Christmas: Has Grinchmas Held Up?

Promotional photo of Universal Studios at Grinchmas. Copyright goes to NBC and Universal Studios.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Merry Christmas! I don’t think we’ve actually talked abut Grinchmas and the holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood despite having been annual pass holders for years. Actually, this year is the last year that we have annual passes. Not because it isn’t affordable, Universal is definitely more affordable than Disney, but because we’ve gone there for so many years that the park is beginning to feel a little small to us. And the slight downfall of Harry Potter hasn’t really helped the situation much. Instead, starting next year we’ll be regularly attending LAs largest botanical gardens, which is one of my happy places, so I’m genuinely excited to go more often! And we are also hoping to save to spend a couple days at Disneyland, since that’s all anyone can afford now when it comes to Disney. But that aside, our last year attending Grinchmas was definitely a memorable and interesting one for a lot of reasons. And it did differ from my experiences at Grinchmas from previous years. So I’m going to go through my last visit to Universal’s Grinchmas and ask myself the question; does it still hold up?

Whoville:

The showstopper of Grinchmas is always the central area of Universal being transformed into Whoville. Usually they don’t have anything over there except for the occasional character meet and greet, but they completely transform it for Grinchmas. The space looks bigger and almost like it was always meant to be Whoville. If you stick around you’ll see plenty of Whos come out to greet guests. The Grinch is by far the best and most popular of them, so he always has quite the line. And as someone who has only seen him a couple times, I can tell you that the line was worth it every time. I didn’t feel the need to see him every year, but he was hilarious and I loved him when I did see him. Max has also always had a line, though his is pretty short. Max is a real dog who looks pretty miserable and I honestly just feel too bad for the dog to ever do that meet and greet in particular. This year marked the first year that Cindy Lou had a line and she wasn’t just wandering around; which is a great move considering how much she used to get mobbed! Along with her you have Martha May, the Mayor, the Baker, and a couple of other assorted Whos. They did used to have Cindy Lou’s brothers; but they have decided to forego all of the characters on stilts. While I miss the energy of the brothers, I think the stilts did prove to be a little much in such a small area. But I wish they would bring them back out without the stilts! My favorite Who personally is Cindy Lou’s dad, Lou Who. This is entirely because on a day where I felt a little weak due to the weather change, Lou came over to where I was sitting, warmed my hands in his mittens, and talked to me for a good fifteen minutes about the best types of Christmas cookies. It was very sweet! This year I only really saw the Mayor and Martha May, but they both looked stunning and I love that they walk around the entire area rather than have all of the characters stationary. It makes it feel more immersive.

Whoville Stage:

Every year a few Whos will make their way to the stage to perform. This has differed every year. For a few years they alternated between Martha May singing with a trio of backup dancers and a really good acapella group. This was by far my favorite of what they’ve done, but they have since dropped both of these acts. Last year they decided to go a bit more modern with a Who DJ, but it didn’t really go over very well and didn’t really capture the aesthetic of Whoville. It seems that this was a popular opinion of the act, because the DJ did not return this year. This year they have a few Whos performing mostly for little kids and naming a couple ‘Junior Holiday Cheermeister’. This also didn’t seem to garner that much of a crowd, so I guess I’ll have to watch some videos next year to see if they continue beyond the year! The centerpiece of Whoville is the giant crooked tree and the time of day that is most busy there is the tree lighting. The Grinchmas tree lighting is an entire show that slightly retells the Grinch and features all of the main characters. Though the show is around the same every year, there are always a few changes. We see the Grinch appear and attempt to steal Christmas only to be stopped by Cindy Lou every year and usually the show ends with some sort of iteration of “Welcome Christmas”. This year they added some elements from the original Grinch cartoon that were really adorable! I grew up with the original Grinch cartoon and I was shocked and so happy to hear a song from the original cartoon. I think this addition made this year’s my favorite, but the show is always similar and always worth it despite the crowds!

Hogsmeade:

There’s really not a whole lot of the rest of the park that celebrates Christmas directly other than Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade is already festively snowcapped all year; but the pinecone wreathes and extra lights make everything feel just that little bit more magical. The real centerpiece here though is the Hogwarts castle lighting. They have a special Christmas show projected onto the castle that’s absolutely breathtaking. It includes Fred and George advertising Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, paper mache Yule Ball attendees dancing together including a very large and adorable Hermione and Viktor Krum, house Quidditch players having a snowball fight, and adorable Hogwarts snowmen. It’s an amazing show and I personally like it even more than the tree lighting. While every past year I was standing somewhere in the back of the crowd, this year I was standing right in front of the castle at the very front of the crowd. I don’t think there’s a bad seat for the show, but there was something magical about this. And it was by complete coincidence that my sister and I ended up there too. We had been riding ‘Forbidden Journey’, the ride inside of Hogwarts, just before when it broke down. And I mean completely broke down. We were right under the Whomping Willow mostly on our backs for a while (really really not fun) before they rotated all of the cars to face the front instead of the side and we rode the rest of the way through with the lights on. You get to see how close together some of the screens are and how far apart some of the decorations are that seem like they’re right next to each other. It was interesting to see half props or set pieces because they didn’t need the full thing as it all wouldn’t have been in view. It was really interesting! But because it did take us a little while to get off of the ride, by the time we got out it was dark and the show was just starting. It honestly all felt magical and kind of surreal. It was an unexpected but really cool last trip to Hogsmeade for a while!

