Why Star Wars Fans Are Concerned About The Bad Batch and Whitewashing

The titular Bad Batch speaking with their new friend Omega.

The titular Bad Batch speaking with their new friend Omega.
Screenshot: Disney

This week a new Star Wars animated series on Disney+, The Bad Batch, re-introduced us to the last days of the Clone War and the rise of the sinister Empire. But amid the blaster fights and familiar faces, some fans have shown concern that the show’s major characters have had their skin tones adjusted, pushing them away from their roots.

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The Bad Batch stars Dee Bradley Baker, who has been the voice of Star Wars’ Clone Troopers since The Clone Wars began in 2008, as the titular Clone Force 99. First introduced in Clone Wars’ final season last year, Clone Force 99—made up of soldiers named Hunter, Wrecker, Crosshair, Tech, and former ARC Trooper Echo—is a unique special operatives task group for the Republic Army, rare “defective” members of the original base template for the clones. However, those “abnormalities” manifest in not just altered appearances compared to standard clones—derogatorily referred to in The Bad Batch as “regs”—but in enhanced abilities, like increased strength, marksmanship skills, or hyperintelligence. But with after this week’s bumper-length premiere, some fans have expressed concerns that these differences also are made clear by an altogether different factor: the color of their skin.

For those unfamiliar, every Clone Trooper—in live-action Star Wars movies and animated projects like The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and now The Bad Batch—is based on the genetic material of Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Jango Fett. He’s played by Attack of the Clones and The Mandalorian star Temuera Morrison in live-action Star Wars projects, who was born in New Zealand and is of Māori, Scottish, and Irish descent. With his recent return to Star Wars portraying Jango’s son, Boba Fett (in both The Mandalorian and the upcoming limited series The Book of Boba Fett), the actor has discussed how he wants to bring elements of his Māori cultural heritage to his portrayal of the character.

 Temuera Morrison, as he appeared as Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and the acid-scarred Boba Fett in The Mandalorian.

Temuera Morrison, as he appeared as Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and the acid-scarred Boba Fett in The Mandalorian.
Image: Disney

Although Morrison did not voice the animated Clone Troopers (Baker, who is white, adopts a loose, Americanized approximation of Morrison’s portrayal), their appearance in Lucasfilm’s animated projects has been based on his appearance from the get-go. Even as aesthetics have changed—The Clone Wars, in particular, underwent multiple stylistic and graphical improvements over the course of its seven-season run, stretched across 12 years—one thing that has remained relatively unchanged is that Clone Troopers all have a similar darker complexion, reflecting Morrison’s Polynesian background.

This brings us to The Bad Batch. Although some concerns about the characters’ skin color and facial structures were raised during their debut Clone Wars episodes, fan concern swelled in the run-up to the new animated series as trailers and footage were released. While The Bad Batch is a successor series to Clone Wars, its creatives—including executive producers Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau (who are also both head writer and supervising director on the series, respectively)—have noted in press that the series has undergone refinements to its predecessor’s technological and aesthetic processes.

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Unhelmeted Clones as they appeared in the first season of Bad Batch’s predecessor series, Clone Wars.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

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However, with those tweaks has come concern that there are visual choices that make the Bad Batch appear significantly different from the clones of Clone Wars. Each member of the squad has, to varying degrees, radically different facial structures compared to standard clones as part of their designs, but also varying tones of complexion. Some characters, like Wrecker and Hunter, trend to a darker skin tone, while characters like Crosshair and Tech—who also have significantly lightened hair colors compared to the black hair of usual clones—are presented as much lighter-skinned. Only Echo, who, as a standard clone still looks primarily like his predecessors in the Clone Wars, has undergone minor structural changes in his face. However, the character has also been largely drained of skin color, presented not as Caucasian but almost literally white. This was explained in the prior series as a result of capture and torture as a prisoner of war at the hands of Separatist forces, which involved cybernetic implants and imprisonment for several years.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

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Regardless of variance within the squad itself, the characters stand out particularly in contrast when put alongside the standard clones in the series premiere, “Aftermath.” Although the episode primarily takes place in locations that are brightly lit—like the planet Kaller, and the clone’s “homeworld” in the sanitized laboratories of Kamino—which plays a part in lightening character’s complexions in general, there are still notable differences between how the Bad Batch appear compared to their “reg” counterparts, and the Polynesian man who inspired all of them in the first place.

The issue is not restricted to the titular characters, either. Omega, a new female child introduced in the show (and voiced by New Zealand actress Michelle Ang), is revealed in the episode to also be a “defect” clone from the same batch as the primary characters, but in turn, her skin tone appears significantly lighter in color than standard clones, and she was given pale blonde hair. Outside of clones, a surprise appearance by young Jedi padawan Caleb Dume (who eventually goes on to be known as Kanan Jarrus, a primary character in the animated series Star Wars Rebels) in the episode’s opening has bothered many as well. Even taking into consideration the bright lighting of the scenes Caleb appears in—a newly released official promotional picture of the character for merchandise gives the child a warmer complexion—the skin tone is still considerably lighter compared to the darker complexion his adult self has in Rebels.

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Omega, an entirely new character created for Bad Batch and Caleb Dume, the younger version of Rebels’ Kanan Jarrus on the far right.

Omega, an entirely new character created for Bad Batch and Caleb Dume, the younger version of Rebels’ Kanan Jarrus on the far right.
Screenshot: Disney

All this has lead to fans concerned about the show’s visual changes—which to them can be read as at best somewhat ignorant, and, at worse, as a racist creative decision—to rally on social media. Utilizing the one-page site hoster Carrd.co to share a collection of comparison pictures and anti-racist resources created by Tumblr user CloneHub, fans troubled by the depiction of these characters have united under the hashtag #UnWhiteWashTBB, asking Lucasfilm to at least acknowledge concerns and make efforts to alter The Bad Batch’s design and aesthetic choices as the show progresses.

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Although Lucasfilm has yet to make a public statement about the reaction to the show’s, there are signs that feedback has been taken internally. A source familiar with production of The Bad Batch told io9 that in in the run-up to its premiere this week, changes to the lighting tools utilized by the animation team were made to moderate their effects in the premiere episode’s starkly-lit primary settings. Such tweaks will also be made in future episodes of the series.

Whether or not those internal changes will satisfy some fans’ concerns remains to be seen. The Bad Batch discussion comes at a time when Lucasfilm has attempted to grapple with reckonings of racism and wider issues of diversity both within Star Wars fandom and in the Star Wars media being created by the studio. In the summer of 2020, Lucasfilm made a rare public statement supporting sequel trilogy star John Boyega for participating in London-based Black Lives Matter protests. This followed the actor’s own public expression in several interviews that as a Black lead in Star Wars projects, he felt under-supported in both the arc of his character, Finn, and when it came to racist harassment and backlash he received from fans. The studio had likewise failed to take a stand against racist and sexist abuse Raya and the Last Dragon star Kelly Marie Tran received, leading to her closing her social media accounts after the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The issue was further compounded when Lucasfilm faced criticism and allegations that Tran’s character, Rose Tico, had her role drastically reduced in the final film of the trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

However, there are finally signs of attitudes within the company slowly changing when it comes to actively addressing concerns of racism and a lack of diverse voices in leading roles. A swath of recently announced projects are either helmed by or star a more inclusive set of creatives when compared to Star Wars’ past. For example, Taika Waititi’s Star Wars film, Deborah Chow’s Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, or the aforementioned The Book of Boba Fett, helmed by The Mandalorian’s Robert Rodriguez and starring Morrison alongside Ming-Na Wen (who’s also set to reprise her role as bounty hunter Fennec Shand in The Bad Batch). In addition, earlier this year, Lucasfilm posted an official statement on Twitter to stand by presenter Krystina Arielle, host of the company’s ongoing monthly YouTube series The High Republic Show, after she was targeted with racial and sexist abuse by prominent right-wing conservative commentators.

