CW’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 6 Teaser Trailer Shows New Heroes and New Villains

CW’s Legend of Tomorrow Season 6 Teaser

CW’s Legend of Tomorrow Season 6 Teaser
Image: The CW

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Admit it. You didn’t think CW’s Suicide Squad—I’m sorry CW’s Legends of Tomorrow was going to get past the first season. It’s ok to be wrong, though. Not only is the show on its sixth season, but it’s back and better than ever!

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The CW released the first “trailer” for season six and while it’s only 29 seconds of footage, there is a good sense of what viewers can expect this season. Season five ended on a massive cliffhanger with team leader Black Canary Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) kidnapped by aliens and on a spaceship to anywhere. In the teaser, the team is scrambling to find her and come up with a rescue plan. Unfortunately, their plan is sidelined when they discover these extraterrestrials have a thing for time travel. Thus, leaving the team fighting their way through history to find her.

The Legends team is constantly changing its roster, and with the new season, there is a new team member. Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz (Lisseth Chavez, Chicago Fire), who was once held captive by the same aliens who gave her powers, will help the team find Sarah and stop the enemy from wreaking havoc on humanity, space, and time. The character is original and has no origins in the DC comics universe.

Dealing with supernatural threats, multiverses, Aliens, and time travel, the Legends of Tomorrow have been through the wringer. This season looks like a fun, action-packed adventure that will continue this favorite fan show’s legacy. New episodes arrive May 2.


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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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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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April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Spectrum by Julie E. Czerneda

Spectrum by Julie E. Czerneda
Image: DAW

This month we’ve got teenage telekinetics, magical twins, shapeshifters, supernatural detectives, space adventures, palace intrigue, fantasy epics, monsters, and more—plus the first-ever YA fantasy novel by io9 co-founder Charlie Jane Anders. Read on!

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Interstellar Flight Press

Local Star by Aimee Ogden

This “polyamorous space opera” encompasses adventure and romance, as main character Triz fights off an invasion while reconnecting with an old flame. (April 5)

Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Wednesday Books

Blessed Monsters by Emily A. Duncan

The Something Dark and Holy trilogy concludes as the girl, the monster, the prince, and the queen must reunite to fight against the darkness they unwittingly unleashed. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Titan Books

Dawnrise by Christopher Husberg

The Chaos Queen epic fantasy series concludes with this fifth installment. A powerful threat is rising, and all the characters—former assassins Code and Kali, the emotionally wounded Knot, the conflicted Chaos Queen, and others—must join forces or see the world end forever. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Tordotcom

First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara

This standalone adventure follows Lark—follower of a cult that teaches magic is suffering, and that the world is full of fearful monsters—and his quest to overcome his deep-seated trauma when the cult’s leader is arrested and he begins to question all his beliefs. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: MCD

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

The latest speculative thriller from the author of Annihilation follows a security consultant whose strange encounter with a taxidermied bird—left behind by an alleged ecoterrorist—leads her into a conspiracy that quickly turns dangerous. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Harper Voyager

I’m Waiting For You: And Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

The acclaimed South Korean author presents two pairs of thematically interconnected speculative fiction stories, available here translated into English for the first time. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Described as “Westworld meets Warcross,” this sci-fi tale is set in an afterworld where a teen must protect humanity from a malevolent AI after her life is suddenly cut short. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Imbrifex Books

Lord of Order: A Novel by Brett Riley

In a dystopian New Orleans ruled by fundamentalist Christians, the head of security must question what he stands for when a state-sanctioned mass murder and a devastating flood threaten the city he’s devoted himself to protecting. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

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Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld

The Imposters series continues as twins Frey and Rafi negotiate life in Shreve, where power struggles, clashing agendas, and shifting loyalties mean the sisters can’t trust even each other. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Clash Books

The Paradox Twins by Joshua Chaplinsky

In this experimental, epistolary work created from “excerpts from various memoirs, novels, screenplay adaptations, and documents of public records,” estranged twins reunite after their father’s death, only to realize their family has been hiding some ghostly secrets. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: The Overlook Press

The Revelations by Erik Hoel

This debut takes on “neuroscience, death, and the search for the theory of human consciousness,” as a disgraced scientist’s attempt at a comeback is derailed when he becomes fixated on his colleague’s suspicious demise. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Baen

Rich Man’s Sky by Wil McCarthy

Earth’s richest men—a quartet of trillionaires—have taken over space as their own elite, lawless playground. When an all-female military team poses as space colonists to infiltrate their operation, they realize restoring the balance of power is going to be tougher than they thought. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Akashic Books

A River Called Time by Courttia Newland

A man who’s able to separate his spirit from his body explores a parallel dimension where slavery never existed—but soon realizes he’s in danger when he learns another person with his same power also exists in that other reality. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Pegasus Books

The Science of Middle-earth: A New Understanding of Tolkien and His World edited by Roland Lehoucq, Loïc Mangin, and Jean-Sébastien Steyer

This nonfiction book, written by a range of scientists (astrophysicists, botanists, physicians, volcanologists, and others) and fully illustrated, explores how J.R.R. Tolkien’s interest in science helped shaped his worldbuilding in Middle-earth. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: DAW

Titan Song by Dan Stout

The Carter Archives noir fantasy series continues as Carter takes on a new case. This time, it involves a murdered musician whose death turns out to be connected to other crimes—and whose secrets begin to ensnare the detective himself. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Quirk Books

Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

This horror novel draws inspiration from the “Satanic Panic” hysteria of the 1980s; it’s about an art teacher who’s still reeling from being accused of a terrible crime 30 years prior, and the fate of his now-grown accuser. (April 6)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

Image: Tor Books

Breath by Breath by Morgan Llywelyn

The Step by Step sci-fi trilogy concludes after a nuclear war, as a group of survivors still living in their small town struggle to rebuild despite all they’ve lost. (April 13)

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Illustration for article titled April Is Full of New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Add to Your Spring Reading List

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Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

A young married couple must learn to survive in a strange new reality as the world slowly starts ending around them. (April 13)

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Gifting Fire by Alina Boyden

After her father calls in a favor, a princess attempts a political negotiation with a neighboring kingdom—only to find herself kidnapped by a rival who wants both her and her kingdom. It’ll take all her skills as a thief, a royal, and a courtesan to free herself and her people. (April 13)