In other words, Grinchmas and Christmas time at Universal absolutely holds up! It has to be one of my absolute favorite Christmas experiences at any theme park. Though I did grow up with Christmas at Disney and I don’t think it’s quite up to par with that. I do miss the snowcapped castle, the chaotic Christmas Small World show, and the Disney characters in their adorable Christmas outfits. But it’s definitely close enough! And the lines are probably much much shorter. I do miss some of the Whoville acts from years before; but for the most part I feel like Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood just keeps getting better with each year. It doesn’t really change that much, but the few small changes that they make do make a difference. Is it the best theme park Christmas out there? Probably not. But it is certainly a magical Christmas experience and I think I’m going to miss it.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Christmas: Why You Need to Watch ‘Klaus’ This Christmas

Official poster art for ‘Klaus’. Copyright goes to Netflix Animation, The SPA Studios, and Atresmedia Cine.

Hey! Hallie here!

Recently my family realized we burned through most of our must-watches for Christmas. Which means trying out new movies! I had heard only amazing things about this movie but kept forgetting about it each time Christmas rolled around. I’m so happy I remembered it this year, and I’m also extremely mad at myself for not remembering to watch it before. This is, quite honestly, one of the best Christmas movies I’ve ever seen and an excellent animated film in its own right. It’s unique, heartwarming, gorgeous to look at, and packs a surprising amount of emotional moments. Unlike my other posts of this type, this isn’t a review. I don’t have any criticisms to talk about to give this a typical liked/disliked format. So instead, I’m going to use this post to convince anyone who hasn’t given ‘Klaus’ a shot yet to take a chance on it this Christmas. It’s insanely good and it’s a shame that there are people who haven’t seen it yet.

The Story Is Original:

The story for ‘Klaus’ seems generic at first. It’s another Santa origin story, which we’ve seen in many Christmas movies before. But ‘Klaus’ is so much more imaginative than I expected. First, our main character isn’t the character of Klaus, but a postman named Jesper. Jesper’s sent to a village called Smeerensburg to send 6000 letters or else be cut off by his father who’s been funding his lavish lifestyle. But Smeerensburg is a delightfully ominous village made up of two warring family clans who spend all their time either playing potentially deadly pranks on one another, or outright fighting each other with sharp weapons. Then the character of Klaus is introduced, a lonesome woodsman who has hundreds of toys in his possession and, despite his scary appearance, immediately turns adorably emotional at the idea of giving the toys away to children who appreciate them. As the film goes on we get a cleverly thought out story made up of completely unique characters that slowly unfolds into the origins of sending letters to Santa. And beyond just giving us one origin story, ‘Klaus’ introduces crazy events, fun misunderstandings, and quick remarks Jesper makes himself that fill in other pieces of the classic Santa Claus stories we all know and love. The movie also takes its time to drive home its message about how easily acts of good will spread from person to person. Both the village and the characters change over the course of the movie simply because of selflessness, but the movie makes these moments of change both gradual and believable rather than beating the audience over the head with the message. ‘Klaus’ perfectly balances well known stories with original messages and ideas, and in the process becomes its own beautifully crafted classic.

The Characters Are Lovable:

‘Klaus’ is surprisingly deeply character driven for a Christmas movie. Jesper, our main character, made me immediately think of Kuzco from ‘Emperor’s New Groove’. He’s very spoiled and full of himself, but in a way that’s hilarious rather than irritating. As a result of his spoiled nature though, his initial motives aren’t honorable. He approaches getting children to send letters to Klaus as a clever ploy, exchanging toys for a ticket back to his life of luxury. He doesn’t care about the children getting toys, or that Klaus gets any sort of fulfillment giving the toys away. But beyond the surface of his selfishness is an aimlessness. He doesn’t see a future for himself and so he isn’t passionate about doing anything in particular aside from enjoying a materialistic life. It’s really nice not just to see this character begin to care about others aside from himself, but begin to see a direction for himself where he feels like his actions have purpose. Klaus is a similarly interesting character. At first he doesn’t even speak. It takes him a long time to warm up enough to Jesper to begin having conversations with him. And when he does, he has past trauma that makes it easy for one wrong move from Jesper to send him back into his shell. But that makes the unraveling of this character and his backstory that much more rewarding. Along with these two main characters we also get characters like Alva, a school teacher who, when she’s introduced, is selling fish because she’s given up on her dream of teaching. Her entire storyline involves her rediscovering her love of teaching, which in turn becomes inspiration for Jesper. And then there’s Margu, a little girl who doesn’t speak English but manages to be the heart of the film despite the language barrier between herself and the other characters. There isn’t a character you don’t adore once the film ends, and I’ll be thinking about them even after Christmas is over.

The Animation is Gorgeous:

I took one look at the animation style of this movie and knew that I wanted to watch ‘Klaus’. This film is one of the only traditionally animated films we’ve seen among recent major releases. 3D animation has dominated animated movies recently, but my favorite art styles for these movies have always been 2D. I was ecstatic when I saw that this movie was 2D, but beyond just that, it has a unique look to it. This movie uses volumetric lighting which allows for a more realistic change of a color on each character dependent on lighting and scenery, as well as other computer techniques that add depth to the look of the animation. The result is something that feels as magical and personal as hand-drawn animation, but with the fluidity of 3D animation. The characters have pretty, storybook-like designs with hilarious expressions, but they also have a depth to them that goes beyond typical hand-drawn animation. The scenery is dramatic and vast, all while keeping the look of an illustration in a Christmas book. And all of it boasts gorgeous colors. Though we spend most of the movie in Smeerensburg, where the main colors are gray and white, we still get places like the forest around Klaus’ home where light streams through the trees and gives a golden glow to the multicolored birds in the branches. And the characters themselves bring their own color to the movie, whether it’s the blues and yellows we see on Jesper, or the bright reds Margu and Klaus show off. ‘Klaus’ is, without question, a gorgeous film. I really hope we see more mainstream films going back to at least some hand-drawn animation because ‘Klaus’ only makes me want more.