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Positive changes in presenting a more diverse galaxy far, far away also come with acknowledging when the studio errs in its depiction of characters of color and other diverse backgrounds, however. Time will tell how or if Lucasfilm will plan to act upon these concerns in the future, outside of potential changes to lighting on The Bad Batch and future projects. But discussion like this shows that for all the steps forward Lucasfilm has taken to broaden and expand its perception of Star Wars, both within the fiction and within its fandom, there are still many, many more steps to take.


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Oh Sharon Carter, What Will They Do With You?

Sharon Carter makes her move.

Sharon Carter makes her move.
Image: Marvel Studios

Disney+ and Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s muddled mess of a finale meant that, for all its endings, a few characters were going to get short shrift. But few got shrifted shorter than ex-Agent of SHIELD Sharon Carter.

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And that’s in spite of the big “reveal” that’s going to give Sharon (Emily VanCamp) an interesting, prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future… depending on how that future handles it.

The show’s season one finale, “One World, One People,” offers many (almost too many) potential threads for future Marvel stories to tell, but the twist it leaves for its post-credit scene is both paradoxically the most interesting of all its choices and the one that feels most likely to be set up for failure. After Sharon comes to the aid of Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) to help bring the threat of Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag-Smashers to heel, the audience learns a secret she’s been keeping since she first reunited with our heroes back in Madripoor. The sinister “Power Broker” of the criminal haven who put the supersoldier serum in the Flag-Smashers’ hands in the first place was none other than Sharon herself.

After Sharon executes both Karli and Batroc the Leaper in a three-way standoff (in which she is also wounded, giving a bit more weight to her cover-up), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s final post-credit scene reveals to us that not only did Sharon get the pardon Sam promised her for her role in stopping the Flag-Smashers, she’s now been re-embraced by the U.S. intelligence community. What exactly she will be an “Agent” of is left unsaid, given that SHIELD is very gone at this point and SWORD is, presumably, a bit busy after the whole New Jersey deal. But Sharon promptly goes about manipulating her new “hero” status, phoning up a mysterious figure to let them know that she now has access to every U.S. secret and its most dangerous tech to unleash to the highest bidder.

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Screenshot: Marvel Studios

It’s a pretty radical swing for an individual who, when last we saw her before this show, was macking on Steve Rogers. But as deeply, grimly funny as it might be that Sharon got dumped by Steve for her great aunt so hard that she apparently just went full Joker Mode (Broker Mode?), her reveal as the Power Broker misses more than it hits. Primarily that’s because the show doesn’t feel like it has the confidence or the wherewithal to actually execute on it in the future (if there is a future for the show). The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spent its season proving more than a few times that it’s much more interested in brushing up against interesting commentary than it is actually taking the steps to make that commentary feel like it has any bite. Placing Sharon as a mole within the U.S. government for her own gains is no exception.

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It should be interesting that, both metatextually and within the narrative, Sharon got so sidelined by both her homeland and the heroes she was helping that she was radicalized into an agent of chaos. Working against the state, she leveraged its sins against it for her own gain in Madripoor. But by bringing her back into the fold as “Agent Carter,” she’s once again an operative of the nation that previously tossed her aside. Except, not really.

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Screenshot: Marvel Studios

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Her dual-agency—and her desire to exploit her new position to launder U.S. technology and weaponry onto the black market—is an easy way out that contemporary Marvel projects deciding to cast commentary on world nations, the U.S. in particular, often take. The state looks bad on the surface, yes, but it is never the state itself that’s the actual problem, it’s an individual bad apple, an outside infiltrator, from folks like General Ross to Alexander Pierce, to John Walker, and now Sharon Carter. They’re responsible for the rot in these systems, and never the system itself, inherently presented as an innocent tool that’s just been subjugated by bad people. Sharon, as the Power Broker, is now just going to be the latest in a long line of corrupters of the U.S. government, the one-day future target we will point to when the long arm of American politics is touched upon in future Marvel works to go “No, but look! It’s her fault! It could never surely be American imperialism that is in the wrong.”

Speaking of Walker—now wholly embraced as the U.S. Agent—another of this series’ failings is that, when the day comes and Sharon is inevitably exposed as the Power Broker, she’s probably going to face a level of consequence more severe than John Walker did. His arc in the finale feels like an inverse reflection of Sharon’s, vacillating wildly in “One World, One People” from deranged vengeance-seeking villain to one of the lads, cracking Lincoln jokes with Bucky like he didn’t get stripped of all his titles and awards for extrajudicially executing a civilian an episode ago. But because he went from bad—comically, horrifyingly so—to good his sins have already been forgiven (it remains to be seen what Valentina de Fontaine is really up to with him, but the episode explicitly frames Walker’s arc as a heroic one). For breaking bad, and despite having incredibly justifiable reasons to do so, Sharon will one day be forced to pay for her duplicity.

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Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Who can say, maybe that duplicity will push her on a path to redemption as Walker seemingly has been. But for now, even as she’s positioned as a potentially important future figure in either more The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or whatever Marvel TV shows and movies build off of it, Sharon’s return to the MCU stage feels as messy and muddled as her impromptu exit from it back in Civil War.

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Ended… What Now?

Time to celebrate a job well done.

Time to celebrate a job well done.
Photo: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s six-week journey called The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is over. The season one (?) finale, “One World, One People,” brought the series to its conclusion, but did so in a rather predictable, straightforward, almost disappointing way. All of the loose ends wrapped up almost exactly as you’d imagined they would, setting the table for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without the fanfare we’ve come to expect.

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Illustration for article titled The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Ended... What Now?

Episode six of the Disney+ superhero show picked up right where things left off, with Karli (Erin Kellyman) and the Flag-Smashers carrying out their plan to stop the Global Repatriation Council’s vote on global resettlement. The timeline of all this is… a little weird considering episode five ended with the lockdown of the GRC building, and by the time this episode picks up moments later, not only has Bucky (Sebastian Stan) made his way to New York, but Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) has returned to the states from Madripoor and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) has flown in from Louisiana. Not that any of that matters though when Captain America’s shield smashes through the window and Sam is wearing his new, Wakandan-built super suit, which blends the best part of his Falcon attire (wings, jetpack, Red Wing drones) with the red, white, and blue (it’s also fairly comics accurate).