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The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

The second entry in the Book of the Ice series follows an ice triber who dares to challenge the ruling priests in her frozen land; after she’s exiled, she heads off on an epic journey searching for a new home. (April 13)

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The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter

Described as “Hannibal meets Mistborn,” this first entry in a new trilogy begins with the theft of a death mask that’s imbued with a serial killer’s malevolent spirit—enabling him to pick up right where he left off. (April 13)

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The House of Styx by Derek Künsken

Set 250 years before the author’s Quantum Magician, this first book in a new series digs into the beginnings of the Quantum Evolution, charting danger and intrigue among the colonists living in giant ships within the clouds of Venus. (April 13)

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The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner

This fantasy novel inspired by Jewish folklore and fairytales follows three Hungarian sisters, all skilled in the practice of King Solomon’s sacred magic, who must negotiate the future as Jewish people across Europe become imperiled. (April 13)

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Malice by Heather Walter

This retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story imagines that the dark sorceress and the cursed princess fall for each other, against all the odds. (April 13)

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Near the Bone by Christina Henry

A woman living on an isolated mountain with a man hiding a monstrous secret must do damage control when strangers appear, looking for the mysterious creature said to be roaming the surrounding forest. (April 13)

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Star Trek: TNG: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke

This original novel based on The Next Generation picks up with the crew of the Enterprise as they’re escorting guests to Betazed for a cultural event—but then encounter trouble when they must make an unplanned stop at a Federation science station in crisis. (April 13)

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Stormland by John Shirley

Climate change means Charleston, South Carolina is besieged by hurricane-level storms every day of the year. Despite that, people still live there, often for nefarious reasons—and it’s up to an ex-killer and an ex-U.S. Marshall to try and bring order to the region. (April 13)

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Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

The first YA novel from the io9 co-founder and acclaimed author of All the Birds in the Sky is a space adventure about a teen girl who realizes her destiny—and how it’s linked to an intergalactic war—is not what she expected it to be. (April 13)

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Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone

A girl raised in high-tech, undersea Atlantis dreams of exploring the fabled world above the surface—while a boy who’s part of the “Sun People” stows away on his father’s climate-change research trip. Both end up discovering far more adventure than they ever imagined. (April 20)

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A Dark Queen Rises by Ashok Banker

The second Burnt Empire book follows a mother-daughter team who flee the family’s controlling patriarch and head across the desert—but freedom is not guaranteed, especially with the young girl’s magical talents in high demand by both mortals and demigods. (April 20)

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Fortress of Magi by Mirah Bolender

The Chronicles of Amicae fantasy trilogy—about a bomb squad tasked with defusing magical weapons—concludes as the city of Amicae faces an alarmingly uncertain fate. (April 20)

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

The Wayfarers series continues with this Galactic Commons tale of an intergalactic truck stop on the planet of Gora, a place where everybody usually just passes on through—until all traffic is grounded and a gaggle of would-be travelers are forced to wait it out together. (April 20)

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The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes

Billed as “The Expanse meets Game of Thrones,” this novel kicks off the Divide series and introduces the misfit and outcast Sentinels tasked with preventing the edge of the universe from collapsing. (April 20)

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The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron

The Goddess War series continues as the victorious ruler Sonya must now negotiate with her allies—while her brother, the wizard Sebastian, is left to stew in his defeat and plot revenge. (April 20)

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Spectrum by Julie E. Czerneda

The Web Shifter’s Library series continues with shapeshifting alien Esen’s travels through the universe, as she tracks a sinister entity that’s targeting the home planet of the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture. (April 20)

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Voyagers by Robert Silverberg

This collection gathers 12 short stories and novellas from the Hugo-winning author’s 60-plus year career. (April 20)

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The Alien Stars and Other Novellas by Tim Pratt

This collection of previously unpublished novellas is set in the same universe as the Hugo-winning author’s Axiom trilogy. (April 27)

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Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A woman who longs to advance her social class finds that her uncontrollable telekinetic powers are holding her back—but her outlook brightens considerably when she meets a fellow telekinetic who helps her develop her talents. Unfortunately, he’s got a secret that could ruin their romance, and more. (April 27)

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Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

The sequel to Catfishing on CatNet finds Steph, Nell, and the AI CheshireCat tracking down an entity that’s causing trouble in the real world by exerting its violent influence online. (April 27)

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The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

In 2025 Scotland, men start dying off from a mysterious virus; this book details various first-person perspectives of the women left behind, including the doctor who first identified the outbreak, a social historian, a scientist searching for a vaccine, and others. (April 27)

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Eye of the Sh*t Storm by Jackson Ford

The Frost Files continue as telekinetic government agent Teagan Frost fights off one powerful being after another who seem hellbent on destroying Los Angeles. (April 27)

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Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Murderbot returns! In this adventure, it discovers a dead body in a space station mall—then gets roped into the investigation, much to its extreme annoyance. (April 27)

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Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

The author returns to the world of Dark Shores and Dark Skies for this fantasy tale featuring the characters of Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian. (April 27)

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Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

A woman who must leave college due to Lyme disease joins an online support group, only to go on a wild road trip when one of her newfound friends suddenly goes missing. Could a werewolf be involved? (April 27)

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Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey

Over several lifetimes, the same two people meet and must puzzle through the mysterious force that’s drawing them together before they run out of chances. (April 27)

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On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig

The Shadow Players fantasy trilogy concludes as main character Jetta’s homeland erupts in a civil war led by a sinister necromancer. (April 27)

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Robot Artists and Black Swans by Bruce Sterling

The veteran sci-fi author writes as Bruno Argento, fantascienza writer, in this collection of Italian-themed fantasy and sci-fi stories, some of which are being published in English for the first time. (April 27)

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Sexton Blake’s New Order introduced by Mark Hodder

The classic character—described as a blend of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond—returns for a series of 1960s-set stories involving aliens, supremely weird science, and supervillians. (April 27)

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The Storm’s Betrayal by Corry L. Lee

The sequel to Weave the Lightning returns to its Russia-inspired world where a member of the resistance tries to use her magic to assassinate a tyrannical leader. (April 27)

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Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas

A shapeshifter appropriately named “Trouble” is wanted by the law, so they take the form of a human boy and stow away on a starship—only to see their adventures take a complicated and dangerous turn. (April 27)

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The Best of Harry Turtledove by Harry Turtledove

This collection gathers 24 short stories by the veteran alt-history specialist. (April 30)

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Commentary on Race Is Too Much, and Not Enough

Rhodey and Sam having a talk one-on-one.

