The Marvel Disney+ shows have hit the ground running ever since WandaVision‘s premiere back in January. As we approach August we’ve now had 21 episodes spread through three different shows, that even with their ups and downs have managed to capture both the imagination of fans and good reviews from critics.
The aforementioned WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and now Loki have pretty much delivered on what was promised. Deeper dives into the lives of characters that had limited screen time in the movies, allowing time for each to introduce their own universe of surrounding characters in a way that perhaps not even the a-listers from the big screen managed to. The action set-pieces, something hard to match to the movies’, have mostly delivered and the scripts have, in many ways, felt like a breath of fresh air as the boundaries of a 150-minute blockbuster were nowhere to be seen.
But this is not to say that the upcoming shows don’t have room to grow. In fact, that is probably the only way to go, as with what happened in the early days of the MCU where it’s safe to say that they only hit their stride already a few movies in. The issues with the shows we’ve had so far range from normal and expected, to natural disasters and once-in-a-generation global-affecting events. Here are a few of those issues the shows have had to face, and why Marvel Studios will likely manage to overcome them in the future.
WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were hit the hardest by the pandemic. We can all recall the early days when little was known about the virus and the responses were often a swift and total lockdown. These two shows had pretty much to stop production, at a time when FatWS was abroad in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with no idea of how or when they would be allowed to return. When productions were allowed to resume, both struggled with what they could do while maintaining safety on set, thus limiting their access to certain locations and the setup of specific set pieces involving a higher than usual number of actors. This might be a reason why WandaVision‘s finale felt a bit hollow and why there were times in FatWS where every Latvian building felt the same because perhaps they were. WandaVision might have even ended up shortening their episode count on behalf of the limitations production faced because of the pandemic, so even though shows like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk have all been impacted, in one way or another by safety concerns, it’s safe to say the first few Marvel Studios streaming shows were hit the hardest, in ways others wouldn’t be. With knowledge regarding the virus at an all-time high, with vaccinations going ahead at a fast rate, this is something upcoming shows will have n easer time dealing with than their predecessors, with minimal impact on the final product.
Earthquakes in Puerto Rico
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was set to shoot in the incredible locations the Caribbean island is known for, including the iconic Arecibo Telescope (which collapsed in late 2020). Due to a series of earthquakes on the island in early 2020, production was suspended and later abandoned altogether. Not having impacted the show in the same way the pandemic did, it certainly hurt the “globe-trotting adventure” we were somewhat promised, limiting the scope of the show as it had to settle with one less exotic location to explore, something upcoming shows won’t have to struggle with. With upcoming shows focused on limiting the way the pandemic might affect them in the coming months, traveling abroad should be limited whenever possible (not in Moon Knights, case, for one), and therefore avoiding unexpected naturally occurring phenomena that could impact productions should then become a by-product of that initial concern.
The available runtime
With the advent of streaming, most shows now have the power to decide what runtime suits them best. No longer limited by the constraints of network tv, there is no longer any excuse if you could do with those extra 10 minutes to tell your story, or if you feel that a shortened episode works best. From WandaVision to Loki we’ve seen Marvel dabble with shorter and longer formats, and even though most of the choices have worked it might be fair to say that the lack of constraints has allowed for a freedom that might need to be reigned in. There are still times when we could probably use a few more minutes and in others when the story managed to drag a little bit so, in a way, it feels production might have overcompensated at times. There obviously isn’t such a thing as a work of art that manages to please everyone enjoying it in the same fashion and the results so far have been very enjoyable, but I wouldn’t put it past Marvel Studios to try and hone down on what might improve these shows even further, and the pace of the storytelling seems like something that could be easily improved.
Dealing with the “twists”
I’m all for one new episode every week as it allows for the type of discussion that truly makes a show a communal event. But by going that route, Marvel has got to do better than just expand the runtime of their usual blockbuster and split it through 6 episodes, like they’ve stated many times as something these shows would end up looking like. Even though there has been enough substance to justify the added duration, there are subtleties to the “language” of a weekly that differ from the movies’. In terms of twists, while you might have been caught off guard in a movie by something you didn’t see coming, when you have an entire week to theorize, to digest, or even just to read what other people have to say about what you all saw the previous week this just isn’t the case. So being, audiences ask for a very different type of surprise from episode to episode than the ones they can handle in theaters. The Agatha and Powerbroker twists were something many saw a mile away due to this, and even if most didn’t, they probably read about it before the final reveal. And the same could have happened with the Taskmaster twist had Black Widow been a tv show and audiences had the possibility of spending days reading online articles in between watching acts 2 and 3 of the movie. The twists, if they do occur, should then be focused less on Marvel comic book history and more on less identifiable elements, so that at least audiences may keep themselves from figuring it out by a simple google search.
There are likely dozens of other aspects being currently addressed at Marvel Studios concerning the streaming shows. More than anyone, they know what’s been working and what needs some work. These are just a few aspects of how, in some cases with no fault of their own, it’s identifiable how the series can continue to grow, as things get back to normal in terms of production and as they get a few more shows, from which to learn from, under their belt.