Courtesy of Disney+
After more than a year of nothing but swirling rumors, Marvel has kicked off the highly anticipated fourth phase of its cinematic universe with a trio of television shows on Disney+.
Marvel’s decision to use three television shows — “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “WandaVision” and “Loki” — to streamline the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was crucial since all of the shows are tied closely to the fallout from “Avengers: Endgame,” time travel and the creation of the multiverse itself.
Telling each story through episodes has allowed screenwriters and directors to tell a complete and detailed story instead of shoving a plot into a single two-hour movie. Screenwriters worked night and day to ensure that the trio of television shows tied up loose ends from “Endgame” and set the stage for future Phase Four installments from Marvel.
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” solidified Captain America’s legacy while also hinting at the possibility of a new, refreshed Captain America franchise without Chris Evans at the helm. “Loki” and “WandaVision” dove deeper into expanding the MCU, with nexus events and beings, multiple timelines with a mysterious group controlling them and of course, greater villains lurking in the beyond.
Many Marvel fans were enthusiastic for the Disney+ expansion because they witnessed the comeback of characters like Loki and Vision, who died during “Avengers: Infinity War” or “Avengers: Endgame.”
“WandaVision” and “Loki” also prepared fans for the next generation of movies, like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which will directly follow the shows’ events.
With Marvel almost exclusively releasing movies for the past 13 years, fans didn’t know what to expect with Marvel’s first foray into television. However, from the score to the filmography, “WandaVision” was well received for its intricate shooting style and attention to detail with every sitcom era it replicated.
The show solidified Wanda Maximoff as one of the most powerful Avengers, the Scarlet Witch: a nexus being and magic wielder. According to the fan-created Marvel Database, nexus beings are “rare individual entities with the ability to affect probability and thus the future, thereby altering the flow of the Universal Time Stream.”
Wanda’s abilities are exemplified when, in her grief over Vision’s death, she enslaves the entire town of Westview in an alternate reality. The show follows Wanda as she deals with a deep depression after Vision’s death. By the end of the show, Wanda has shown the audience how to overcome and accept tragedy.
However, the show contained its fair share of plot holes, the most prominent being the commercial breaks between the episodes of Wanda’s life. While this may have seemed normal at the time because of the show’s clever structure, the commercial interruptions were actually supposed to be messages being sent by Doctor Strange in an attempt to get Wanda to break the spell.
In an interview with Forbes, Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, said Benedict Cumberbatch was already slated to make a massive cameo appearance in the final episode of “WandaVision.”
“A deal had already been made for Benedict Cumberbatch to appear in the finale and his appearance was written into the upcoming movie,” Feige said. “When that didn’t happen, they had to rewrite that part of the film.”
Doctor Strange’s cameo was originally meant to showcase him as a magical mentor for Wanda. He was supposed to be the one to teach Wanda how to cast the runes around Westview to trap ancient witch Agatha Harkness inside.
Marvel’s tight production schedule combined with strict COVID-19 filming regulations led to complications between the sets of “WandaVision” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which were being filmed at the same time. As a result, Cumberbatch was unable to make it to set to film the scenes he was supposed to be in, so a large segment of the final two episodes was tossed to the cutting room floor.
Despite Cumberbatch’s absence from the show, the events of “WandaVision” will directly lead to the next Doctor Strange film, which will be released in March 2022.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” serves as a transition between two distinct periods — before and after “Avengers: Endgame.” The show follows the Falcon Sam Wilson, one of the few Black superheroes in the MCU, on a journey toward eventually carrying Captain America’s shield. His partner in crime Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, struggles to come to terms with the violent acts he committed while he was brainwashed during the events of the original “Captain America” trilogy.
The rest of the show provides an abundance of insight into what happened to the world’s governments after “the Blip,” a mysterious five-year window of time that the audience never witnessed in previous films. Marvel uses “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” to explore more raw themes of internal displacement, governmental collapse and deeply ingrained echoes of racism in American symbolism.
The show also created a connection between itself and the recent “Black Widow” film with an appearance from the mysterious Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. The new character was shown interacting with both the short-lived Captain America replacement John Walker during “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and Yelena Belova, Black Widow’s sister, during “Black Widow.”
It is not yet clear why Walker and Belova have both been approached by Fontaine, though fans can assume that this mysterious mission will be significant later on in Phase Four.
Marvel introduced time travel with “Endgame.” However, every time travel movie seems to have different rules about how time works, and their audiences have to develop new ideas about the repercussions of time travel. “Loki” is no different.
In this show, an organization called the Time Variance Authority dictates the flow of time. It determines reality and ensures that everyone follows the “plan.” Anyone who acts in a way that doesn’t flow with the plan is a variant and has to be handled by the TVA. Members of the TVA arrive at the point in time where the disruption occurs and remove the variants.
However, at the end of “Loki,” one of Loki’s variants, Sylvie, ensures that all timelines are possible. In the final episode, Loki and Sylvie reach the Citadel at the “End of Time,” where they meet the being in charge of the TVA and the Sacred Timeline.
This being, known as He Who Remains, explains that Loki and Sylvie have two options. They can kill him and unleash an uncontrollable multiverse that He Who Remains alone is preventing or become his successors and rule the Sacred Timeline together. Sylvie kills He Who Remains to ensure free will for everyone.
This creates infinitely branching timelines, each with its own terrifying version of He Who Remains. The branching timelines will most likely come into play in future Marvel movies that seem to have multidimensional plotlines, like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
With time now a major plot point, Marvel has the opportunity to bring back old faces. Unlimited timelines mean there are timelines where certain characters survived.
While time constitutes the most important plot point in “Loki,” there is another plot point important to address. In a conversation between Loki and Sylvie, Loki mentions that he is open to romantic relationships with both men and women, confirming that he is part of the LGBTQ+ community. He later falls in love with Sylvie, but since Sylvie is technically a variant of himself, it seems to be a sort of self-love.
“Loki” will return for a second season.
Each new Marvel show has trumped its predecessors. According to an article by Screen Rant, “during its first week, ‘WandaVision’ accrued 434 million minutes of viewing, while ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ performed slightly better, gaining 495 million minutes during its first week.”
However, “Loki” topped them all with 731 million minutes during its premiere week. “WandaVision” eventually outperformed “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” with 924 million minutes in its finale week
Now, with these three shows out and expanding the MCU, many fans anticipate what will happen next.