Rhodey and Sam having a talk one-on-one.
Image: Disney+/Marvel

Beyond simply continuing Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ respective superhero stories in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been billed as the studio’s latest foray into social commentary using its larger-than-life characters to reflect some of the real-world challenges actual people face.

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While Bucky’s (Sebastian Stan) still in recovery from his years spent brainwashed and made to murder by Hydra as the Winter Soldier, the obstacles Sam’s (Anthony Mackie) been running into have been comparatively “normal”—though emotionally and mentally damaging in their own way. What’s become increasingly clear over The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s first two episodes is that, in its attempt to use Sam to tell a story about Blackness in America, the series can’t seem to break out of a stifling box of its own making, one meant to teach us something about anti-Black discrimination.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s premiere opens with a dazzling display of Sam’s flying skills means to remind you that the man’s truly a bona fide Avenger regardless of whether he’s working on a super team, or flying solo. Even without the shield that the now elderly Steve Rogers entrusted Sam with at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Sam’s able to single-handedly take down Batroc the Leaper and his gang as they hijack a U.S. Air Force jet and attempt to escape with a hostage in Tunisia.

While the Avengers as an organization may be no more, through Sam’s continued involvement with the military, the series establishes that there are at least some people in the world who recall just what sorts of special skills Sam’s developed in the years he spent operating as a vigilante. The biggest struggle he appears to be dealing with in that first episode is primarily one of doubt, an understandable feeling one might have when considering what it would mean to become the “new” Captain America. While it would have felt a bit rushed through if Sam were to have dropped right into the series already sporting a new pair of star-spangled wings, what the show’s been doing instead with his arc isn’t all that much better because of the way it seems to dismiss or ignore whatever common sense Sam must have developed in his life on the way to becoming an Avenger.

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Sam thinking about Steve.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

Both Sam and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) could have any number of reasons as to why they might want to leave superheroics behind after literally saving the universe. But when the two men meet at the Smithsonian at a celebration for the new exhibit honoring Steve Rogers legacy and Sam states that the world needs new heroes, it’s Rhodey who asks the obvious, pressing question: why won’t Sam take up the mantle? What’s interesting about Sam and Rhodey’s conversation isn’t so much what’s said, but rather how Rhodey specifically pulls Sam away from the gathered military officers and members of the press (who the series’ casting director clearly made sure was portrayed by a diverse array of actors) in order to speak to him one-on-one, not just as Avengers, but as two Black men who can be frank with one another.

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Sam’s insistence that the shield and title don’t feel like his is meant to speak to an internal conflict he’s grappling with, but everything about the exchange undercuts the emotional impact the show’s going for because it’s pretty obvious what’s going to end up happening to the vibranium disc. While Sam’s apprehension about becoming Captain America is relatable to a certain extent, the plot “twist” the premiere sets up when Sam looks on in dismay as the government reveals John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as the country’s new Cap falls flat for a number of reasons. In the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, it’s rather hard to believe that Sam, someone who spent years working alongside Steve Rogers, a man who ultimately had to turn his back on the government, would still put any sort of blind faith in the military’s decision making.

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Imposter syndrome is a very real thing that many people struggle with, and it could be rather fascinating to see that sort of story play out on screen, but The Falcon and Winter Soldier portrays Sam with an inordinate amount of self-doubt that belies the character’s other depictions within the MCU. In the year of playing stupid games and getting stupid prizes, Sam effectively handing the shield over the Jon Walker is on-brand. But within the context of a show that’s meant to be about one of Marvel’s headlining Black superheroes, the decision reads as incredibly naive in a way that makes it seem as if racism and workplace treachery are new concepts to him—and they absolutely should not be.

There is no singular form of on-screen Blackness that uniformly encompasses the real, lived experiences of all Black people, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has been attempting to turn Sam into the embodiment of Blackness in America in ways that do a disservice to him as a character and to its audience. The story fleshes out the details of his past and personal life by way of his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), who’s struggling to make ends meet back in their Louisiana hometown where she’s raising her two sons. Much as she’s overjoyed to have her brother back, it’s emphasized how hard life was and continues to be for her because of the societal shifts caused by the Blip that have only compounded preexisting challenges experienced by Black people and other minorities in America. For Sarah, like most of the world’s population, the disappearance and re-emergence of billions introduced a new wave of economic complications that have yet to settle fully, and she’s gotten to a point where she can barely keep the Wilson family’s fishing business open.

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Sam and a loan officer having a laugh.
Gif: Disney+/Marvel

Of the many ways that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier could touch on the realities of how Black people have been historically shut out of economic opportunities necessary to help their businesses thrive, the series chooses a route that’s as moralistic as it is heavy-handed. In Sam’s heated conversations with Sarah about the family business’ future, there are elements of two-dimensional Black nobility—the kind of resigned stoicism seen in movies like The Help and Green Book where the hardships Black characters suffer are meant to serve as reflections of their moral fortitude. The issue with Marvel’s series is, put simply, that the series asks us to believe in a world in which Sam is just a regular man who moves through a more than irregular world that conveniently features certain elements of real-world anti-Black racism to make the most basic of points.

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What was flabbergasting about Sam and Sarah’s jump to selling plates to make some cash to attempting to get a loan from a bank was how, in its attempt to portray its heroes as ordinary, it also turned them into the MCU’s equivalent to an after-school-special about the evils of racism. As the phrase “you people,” is bandied about during a weird conversation between the Wilson siblings and a near-caricature of a casually discriminatory loan officer (Vince Pisani), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier becomes almost comedic in its ham-fistedness. After Sam flaps his hands to remind the loan officer who he is in hopes that his fame will grease the wheels a bit, the man makes clear that Sam’s having been missing for five years and the Wilsons’ business not being profitable means he can’t approve them for a loan. By wrapping this particular roadblock for the Wilsons’ up in a larger global catastrophe that the series has yet to really explore from the perspectives of others, it ends up conflating actual racism with a separate, but also important element of the MCU’s landscape when both deserve a more nuanced exploration.