Yes. Sam Wilson has officially picked up the mantle of Captain America, and though the decision should be momentous, it just sort of just happens. The action quickly kicks in, leaving the big reveal on the wayside. That action sequence then continues for about 20 straight minutes.

The new Captain America is here.

The new Captain America is here.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

While we love a good action set-piece, the show really dragged out this final battle with Karli and the Flag-Smashers to little effect. It split up Sam and Bucky to each do their own thing, brought John Walker (Wyatt Russell) back, complete with his puny new shield, and even worked Batroc (Georges St. Pierre) and Sharon into the mix. There were definitely some cool moments (Sam throwing the shield out of the window and then flying to catch it mid-air being one, the helicopter rescue another) but otherwise it was your usual Marvel action fare with no huge deviations.

But this story we started just a few weeks ago did need to provide some closure for its characters so a few key things happened. The first was Walker, still mad over the death of his friend, being forced to make a decision. After fighting the Flag-Smashers he has to decide between saving a truck full of hostages or quenching that thirst for revenge by beating down Karli. Surprisingly, considering all we’ve seen of him so far—he chooses wisely, and attempts to save the hostages. He’s not quite that graceful with it though and requires an assist in the form of Sam using all of his new tech to safely lift the truck. It’s a heroic, decisive act by a human with no superpowers and much of New York watching. “That’s the Black Falcon,” one man says. “No, that’s Captain America” is the response. Thank you for clarifying.

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Thanks to Batroc, Karli escapes this mess, dragging what we know to be the endgame out even longer. Walker, Bucky, and Sam team up to look for her but Sharon finds her first. It’s then revealed that—shock of shocks—Sharon is the Power Broker. Again, this is something that should be a big moment, but happens with little fanfare or impact in the overall scheme of the things. The real impact comes in the form of bullets meeting Batroc when he tries to blackmail Sharon and her getting one in return from him. She survives, Batroc doesn’t. RIP, GSP. Sam soon finds the action and the new-new Captain America finally faces off with Karli. Except he won’t engage. He just plays defense over and over, which frustrates her until Sharon picks herself up from that gunshot and shoots Karli. While we don’t know quite how bad Sharon has broken in the years since she’s played Power Broker, this can definitely be seen as getting payback for Karli stealing the serums and keeping her secret identity intact, even if it was also to help Sam during the fight. That was not the outcome he wanted for Karli, of course, but he trusts Sharon so he lets it slide. Again, a major moment—the death of the show’s main villain—just kind of happens. No one is even shown grieving for this woman who meant so much to so many.

RIP Karli.

RIP Karli.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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With Karli now dead and the other Flag-Smashers in custody (thanks to an oddly easy team-up between Walker and Bucky), it seems all is settled. Except Karli has failed; the GRC still plans on going through with their displacement vote. Sam isn’t having it though and goes off on a long, passionate discussion (which just happens to be caught on camera by several film crews) of why Karli did what she did, how she won’t be the last, and that the GRC has the same power that Thanos did: to kill, or save, half the people in the world. Sam’s desperate pleas are seen by countless people around the world, including Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) who looks particularly conflicted that he’s seeing what he didn’t want to see, a black Captain America.

Sam’s speech was his true arrival as the heir to Steve Rogers, however, and was easily the best part of the entire episode—even if it was done in the most awkward way possible. A hero explaining the themes of the show he’s on to a bunch of people in a crowd was a pretty odd choice but it did make it clear Sam is the right man for the job.

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With that long set-piece over, it was time to wrap things up—character by character, scene by scene, as if the creators were going down a checklist. It started with the last few Flag-Smashers being transferred to the Raft, but, before they can get even one block away, all are killed when their transport blows up. Bye-bye super soldiers. The camera pulled back to reveal an old man many viewers might not, at that moment, remember, because you haven’t seen him in several episodes. But it’s Baron Zemo’s butler Oeznik (Nicholas Pryor)! And if you didn’t remember, the subsequent cut to Zemo imprisoned on the Raft, beaming with satisfaction at finally completing his mission to destroy the super soldiers, would lock it in. Again, awkward and certainly unnecessary.

We’re curious about the allegiances of these two.

We’re curious about the allegiances of these two.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

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Another person was happy about Zemo’s success though, and that’s Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). She’s hanging with the Walkers (in the hearing room, which seems an odd location choice) and has given the once-Captain America not just a new suit, but a new name: U.S. Agent. Which, for fear of repeating myself, was obviously going to happen. Of course, John Walker was going to be U.S. Agent. John Walker is known for being U.S. Agent in the comics. The lingering issues with him are: will the public still accept him as a hero and what are his true loyalties? He and his wife are excited about the prospect though, and despite his lack of military rank or benefits, Walker has purpose again.

Continuing the trend of cutting to characters to tie up their loose ends, things quickly shifted to Bucky… you know, the second half of the two-person series? He pays a visit to Mr. Nakashima (Ken Takemoto) who we met in the first episode and confesses that it was he, as the Winter Soldier, who killed his son years ago. This—you guessed it—happens rather quickly and with only a hint of the emotional weight it probably deserved, especially considering all the work Bucky has gone through with his therapist and chats with Sam. We barely see Mr. Nakashima react but a later shot of Bucky looking into the restaurant and seeing Leah (Miki Ishikawa) as well as a seeingly relieved Mr. Nakashima, was one of the episode’s other good moments.

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Bucky’s confession, the restaurant moment, and him giving Cap’s book to Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino) are perfect examples of the biggest problem with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Those moments are payoffs from four and five episodes ago, moments that have been tangentially referenced, at best, in the time since then. The show has continued to go off on tangents that get away from the heart of the show, which hurt its pacing, and made scenes like these not land as powerfully as they probably should have. And that was… basically a wrap on Bucky’s entire arc for a show he was ostensibly meant to be half of.

Well done, Bucky.

Well done, Bucky.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Of course, the show had one last character to wrap up, and that’s the other half of the titular duo. Sam pays one more visit to Isaiah who admits he saw what the hero did with the GRC and thinks he’s “special.” Sam thanks him and knows this whole Captain America thing might not work out but feels he owes it not just to Isaiah but Black Americans in general. “So, Black Captain America huh?” Isaiah asks. “Damn right,” Sam replies.

Sam has one more surprise for Isaiah though. Somehow he had the Smithsonian add a wing to the often visited Captain America exhibit complete with Isaiah’s history and a full statue. Now, you may remember, this is literally the exact opposite of everything Isaiah told Sam he wanted (he wanted to remain dead and anonymous). However, the fact that his struggle and fight weren’t for nothing, and that he’ll now be remembered as the courageous hero he was, brings Isaiah to tears, and his story to a close.

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And so too does The Falcon and the Winter Soldier come to a close, with a celebration down on the docks of Louisiana. The community takes photos with the new Cap, Bucky hangs out and is happy, and the two friends—co-workers—look off to the horizon, unsure of what the future holds. Which is when the show’s “new” title hits the screen: Captain America and the Winter Soldier. In the mid-credits scene, we see that Sam was a man of his word and worked to get Sharon her pardon. She even gets offered her job back working in the government. Pleased and excited, the Power Broker herself immediately makes a call that the secrets of the U.S. government are now for sale to the highest bidder.

