Blogging A to Z Day 15: Marvel Cinematic Universe

What is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might ask? It’s the shared movie universe inhabited by all of the Marvel Studios movies – but not necessarily by the movies made by other studios. So in are the Avengers and their solo movies, and out are the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man. Kind of. And more recently, this is a shared universe also with two television shows, keeping fans entertained between movies.

In an era when so much of movie talk is about re-boots, re-makes, sequels, and adaptations, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just seems to blend right in. And there are plenty of folks who worry that the money the movies are making are going to kill the comics that they are based on – making the comics the secondary focus, rather than the primary.

So instead today, I want to approach this from the other direction. Because while on the one hand these movies might seem like they’re all something old, made new again to turn a profit – on the other hand, they are showing a whole new way of storytelling and franchise building, which has turned out to be both good and bad!

Piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown. The little teaser moments connecting the movies, people like Nick Fury and Agent Coulson (first name Agent), were great for the fans. Sure, it also maybe left us skeptical, and the radical departure from the direction they were heading in Iron Man 2 shows that they are learning and adapting.

Since The Avengers, and its run as the third biggest box-office film of all time, their plans have really grown. At this point, we know what their films are going to be between now and 2019. And if that’s not enough, the TV shows have been getting better – with Agent Carter this year being a particular treat.

Agent_Carter_Official_Logo

There have been shared universes before, between shows, between movies. Star Trek springs to mind. However, Star Trek had a pattern of TV show and then movies. And some periods of multiple shows on at once. Marvel is pulling off something different – a show springing from the movies, and then returning to movies, then back to show.

One of their perceived competitors, DC, is not trying this. They have a separate TV and movie universe going on right now (check out all the great Arrow reviews here on Sourcerer!). Totally different from one another. And then we’re seeing all sorts of other studios trying to create franchises that work like Marvel’s – with multiple movies being made at once, with different teams, in a shared cinematic universe. Shared universes are great and all, but Marvel’s doing something more.

They’re doing a complete, gigantic, all-in shared universe. It’s definitely influencing their comics. It’s definitely making them money. But it’s also definitely entertaining fans and generally just a great time. So while it’s something old, it’s also something new – something hard to duplicate, and so very fragile. Will it hold up over time, as these further movies come out? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

This post was by @CompGeeksDavid of the Comparative Geeks and regular Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Comparative Geeks

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Agent Carter Finale Review: Valediction, Season 1 Episode 8

Last week I talked about how the penultimate episode felt like it did not stand alone, that it needed the finale. Well, said finale has come and gone, and maybe I was right and maybe I wasn’t. I actually watched “SNAFU” again with Holly as part of watching the finale, and a couple of pieces I missed (maybe while jotting down notes?) helped bring the episode together, like that they mentioned running a test with the Stark tech – and thus the movie theater madness. So “SNAFU” might stand alone better than I thought, but it is still nice to watch them together!

Because this episode was more than just the conclusion to the previous episode: it was the capstone to the whole series. So it not only concluded recent events, it drew back to early ones, like issues with Peggy’s housing, or like the Captain America radio drama. We know what Leviathan was after, and why. We know why the early henchmen had no voicebox. We have confirmation that it was the hypnotist who lured them to Europe. This episode neatly tied up these sorts of lingering questions, while also finishing out the arc on the different characters. We even find out who robbed Stark! And along with all this, we emotionally close the door on Captain America: The First Avenger and turn to the future: and the future is SHIELD.

Agent_Carter_Official_Logo

Recap

The SSR is still reeling from the tragedy they just experienced, and the death of Chief Dooley. But a new case to investigate of course pops up: a theater full of people who killed each other. They are in and investigating, and Sousa finds the nearly empty canister that it all came out of. I say nearly empty as it sprays him with enough of the gas to have him murderous and trying to kill Thompson. Granted, that shouldn’t take too much, but it happens.

We also find out that the gas sears the throat, so Sousa is lucky he didn’t get too much. But this is why the Leviathan agents were the way they were – it marked them as survivors of this gas. Why would Stark make a weapon like this?