This issue’s also present in the dynamic The Falcon and The Winter Soldier begins to establish in its second episode, “The Star-Spangled Man,” which delves a bit more into Jon Walker’s life and his first days operating as Party City Captain America. The series clearly intends to do more with Walker and Lamar Hoskins (Clé Bennett), who’s playing a sidekick role rather similar to his comics counterpart who operated at different times as “Bucky” (a deeply-problematic name for a Black comic book character) and “Battlestar,” the codename he uses in the MCU. Those two characters, who take on a predictably villainous edge by the episode’s end, will likely be worth more discussion as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier progresses.

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Isaiah telling Sam and Bucky to leave.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

What ended up being both surprising and quite disappointing about “The Star-Spangled Man” was its attempt to incorporate elements of Robert Morales and Kyle Baker’s Truth: Red, White, and Black, the 2003 limited comics series that told the story of how Black soldiers were unwittingly made the test subjects for prototypes of the super-soldier serum that transformed Steve Rogers into a superhuman. Both the comic story and the TV series take some time to touch on how the experimentation on Isaiah Bradley (here portrayed by Carl Lumbly) directly echoes the real-world Tuskegee experiments in which the federal government purposefully infected Black men with syphilis and lied to them about it in order to observe the infection’s impacts on the human body. But where the comic really dug into the immediate horrors and lasting trauma of Bradley’s treatment at the hands of his government—after they imbued him with powers that made him the first true Captain America—The Falcon and The Winter Soldier drops him into its story quite unceremoniously in order illustrate again how much Sam doesn’t know about the world.

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This is similar to the issues that HBO’s Lovecraft Country ran into during its first season when it (like Watchmen before it) made the Tulsa massacre a central piece of its larger world. While Watchmen understood that generational trauma and institutional racism are concepts that can’t be tidily packaged into moments meant to be profound, Lovecraft Country did not, and the same seems to be true of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Overwrought and rushed as Sam and Bucky’s trip to the Bradley home was all by itself, the fact that the pair are immediately confronted by the police—who demand to see Sam’s ID while they ask if Bucky’s alright—is…just uninspired. The series clearly thinks that switching things up by having the cops ultimately arrest Bucky for not reporting to therapy is clever. But truly it’s not.

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Each time that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier stops to ask whether you see what it’s trying to do, it becomes harder to think of the show as doing much more than paying lip-service to a very surface-level understanding of how racism is bad. Racism is bad, and we shouldn’t gloss over opportunities to remind people of that fact, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is in a choice position to truly add something meaningful and more dynamic to the conversation. So far, it seems wholly uninterested in living up to its potential.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.

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WandaVision’s VFX Team on How Working From Home Brought Unexpected Balance

Wanda Maximoff trying to make dinner with magic

Wanda Maximoff trying to make dinner with magic
Image: Disney+/Marvel

Like many of WandaVision’s secrets, the true meaning of the show’s era-specific production values, aesthetics, and practical effects only became clear towards the series finale which properly ushered the Scarlet Witch into the MCU. The story behind some of WandaVision’s use of visual effects goes even deeper than that, though.

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When io9 sat down to speak with the team at MARZ (Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies), one of the studios that worked on the Marvel Disney+ show, VFX supervisor Ryan Freer, co-president Lon Molnar, and managing director Matt Panousis all agreed that working on a series like WandaVision in the midst of an industry-altering pandemic presented more than a few unexpected challenges. Having come out on the other side of the project, though, the trio all agreed that the experience left them confident in the future of comic book adaptations created for the small screen that capture most, if not all, the grandeur of their cinematic counterparts.


Charles Pulliam-Moore, io9: Talk to me about the production process for this show. How much of the plot was the team clued into from the beginning when you guys were brought on?

Ryan Freer: [laughing] Nothing, really. Marvel does a great job of showing you what they need to show you and what your group has to work on. Sometimes we get larger chunks to bid on as one of the vendors on the show, and we get we can kind of piece together what’s going on, but they keep a really, really tight lip.

io9: What was it like being in the dark about the show’s larger arc, but being able to feel out some of its specific shapes because of the work MARZ was doing? 

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Freer: With IP like this, it’s really cool because we know that there is potential stuff coming down the pipeline with Vision and Wanda, and seeing it all it starting to come together is really amazing. A lot of what we were working on this this season had been established before us, and there was a lot of reference out there already for the established Vision, if that makes sense.

io9: Right, yeah.

Freer: We’d never seen him in black and white before, and we’d never seen him do slapstick comedy, and a lot of his silliness this season presented us with a bit of a learning curve.

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Vision and Wanda realizing they’re about to become parents.
Image: Disney+/Marvel

io9: What were some of the final details in this series that casual viewers probably missed because of how WandaVision, at least at first, wasn’t working with a drastically different physical form for Vision? Especially because there’s so much parity between the character’s big and small screen depictions.

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Freer: The general audience, I don’t think, knows that you’re looking at visual effects every time you see Vision. His entire head other than just his eyes, his nose, and just a little bit of his mouth is all CGI. I went on to some Reddit boards, and people were saying, “How was the budget so huge on this show for visual effects?” and I went all the way down through all the boards and nobody really nailed it. There was maybe one person I said “I heard they overlay of visual effects on top of Vision or something,” but…yeah. It’s the art of making art that no one notices.

Matt Panousis: This the second year in a row we’ve had something like this happen because last year we worked on Watchmen, which was MARZ’s comping out party as a company because we’re only two-and-a-half years old. [Looking Glass’ mask] was also an effect that tricked the majority of the audience watching the show. HBO explained to us that after the mask was first introduced, Google searches for the mask jumped, and it just speaks to how seamless this art has gotten. It a little anticlimactic at times, yeah, but the sign of good VFX is always when it’s invisible.

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io9: It’s interesting that you bring budgeting up Ryan, because that’s something that’s become a big part of the way fans speculate about how these projects will shape up after news about them first breaks. What about WandaVision’s use of VFX do you kind of wish audiences grasped better to understand how money’s allocated to these shows?

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Lon Molnar: This might be a good segue to talk about tracking markers, actually. There are some menial tasks that happen that you just have to do on a shot-by-shot basis. They’re putting tracking markers on all over Paul Bettany’s face because we need to track his head, where we’re putting CG elements. But the problem with that is that we have to remove those tracking markers. So we’re paying labor to remove on a frame-by-frame basis the very markers that are necessary for us to do VFX.