Rebranding!

Rebranding!
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

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As far as finales go, Captain America and the Winter Soldier… was one. The big storylines got wrapped up, the main mysteries answered, and Sam Wilson has finally fulfilled his destiny and taken the mantle of Captain America. But here’s my problem with that and the new title. Didn’t Bucky get rid of “the Winter Soldier” too? Wasn’t the show about the journey both of them had to take? Shouldn’t it have ended with the title Captain America and the White Wolf or something? The Winter Soldier moniker is emblematic of everything Bucky hates, doesn’t still calling him that undercut his growth?

I ask those questions because that slightly askew level of understanding is this show in a nutshell. It had good intentions and OK execution, but always felt a little bit off. The first and fifth episodes were the show at its best, and everything else was a means to this specific ending—an ending where very little of significance happened. Yes, the MCU has its new Captain America, but that was set up in Endgame. Yes, there’s a new mega villain in the Power Broker, but she’s just another mole in the government. Hydra 2.0. There’s also a mysterious new presence named Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and a new super soldier in U.S. Agent. Those two things are intriguing but, again, maybe not worth the time it took to get there.

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The one thing that was worth the wait was the final, undeniable, full-fledged bromance between Sam and Bucky. That’s what those characters deserve, what Steve would have wanted, and is also exactly what you would’ve guessed would happen at the beginning of the show. Which is fine, but Marvel is usually better than that.

Assorted Musings:

  • What do you think Contessa meant when she said “Things are about to get weird.” That felt like a very specific omen to whatever Marvel has planned for Phase Four. But, we guess Eternals and multiverses and multiple Spider-Men probably qualify, if that’s what she’s referring to.
  • John Walker’s character arc didn’t quite end up working. His anger and purpose after being stripped of Cap seemed to carry over into this episode, but were quickly pushed aside with a few good guy moments—and he’s given a new suit with no discernible future direction? Wyatt Russell was great in the role but I think what was arguably the series’ most interesting character got short-changed here. Thankfully, he’ll be back.
  • The Isaiah Bradley exhibit was weird, right? Where did Sam, or the people from the museum, get all this information? How did they fact-check it? Isn’t everyone who could confirm it gone? Wasn’t this all buried under a rug and redacted to hell? It’s a nice, worthy gesture of respect but at the same time, it also kind of felt like a betrayal not just of Isaiah’s wishes, but the fact it had been lost to history for so long.
  • I don’t think there should be a second season of Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Not because this season wasn’t good enough, it was, but while maybe “The Falcon” wasn’t bigger than streaming service Disney+, “Captain America” is. It’s nice that Marvel devoted six hours to establishing a new one, but if Sam-Cap gets another Disney+ show and not a big-screen movie, it would feel as if Marvel didn’t learn the lessons it taught with its own show. We’ll see.

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Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled the acronym for the Global Repatriation Council. io9 regrets the error.


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Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Adding Pen15 Co-Creator and Star Maya Erskine

Maya meets Obi.

Maya meets Obi.
Photo: Hulu/Disney

Things on Tatooine are about to get a little more middle school. That’s because Maya Erskine, best known as the co-star and co-creator of the brilliant Hulu comedy Pen15, has been cast in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars show on Disney+.

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According to Deadline, Erskine will be in “at least three episodes” of the show. But like all of the other cast members who’ve been announced—names like Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson, Sung Kang, and Benny Safdie—there’s no clue as to whom Erskine is playing in Lucasfilm’s universe.

What we do know about Erskine, however, is she’s an otherworldly talent. The way she’s able to transform into a teenage girl on Pen15 is so convincing, there’s a chance you didn’t know she wasn’t actually a teenage girl. On top of that her writing ability, blending a huge range of humor with nostalgia and pathos, is second to none. She doesn’t necessarily need to be typecast as a comedic force on the show but if she is, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Deborah Chow is showrunning Obi-Wan Kenobi, which should begin filming very soon. No release date is set but we’d guess it would hit Disney+ late next year.


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This Week’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Wasn’t Really About Either

Wonder what John is looking at?

Wonder what John is looking at?
Photo: Marvel Studios

Episode four of Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was all about contrasting viewpoints, mainly from two people—neither of which were the Falcon or the Winter Soldier—who represent factions on a collision course for possible war. And it might be up to Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Photo: Marvel Studios

The people I’m referring to are Flag-Smasher leader Karli (Erin Kellyman) and the new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell). You see, the latest episode of Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is called “The Whole World Is Watching,” a title that refers to both of them by the end. At the start, though, it seems to only refer to Karli and her crew; after she blew up a GRC (Global Repatriotzation Council) office in the last episode, we find out three people were killed in the blast and now news of the group is spreading. The GRC wants to pass laws to slow them down while others are becoming sympathetic to the Flag-Smasher cause. More than before, the whole world is watching.

Fast forward to the end of the episode and we witness Walker bludgeoning a Flag-Smasher to death with the Captain America shield as dozens of people film it on their phones. It was brutal. In both cases, though, in “The Whole World Is Watching” these two seemingly want the same thing: peace. They just have radically different opinions of how to get it and a complete inability to compromise—and each of their actions will have severe consequences for everyone around them.

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Loved the deepening of this relationship.
Photo: Marvel Studios

First, let’s start over. The episode begins in Wakanda, six years ago, as the Winter Soldier is being deprogrammed and rehabilitated by Ayo (Florence Kasumba), the Black Panther star who appeared at the end of the previous episode. Ayo tells Bucky she’s going to say his HYDRA trigger words to prove he’s better but he’s terrified. As she lists them off, he gets increasingly scared until she reaches the end—nothing happens. The look on Bucky’s face of relief and gratitude through streaming tears was truly moving, one of Stan’s best moments to date. “You’re free,” Ayo says, setting up the friendship and respect these two warriors have. That respect is why present Ayo gives Bucky eight hours to use Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) before she and the Dora Milaje come for him. After all, he killed their former king.

Meanwhile, Sam has an idea to find Karli: they should look for Donya Madani (Veronica Falcon), whom Karli was beside in the last episode as she passed away. Sam realizes Madani was a beloved figure in the community and thinks if they crash her funeral, Karli will be there. The plan will only work, though, if someone tells them where the funeral is. No one does. Thankfully, Zemo is still around, and after bribing a few kids with some Turkish Delight (“Irresistible,” he gleefully calls it), he figures out where the services are taking place. [Editor’s note: Don’t listen to pop culture, Turkish Delight is gross. -Jill P., one very disappointed The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe fan.]

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Before they go, Sam and Bucky have a crucial conversation where Sam admits he doesn’t think Karli is wrong. He understands how hard it was for people who had been snapped to show up five years later and expect things to go back to normal. And he knows that, in those five years where half of humanity was gone, the world came together as one. It was harmonious. It was aspirational. And it all went away when Bruce Banner snapped his fingers. So he sympathizes and thinks if he can talk to Karli alone, he can get her to see that.