In other words, make this a priority within the next two days. You won’t regret it. You might cry in front of your family. The end of this movie is a bit of a tearjerker. But it’s all because of the amazing story this movie tells. ‘Klaus’ is a triumph among Christmas movies. It manages to be something you’ve seen before told so differently that it’s nothing like anything you’ve seen before. And all of that aside, this movie is just an aesthetically pleasing movie to look at. Watching ‘Klaus’ is definitely going to be a holiday tradition for me and my family, and I hope those of you who haven’t watched it will find the same amount of appreciation for it as we did.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Disney: Beauty and the Beast 30th Anniversary

Promotional image of H.E.R and Josh Groban. Copyright goes to ABC and Disney.

Hi! It’s Annie!

This is what I was going to talk about for my last post when K-Pop, once again, swept in and stole the show. But there was no way I was going to miss talking about this. The 30th anniversary performance/movie for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ aired and this gained more popularity than any other anniversary performance that Disney has done before this. Specifically because this became widely accepted to be the live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that everyone deserved back in 2017. Now I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy the 2017 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to some degree. Do I think it needed to have been made? Absolutely not. Disney really needs to stop with the live action remakes. But I like Emma Watson even though the casting proved to be completely wrong for the project. It would have been fine casting if they had wanted to do a more stylistic version of the story without the songs; but Disney wanted to do a musical. So it helps to cast professional singers and musical actors when that’s what you’re aiming for. In this version, Disney definitely knew that they were aiming for something musical. So the casting was not only great, it ended up being downright impressive! I’m going to go through the main cast of characters this time around and how they were improved. SPOILERS for the 30th anniversary special!!

Belle:

You can’t start this without Belle herself, and H.E.R made for an excellent Belle in a lot of ways. Firstly, I loved how she stood out for the opening number of ‘Belle’. Walking through the concept art for the town all around Disney Studios was an amazing idea and I loved that Paige O’ Hara was the bookshop owner here. I would not be able to think of a better cameo for her than this; it was just perfect. And the clear gorgeous voice of H.E.R really stood out, especially comparing it to its over-autotuned predecessor. H.E.R made herself a force to be reckoned with as Belle and her voice absolutely fit the part. She didn’t oversell or understate any of the songs and I absolutely loved the guitar solo at the very end with the stained glass guitar. I think my only qualm here was that she wasn’t given a whole lot of opportunity to act the part. I was personally kind of disappointed that the Beast’s transformation was not something that this performance attempted to accomplish and we didn’t get to see a whole lot of emotional acting from H.E.R. But with her acting in general it was a little more noticeable in certain places that she was surrounded by people who have done theatre in the past. Despite this, she made for an extremely memorable Belle and I loved the badassery she brought to the role.

The Beast:

When I heard they had cast Josh Groban as the Beast I practically squealed. Ever since the 2017 movie released, I’ve said that Josh Groban just should have been cast as the Beast to begin with. His version of ‘Evermore’ more than proved that he could knock it out of the park and I knew that Josh Groban had done musical theatre. Around then he even dipped his toes in Broadway in ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’ as Pierre. I have long held the opinion that he should have been the live action Beast. And they finally gave him his chance to prove that he would have absolutely owned the role. Josh Groban wore a giant Beast puppet for most of this. I saw a lot of people criticizing the Beast puppet and saying that it was ugly. I actually loved it. I loved that it looked intimidating and I loved how it operated. It was clearly a piece of puppetry mastery and, as someone who grew up in a hardcore Jim Henson family, I loved their commitment to the puppet. I also loved that Josh Groban was operating it from the inside and I loved peeking inside and seeing him completely act the scene with his facial expressions despite not having to because of the puppet. That was real commitment. And, finally, we got a full fledged production of his version of ‘Evermore’. I was worried that they weren’t going to include it because they were staying more true to the animated movie; but I was so glad that this wasn’t the case. And I loved seeing Josh Groban for even a little while outside of the puppet, especially if they weren’t going to give us the transformation scene. Which I am still very disappointed about. Could you imagine the puppet being removed to reveal a very regal Josh Groban? That’s all I wanted!

Gaston:

I loved Luke Evans in the role of Gaston, don’t get me wrong. But Joshua Henry stole the role for me. He was amazing. When they announced Josh Groban as the Beast, I knew he would be a standout for me. Joshua Henry seized the reigns and then shot right up there with him. I have seen my fair share of performances of ‘Beauty and The Beast’. Including one where Susan Egan came back to reprise her role as Belle with an extremely professional and impressive cast. Joshua Henry is the best Gaston I’ve ever seen. He completely blew me away! His Gaston was extremely charismatic for most of the show without being over the top. You could tell why an entire town full of people would fall in love with this man. And then when he came back for ‘Kill the Beast’ he turned completely intimidating. He embodied the role and made it so much fun to watch the entire time he was doing it. And I loved the additional notes they threw in there for him, because he hit all of Gatson’s notes so powerfully, all I wanted was for him to keep singing. And he also had a little bit of slack to pick up in my opinion, which I’ll get to in a second, and he more than shouldered that as well. Definitely the new best Gaston!

LeFou:

Most of this post is going to be praise, but I’m sad that I can’t give it here. Firstly, Luke Evans and Josh Gad are trained in musical theatre and were the best parts of the 2017 movie. So there really wasn’t anything to make up for here; we already had an amazing duo. Joshua Henry took his role and completely ran with it! Unfortunately, Rizwan Manji did not succeed in doing this with LeFou and I think part of this is because the cards were stacked against him. Disney made the very public and controversial choice pretty early on to put LeFou in a fat suit. There was no reason for this and it was honestly pretty upsetting. It was clear that they wanted him in a fat suit to make him look sillier, not because that was the original design of the character, and I thought we were in a society that was at least more aware of fat shaming. This addition was an awful choice and something that the actor had nothing to do with. On top of this it seemed like they were trying to force an impression of the original rather than just letting Rizwan Manji do what Josh Gad did and make the role his own. The result was an odd, unnatural squeaky voice that did not translate to singing well. LeFou was a massive misstep no matter how you look at it.