Freer: When we first started our relationship with MCU, we did a test shot for Marvel that the studio really liked. This was before we even knew that we were working on black and white vision.

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io9: What was the test?

Freer: They actually tasked us with remaking a shot from Age of Ultron. They sent us a few CG elements from Industrial Light and Magic for his head which were already established. We took that, broke it down ourselves, resurfaced it, and got it to looking like Paul as much as we could within our pipeline because our pipeline was very different than other companies’. Marvel liked our work, and that turned into us working on the 50 or 60 shots from WandaVision’s first episode, which is a pretty big jump from us not having a working relationship before. Those 50 or 60 shots, the studio liked as well, and that we could get them done in a shorter time frame, and that first episode ended up taking us about three-and-a-half, maybe four months.

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Wanda and Vision hearing a sound.
Image: Disney+/Marvel

io9: How tough was that, especially as post-production kicked off last year?

Freer: The toughest thing people always say with working with Marvel is getting your shots [finalized]. Those are director finals, but there’s the supervisors, the producers. But then on top of the producers, there’s also the executives who ultimately have the last call, and if they don’t like it, then it goes all the way back down to the bottom, and the whole process starts over again.

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Sarah [Eim] and Tara [DeMarco], the VFX supervisors on Marvel’s end who we worked with, both had such fine eyes for Vision and other elements in these scenes. I think there was maybe only one or two shots that that actually got it all the way through with no notes, and that’s pretty rare. Even after doing four hundred shots of Vision, I thought that I had a finely-tuned eye for him, but there was always something, something small here and there that you could do to make it better. And yeah, they were always right.

io9: As relatively-new to the game as MARZ is, what was it like for you working on WandaVision and your other projects during a year when the pandemic really upended a lot of entertainment in significant, unexpected ways?

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Panousis: I don’t want to say that we had incredible foresight, because part of it’s also luck, but I do think that especially with what happened last year, the TV business model was hugely helpful. MARZ has done over 40 television projects. A lot of studios will have one or two kind of key marquee projects, but if those happened to be in film last year, that was super problematic. We didn’t let go of a single person during covid, and grew almost 100% during it by virtue of having this model in place and the fact that a lot of what we were working with was shot before the pandemic.

When we decided to bet on putting all our focus into television projects, that was kind of rare for a VFX studio, but in the past two years, it just seems like TV has exploded at a pace faster than what we kind of anticipated.

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Molnar: I’ve been in the industry for 20 plus years and this has always been the challenge with the hours that we do and the time that we dedicate to these shows. Covid, if anything, showed us that you can do this kind of work when you’re working from home, and you can have dinner with your family whereas, in the past, you were commuting an hour-plus into the city on top of time working.

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io9: We’re coming up on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s second episode, and looking forward, there are going to be a lot more of these kinds of live-action series, and not just from Marvel. Having seen WandaVision’s finale, and knowing that series are a big part of studios’ future plans for these franchises, what sorts of things are you more interested to see in the genre?

Freer: Going back to my first point, visual effects are always the greatest when you don’t notice that it’s there. There are a lot of shows now, especially like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier that are just kinda like beat-em-up shows, and that’s to be expected. But I think WandaVision was a breath of fresh air even despite that final episode that did feel very much a part of that traditional superhero movie final act. I’m hoping that more stories can see the power of having visual effects that aren’t necessarily right in your face, but help give these shows a deeper focus and detail to these characters and their emotions.

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I’m excited for more stories that want audiences getting excited about who these characters are as people, and not just because they’re showing off what powers they have and blowing things up. I mean yeah, at the end of the day, we’re a visual effects company, and we’ll be there to blow the things up because it’s fun doing that, but it’s also so much fun to work on the subtle things barely anyone notices.

Panousis: I think if you probably asked us a year ago what’s going to happen on WandaVision, I very highly doubt we’d have said “Well, you know, what we’re going to do is they’re going to actually go decade by decade and they’re thinking outside the box.” We’re on our heels, too. We’re talking about a few new projects with Marvel right now, and we…don’t know what to expect. All we can do is do our research and look at the characters and storylines, and try to get a sense of what Disney might try to connect.

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Molnar: One thing that you can see that’s trending, though, is more stories explore these characters in different time periods like what they did with Sam Jackson and Captain Marvel. It’s interesting to consider how that kind of technology can be affordable on a platform like Disney+. I think for us, our goal is to try to break through that technology to make it affordable to be able to place characters in these entirely new contexts because once you can do that, you have a whole new story to tell.


WandaVision is now streaming on Disney+.

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WandaVision’s Finale Was What You Made of It

Vision and Wanda, together in their home.

Vision and Wanda, together in their home.
Photo: Disney+/Marvel

There were as many ways that Marvel’s WandaVision series finale could have ended as there are different ways to process grief. Each of the season’s nine episodes teased this out—new plot twists that threw audiences for loops all meant to obscure, but not erase, the reality that despite all the strength she’s put on display, Wanda Maximoff was falling apart long before she set foot in Westview.

“The Series Finale” is what WandaVision’s been building toward this entire time, and it certainly brings a finality to this chunk of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) briefly picturesque lives together in New Jersey.

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With all of the hype and mystery revolving around the episode, it was somewhat unsurprising when series director Matt Shakman made a point of letting WandaVision’s fans know that while the fandom’s theorizing about the plot and potential cameos were appreciated, they weren’t things the show was ever necessarily trying to, or ever planning to, touch upon. Some of that speculation was rather warranted considering just how many loose threads and unanswered questions there were about WandaVision’s core plot and sitcom conceit ahead of “The Series Finale” premiering.

After winking and nodding at viewers all season by playing with its style and format in ways that encouraged audiences to think more critically about how we engaged with the show, the finale really does away with the bulk of WandaVision’s more inspired trappings in order to become what’s easily recognizable as something akin to the last 30 minutes or so of almost every Marvel movie. Depending on how you feel about big-ish, ridiculous VFX-heavy MCU fight scenes, this could be either a positive or a negative. But as what’s meant to be one of WandaVision’s more significant “big battles,” it has the effect (perhaps intentionally) of coming across a bit like something from a Disney Channel original movie.