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The boys.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Meanwhile, Karli and fellow Flag-Smasher Nico (Noah Mills) retrieve the rest of the Super Soldier serum in its hidden gravesite location and their discussion mirrors the one Sam and Bucky just had. Karli is unsure if creating more Super Soldiers is the right thing to do. Nico explains that he used to love Captain America but what he represented doesn’t exist anymore—in fact, he thinks Karli should be the new Captain America because she represents the world more accurately now. Not just because of who she is, but the struggle she’s been through. She doesn’t necessarily agree but does think the shield is outdated and, like Sam suggested in the last episode, maybe it should be destroyed.

It’s very clear Karli and Sam have a lot in common, but soon after he, Bucky, and Zemo set off for the funeral, only to be interrupted by Walker and Lemar (Clé Bennett). Walker is pissed off, comes in hot, and basically just wants to take over the entire situation. Luckily, Lemar talks him down, at least for a minute, to let the plan play out. Bucky, Zemo, Walker, and Lemar wait outside the funeral so Sam can have a chance to speak to Karli one-on-one. Besides the fact that Sam lies about being alone, the conversation goes fairly well. He explains to Karli how bad what she’s doing looks to the outside world versus the effect she thinks it’s having. She seemingly appreciates the understanding and sympathy, and even starts to trust him, but just then, a twitchy, angry, anxious guy with a red, white, and blue shield storms in, interrupting their conversation (and the small bit of trust she had) and a chase ensues.

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This was Erin Kellyman’s best episode by far.
Photo: Marvel Studios

The resulting chase plays out rather predictably save one crucial element: Zemo, who had slipped off in all the commotion, is the one who catches Karli. He shoots her, she falls and drops the remaining vials of Super Soldier serum. There they are, maybe the most valuable asset on the planet, right at Zemo’s fingertips. After a brief second of consideration, he smashes them up, proving that while he may be evil, he does not deviate from his code: super soldiers should not exist.

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Zemo wasn’t careful enough though because one vial slid off to the side and later gets picked up by none other than John Walker, a man who in the last few days has been playing catch up with more experienced heroes and is incredibly frustrated and angry about all of it. This won’t go well.

While so much was happening, the clock has been running, and after a brief respite, the Dora Milaje have come to collect Baron Zemo. Walker, still on edge about, well, just about everything, tries to reason with them but has no idea what he’s up against. He and Lemar get into a battle with the Wakandan warriors who are about to literally kill them when Bucky and Sam finally jump in. Once again, using the commotion to his advantage, Zemo escapes through a large drain. This, of course, does not sit well with the Dora, who handily defeated everyone in the room. That includes Bucky, whom Ayo literally disarms in a special strike that locks up and detaches his vibranium arm (it actually reminded me of Kill Bill’s Five Point Exploding Heart Technique). She says something to him that sounds like “Damn you James” but it’s hard to make out and they leave. (The subtitles say “(Speaking Wakandan) James” suggesting it’s maybe something a little more personal.)

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Walker, on the other hand, is still reeling from having his ass handed to him by the Dora (“They weren’t even super soldiers,” he whimpers to Lemar) and later the two debate the merits of serum, just like Sam and Bucky, just like Karli and Nico. Lemar doesn’t know Walker’s stolen it so, almost in a joking way, he tells Walker he would take it if he had the chance. It’s his belief the powers would just make you a better version of the person you already are, which seems to pique Walker’s interest. They discuss how awful their wartime experiences were and admit if they had the serum then, fewer people would have died. Both Karli and Walker think this Super-Soldier serum is the answer to their problems—whether it’s a systemic change to society or a desire to be good and help broker peace.

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This is about to get bad.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Even in a very dialogue-heavy, relatively slow episode, the similarities of these two viewpoints really came through. Especially when, despite being slightly betrayed and losing her biggest piece of leverage, Karli reaches out to Sam via his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye). It’s a bit of a bummer to see Sarah only in one scene, on the phone, again, but it’s a big scene. She not only vouches for Sam and his lack of loyalty to Walker but gets threatened by Karli. It’s an empty threat, but Sarah doesn’t know that, and she flees with her kids while Sam confronts Karli. Reaffirmed in some of her trust in him, she asks Sam if he wants to team up to fight the injustices of the world, but before that can play out, once again they’re interrupted by John Walker.

Another fight ensues and it becomes obvious that Walker did, in fact, take the Super Soldier serum. His strength escalates things to the point where Lemar is punched so hard into a column by Karli, he’s killed. Everyone’s in shock, Karli bolts, and Walker chases the last Flag-Smasher he can find. He catches up to him in a public square and as the man begs for his life, Walker smashes him to death with the Captain America shield while dozens of people film it on their phones. Though the whole episode has basically been building to this malfunction, Sam, Bucky, Karli, and the audience are all stunned at the turn of events. The final shot, of the shield splattered in blood, is one noone will easily forget.

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“The Whole World Is Watching” was kind of repetitive, kind of monotonous, and filled with maybe a little too much talking, but it was also sprinkled with plenty of good bits. The Dora Milaje are always a welcome sight and their scene was one of the show’s highlights so far. The flashback with Bucky was incredible—certainly, something fans probably expected more of from this show—and learning more about the true natures of both Karli and Walker gives the series some more emotional complexity. There’s no way Walker can keep the shield now, is there? The question is, does the shield get passed on, or does it get destroyed?

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Photo: Marvel Studios

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Assorted Musings:

  • Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) sure got shortchanged in this episode. Sam calls her for help with something, she mentions the Power Broker is pissed about the doctor being killed (suggesting she’s not the Power Broker, but that could still be a diversion) and then she uses a few satellites for almost no reason. I feel like she deserves more and, hopefully, she’ll get it.
  • Zemo’s arc in this episode, while not crucial, was quite interesting. The way he handled himself to get the information about the funeral. The way he withheld that information to save himself. The way he escaped capture numerous times and then turned down the chance to take the serum. We’ll surely see him again before the season is out, and frankly, I want even more than that. And not just more dancing.

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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has two more episodes left. We’ll see you next week.


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General Grievous’ Clone Wars Debut Remains a Masterclass—But Not for the Reason You Think

General Grievous strikes.

General Grievous strikes.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars Clone Wars micro-series is remembered—deified even—for its action. It is all killer, no filler: the dialogue is spartan, its themes layered but simple. This is Star Wars and you are here for tight, explosive, bombastic action unlike anything the franchise had dared to dream of before, and rarely would after. The series’ arguable apex, its 20th chapter, is no exception.

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In the grand tradition of iconic Star Wars hench-villains making their debut in animation, just as Boba Fett had 26 years beforehand, in April 2004—17 years ago to this day, in fact—audiences were introduced to the franchise’s next supporting big bad in General Grievous. The Grievous we meet here, beyond aesthetic choices befitting Clone Wars anime-influenced style, is markedly different to the cyborg we would meet on the big screen a year later in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.

