Review: Falcon and Winter Soldier

Heavy SPOILERS for the series

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?

What were your thoughts on FnWS?

Review/Reflection/Overanalysis Community

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR COMMUNITY ALL OVER THE SHOW

Series para ver en Netflix Latino: Community - AnĂ¡lisis ...

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:

  1. saw the first two seasons and 1/2 season three when they first aired
  2. Somehow had access to them at some point in past 5 years (honestly can’t remember) and rewatched up to end of season 5
  3. Finally watched Season 6 a month or two ago.
  4. 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)

Overall thoughts

Season One:

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.

Season Two:

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.

Season Three.

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”

Season Four

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)

Season Five

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.

Season Six

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.

THAT SAID.

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!

Quick Reivew: Dota – Dragon’s Blood

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.