In place of any sort of sitcom-esque intro sequence, this time it’s a hard cut right back to the scene in front of Wanda and Vision’s home, where Agatha had previously identified Wanda as the Scarlet Witch after rummaging around in her mind last week. As Agatha hovers in the air with Wanda’s children ensnared in magical threads, whatever uncertainty Wanda still feels is pushed aside by her instinct to fight the elder witch with a flourish of energy blasts that Agatha gobbles right up like a Sanderson sister. Delightful as both Kathryn Hahn and Elizabeth Olsen have consistently been in each episode, most everything about their character’s standoff falls rather flat in the sense that it’s a lot of simultaneously telling and showing (with an emphasis on the former) that always makes these fights kind of drag. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear already, Agatha specializes in draining the magic of others, which she explains as she plays with a handful of Wanda’s energy and Wanda watches her hand begin to shrivel and grey.

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Agatha threatening Wanda’s twins.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

Because WandaVision’s previous episodes put so much energy into figuring out new ways to depict what being a hero (saving Mr. Hart from choking in “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”) and being a villain (see: “Agatha All Along”) could look like, Agatha explaining her evil plan while the episode nods to The Wizard of Oz feels like something of a slight step backward and to the side. Had Agatha gotten down to brass tacks and just walloped Wanda on sight, there’s a chance she might have been able to end things then and there.

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But “The Series Finale” chooses to spotlight Wanda’s growth and path to triumph during the sequence by alluding to a number of her flashier moments from previous movies that, here, feel like a reminder that the character’s meant to live on in future MCU installments. When she smashes Agatha into a house using a car as a sneak attack, it feels like a direct callback to her battle in Captain America: Civil War where she did the same to Tony Stark. The Civil War parallels continue when Cataract—a.k.a. the White Vision built by Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) and SWORD—arrives on the scene to find a stunned Wanda, who doesn’t immediately understand that this reanimated version of her partner means to murder her.

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While Vision’s dalliance with whiteness in Marvel’s comics left him emotionless and alien to the people who knew him, WandaVision’s Cataract instead reads as explicitly malicious and acting on Hayward’s orders as he attempts to crush Wanda’s skull while musing about how powerful he was told she would be. To be honest, a full-on Cataract character study wasn’t necessary upfront and would have only gotten in the way of the episode’s legitimately fascinating fight that kicks into gear once the Vision Wanda created arrives right on time to save his wife.

Even though the cards were laid out for WandaVision’s characters at this point, it’s interesting to think about how much of what happens in “The Series Finale” might actually be influenced by the Hex, especially when you consider things like the multiple hero landings and amount of narrative observation that takes place. If Agatha was truly about her villainy, one imagines she wouldn’t float around cracking wise about Wanda’s two-Vision-problem, or fly off to Westview’s water tower as if she were a boss moving to the next stage of a battle in a game. Because everything else about Westview appears to still be under the influence of Wanda’s last revision that turned the town into a slice of life from the early aughts, it’s possible that at least some of what’s happening is being shaped by Wanda’s experiences she lived, not as a fan, but as someone who’s actual experiences read as movie clips because, for viewers, that’s what they are.

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Cataract holding Wanda’s head.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

Some day, the public will learn that studios and actors really have no qualms messing with fans’ minds in order to drive interest in different series and films, and on that day people will begin taking those grains of salt we’re always harping on about. Though Paul Bettany’s tease of an upcoming WandaVision cameo was a well-executed troll, the scenes focused on Vision and Cataract’s fight with one another turned out to be some of the series’ most riveting and philosophical.

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Something that often gets lost in the conversation about the Scarlet Witch and Vision is how the nature of identity within the context of twinhood can, at times, be a complicated subject. Beyond Wanda and Pietro and Billy and Timmy, who have all been depicted as more straightforward twins in Marvel’s comics, there’s been a kind of spiritual kinship between characters like Vision and Wonder Man, and more recently Vision’s synthezoid wife Virginia whose brain patterns were modeled after Wanda’s in the comics. In Marvel’s books, that particular kind of dynamic has almost always led to turmoil and strife, and it’s interesting to see WandaVision incorporate that energy into a fight sequence that follows the two humanoid machines as they beat one another up across town.

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One of the many questions pressing questions looming over the Disney+ series before “Previously On,” was just how much of the Westview anomaly the rest of the world was aware of—especially after Wanda expanded the Hex significantly in order to save Vision’s life in “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” “Previously On” casually tried to gloss over this outside the Hex where SWORD director Hayward triumphantly explained his villainous plan all along to an audience of operatives, who all seem cool with harboring a secret, sentient weapon of mass destruction who explicitly told them to leave his corpse the hell alone.

True to Hayward’s (and the episode’s) general on-the-nose-ness, Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) defiantly tells the director that he’ll never get with his dastardly plan, and in one of WandaVision’s truly uninspired moments, Hayward makes a pun about Woo’s lack of “vision” that, if we’re being honest, was kind of beneath the story that was being told. WandaVision’s time outside the Hex has never been especially fascinating, save for moments following Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who’s woefully underutilized in the finale, but also present enough to make the episode’s missteps quite apparent. While Jimmy rushes to make a secret phone call to Quantico meant to expose Hayward’s treachery, Monica bides her time in Agatha’s house under Pietro/Fietro’s (Evan Peters) watch. Nothing much comes from their interaction other than the revelation that the man everyone was led to believe was Wanda’s brother was actually Agatha/Agnes’ off-screen “husband,” Ralph, of the Bohner family.

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Reactions to Ralph Bohner are likely to be split among fans because of what all Evan Peters’ presence in WandaVision could have (and honestly, still might) mean about the MCU’s future. Though the nods to the existence of Fox’s X-Men franchise and a recontextualized origin story for the Maximoff twins very strongest suggested that the Marvel series might be an entry point for the MCU’s take on mutants, Peters’ casting was also very obviously meant to be a big joke touching on Disney and 20th Century Fox’s merger and the nature of how sitcoms have worked in the past. That doesn’t mean that there’s no possibility for Wanda to become a part of whatever future X-Men projects Marvel greenlights, but it does mean that some people worked themselves into a frenzy about Magneto and Reed Richards showing up because they couldn’t accept that sometimes jokes are really just jokes.