Howard Stark shows up at the SSR to clear that up. They move past their desire to arrest him, and listen. It wasn’t a weapon, but was designed as a stimulant for the soldiers, to keep them going. Well, that didn’t turn out at all, instead leading to murderous rage etc. So a general deployed it at Finau, the mysterious World War II battleground that kept coming up, that Chief Dooley had been investigating, which Howard Stark had visited (where he saw what the gas could do – he wasn’t happy), and where the hypnotist (who now has two names I don’t know how to spell so he’s keeping his title) survived in a gas mask, plotting revenge.

Stark says that this gas is called Midnight Oil, and that they likely have ten more canisters of it – enough to make much of New York go mad. They seem to be there with that in mind, to punish Stark by having him see his creation destroy his home city. So Stark offers himself as bait – because then they can control what their opponents are doing.

I want an American cheeseburger, and a press conference. Wait... Found on http://comicbook.com/2015/02/25/agent-carter-season-finale-valediction-recap-with-spoilers/

I want an American cheeseburger, and a press conference. Wait…
Found on http://comicbook.com/2015/02/25/agent-carter-season-finale-valediction-recap-with-spoilers/

Flash to the hypnotist and Dottie, heading into an airfield. Dottie is out procuring them a plane, via violence, and the hypnotist is in a car listening to the radio – where he hears that Stark will be at a press conference. I love the exchange that followed:

“A new opportunity has arisen.”

“Just since I left the car?”

Couple scenes on, they’ve captured Stark, and taken him to a hangar with one of his hidden planes. It was Dottie who robbed his vault! Which is made better by the fact that he can’t remember her name – which does not amuse Dottie nearly as much as it amuses the audience! The hypnotist then uses a different tactic than he has before. Before, he did positive sorts of hypnotism, to befriend the SSR and get away with things. With Stark, it’s a hypnotism of pain: taking him to his greatest failure.

And his greatest failure is not having found Captain America. The one thing he has done that has caused any good to happen.

So he is easily convinced to go flying out, thinking he is hunting for Cap – though he actually has the deadly payload of the Midnight Oil onboard and he’s headed for a large collection of soldiers. It’s V-E Day.

The team shows up, and send out their only pilot to stop Stark – Jarvis. Meanwhile Peggy fights her way past Dottie to the radio, to try to talk Stark out of it. It’s a close thing – Jarvis almost has to shoot Stark out of the sky. However, Peggy connects with Howard over their shared love for Captain America, the best among them.

But seriously, don't mess with her. Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep8/

But seriously, don’t mess with her.
Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep8/

The good guys win, the hypnotist is taken into custody, Dottie escaped. Stark gives Peggy and Angie one of his “smaller” homes to live in. And Jarvis has the best gift – stolen from Howard, who thinks it was lost in the struggles with Leviathan. Captain America’s blood. This Peggy takes out and, in an emotional scene, pours it off of what I am pretty sure is the Brooklyn Bridge.

He was just a boy from Brooklyn.

The Biggest Spoiler

It’s time for a lightning round, and first and foremost, the final scene! The hypnotist is in a Hannibal-Lecter-esque face mask, so he can’t speak. However, his cell mate talks enough for both of them.

Arnim-freaking-Zola. And Hydra begins again.

Final Thoughts on Dottie

I’m happy Dottie lived and escaped, because I have to admit her fight scene with Peggy was not satisfying. It was kind of “yay, Peggy won, of course Peggy won, title character.” Of course, she got kicked out a window, so Peggy did a pretty good job of the fight, but still. We’ll be seeing her again.

I also like that we found something that could get under her skin. After how much work she put into creating her cover identity, after brainwashing and being taken apart and rebuilt into a life as a weapon – Stark didn’t remember her. It was such an insult to her. And he keeps guessing names, and getting them wrong! At the end, he thinks he remembers it, and talks about the “steel trap” of his memory – but I doubt that was it either.

Final Thoughts on Agents Thompson & Sousa

While Peggy is headed off to get to the radio and fighting Dottie, Thompson and Sousa are on their way to face off with the hypnotist. And like last week, Thompson has good advice – don’t let him speak.

And like last week, when Dottie kicked Sousa’s butt, Sousa didn’t listen! The hypnotist got the drop on Thompson, and Sousa comes walking in, gun drawn. And lets him start talking! And hypnotizing! SOUSA WHY DON’T YOU EVER LISTEN! And Sousa turns his gun on Thompson! Oh no! And then… oh wait, nope, down goes the hypnotist. Thompson is confused, as are we… until Sousa pulls out his earplugs. Well played, sir.