Lumiere:

I am a Martin Short fan, but when I heard he was going to be Lumiere I was a little hesitant at first. I don’t recall hearing him use a French accent before this moment, but he’s Canadian so I should have known he probably had one up his sleeve. He was amazing! Definitely the Lumiere that I’ve been waiting for! Martin Short had an amazing singing voice for Lumiere, was hilarious in the role, and had so much energy in it too. I beamed every single time Martin Short came on screen because he was so much fun to watch! I find that a lot of the time with celebrity-casted comedians it can feel like you’re watching the comedian just play themselves. This was not Martin Short in this role at all. He was committed to the character and he stole every scene he was in. Much like Lumiere in the original animated film. They could not have cast anyone better. He made me laugh so much and it truly felt like watching Lumiere come to life.

Cogsworth:

David Alan Grier was the perfect counter to Martin Short’s Lumiere and just as hilarious! Cogsworth can be a difficult role because he’s so serious and comedic at the same time. He has to be the foil to Lumiere’s more outgoing charm while also being just as funny and just as much of an odd character in his own right. David Alan Grier caught this balance for the character perfectly. I laughed so hard during ‘Be Our Guest’ when Lumiere began singing the slower part of the song and Cogsworth appeared with an oar as if they were in a boat. It set the perfect comedic tone for the scene. My only complaint here is that I wanted to see more of him! Though I understand to a degree. While Mrs. Potts and Lumiere both have songs; Cogsworth never really gets to be the center of attention in his own musical number. Still, David Alan Grier was the perfect choice for this role.

Mrs. Potts:

I was skeptical of Shania Twain in this role, especially after the recent loss of Angela Lansbury. It honestly didn’t feel right for anyone to play Mrs. Potts and I can usually be a little skeptical when they cast someone without a lot of musical theatre experience to fill the shoes of someone who has a lot of theatre experience. Shania Twain did much better than I thought and I was extremely touched by the way she payed tribute to Angela. Firstly, the Mrs. Potts costume was probably my favorite in the entire show. It was absolutely gorgeous! But Shania Twain also acted this role really well. She didn’t approach the role as her doing the role, she approached the role as Mrs. Potts. She had the whole motherly thing going for her from the get go and she seemed to understand the additional burden she carried for playing the character right now. I appreciated that immensely and I think she did an absolutely beautiful job.

Maurice and Chip:

I’m putting them in the same category because we barely got either of them. But they were perfect casting and I loved what we got from them. It was nice to see Jon Jon Briones here. Though it was a small role, it really made it feel as though Disney was taking the Broadway approach seriously. And I loved his brief interactions with the wolves. The wolf sequences were really cool to watch and I especially loved watching Maurice with the wolves because of how he acted the scene. Leo Abelo Perry was an adorable Chip and it was so sad that we only got about one scene with him. But he was perfect and seemed so serious about acting Chip as well!

The Dancers:

The dancing was really impressive and I originally really liked the idea of having the dancers represent the rose. But there were definitely moments where it wasn’t my favorite as much anymore. I loved the sequence with the petals falling off of the rose. I personally don’t think we needed them during ‘Evermore’ and sometimes it felt like the dance sequences were going on just a tad bit too long. But at the same time, it’s been really difficult for the theatre and dancing industries lately and I’m just happy Disney decided to give all of those dancers jobs.

There really aren’t that many gripes that I had with this one! I loved this performance of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I know that it’s one that I’ll revisit. I never really have high hopes for the live streamed type of musical theatre specials. A lot of times I feel myself comparing them to the original sources and becoming disappointed because of things that they cut out or didn’t think about. But this was probably my favorite of those types of shows that I’ve seen. They didn’t try to cut any corners here, they just wanted to deliver a gorgeous show and that’s exactly what they did. I am such a huge ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fan, so much so that I’m currently thinking about getting a somewhat related tattoo, and I was so happy that I ended up loving this. So if you, like me, were skeptical and don’t know if you want to see this; give it a try! I will warn you that it is a combination of the animated movie and a live performance. This isn’t a complete Broadway production or an entirely new live action movie. But it is amazing and worth it all the same!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: We All Need a Mobius

Screenshot of Owen Wilson as Mobius in ‘Loki’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

I recently went back through some of the Disney+ Marvel shows for my ranking of Phase 4 shows, and ‘Loki’ managed to grab my attention again. It isn’t because this is my favorite Disney+ show, in fact I have a lot of problems with it, but there are so many things in this show that I fell in love with all over again on my recent watch. Mobius was definitely at the top of that list. I vividly remember being extremely skeptical when Owen Wilson was announced as a lead actor for the ‘Loki’ series. While Marvel definitely loves its comedic moments, Owen Wilson’s reputation tends to cover comedies of a completely different level. Especially paired with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, I wasn’t sure how that would work for the series. But here Owen Wilson walked the line between dramatic and comedic, all while selling a character whose wit is just as prevalent as his caring nature. Mobius is just a genuinely lovely character who treats Loki with nothing but respect and concern, and as a result gives off some of the biggest green flags in the MCU. This post is dedicated to the parts of Mobius’ character that are the biggest green flags, because we all deserve to have someone as unfailingly there for us as Mobius is for Loki.