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Monica discovering Ralph’s real name.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

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The finale does toss a rather significant bone of lore fans’ way, however, as Wanda chases after Agatha into the town square, and Ms. Harkness reveals that at some point after Agents of SHIELD and Runaways, but before the beginning of WandaVision, she somehow managed to get her hands on the Darkhold. For those unfamiliar, the Darkhold (which has a number of different names and forms) is a magical tome forged from energies native to the Darkforce Dimension where Doctor Strange’s best bud Dormammu dwells. After previously being framed as a kind of MacGuffin unto itself, Agatha brings Darkhold to WandaVision as a source of information more for the audience and Wanda’s benefit than anything else. While she doesn’t explain that the book’s capable of teaching its owner arcane secrets, she does reveal that it contains a chapter dedicated to the Scarlet Witch, a mythic being whose power surpasses that of the Sorcerer Supreme.

If Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) ears were burning somewhere out there in the MCU, we won’t know until he shows up and says so in next year’s Multiverse of Madness. The man makes nary an appearance here, even though you’d think that the new incarnation of a magical goddess would set off some alerts in the Sanctum Sanctorum. If there were any such alarms, Strange apparently didn’t hear them in the same way that Wanda didn’t, or more accurately wouldn’t, hear anything Agatha said, choosing instead to insist that she couldn’t be a witch.

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Because denying the obvious has been Wanda’s thing as of late, her reluctance to hear Agatha makes a kind of sense. It also makes Dottie’s (Emma Caulfield Ford) return to the series that much more difficult to watch when Agatha breaks the spell over her in order to show the Avenger the truth. Free of Wanda’s influence, Dottie’s (whose name is actually Sarah) sitcom frostiness gives way to panic and concern for her young daughter who’s been trapped in her room in moments where she’s not allowed to become part of “the show.” As Agatha wakes up more of Westview’s residents, you begin to get a better picture of the very real agony and torture Wanda was putting them through by forcing them to experience her traumatic nightmares in times when she put them to “sleep.”

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When the “Yo-Magic” commercial first premiered earlier in the season, one of the popular theories hypothesized that the hidden message in the ad was actually about Wanda draining the life force out of the people trapped within the Hex. While that theory wasn’t entirely accurate, it wasn’t wholly off the money either. As Mrs. Hart (Deborah Jo Rupp) begs Wanda to simply let them all die, it’s a legitimately chilling moment of despair for everyone present because it places the blame squarely on Wanda for harming civilians.

Every massive feat of magic that Wanda pulls off this episode represents an opportunity for Agatha to siphon some of it off in a way that bears an uncanny resemblance to some of X-Men: Dark Phoenix’s flashier moments. When Wanda briefly begins to lift the Hex, it gives the citizens a chance to escape, but it also causes Vision, Tommy, and Billy to begin breaking off into chunks—which seriously evokes Joe Quesada’s House of M #1 variant cover. It’s from this point on that WandaVision kicks the comic book movie factor up in ways that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.

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As Agatha, Cataract, and Hayward’s SWORD goons all converge on the family, the four of them break into a set of hero poses that are going for The Incredibles, but end up giving you more of ABC’s No Ordinary Family (a show the network seldom mentions these days). After Vision flies off to fight Cataract in a library, and Wanda follows Agatha into the sky, Billy and Tommy are left on the ground to handle SWORD, and the boys make short work of disarming the adults using their powers together. “The Series Finale” truly misses the mark in an uncharacteristic way, however; once Hayward steps out of his vehicle prepared to gun down the twins himself, and Monica—who just happens to show up—jumps in front of the boys to intercept the bullets.

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Wanda and Vision’s family ready for action.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

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It’s very common to see Black comic book characters imbued with powers and put in situations that very hamfistedly attempt to make a comment on or draw inspiration from the experiences of actual Black people. Luke Cage’s bulletproof skin is both a kind of protection from harm and a constant reminder of the racist abuses of the carceral system which lead to the experimentation that made him Power Man in the first place. The Black Panther is a rather explicit embodiment of Black excellence meant to be looked up to, but the character also embodied an idea of Black perfection that, in some ways, was just as stifling as the period Sam Wilson was known as the gangster “Snap” Wilson.

By first having Monica’s (one of the show’s sole Black characters) heroic origins rooted in her attempting to help and stop Wanda (someone who repeatedly harmed her) and then demonstrating a new facet of her power set by having her take a bunch of bullets fired by her former boss for Wanda’s children, the story ultimately placed Monica into a discomfiting box. There is a very specific power and larger meaning behind images of Black bodies being shot in general that, unfortunately, the finale tries and fails to do anything with as it focuses on how Monica’s body drains the projectiles of their kinetic energy as they phase through her. To make things worse, Billy’s able to catch one of the bullets by his damn self as the sequence comes to a close, and while WandaVision tries to play the moment for laughs, there’s…nothing particularly funny about it!

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“The Series Finale” is far stronger elsewhere, when Vision and Cataract are busy duking it out with one another in the local library, to gorgeous effect. Though the synthezoids’ brutal dance of fists and phasing is a visual delight, it’s how Vision brings the fight to an end with reason that’s truly memorable. Though Vision’s “soul” perished along with the Mind Stone, Vision reasons all of Cataract’s memories must be located someone within his onboard storage, and he convinces his duplicate that those memories are both what links them together and what separates them. In any other show, a robot convincing himself to stop fighting by working their way together through the ideas behind the ship of Theseus thought experiment would be ridiculous, but here it works completely as the sort of thing that would give both Vision and Cataract reason to pause.

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After Cataract realizes the truth of what Vision’s telling him, he simply peaces right out of Westview similar to the way the Hulk dipped after Age of Ultron to everyone’s confusion. Here, though, because there are two of the synthezoids running around, no one stops to consider Cataract’s departure, and Wanda takes Agatha by surprise, sneaking up behind her and hitting her with a mind hex similar to what she got Tony with in Strucker’s laboratory (the callbacks, you see, they are plentiful).

