with the series, I was a little put off at first with the tone which seemed light-hearted, although very quickly went bloody and dark. I also couldn’t help but be ‘that’ sort of viewer who sat there eagerly awaiting everything Dota character showing up but also being disapointed when they didn’t. A present ecosia Search reveales that there are 120 heroes in this game so I think keeping the cast to a handful in season 1 is sensible.
Its strange to recall my own reactions to X-files. It actually debuted ‘before my time’ so I actually have little to no memeory of seeing the series originally – the weird thing is though, the show was so popular that it was everywhere, song lyrics references the lot.
Also in hindsight its hard to overstate the influence X-files had on television. I’m not saying that the series invented these tropes and concepts but it very much contributed to popularizing them- things like sceptic/believer duos with romantic chemistry – monster-of-the-week versus mythology season formulas.
So even though the modern take on X-Files may be more jaded or controversial its certainly a television series worth knowing!
Anywho I first properly dove into the series in the late 00s in the hope of finally putting the overarching story to rest (LOL oh dear)!
As if anyone is unaware the mythology of the X-Files is considerably convoluted and complex which in itself isn’t a big problem however in my opinion its eventually downfalls make for quite strange picking from a story telling perspective.
You see, the original premise of X-Files is that since believing his sister was abducted by aliens in their childhood Mulder has been on a mission to find The Truth(TM). For the most part the plotlines of the early X-Files series are an interesting escalation of revealing Alien and human plots with Mulder and Scully getting increasingly involved and revealing more and more elements of the various schemes.
This is where I think the wheels start to wobble, X-Files has a hind of cosmic horror / HP Lovecraft element where the duo are often in the position of hapless mortals facing off against vast conspiracies and alien forces of unknown power. Quite often simply attempting to expose the truth and stay alive is all they can do. And this becomes a challenge for escalating the plot – there was a point during the original series where I started to wonder where on Earth the story could end up, as it seemed implausible that the pair would be able to do anything to prevent a powerful alien race taking over the Earth – Indepedence Day this series was not.
‘luckily’ something much more annoying happened. Towards the end of the original series run David Duchovony wanted to move on from the series and had a much limited part of Season 8, and was only in the finale of season 9. While this didn’t reset the mythology exactly it did prompt a sort of soft reboot of the series leading to a fizzling out of the plot rather than a determined conclusion. We were however promised an alien invastion in 2012…
Then for some reason a movie was released in 2008 bringing back the original duo. I still don’t understand the point of this movie, after an unresolved series finale why realease a random story??
Anyway the point of all this is come the end of X-Files I think many felt generally disappointed in the lack of finality with the whole thing.
woo boy SPOILERS AHEAD
Bring on the Revival Series. Basically X-Files came back. I for one was pretty excited, but didn’t get the chance to watch until the series Disney Star came out.
So watching them has been odd so say the least.
Contrary to many opinions I actually liked Season 10. There was a relatively massive retcon of the Alien plot basically completely revamping it to humans did everything with access to alien technology, the aliens themselves gave up on Earth. Now normally such a tweak to mythology of a series would be totally anathema to any credibility but hear me out – they needed a reasonable amount of explanation for why the Alien’s plan had been on hold all this time and probably needed a plot that better fitted the 2016-2018 era as well.
That said a lot in the series was a little clunky. It was implied but unclear just what had happend to the pair in the intervening time. Mulder it seems had become depressed, because his life’s work has become meaningless, Scully’s progress is even more unclear, she seems to have returned to being a sceptic. It’s confusing though because by the time the series ended there was no doubt for either of them that Aliens existed even if their schemes were unfathomable.
But in a strange way I didn’t mind the confusion because it sort of worked with a long period between stories. It makes sense that if Mulder lived reclusively for 15 years without any progress or encounters that he would begin to doubt everything. Similar if Scully had been working as a Doctor for the same time she may have started to doubt too.
What I found particularly poignant is the focus on their adopted out child William. There was a particularly somber episode where both Mulder and Scully daydream about life with their son that could have been. It was a sadder and more reflective take on the X-File than before.
People didn’t like the season finale – but I did (at the time) things really seemed to have escalated again and the world was in danger (pandemic whoops). Things were happening!
Cue the naughtiest technique in storytelling…
In the beginning of Season 11 we discover that the previous episode was simply a vision from Scully. The most annoying part being that a hilarious pair of baby Mulder and Scully agents introduced that season did not return. Season 11 is credited with some good standalone episodes but generally the mythology is panned completely – and its hard not to agree.