He didn’t have a cough, not yet at least, to be explained away by the micro-series’ third and final series. His spindly, bone-tinged armor replaced with cool whites and steel tones, thickened to look as menacing as possible. Not here is the cackling, scheming ‘40s serial villain George Lucas would want from Revenge of the Sith’s sinister patsy but instead, a taciturn, ruthless killing machine who wanted one thing and one thing only: the complete extermination of any Jedi that dared cross his path. A take, one could certainly describe with a sense of glee, that was more “badass.” Filed away are many of the more cartoonish, even clumsy shades that would be added to Grievous in Revenge and eventually the 3D CG Clone Wars series that would sweep Tartakovsky’s show out of canon for good. Instead, he was something serious, something violent, something that is, as we rejoiced, all killer and no filler.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Chapter 20 can certainly be remembered like so much of Clone Wars in this way: a nine-minute (bumped up from prior episode’s typical three-to-four-minute runtime) hyper-concentrated dose of action, in which this horrifying figure of cybernetic dread carves a bloody (yet bloodless) path through a squad of Jedi. Lightsabers whirl with frightful precision on both sides, bodies are carved, stomped upon, flung lifelessly into the debris of a devastating battle left unseen. Grievous’ sole line of dialogue here is not a boast or jape, but a threat that reflects his power and imposing, calculated demeanor: “Jedi! You are surrounded, your armies decimated. Make peace with the Force now, for this is your final hour—but know that I, General Grievous, am not completely without mercy. I will grant you a warrior’s death. Prepare!

In our minds eye, this is Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars writ large: the Star Wars that Star Wars could be if removed from such apparent shackles as theme and compassion. Freed to be nothing but the awe-inspiring action of fantastical warriors at the height of their power matched in vivid, intense combat. And it is indeed that. But what makes it more—what makes it Star Wars—is that it is not about the action of Grievious’ arrival on the scene, or at least not entirely.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Chapter 20 is about the Jedi who fall victim to him, a turning point in the show and in Star Wars’ prequel era that punctures the very mythos of the mystical group, and asks us to really, truly consider their impending downfall. There’s something fitting that the majority of the Jedi we encounter on Hypori—Ki-Adi-Mundi, Shaak Ti, Aayla Secura, and K’Kruhk, joined by two newly created padawans, Sha’a Gi and Tarr Seirr—are characters that diehard fans would recognise from the Star Wars expanded universe’s stories of the Clone Wars at the time. These are more than just any Jedi then, they are beloved characters.

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Even without that recognition, as Ki-Adi intones to steel his beleaguered allies at one point in the short, they are Jedi. We have spent the entirety of the show at this point in awe of the heightened, almost absurd power of the Order. Warriors like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Kit Fisto, and Mace Windu have singlehandedly run rampant across battlefields, every setback turned into a minor inconvenience, a chance for them to swing back twice as hard, and often decisively so. Up to this point in the show for our heroes there is no failure, only stunning spectacle: unarmed or otherwise, the Jedi of this conflict are almighty, perhaps even scary, in their martial skill. And yet, Hypori is not just framed as a defeat, but a rout.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

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We open with the death of Master Barrek, introduced only to be cut down by an unseen assailant, before cutting to Jedi not bounding across a battlefield as we had seen so often in the show, but skulking in shadow. They’re darting from ruin to ruin—comprised of their own warships, now empty husks on a barren field—and talking in hushed, panicked whispers. When they arrive within one of those husks, they don’t find resolute Jedi defenders, but people who are exhausted, shattered by defeat. For all the reassurances that Ki-Adi Mundi makes to his comrades, they may be Jedi, but they are unlike anything of the Jedi we have been presented up to this point. Scared, broken, doubtful, emotional, and so completely far from the stoic warrior monks we had been trained to think of.

Sha’a Gi, so completely destroyed in being confronted with the loss, bursts from refuge with a petrified scream, only to be immediately crushed under heel as Grievous makes his arrival. As the General moves in for his kills, his opponents are treated with the same lack of reverence that we’ve seen countless Jedi in the show treat the swathes of Battle Droids they eviscerated for 19 chapters. K’Kruhk is laid low with a brutal slice, Aayla and Tarr Seir aren’t just incapacitated by strikes of Grevious’ limbs, but their bodies flung aside like ragdolls, not even given the time to linger on as they smash into far-off debris. They are Jedi, and yet they are also nothing to Grievous. Their own arrogance and power in this war held up to them like a mirror: a mirror that petrifies the Jedi left standing to their core.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

For nearly two hours of animation before these moments, Clone Wars never really stopped to question the gravity of its action, what it means beyond the surface level of its bombast to see the Jedi Order unleash itself in this manner. The moment the show strikes back at the Order with that kind of power in turn, the Jedi are made vulnerable in ways we had never really seen them depicted on-screen before. It’s a powerful moment, not simply because of its villainous debut, but for what it says about our purported heroes in the face of such overwhelming force.

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In 19 chapters, the Jedi were gods. In just one, they were made deeply, painfully human—and beyond the spectacle, we as an audience are asked to consider so much more than just the slickness of lightsabers crossing in the dark.

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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s Solid Surprises Bolster an Otherwise Repetitive Episode

The gang is back together.

The gang is back together.
Photo: Marvel Studios

Well, we didn’t see that coming. Or that coming. Or that coming. The third episode of Disney+ and Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier saw our heroes hot on the trail of the super-soldier serum—and their investigation was filled with some pretty excellent surprises that helped to cover the fact the rest of the episode was rather dull.

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Illustration for article titled The Falcon and The Winter Soldier's Solid Surprises Bolster an Otherwise Repetitive Episode

Episode three, “Power Broker,” began with a good old fashion dose of reality. In an almost WandaVision callback, we got a dreamy, sweet commercial of what the GRC (Global Repatriotzation Council) wants people to think they’re doing to people back from the Blip. Next, we see Captain America (Wyatt Russell) and his team, who work for the GRC, busting into a building looking for the Flag Smashers. They’re already gone from this place, but the man who spits in Cap’s face lets us know, the commercial isn’t reality—Americans are “brutes” and he doesn’t care about Captain America.

Meanwhile, as per last week’s cliffhanger, Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) are in Germany to see Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). Bucky asks to go in alone and after a brief moment worrying Zemo might reprogram him, things calm down. Zemo seems legitimately shocked to hear about this new version of the super-soldier serum and thinks he knows someone who can help. Sam is less convinced than Bucky but it doesn’t matter. Through a fun, elaborate scene, Bucky explains to Sam how he’d like to break Zemo out of prison, which ends up being an explanation of how he’s already done it. To be honest though, while it’s a very good scene, it seemed a little too elaborate to have actually worked, especially since there was no hint at Bucky even preparing it. Nevertheless, it’s a comic book show, we’ll let it slide.

Sam, understandably, is not okay with breaking one of the world’s leading psychopaths out of prison. He reminds Bucky not just of the fact that Zemo has a grudge against the Avengers, but that he killed the king of Wakanda and blamed Bucky for it. Bucky remembers of course but feels this is the right move and asks Sam to trust him, which he does. And so, for this episode at least, the show basically becomes The Falcon, The Winter Solider and Baron Zemo as the trio set out to solve the mystery of the super serum. Zemo, who reminds Sam and Bucky the name “Baron” isn’t something he just picked up, takes the guys on his private jet to Madripoor, a fictional island in Southeast Asia (comic book fans are probably familiar with it). Along the way, Zemo deconstructs the nature of superheroes, explaining that if you put them on a pedestal, their accountability is lost, a lesson that will come back later in the episode.