The other scene of note with these two is towards the end. A Senator comes in to thank the SSR for a job well done, looking for the agent behind it all – looking for Agent Thompson. Obviously. And Thompson pauses a moment, looks back at Carter and Sousa, and then he takes the credit, walking back to talk further with the Senator in the Chief’s office. Likely his new office.

And Sousa turns to Carter and says he is going to march in there and set the record straight. Not even really just for himself, but for Carter. But Peggy smiles and says that she knows her own value, and it doesn’t matter if no one else does. I would add that the final juxtaposition of the two was in this – as it shows that Sousa does not necessarily know his own value, and is still looking for validation from others.

Found on http://news.yahoo.com/recap-agent-carter-not-valediction-152000960.html where they also said "I can’t recall the last time a serialized drama got some [sic] many things right."

Found on http://news.yahoo.com/recap-agent-carter-not-valediction-152000960.html where they also said “I can’t recall the last time a serialized drama got some [sic] many things right.”

Final Thoughts on Howard Stark

Stark, after all that’s happened, wants to destroy all of his inventions – or at least the dangerous ones from the vault. Still in his future are things we know from the movies, like Stark expos, working with Whiplash’s father on the Arc Reactor, hiding secret messages to his son, and getting killed by Hydra. He has a lot of reasons to be paranoid, and we definitely see the beginnings of this here.

Questions

Did it feel “comic book?”

To the last, I would say the show kept from feeling too comic booky. Sure, there was a crazy evil chemical that drives people crazy that was going to be deployed over a whole city… but that’s really just the comic book version of chemical warfare, so it’s not so far from believable. The hypnotist turned out to be just really good at hypnotism – there had been theories that his ring is magic (or alien), but if so then Sousa’s earplugs shouldn’t have worked. Right? It all ended up pretty human. I would even say that Leviathan seems like it might have been a fairly small organization, mainly centered around the hypnotist and his few remaining folks from the Russian war efforts. But maybe there’s more! Hopefully we get a second season to find out…

Did it feel like you needed to have watched the other movies and shows?

This episode was the emotional conclusion to Captain America: The First Avenger. Well, for everyone but Captain America. In the movie, we get to see Cap’s reaction. He breaks out, heads into Times Square, and it brings him up short. He talks to Nick Fury, and he claims he’s good with ending up 70 years in the future. Except… he had a date.

However, for characters like Howard Stark – who we know hunted for Cap – and for Peggy Carter – said date – we didn’t get to see what their future looked like, their life. The rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is happening 70 years later. But this show kept it in the past, kept us with the events that mattered in that time and place, instead of drawing in all the connections for the future continuity. This episode held to that… right up to the end.

Because sure, having Arnim Zola in prison there, waiting, is a follow-up from First Avenger. But it’s also a prequel to Winter Soldier, as we know that one day, Toby Jones will be playing a talking computer – the immortal Herr Zola. Brain in a 1970’s computer. Hydra. This was a huge teaser for what I can only assume is a season 2 which will have much more to do with the rest of the MCU!

Did it matter that it was a female lead?

And finally, the final thoughts on the lead, Agent Peggy Carter. Hayley Atwell has been amazing. She is playing the character who was the equal of Captain America, while also reminding us just how hard a thing that is to be. But in this episode, she gets to be the grieving, vulnerable person just a bit. But in a good way. She gets closure. I think from here, she’s ready to move on, confident, with a purpose, and not giving a damn what the men around her think. I really hope there’s a season 2, because she is a storm that can’t be stopped.

As of this writing, I see no confirmation on a Season 2 yet, but I really see no reason why this is not going to exist! I would say: count on it.

Thank you for reading my series review of Agent Carter! It’s been a fun show to follow. For a different perspective on the show, my wife Holly wrote a review on my main blog, Comparative Geeks. You can find me there after this, geeking out on any number of things!