No Judgement:

The first thing that strikes both the viewer and Loki about Mobius is how much he absolutely refuses to judge Loki for anything. And Loki’s done a lot of things he could be harshly judged for. Mobius even drops a joke about Loki brutally removing a guy’s eye during the events of ‘The Avengers’. But Mobius never once rubs Loki’s bad behavior in his face. When he’s discussing Loki’s past, Mobius only comments that what Loki did in the main timeline led mostly to his own failure and unhappiness. Whenever Loki attempts to manipulate Mobius by scaring him with his dangerousness, Mobius brushes it off without taking offense. The fact that Mobius met Loki’s insistence that he wanted to rule over all of space with genuine follow up questions blew me away. And when Mobius finally manages to convince Loki to look further into why he does the more nefarious things that he does, he offers gentle encouragement. Loki’s revelation that he doesn’t enjoy hurting people gets a soft “Explain that to me,” as Mobius’ response, and he even praises Loki for knowing himself. These are all examples from Loki’s first real talk with Mobius, but it’s definitely a trend that continues in the series. Mobius faces down every instance where Loki does something against Mobius’ wishes with simple acknowledgement, only ever snapping at Loki when Loki’s antics repeatedly get in the way of Mobius’ work. Likewise, whenever Loki decides to share either theories or personal beliefs with Mobius, Mobius always keeps an open mind, even when Loki’s irritating him. Mobius is the king of keeping a cool head and an open mind, and the lack of judgement that results from those things is so refreshing to see in a character.

Sincere Support:

At the end of Mobius’ first major discussion with Loki, Mobius immediately shuts Loki down when he calls himself a “villain”. His response is “That’s not how I see it,” and those words wind up giving us a huge hint as to how Mobius will treat Loki for the rest of the series. Mobius advocates for Loki to his superiors, sometimes lying to Renslayer’s face just so Loki can get the chance to prove himself that Mobius feels he deserves. Mobius doesn’t just think Loki can be helpful in his current case. Mobius thinks Loki can be morally good, and he gives him multiple opportunities to be. When Loki comes up with a lead Mobius gives him every chance to chase it. He goes as far as attempting to give Loki back his knives for a field mission, though it’s probably best Hunter B-15 took them away. Mobius only pulls his support from Loki after Loki betrays him by following Sylvie. But immediately afterwards Mobius tells Loki directly to his face that he believes Loki’s capable of anything, including being a good person. Mobius’ constant support of Loki has a very obvious effect on the way Loki develops as a character throughout the series. Loki’s self-confidence grows the more Mobius listens to him, understands him, and supports his attempts to change. One of their most memorable interactions in the entire show is Loki hugging Mobius in thanks, something that Loki would never have done to anyone before he met Mobius. We all deserve to have someone as unfailingly supportive as Mobius, and Loki certainly demonstrates that he benefits from it.

Patience:

If there’s one thing I admire about Mobius, it’s this man’s patience. Working with someone who’s constantly trying to undermine, upset, and manipulate you sounds like a nightmare. As much as I love Loki, I would rage quit if I was in Mobius’ shoes. Mobius keeps calm and stays patient at all times, not just for his own sanity, but because he has so much faith in Loki. In some of their first words to each other Loki accuses Mobius of mocking him multiple times, but Mobius very calmly brushes off Loki’s accusations and pays Loki a real compliment. When Loki steals Mobius’ salad to make a point and ruins his lunch, Mobius very obviously takes a moment to let his irritation go so he can understand Loki’s point better. He also gives Loki way more attempts at being helpful during the mission than literally anyone he works with wants him to because he feels it’s worth it. Mobius shows time and time again that, even when he’s being constantly disappointed, he’d rather wait for Loki to show him that he’s capable of being better than just shut Loki down and abandon him. And what makes this even better is that we do see Mobius completely lose his patience. After every instance of Loki betraying him his agitation and desire to quit is always very loud. But despite that, Mobius always makes himself slow down and rethink giving up. And that makes all the difference.

Mobius is kind in one of the healthiest and most realistic ways I’ve ever seen in media. He isn’t just generally respectful and nice to everyone all the time. In fact, I think seeing the moments where he struggles to keep his kindness are the most telling. There are many moments where he’s harsh with Loki, especially when it comes to Loki’s relationship to Sylvie. But Mobius always makes the conscious choice to put his frustrations behind him and just be there for Loki. He goes out of his way to make sure Loki never feels uncomfortable around him, never feels like a waste of space, and always has someone to lean on and talk to. He easily matches Loki in intelligence and wit, but he only ever uses it to challenge Loki and never to make him feel stupid. And, to Loki’s surprise, he’s never affected by Loki’s tricks despite how infuriating they are. Because Mobius isn’t easily shaken and feels Loki’s opportunity for growth is much more important than his own anger. I only hope that all of us can meet or have met a person who treats us with this amount of genuine care, because it always steals my heart every time I watch ‘Loki’.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: KBS Song Festival 2022 Aftermath

Professional shot of (from left) Son Dongju (Xion), Lee Seoho, Yeo Hwanwoong, Lee Keonhee, and Kim Geonhak (Leedo) at KBS. Copyright goes to KBS, ONEUS, and RBW.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I was going to write about something completely different today, but the ‘KBS Song Festival’ was yesterday and I specifically need to talk about the way that it affected two of my favorite groups. Particularly, I’m talking about ATEEZ and ONEUS. Both of these amazing groups were able to show what they had on stage and there were some pretty great milestones for both of these groups here. But at the same time, there were other things that cropped up that I want to address. Really, the ‘KBS Song Festival’ made the internet blow up for so many different reasons that it feels like a crime to not at least address most of them. At least with these two groups. If you’re going to take two of my favorite groups and throw them into the middle of news, I have to talk about it. So strap in! And also PLEASE note that this article will contain mentions of racist language due to a past controversy. No racist language will actually be featured, but it will be mentioned. Thank you.