Zemo and Bucky chatting.

Zemo and Bucky chatting.
Photo: Disney+/Marvel

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After a brief but sad scene where the Flag Smasher’s leader Karli (Erin Kellyman) loses someone who means a great deal to her, the main trio basks in the neon lights of Madripoor. Zemo has a plan to see a bar owner named Selby (Imelda Corcoran) but to get close to her, he’s going to have to play his old evil self, Bucky is going to have to act as the Winter Soldier, and Sam must be The Smiling Tiger, a flashy criminal whom he bears a resemblance too. In retrospect, much of this scene is just kind of fun for fun’s sake (for example, the snake guts Sam is forced to drink) but the ease with which Bucky falls right back into Winter Soldier mode at Zemo’s suggestion does not go unnoticed, by the audience or Zemo, who makes sure to comment to Sam about it. Bucky is obviously trying to better himself, but he’s living on the edge of a blade and it can go either way.

When Selby gives the guys the name of the person who created the super-soldier serum, it seems Zemo’s plan is working. That is, until Sam’s sister Sarah calls, finally circling back to the family drama in the first episode. (Things have been pretty busy for Falcon, flying all over the world and all.) The call blows their cover but, thankfully, a mysterious sniper helps them by killing Selby and clearing the path as they escape. It turns out that sniper is none other than Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) who Marvel fans haven’t seen since Captain America: Civil War.

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Here’s where “Power Broker” kicks it up a notch for a few reasons. The main one being Sharon’s unexpected, but warranted anger at Sam. She, unlike him and even Bucky, never got a second chance after betraying the government to help them out—she was forced to go into hiding, disconnect with family to keep them safe, and start a new life in Madripoor. It’s one of those “I never thought about it that way” moments for the audience as well as the characters. Plus there’s the added level of VanCamp almost saying: “I didn’t get any of that sweet Avengers: Endgame money!” It’s a powerful, interesting scene that also drives the story forward. Sharon is highly connected in Madripoor as a dealer of fine, but stolen, antiquities and reluctantly agrees to help everyone if Sam can clear her name in the United States.

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It’s not a deal he can guarantee but she makes it anyway, and if the ease of her doing all this for them after they betrayed her feels somehow too easy, you’re right. It’s another theme strung through the episode that pays off near the end. Very conveniently (almost too conveniently) Sharon is able to locate the person who created the serum, Dr. Nagle (Olli Haaskivi) who’s held up in a secret compartment in some shipping containers. When Sam, Bucky, and Zemo confront him, he fills in a ton of narrative blanks from the show.

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She’s very good at this. Almost too good.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Basically, after the failure of the five super soldiers in Siberia audiences met in Civil War, Nagle was brought on by Hydra to continue the work. Of course, Hydra then fell and the CIA recruited Nagle, which is how he got access to the blood of an American who had been infused with the serum—not Steve or Bucky, but Isaiah. Nagle took Isaiah’s blood and was able to not only recreate the serum but improve it so that the people injected had the same powers without all the added muscle on their frame (which is why Karli and the Flag Smashers look “normal.”). Around the time of his renewed work, however, is when Thanos snapped; Nagle went away, and when he returned five years later, the CIA had shut his work down. So the titular Power Broker, head of crime in Madripoor, decided to finance his research. He made 20 vials before Karli and the Flag Smashers stole it. That about catches us up on all the crucial MCU action that happened off-screen.

It’s a lot to take in and it’s intercut with scenes of Sharon single-handedly fighting off every bounty hunter in Madripoor who comes after Sam, Bucky, and Zemo. Zemo, meanwhile, who has spent his life trying to destroy the super soldiers, tales the opportunity to kill Nagle. That sets off a chain reaction of loud action complete with explosions, missile launchers, and more. Surprisingly, instead of using the havoc to take off, Zemo helps Sam, Sharon, and Bucky get out of the jam. The main thing is, they now have another name to go off of—Donya Madani (played very briefly by Veronica Falcon)—which should give them a lead on Karli herself. Though the three men go off in search of her, Sharon stays and it’s made pretty clear she’s either the Power Broker herself, or working for them. She wasn’t helping Sam and Bucky to help Sam and Bucky, he was keeping her friends closer and her new enemies closer. Or so it seems.

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After recent events, Sam finally begins to realize the collateral damage a superhero can leave. It ruined Isaiah’s life. It ruined Sharon’s life. “How many people have to get steamrolled to make way for his hunk of metal?” he asks. It’s an interesting debate and it makes him realize yes, he made a mistake giving up the shield. But not because he donated it, because maybe he should have destroyed it.

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Oh right. Captain America!
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Speaking of the shield, Captain America and Battlestar—who spend the episode being a few steps behind Bucky and Sam—realize the pair probably connected to Zemo breaking out of prison. Also, while Karli and the Flag Smashers steal supplies from a GRC office she sets off a bomb there, which is a surprise to her partner. There’s obviously a lot to her character but this revealed her more vengeful, murderous side and it’s obviously not something all her crew agree with.

Finally, as Sam, Bucky, and Zemo arrive in Riga to track Karli, Bucky notices something and takes a walk away from them. It’s there he runs into Ayo (Florence Kasumba) one of the Wakandan Dora Milaje who, as Sam predicted, is after Baron Zemo, the man who killed her king. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier bringing in Black Panther characters is such a good tease it almost covers for what was more or less an overly stretched-out episode. Go to a place, get information, get on a plane, go to a place, get information, get on a plane, etc. There were certainly some fun action scenes throughout, as well as lots of important story information and some interesting philosophical debates, but most of that is buried under a rather repetitive structure.

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Nevertheless, if Sharon does end up being the Power Broker, that’s intriguing—Sam finally starting to get his mind around the cost of superheroism is, too. And now, finally, all the players are on the field: Zemo, Sharon, Walker, etc. We’re halfway through The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and while “Power Broker” wasn’t a great episode, it gave us enough ingredients that things should really start cooking from here. Just three episodes left.

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Get it? Cooking.
Photo: Marvel Studios

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Assorted Musings

  • The plane trip had some other fun little asides too, mainly the discussion of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” a nod back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the revelation that the book Bucky uses to keep track of the people he needs to make amends with is the same book Steve Rogers used to reaclimate himself with modern society.
  • Being as it’s on Disney+, the scene with all the bounty hunter beepers going off in Madripoor probably felt like a very similar scene in The Mandalorian. However, John Wick writer Derek Kolstad wrote this episode and since that series involves assassins who go after Wick in the same way, that’s probably the more accurate reference here.
  • Speaking of bounty hunters, when Sharon casually mentioned that the bounty on Sam and Bucky’s head for killing Selby won’t go away, that seemed significant. Was that her setting up something as The Power Broker? Or was that a bigger, lifelong type thing?
  • After the last episode was almost all about him, John Walker doesn’t have much to do in this episode. But the little he does shows him struggling to do even half the work Bucky and Sam are doing, as well as being anxious to take the credit. I’ll be curious to see if he’s able to keep his morals or begin to break bad.
  • I both like and don’t like that the show put the idea of super-soldier serum back on the table and then quickly wiped it away. It makes sense that the story stays isolated to this show, which will now be the case since Nagle is dead and Karli mentions she has the last serum in the world. And yet, it’s such a huge idea, one that gets mentioned so many times in the MCU and has impacted so many (even Bruce Banner) it would’ve been fun to see it spread out a bit more.
  • The brief scene of Sarah here made me realize I find that side of Sam’s story, and not this cloak and dagger spy stuff, more interesting. I hope we get a lot more of that in the second half of the show. The family trials of being an Avenger.
  • Though we can’t say for sure yet, I welcome that the character we assumed would be the show’s villain, Zemo, might be a “hero” and a character we assumed would be a hero, Sharon, might be the “villain.” That’s a simple, but exciting twist that could really work.
  • For the record, from my first sentence in the recap: “That” #1 = Breaking out Zemo. “That” #2 = Sharon maybe the Broker. “That” #3 = The Dora Milaje.