After years of conspiracy, threat of invasion, mystery after mystery we get yet another cliffhanger…
Although not really a cliffhanger per se.
Basically in a desperate search for their son, either Mulder or William slaughter the remaining conspiracy masterminds including the Cigarette Smoking Man (although he has come back to life several times) however believing William dead we are graced to a speach about he wasn’t really their son after all. But here we go:
Scully is pregnant.
(also William isn’t dead but w/e)
After the grandiose build-up of the series and the intense finale of Season 10, its not really fitting or interesting to fizzle out in such a way. In some respects I could understand a switch in perspective from a massive global conspiracy to a more human situation between our favourite agents and their child. But the season 11 ending literally felt like the team had run out of money or something. As a resolution, the assumption is with the mass slaughter that most of the conspiracies are now ended but it certainly doesn’t feel like anything is won.
It always sad to see a television series go out with a fizzle – however I think by 2021 the general collective is used to it. Between the Losts, and Game of Thrones, Dexters and others its seems that brilliant TV series endings are a rare thing indeed.
Has anyone else seen the recent X-File series – or fans of the older stuff? Thoughts??
WandaVision is the first of the MCUs ambitious new TV Series. I know that technically Agents of Shield are part of the MCU and the ‘street level’ series (Daredevil etc) are ‘Marvel’ (AFAIK not technically in the MCU?? I could be corrected though)..
But WandaVision is the first series produced explicitly not merely tied into the MCU, but explicitly starring movie characters and continuing on storylines of the Movies.
Its worth taking a moment to consider just how mad this really is. It’s no new thing to have lengthy movie sequels and/or television series explanding on a franchise however in my experience these are typically diminishing returns money grabs with little craft in the link between materials (e.g. Transformers) or somewhat sloppy (e.g. X-men). The fact that the MCU can produce in excess of 20 movies that are set within a single ‘universe’ develop multiple characters and have a satisfying overall story arc and THEN produce multiple TV series of different genres that do the same is pretty wild.
Anyway, gushing over, its worth touching on how WandaVision sits within all of this. At one potenital ‘flaw’ WandaVision probably is one of the few MCU properties that I believe relies on prior watching – some might call me crazy for this assertion, but I belive one of the strengths of the MCU that despite all the clever cross-plotting each movie was crafted correctly to be enjoyable in its own right, obviously EndGame kinda requires at least Infinity War to inform it, but you don’t absolutley have to know prior movies to understand most MCU movies.
For multiple reasons, both factual and emotional WandaVision is best view after seeing the MCU movies with the both of them (Age of Ultron, Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame). The first issue is that WandaVision’s mysterious and quirky premise does rely on you having the momentum of knowing the characters and situation to enjoy and work through the plot (I honestly can’t fanthom how a naive viewer would manage WandaVision). Following on from this much of the emotions of the show rely on you having some connections to the characters, don’t get me wrong its brilliantly acted and portrayed but its a hard sell that Wanda loves a synthoid without having experienced the backstory.
All that covered I do find it incredibly interesting and hilarious that Disney chose to lead with this series. Its a crazy gamble (that appears to be paying off). For the unusual individual who is reading this reivew without already seeing the series, the quirky premise of Wanda and Vision living through decades of sitcoms while we try and work out what the heck is going on is truly unique.
I have to admit at first I was unsure if I liked the series. The sitcom shows were a little funny, but didn’t seem enough to sustain the show, but the writers perfectly incorporated ‘real life’ intruding into the shows to explain the situation. What the writers did an amazing job of, is balancing the mystery, silly fun and reveals. They didn’t overdo the mysteries, they didn’t reveal them that quickly, and they balanced the different aspects of the show.
It does make it hard to explain what sort of series it is, part comedy/satire part horror part action. (SPOILERS AGAIN) Ultimately its a superpower origin story for Wanda that creates a much more morally ambiguous story than ever seen before in the MCU (sure MCU movies dived briefly into moral territory but was still basically good guys versus bad guys 99% of the time).
So in conclusion WandaVision is a strange hybrid of a series, which combines and extremely emotional core for Wanda and Vision, still has any number of easter eggs and teasers for future series and movies but somehow still experiments with the style to ridiculous lengths. By rights this series could have been a huge flop, trying to incorporate sitcom satire, magic, and the relationship between a witch and a synothoid – instead its potentialy the most popular TV series since streaming began.
If anything is in doubt its a huge win for the MCU and upcoming series, I am hugely interested to see what is done with the rest of the upcoming series and future MCU movies.