ATEEZ:

‘Guerrilla’- Firstly, these have to be some of my favorite outfits that they’ve ever performed this song in. And that’s saying something because I’ve seen all of their public performances and was lucky enough to see them perform this live. Part of what sold these looks was literally just Seonghwa himself. His bleached blonde hair paired with the leather look and the fur hood pulled up at the beginning was absolutely stunning. It made the entire internet make the Jedi comparison again, which I am always thrilled for Seonghwa when he gets those Jedi comparisons because we all know for a fact that he loves them! But the leather, studs, and furs on everyone was amazing and I wish they didn’t have to use a public performance outfit only once. The performance was also themed, as they always are, and showed the boys actually fighting the corrupt government in the universe that they are now in. Particularly San started us out with some fight choreography. We need to talk about Hongjoong with the cane, because damn that was powerful. Hongjoong always does so well when they give him a prop, but this felt like straight up villain vibes. Mingi always looks completely confident in a suit look and especially with his bleached hair. The bleached hair almost feels like a new era for Mingi. My only qualms with this performance was that I wished that Jongho’s suit had been a little bit more in the style of everyone else’s outfits, but this was another amazing performance from them!

‘T.O.P’- This is where things start getting a little more complicated. Was this performance great? Yes! I loved the start out with ‘Swan Lake’. They really went all out in showing off some of the vocalists here in particular. Yeosang’s deeper voice was such a soothing contrast to the more high pitched music and he got the chorus pieces! Yeosang killed being given more and he just needs more lines overall! I also loved Wooyoung’s breathier style and Yunho actually got some belting notes here! I love when they give Yunho high notes! And Jongho’s note towards the end practically took me out! But besides those things, there were some issues here that had nothing to do with ATEEZ. The song is admittedly a bit more low energy than we get from ATEEZ, which I’ve seen some complaints about. ATEEZ always does the absolute most with what they have and I really think that they did that here. I don’t mind seeing some different themes from ATEEZ! Though I do agree that it was a little jarring to see this performance when they’re in such an intense phase in their regular releases; I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. In the end, it did feel as though the song and the choreography did not fit their powerful style. The biggest controversy to come from this though, was the song itself. For those of you who don’t know, this song originally had an incredibly racist term in it. The original K-Pop group who performed this song did not see a problem in using the term at the time because this was before most K-Pop idols were educated on any of this. That’s not really an excuse though. But the song itself has been controversial ever since because of that. Hongjoong did take the term out. I don’t think any of us ever doubted him; he’s one of the most educated K-Pop idols in the industry right now. But there was some backlash over the song being used at all. Hongjoong did explain that the second songs that most groups performed this year were all assigned to them. They did not choose the song. I do not understand why ATEEZ is receiving any of the blame for any of this. But I do want to express how incredibly proud I am of Hongjoong for addressing all of this calmly and for having taken the term out in the first place.

ONEUS:

‘Same Scent’- I love ATEEZ, I absolutely do. Their stages always kill it and are often the best stages in any show that they perform at. But I can’t deny when an artist comes out and steals the entire show, and ONEUS stole ‘KBS’. They proved to everyone that they can more than survive controversy; they can absolutely obliterate it and still come out on top. I’ve already watched this version of ‘Same Scent’ way too many times and I want this reimagined version of the song to be downloadable. Everyone absolutely loves how gorgeous ‘LUNA’ is and the more traditional take in music and MV made it stand out even more when it came out. They changed ‘Same Scent’ so that it had that more traditional feel, complete with hanbok. The dancing is gorgeous as always and they also incorporated what felt like a full scale production with the changing backgrounds between cherry blossoms and traditional Korean architecture, and several dancers with fans. They spend most of the performance in white with blue fans and they briefly change it out for a look with red and red fans that seamlessly changes back into the blue color scheme. Each member also individually stole the show with this performance. Hwanwoong started it out with a gorgeous solo dance and premiered his amazing rap style, Seoho was lifted and had a graceful fall and disappearance in the choreography, Keonhee got his close up moment were he looked simultaneously confident and graceful and even winked at the camera, Xion premiered his long hair once more proving that he is the prettiest idol out there, and they gave Leedo an entire section with a samurai sword to add to the badassery that he’s usually associated with. The performance almost reminded me of BTS’s full fledged ‘Dionysus’ performance. They focused on each member individually and almost created a world within their performance. It felt immersive. I will be watching it over and over again for weeks!

‘SexyBack’- So it seems as though the song ONEUS was assigned was this one and it honestly surprised me. The performance didn’t involve all of the members either; it was only Leedo, Seoho, and Hwanwoong. And it was a dance cover rather than a full cover of the entire song. However, this is one of the moments of ‘KBS’ that went viral and that’s for good reason. The number involved revealing outfits, there was lots of thrusting in the choreography, and both Leedo and Seoho took off their shirts at the end. We didn’t see full bare chest because they showed us their jackets sliding down their bare backs, but it was enough. Leedo is known in the industry for taking off his shirt, but I was honestly surprised that Seoho did as well. Hwanwoong remained with his shirt on which is completely understandable and his outfit was a nice bridge between Leedo’s and Seoho’s. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over the image of all of them unbuttoning their jackets/vests before the final pose. Clips from this performance have been circulating everywhere and I feel like I need assistance breathing after every clip that I see. I’m just so glad that they’re getting the recognition they deserve. I am so proud of them for everything that they came out with for this show. It’s their first major television appearance since the controversy and the subsequent major change because they’ve been touring and they are still in the middle of touring. They have all talked about how difficult of a time this has been for all of them and to come out with these performances and steal the entire show is a testament to how strong the five members of this group are. Seriously, if you haven’t bought tickets for their tour yet, do that. I don’t understand how in the world they aren’t selling out every arena!