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Star Wars: Clone Wars’ Must-Watch Chapters

Get ready to see the battles of the Clone Wars once more!

Get ready to see the battles of the Clone Wars once more!
Image: Lucasfilm

This week, the Clone War begins…again! But we’re not returning to the 3DCG battlefields of Lucasfilm’s beloved, iconic animated series (not until Bad Batch, at least). Instead, Disney+ is finally taking us back a long, long time ago—to 2003, to re-experience our first animated taste of one of Star Wars’ most legendary conflicts: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars.

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Ever since A New Hope—where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Leia Organa whispered of a legendary conflict, of guardians of peace and daring pilots—fans wondered just what the Clone War was. In 2002, we got a glimpse of it in prequel film Attack of the Clones, as a new Republic army rose alongside the Jedi Order to combat the returned Sith threat. But we saw a single battle, and masses of soldiers and fleets ready to depart Coruscant and wage war across a galaxy—what of the war itself?

We’d wait a year to see, and it wouldn’t be on the big screen but Cartoon Network, through the eyes of beloved animator Genndy Tartakovsky. Then known for series like Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, Tartakovsky led the charge on Star Wars: Clone Wars, a short-form, mostly dialogue-less anthology series that told the stories of Jedi and Clones on the front lines of conflict; daring duels, epic sieges, the rise and fall of new heroes and new villains. Across three seasons, leading all the way up to (literally) the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, Clone Wars provided one of the most unique windows into the Star Wars galaxy as we’d seen it.

Now that it’s finally streaming on Disney+, the entire thing is worth a watch—it’s only about two hours total, after all. But if you want to dive in and get a taste of what Clone Wars could really shine with, here’s a select sampling of its highlights.


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Image: Lucasfilm

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Chapter 3

On the planet Muunilinst, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s force of elite ARC Troopers battles their way through the city streets to capture a key outpost.

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Chapter 5

The Mon Calamari have petitioned the Republic for aid, and Jedi Master Kit Fisto has answered. While shirtless.

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Image: Lucasfilm

Chapter 6

A shady gladiatorial arena on Rattatak draws the attention of Count Dooku when an all-out brawl leaves a surprising young woman standing as the victor.

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Chapter 8

Back on Muunilist, the battle rages, as Obi-Wan decides that the only way to counter the Banking Clan’s army of speeder-bike-riding lancer droids is with…well, speeder-bike-riding clone troopers.

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Image: Lucasfilm

Chapter 13

On Dantooine, Mace Windu loses his lightsaber in a challenging skirmish with the Separatist’s earth-smashing seismic tanks, only to quickly prove that an unarmed Jedi is infinitely as dangerous as an armed one.

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Chapters 18 and 19

Anakin Skywalker has been drawn to the rain-soaked jungles of Yavin IV in pursuit of an ace enemy pilot who turns out to be none other than Asaaj Ventress, Dooku’s new assassin—engaging in a battle that will test his body and spirit unlike anything has before.

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Image: Lucasfilm

Chapter 20

On the planet Hypori, Ki-Adi Mundi attempts to bolster the resolve of a group of sole surviving Jedi. But something stalks them in the shadows, and there’s talk of a new Separatist commander…a cyborg trained to be the ultimate Jedi killer.

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Chapters 24 and 25

The two final episodes of the series are set at the climax of the war on the planet Nelvaan, as Anakin uncovers a chilling vision of the future while he attempts to uncover a mystery behind disappeared Nelvaanian tribesmen. Meanwhile, on Coruscant, the war hits home: General Grievous’ fleets have invaded the capital, and Jedi Master Shaak Ti finds herself in a horrifying race for survival, where the safety of the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is at stake!

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(Spoilers: it doesn’t go well.)

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Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s New Trailer Puts Clones on the Run

Get ready to run, Clone Force 99!

Get ready to run, Clone Force 99!
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Trailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you’re craving.

Ended, the Clone War has—but Clone Force 99’s fight is far from over.

Disney+ has just dropped the latest look at The Bad Batch, Lucasfilm’s animated spinoff of The Clone Wars, which concluded early last year. Set shortly after the fall of the Republic seen in Revenge of the Sith, the series follows the titular “Bad Batch”—a.k.a. Clone Force 99, who was introduced in Clone Wars’ seventh season—as their unorthodox special forces group has to adapt to the rise of a Galactic Empire.

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As well as re-introducing ourselves to the team—Hunter (Dee Bradley Baker), Echo (Dee Bradley Baker), Tech (Dee Bradley Baker), Wrecker (Dee Bradley Baker), and Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker)—the trailer teases both new and familiar faces the squad will meet as the last remnants of the Clone Wars play out, only to be swept aside by Emperor Palpatine’s new tyranny. From Clone Wars and Rebels, there are returns of both Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) and Captain Rex (…also Dee Bradley Baker), Saw Gerrera (we’re not sure yet who is voicing him this time around), and from The Mandalorian, a younger version of Ming-Na Wen’s bounty hunter Fennec Shand.

But there are also new characters—most notably what appears to be a new, young clone that the squad picks up as they make their escape from the now Imperial-controlled Clone labs of Kamino. Oh, and a whole lot of boots-on-the-ground Star Wars trooper action. What else would you expect from Clones forced to turn against their brothers in a fight to survive?

Star Wars: The Bad Batch begins streaming on Disney+ May 4 with a 70-minute special premiere, with episodes continuing weekly from May 7.


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The Star Wars Prequels Hid Quite a Few Famous Actors

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Keisha Castle-Hughes as Queen God-Those-Headpieces-Must-Be-Héavy.
Image: Disney

Thanks to the extreme wonkiness of Nabooian politics, after Padmé served her two terms and became the planet’s representative to the Galactic Senate, other queens were elected in her place. Nine years after ceding the crown, it was picked up by Apailana, played by Castle-Hughes. Although Revenge of the Sith was her first movie after becoming the youngest person ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Whale Rider, Castle-Hughes’ star waned after the film until picking back up in the 2010s with shows like The Almighty Johnsons, Roading, FBI: Most Wanted, and Game of Thrones, where she played Obara Sand. She’s also featured in a few other genre titles like Shunji Iwai’s Vampire and a one-episode turn on The Walking Dead.


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