Agent Carter Episode Review: SNAFU, Season 1 Episode 7

I honestly don’t know that I have much to say about this episode. It’s the penultimate episode, and like how the first two episodes aired together in one evening, I kind of feel like this episode and the last episode should have aired together. It definitely left me wanting to see where it all ends up, because this was definitely not a complete thought!

What this episode also showed was that it’s not Peggy Carter who has a lot of development to do as a character – it’s the “fathead male coworkers” (as Angie put it last week) who have growing and development to do. This episode culminated and showed a lot of that, up to and including a heart-wrenching sacrifice. So it’s these male characters, Sousa, Thompson, and especially Chief Dooley that will be more of a focus this week!

Nice job getting all the important players into one shot, directors. Found on the review from http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep7/

Nice job getting all the important players into one shot, directors.
Found on the review from The Mary Sue.

Note: I found some great clips from the episode directly from ABC, but they don’t embed well in WordPress. You should be able to click them to get to the video no problem!

Questioning Agent Carter

At the start of the episode, we pick up where we ended before – with Peggy Carter in custody and being questioned by Agents Sousa and Thompson. It goes pretty much as you would expect – she tells the truth, they don’t believe it. She is calm in the face of it, because she believes that what she has done is right.

Meaning that she mainly reacts when they accuse her of the assassination of their fellow agent – she regrets that the most, but also was not the direct cause of it happening.

The agents go back and forth on believing her. She had built up some trust and respect from them in recent episodes, but not enough to withstand the evidence against her. So when Jarvis, traipsing in to save the damsel in distress, presents a story of a Peggy Carter who gave in to Howard Stark and his charms, well, they fall for it pretty quickly. Peggy, however, is disgusted with this and tells them as soon as possible that it’s a fake confession – rejecting that she needs saving and sticking with her story.

It helps that, as Chief Dooley tells her, they had begun entertaining the idea that Stark wasn’t behind it all – that they had finally reached the point that she wasn’t the only one who believed that. The things she uncovered in her investigation definitely helped get them to that point, though.

Leviathan Attacks!

They never really get a chance to work through the back-and-forth, the questions of what to believe and whether to still blame her – though it does seem like her being kicked out of the SSR was pretty final. Because Peggy wasn’t the only one in the hot seat after the end of last episode – Dottie knows that her cover has been blown. Indeed, Peggy spends time trying to tell them, if they’ll listen, that it’s Dottie they should be concerned with, and not herself.

And, sitting in custody (but near a window) Peggy also gets to see the Leviathan hypnotist sending a message – she finds out he’s a bad guy! Too bad no one is inclined to believe her at that point. Well, and too bad that the psychiatrist did his best to become best friends with Chief Dooley, working to solve his personal problems.

But there’s not much to lose by following Peggy’s hunch, and Sousa and Thompson head over across the street to investigate. Here’s where we see Thompson being less of a “fathead” – he tells Sousa to shoot first if they find Dottie. After seeing the young Russian assassin in Europe, Thompson understands what they might be up against, and he doesn’t like it.

This also gives them a chance to talk about how they had really been growing to trust Peggy, and how they’re conflicted. They can’t deny the fact that she’s outwitted them and beaten them up, but they can still doubt her motives.

Dottie escapes, of course, when Sousa doesn’t shoot. Listen to Thompson! Don’t give her a chance! Ah, he’s not listening as I shout at the screen…

Chief Dooley!

Found on http://www.themarysue.com/agent-carter-recap-s1-ep7/

Found on The Mary Sue.

Meanwhile at headquarters, the hypnotist makes his move. He hypnotizes the chief, using him to break into the lab he couldn’t get to last episode. There, he gets the Stark invention that has been the object of the whole season – which we see at the end, is apparently a gas to make people hyper aggressive? I feel like I just read that in Kingsman

Anyway, the hypnotist also uses the chief to lock up Peggy and Jarvis again, and to grab some other tech – mainly, a vest of Stark’s design which is self-powered, self-heating body armor. Impervious, but unstable. This goes on the chief as a distraction.

And it’s through the chief’s scenes that, for one thing, they finally made me pay attention and catch the chief’s name. That’s happened with several of the male characters, and I’ve slowly caught Sousa’s name, then Thompson’s, and now Dooley’s. Last episode we started getting to him, but this episode we really got a look into his life. Into his broken marriage, and how he has allowed the job to consume him. But really, what he would want is a second chance with his wife, his kids.