It was so nice to come out of ‘KBS’ and see so many people saying so many positive things about two of my favorite musical groups. Of course, there was some controversy involved as well, but most people seemed to understand that the negative opinions were entirely undeserved. Most of what I saw was how much both of these groups did an amazing job and I absolutely loved waking up this morning and watching all of the performances. I am so proud of both of these groups for everything involved with ‘KBS’ this year from their confidence, to their well thought out performances, to their calm demeanors in dealing with any negative press that they might have gotten for either past controversies or recent controversies. If you for some reason haven’t started stanning either one of these groups yet, this is your sign to do so. They are both groups with an amazing amount of talent who continue to prove themselves strong. Have I mentioned how proud of them I am???

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Sci-Fi/Superheroes: The DCEU Might Die Soon

Screenshot of Henry Cavill as Superman. Copyright goes to DC Studios and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Hey! Hallie here!

It seems that ever since Warner Bros. and Discovery joined together we’ve only heard bad news come out of the company. Projects are constantly struck down, fans become angrier as the days pass, and bewildering decisions seem set on driving the whole thing into the ground. DC is one of the biggest franchises Warner Bros. Discovery is majorly fumbling right now. It seemed as though the DCEU might be saved thanks to the newest ‘Batman’ film and the appointment of fan-favorite James Gunn as co-president of DC Studios. But after this bright speck of hope we were thrown into even more horrible news, to the extent that most DC fans are now throwing their hands up in defeat. Fans have even begun to demand that James Gunn step down after his appointment was widely praised. So does the DCEU really look like its final days are around the corner? Well, the best way to know that is to look at the most recent DC projects and decisions made by Warner Bros. Discovery. And knowing Warner Bros. Discovery, it’s going to look pretty bleak.

‘Superman’:

Let’s get the biggest news from yesterday out of the way. Henry Cavill will no longer be playing Superman. You know how Henry Cavill announced he’d be back in the DC universe around the time James Gunn made a statement about how central Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent would be moving forward? Yeah, that was evidently a mean joke made at Cavill’s expense. Both James Gunn and Henry Cavill made statements about this situation, but while both statements are very polite, they paint the situation in two entirely different lights. Gunn is adamant that this is just a result of the Superman movie he’s planning being a “young Superman” movie, but he says he talked it over with Cavill and discussed possible ways for him to return in the future. Cavill’s version of events seems much more irresponsible. Cavill says the company forced him to announce his return in October even though they hadn’t officially hired him yet, and now he will be moving on from the DCEU entirely. If there’s any plans for him to come back, he definitely doesn’t seem aware of it. This is, to put it bluntly, a catastrophic mess. Not only did Cavill already make an on-screen appearance returning as the character in a mid-credits scene for ‘Black Adam’, but the announcement that Cavill would return was one of the more highly fan-praised decisions to come out of DC. The intense backlash is no surprise, especially with how Gunn seems to be trying to soften the blow with false promises of Cavill still having a place in the DCEU. But this is definitely not the only thing that’s gone wrong recently.

‘The Flash’ and ‘Wonder Woman’:

A few days ago it was announced that Warner Bros. Discovery would no longer be going through with their plans for a third ‘Wonder Woman’ movie. ‘Wonder Woman’ has been one of DC’s most solid franchises. The first film in particular was groundbreaking to women when it was released. But now ‘Wonder Woman’ is being tossed into the trash heap alongside so many other DC franchises and projects. This decision feels like it’s coming completely out of left field considering the popularity and success surrounding this character. But this decision is even more condemnable when you compare it to news about the still unreleased ‘Flash’ movie. ‘The Flash’ has outlasted two major female-driven projects now that we’ve seen the cancellation of ‘Wonder Woman 3’ and ‘Batgirl’. Not only is this really worrisome to women who were hoping to see more representation in the DCEU, but it’s worrisome because Ezra Miller is a really troubling person who definitely belongs in jail. At this point they’ve faced lawsuits related to abuse, assault, kidnapping, and burglary. And multiple accounts of all of those. Most people have already decided to boycott this movie when it comes out. I certainly won’t be watching it with Ezra Miller as the lead. But somehow Warner Bros. Discovery is still pushing its release despite multiple delays, and now we even have reports that a second script has already been penned and is ready to be put into production. I really can’t understand how anyone could possibly think this is a good idea. People were actually looking forward to ‘Batgirl’, a movie with a woman of color at its center as well as the return of Michael Keaton. ‘Wonder Woman’ has become a staple of superhero movies since Patty Jenkins introduced her version of the character. And yet we’re only getting the movie no one wants to see anymore. It’s baffling.

‘Black Adam’ and the Recent Films:

Putting aside the mass of bad announcements recently, let’s look at what movies came out recently. The most recent DC movie was ‘Black Adam’. ‘Black Adam’ was not well received by critics and had a mixed reception amongst fans. While viewers of the movie disagreed on whether or not Dwayne Johnson saved the movie or gave a bad performance, almost everyone agreed that the movie had a messy plot and its value was mostly found in its crazy action sequences. So overall the movie wasn’t an amazing DC entry by anyone’s standards, and the messy plot paired with ok CG action sequences brings us back to the first DCEU movies where fans were hopeful but still critiqued the poor writing. ‘Black Adam’ seems to say to fans that the DCEU isn’t progressing even after all these years. The movies just before this one were promising, though. James Gunn’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ got him his job as co-president of DC Studios, and ‘The Batman’ was very well received. But amongst those releases were also the various versions of ‘Justice League’ that received mixed reviews, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ which also received a lukewarm response, and ‘Aquaman’ which, once again, received both good and bad reviews. Then there’s ‘Joker’, which may or may not be part of the DCEU but was rightly criticized for the way it sympathized with its main character (And is now getting a musical sequel nobody asked for). The DCEU is incredible at putting out movies that aren’t bad but certainly aren’t good, and failing to connect them in one cohesive story. Sure we haven’t gotten anything as bad as ‘Batman v Superman’ or ‘Suicide Squad’ lately, but I’d argue that the good movies in the DCEU are just as rare. DC keeps failing to prove to audiences that their loyalty will be worthwhile. And the way they keep dropping projects that fans are looking forward to doesn’t instill confidence in them.

