Unlike Marvel’s previous live-action series whose connections to the larger MCU were tenuous at best, Disney+’s WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki are all set within the narrative orbit of Marvel’s films, making each of them an important piece of the franchise’s future as the studio plows forward with its next major phase.
Last night, Marvel dropped a Super Bowl ad featuring our first looks at the trio of upcoming streaming series, and short as the spot is, it’s downright filled with hints about what we can expect from them. The teaser jumps around a bit from series to series, and the easiest way to make sense of it all is to group the scenes together by which show they come from. Shall we?
The Captain America the world knew is gone, and Sam’s ready to step up to the plate and take his place, but shifting into this next phase of his life as a hero is going to require some intense training. Easy as flinging the vibranium shield might have been for Steve, Sam’s got to learn how to fling the thing using only his baseline human-level strength. But from the looks of things, as the series progresses, he’s going to be more than capable at wielding it in battle.
Though Sam’s shield-wielding skills are on the up and up, the man’s still a flyer at heart. As he and Bucky face off against Baron Zemo, he’s going to take flight in a slightly updated version of his Falcon costume that, for some inexplicable reason, still doesn’t feature any sort of helmet, which would be useful considering the team of armed, gliding villains that are ready to shoot him out of the sky.
For their parts, Zemo and Bucky make the briefest of appearances in what looks to be an intense showdown where Bucky makes it seem as if he’s going to shoot the villain at point-blank range before revealing that there aren’t actually any bullets in his gun. Because Sam and Bucky are presumably trying to apprehend Zemo to return the escaped terrorist to the authorities, it makes sense that Bucky would hesitate to kill the man, but it’s just as likely that the heroes can’t full-on take him out because of some larger villainous plan he’s concocted that they’ll only be able to figure out with him alive.
Later in the trailer, we get our first look at Wyatt Russell’s U.S. Agent trotting onto what appears to be a relatively small (and probably small-town) football field as he high fives a member of a marching band and fireworks explode overhead. Thematically, the image fits in perfectly with the Super Bowl during which the ad first aired, but within the content of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it introduces a number of interesting ideas about the show as a whole.
Obviously, this U.S. Agent is being framed as a successor to Captain America who, within the MCU, was presented as a kind of propagandistic symbol of America. What we know is that Steve Rogers intended for Sam to become his successor, but because the U.S. Agent’s been styled more or less to look like a Cap clone, the subtext is that whichever agency he’s working for wants to make sure that the Captain America brand exists outside of the Avengers. Given that the U.S. Agent was originally introduced as the villainous Super-Patriot meant to embody a dark kind of patriotism at odds with Captain America’s ideals, it stands to reason that Sam and Bucky will end up clashing with him by the series’ end.
In contrast to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which’ll be rooted in the MCU’s reality proper, WandaVision is set to be decidedly...weird, to quote agent Maria Hill.
The exact nature of WandaVision’s plot is still rather mysterious, but this single black and white shot of Vision greeting Wanda speaks directly to the fascinating concept art that was first revealed during last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. All is not well with Wanda Maximoff post-Endgame. After all of the trauma and loss she’s been through, she’s ready to live a picture-perfect, unrealistic life with her synthezoid husband, reality be damned.
Unlike all of the other heroes Professor Hulk brought back with his snap of the Infinity Gauntlet, Vision was never exactly alive per se, and Endgame never made clear whether, in the time after everyone returned, Shuri was able to complete her work to bring Vision back online. But in WandaVision, Vision (or at least a vision of him) is doing quite well in a reality styled after a number of different, classic American sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, and Family Ties. The running theme throughout is that Vision and Wanda are living together, happily married in lives that distinctly have nothing to do with superheroics. But that specific theme points to two very specific plots about the characters from Marvel’s comics.
The entire idea of Wanda and Vision trying (and failing) to make a go at the domestic life goes back to Bill Mantlo, Rick Leonardi, Steve Englehart, and Richard Howell’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch limited series that explored the two Avengers’ lives away from their team members. More recently, Tom King’s Vision series also focused on the Vision attempting to literally build the perfect, typical American family for himself, and WandaVision appears to be working with different ideas plucked from every bit of source material about the couples’ long and messy relationship.
What’s interesting, though, is that small details make it clear that while whatever’s going on in Wanda’s mind (if it is her mind) isn’t exactly organised, WandaVision is telling a kind of linear story about the pair. While Wanda’s clearly newly in love with Vision in WandaVision’s black and white scenes, in shots of what appears to be Wanda in the ‘70s, she’s quite pregnant, a nod to Vision and the Scarlet Witch’s arc in which Wanda creates a pair of twin sons for herself and Vision through magical means.
The idea of Wanda’s mind becoming so fractured that her vast powers warp reality is the centrepiece of Marvel’s House of M event in which, in a moment of panic, she remakes the world into a “perfect” version of itself in which many of Marvel’s heroes are given the lives they want. At this point in the MCU, reality warping is a bit outside of Wanda’s power set, but WandaVision is playing with the concept of Wanda being at least somewhat cognisant of the weirdness going on around her. In at least some of her fantasies, she’s going to be confronted with the fact that none of what she’s experiencing is real, and depending on how things play out, that realisation might end up being more devastating than anything she’s experienced so far.
A note about those babies Wanda magicked up by stealing pieces of a demon’s soul: At one point in the ad, in which Wanda and Vision are living what could either be a show from the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, the pair are astonished to see a pair of cribs with pacifiers popping out of them. The couples’ reactions indicate that, major as the moment is, it’s meant to be played for laughs, which says some interesting things about WandaVision’s tones—plural.
Much as the show’s obviously meant to revolve around some very serious issues plaguing Wanda, the show’s also going for cheesy comedy from a number of different eras, and there’s an entire element of the show that has nothing to do with either Vision or Wanda. The ad shows nothing of Monica Rambeau, Darcy, or Agatha Harkness—characters we know are meant to play a role—which could mean that as a whole the series is going to be all over the place in a very good way.
And then there’s the matter of Loki. Out of all the shows in the commercial, Loki has the least screen time and it’s presented with little context aside from the logo emblazoned across Loki’s prison getup. Unlike the rest of the world’s villains (who’re all presumably still locked up on the Raft), it seems as if Loki’s going to be apprehended by the Time Variance Authority, an organisation that’s responsible for maintaining the stability of the multiverse by periodically wiping out timelines it considers too dangerous to exist.
While Endgame only flirted with the idea of the existence of the multiverse, the Doctor Strange sequel’s title and the TVA’s presence in Loki strongly suggest that the multiverse is quite real—and a time-hopping, Tesseract-toting Loki poses a clear and present danger to it. Because Loki is said to have major ramifications for the Marvel films that follow it, the TVA could very well become a fixture in the MCU’s future as the multiverse becomes more complicated and populated by new heroes and villains, but only time will tell.
WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hit Disney+ later this year, while Loki drops in 2021.