Which ends up tough with an overheating armor vest strapped on. The scientists have no ideas, Jarvis has no ideas, and even our eponymous Miss Carter doesn’t have any ideas. But at the last moment, the chief does, and he runs, jumps out the window, and just in time, as the vest explodes midair.

Dooley! Found on http://betweenscreens.com/2015/02/22/agent-carter-season-1-episode-7-snafu/

Dooley! NO!
Found on Between Screens.

The show has a lot of older prejudices and sexism in it, but they did a good job with Chief Dooley of bringing us back to an understanding that he was still good at his job. That he was trying to live up to the male-half of the equation, of being the good provider, and in doing so lost touch with what he was trying to provide for. But hey, he was good enough at the job that he, too, had figured out that Stark wasn’t behind all of this – hopefully everyone else picked up on that as well.

I’ll miss him!

What Peggy and Jarvis spent most of the episode doing…

Being locked up. Peggy and Jarvis were pretty much just locked in a room for the episode. However, this did not stop them from having one of the funniest scenes from the entire show. They are handcuffed together, and to the table in the interrogation room. And, well… this happens.

Sadly, they close the clip before the punchline. They realize something – they are in fact still attached to the table.

Questions

Did it feel “comic book?”

Last week I had concerns about the hypnotist, about how he seemed to be a bit too powerful – in other words, he was kind of comic book. They addressed this a bit this week by going all-in with him. The opening scene is of him during the war, using his hypnotism in place of anesthetic for someone undergoing amputation. In other words, they’re trying to say, “yes, he’s just that good.” At this point, we’re definitely just supposed to accept it… but it is pretty comic book.

I also mentioned how the eventual reveal of what we assume is the Stark tech – which turned everyone against each other – reminded me of a something I just read in a comic. Oh, and the overheating armor, from the father of Iron Man? Yeah, there were some comic-book feeling elements this week, some over-the-top elements.

However, Peggy got kicked out of the SSR this episode, and we’re reminded that there are risks and dangers in this fictional world that are greater than a bit of investigating can handle. There’s ridiculous stuff out there too. And the world is going to need SHIELD to handle these threats!

Did it feel like you needed to have watched the other movies and shows?

No, they kept all of the technology as a new idea, not as something we’ve seen in one of the movies or in Agents of SHIELD. They could as easily of relied on something we already knew from the rest of the Cinematic Universe, but they didn’t.

Did it matter that it was a female lead?

I’ll let Peggy answer this one…

Next week I will have the last episode review for Agent Carter! Can’t believe the season is over so soon, but that’s what 8 episodes gets you. For more of my brand of geekery, you can check me out over on Comparative Geeks, or on Twitter @CompGeeksDavid.

Weekly Preview, with Arkham Knight

Video

I collect animated videos and movie trailers that use this song. This one is for Arkham Knight, which I know absolutely nothing about, but it gets the share today because Jeremy‘s back. Here’s your preview.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the second installment of “We Have the Power: A Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power Memoir” by Rose B. Fischer. This series will run every other week for the next couple of months. If you missed the introduction, you can read it here.

On Tuesday, David will have an Agent Carter recap. There are only two Agent Carter episodes left, and once he’d done with this run, you won’t see David here until April, so do tune in for the next couple of Tuesdays, and if you aren’t stopping by Comparative Geeks often why not get in the habit?

Jeremy will have a post on Wednesday about a comics publisher you might want to keep your eye on — IDW Publishing.

On Thursday, we’ll have part three of my Tolkien series, which I originally ran at Part Time Monster last year. Since that series is so long and we’ve grown so much since I started it, I am re-running it for Throwback Thursdays. New installments are published at the Monster on Mondays.

Melissa will have the next Arrow recap on Friday.

And of course, on Saturday, Luther‘s bringing the zombies.

I will also have another “What IS This?” feature for Tuesday Texture/Wordless Wednesday. This is where I post a texture photo, ask you what it is, and then after everyone’s had time to guess, I either reveal it on the thread or in the Wordless Wednesday photo.

We’ve pretty much settled into a routine now, so I may talk about the stats next Sunday instead of doing a preview.

Have a great week!