Vision and Cataract bonding.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

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Rather than bring us back to a new nightmare for Agatha, Wanda’s hex brings us back to Salem on the night of Agatha’s would-be burning at the stake, and for the briefest of moments, it feels like Wanda’s about to full-on give Agatha a dose of her own chaotic medicine. Instead, Wanda’s illusion bounces back on her and the witches from Agatha’s past all turn on Wanda, ultimately binding her to the stake. Agatha’s reasoning, that’s only but so convincing, is that while Wanda’s Scarlet Witch powers are formidable, her lack of formal training makes her skill at wielding it rather paltry, and Agatha promises that if Wanda just hands over the force living within her that Agatha will give her and her family what they want.

From there, the boss battle changes locations once more as the women take back to the skies and Wanda lobs hex bolts at Agatha that only seem to make her stronger. The way Wanda’s body withers as she uses her powers mirrors the way she ages in James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch series, and here it’s revealed to all be part of Wanda’s larger plan to lull Agatha into a false sense of security.

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By the time that Wanda’s hovering in the air, seemingly empty of magic after more than a few of her attacks having missed and smashed into the Hex’s walls, Agatha had drained enough of her chaos magic to, in theory, do something wild with it. When she tries, though, she finds that her powers no longer function. Those “misses” were Wanda having purposefully drawn the same runes she’s seen in Agatha’s basement on the Hex. One could argue that Wanda’s plan was bound to work even though she had little knowledge about the runes beyond their shape because of her being the Scarlet Witch, but it’s just as interesting to see Wanda and Agatha’s entire ordeal as the very first lessons in magic that Wanda ever learned from her comics mentor.

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The moment the outline of Wanda’s Scarlet Witch headdress begins to form around her face, “The Series Finale” begins speaking in Dark Phoenix’s visual language once more. Wanda siphons the chaos magic back out of Agatha and embraces the witch she was destined to become. Though these Dark Phoenix parallels might have derailed the show if they went on long enough, the story brings them to a much-needed end with Wanda creating a new costume for herself and Agnes very genuinely warning Wanda that she doesn’t know what she’s done by becoming the Scarlet Witch—even going so far as to tell her she’s destined to destroy the world. To Wanda, it’s all something of a moot point as she hexes Agatha one last time to “trap” her in her Agnes guise in Westview where Wanda can always find her, and you can clearly see the general shape of the character Wanda might be when she turns up next in Marvel’s movies.

Wanda a sthe Scarlet Witch
Gif: Disney+/Marvel

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What’s somewhat off about the way “The Series Finale” comes to an end is the way that everyone within Westview—meaning Wanda, her family, and Monica—all sort of just go with the strangeness of the day. Perhaps because they’re all outgrowths of Wanda herself, Vision and the boys don’t at all question what the deal is with Wanda’s new getup or why they all had to fight Auntie Agnes. As the Hex begins to come down, Wanda and Vision bring their sons home to put them to bed and let them know how intensely proud of them they are. What little hope there was for Billy and Tommy somehow surviving outside of the Hex is dashed when Wanda thanks the boys for choosing to be their mother, and you can feel her pain when the camera cuts to a shot of the deteriorating Hex in the distance. Both Vision and Wanda know that their lives together will come to an end once the Hex is fully gone, and for one of the first times in the series, the pair are able to joke and be honest about how unusual their lives have been.

“The Series Finale” comes very close to topping the “What is grief” line with Wanda’s revelation that this Vision isn’t just a projection of her love, but an echo of the Mind Stone that lives within her, and that’s all Vision needs to know to hope that, in all of his life’s madness, there’s still potential for him to return in a new form. In a small, touching way, Vision’s wondering what he might return as next feels like WandaVision’s way of showing that, for all the drama and pain that Wanda’s brought into his life, he loves her that much more for it, and that idea sticks with her as she leaves her plot of land, pulls up her hood, and semi-shamefully walks back to the town center. There’s a stiffness to Wanda and Monica’s conversation as our “hero” apologizes for what she’s done, promises that she’ll learn more about magic, and changes back into her Scarlet Witch costume to fly out of town as police sirens press in from the distance.

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When you take a moment to recall that WandaVision was always meant to be a story about Wanda confronting and getting to the bottom of her grief, the series’ first ending makes sense even though there’s plenty about it that might disappoint some viewers. Wanda came, she cried, learned a bit of magic, and peaced the hell out. But along the way, WandaVision did a number of wondrous things that evolved its central cast into new, fascinating versions of themselves, some of whom will be very interesting to see in the futures heavily teased in the finale’s mid and post-credits sequences.

With Hayward in cuffs and Jimmy having been the agent responsible for exposing his treachery, he and Monica are pleased as hell as the rest of the FBI swarms on the location to begin investigating the anomaly. When an agent pulls Monica aside into a nearby theater, the woman revealing herself to be a Skrull doesn’t faze Monica at all. However, the Skrull’s mention of being sent by an old friend of Maria Rambeau’s gives the woman pause, as does the Skrull’s offer to become part of a new mission up in space where SWORD won’t let her travel anymore. While this thread’s sure to be picked up in Captain Marvel 2, WandaVision doesn’t truly come to an end until after another brief scene set in the mountains where we find Wanda sitting alone on the steps of a simple cabin.

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Wanda reading from the Darkhold.
Gif: Disney+/Marvel

Witchy as chilling alone in forest cottages is, things take a proper turn when Wanda wanders into her home to grab a kettle off the stove, and the camera pushes in to reveal that Wanda isn’t exactly alone. While one “Wanda” may simply be a projection meant to fool anyone wandering through the area—presumably, Wundagore Mountain—the Wanda in the back of the house is busy floating in the air atop an enchantment circle while reading the Darkhold with keen interest. Even more surprising is the way Wanda snaps to attention when she hears her children’s voices shouting for help in her mind before the scene cuts to black as a reminder that the Scarlet Witch will be back sooner than later.

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“The Series Finale” was neither WandaVision’s strongest episode nor its weakest, but it was very much something that lent itself to multiple interpretations and takeaways depending on what it is you came into the show expecting from it. At any given point in time, it was possible to invest one’s energies into the actual text WandaVision was presenting or into the discourse around the show, both of which could be worthwhile efforts within reason, but hype and reason have seldom gone hand in hand.

As the first of Marvel’s new episodic stories that are meant to irreversibly change the arc of the larger MCU, WandaVision set the bar incredibly high for the shows that’ll follow it. But even as its own story that was always meant to be a deep exploration of an underserved character, WandaVision was a bona fide knockout.

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