So will the DCEU die soon? It’s very likely. Even ‘Shazam’ fans are expressing their desire to leave behind the sequel and the DCEU altogether. James Gunn does say that he has a plan for the DCEU moving forward, including movies that will finally connect. If that’s true, it makes sense why so many projects are being dropped. But it still doesn’t explain all these strange decisions. ‘The Flash’ is still getting made, which will be a weird tie in to the projects DC is currently dropping and stars a person no one’s willing to support. James Gunn’s ‘Suicide Squad’ characters will very likely continue to play a role in his new universe even with their awkward ties to the old DCEU movies. So why drop other fan favorites? It doesn’t make sense. Especially during a period where fans already have no confidence in the franchise going forward. But even beyond this, Warner Bros. Discovery is making many mistakes with all of their franchises. To the point that they’re rapidly losing money. So who knows? Warner Bros. Discovery might die entirely before DC even has the chance to. Either way, it’s not looking good for DC fans right now.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

International Dramas: ‘Falling Into Your Smile’

Promotional shot of Cheng Xiao and Xu Kai. Copyright goes to ‘LINE TV’ and ‘Netflix’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Finally, I welcome you to me ranting about another one of my favorite dramas that I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, I don’t think there’s any getting over this one and it could just be my favorite drama now. I’m highly debating starting it all over again because I loved it that much. It feels so good to be writing about a drama that I’m absolutely head over heels for again. This checks off a lot of what I look for in dramas. It has a really adorable relationship between two incredibly likable characters, feminism, a group camaraderie factor, an action type backdrop, and no weird twists at any point. Are you sold yet? I’m certainly convincing myself to watch it again. I have so much to say about this drama (I actually took notes this time which I don’t always do), so I’m just going to get into how much I absolutely love it. As always MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. Seriously, maybe watch this and then come back. I don’t think I would be able to recommend it more than I already am. But if you don’t care about spoilers and want to know my full thoughts on it first, then let’s go!

Summary: Tong Yao is a female casual gamer who is gaining immense popularity in the E-Sports community. After breaking up with her boyfriend, she only continues to become more popular; eventually catching the eye of the professional E-Sports group ZGDX who just became short a mid-solo due to a hand injury forcing his early retirement. When Tong Yao joins the group, she must face several challenges being the only woman on any of the Chinese teams. And she must face the surly Captain of the group, who doesn’t seem to want her there. But maybe there’s more to the famously handsome Captain than meets the eye.

The Wins:

Tong Yao- I am absolutely not kidding when I say that she is quite possibly my favorite female lead in a drama. She’s amazing. Not only do they tackle all kinds of issues regarding feminism with this character, they also make her so relatable and extremely capable. She absolutely knows how to stand up for herself, she’s just as good as any of the men at professional gaming, and she doesn’t need to be saved. In fact, there’s a lot more of her working out some of her character flaws within the romance than there is of him saving her. Tong Yao is an adorable lead with an amazing tough streak. It is not often that a female lead in a drama will be my favorite character. She is right up my alley of female characters that I absolutely adore, and I don’t usually get that out of a drama. I wanted her wardrobe (Yay pastels!) and I wanted to be as fearless as she was throughout the drama. I could talk about her for literal days, I love this depiction of a female lead so much. I often find that female leads don’t have a personality so that the supposed woman watching can just project herself onto the blank slate. I really hate that approach; I want my female characters to have an actual personality. She has so much of a personality and it’s fierce. Have I said that I love her too many times yet?

Lu Si Cheng- I am sometimes hesitant with the more surly and brooding type of male leads. Because that is often used to just promote a major masculine feel and not give the main male lead much in the way of emotion. Men have emotions too! Lu Si Cheng takes this overly masculine toxic type of character, and turns it on its head. Because guys can be surly sometimes and still have actual emotions. Lu Si Cheng cries in this show! Let me repeat, they show the main male character crying! Hell yes! There are several moments where Tong Yao cries and Lu Si Cheng comforts her, and they actually do the opposite of this where he cries and she has to comfort him. I was so happy to see that in this, because we don’t get nearly enough of it in any show from any country. Lu Si Cheng is also an incredibly caring individual who is very protective of his teammates. He’s the type of character who will walk on screen and you automatically feel safe or like everything is taken care of. And the drama also addresses how much stress he’s under and how difficult it is to be that type of safety for the people around you. And how much he can go overboard sometimes. No perfect boyfriend syndrome here. He has flaws too! Yay! I want Lu Si Cheng to be real very badly. Just like Tong Yao is probably my favorite female lead in any drama; he’s probably my favorite male lead. Which surprised me because characters like this aren’t always my type. I guess they are now!

The Romance- I simultaneously swooned and wanted to cry at my singleness. This felt like my ideal relationship. Once again, they don’t show their love for each other by making out as much as they do by genuinely supporting each other. I already talked about how they mutually comfort each other when the other cries. Tong Yao is put in a tough situation where fans start attempting to pin things on her because they are uncomfortable with a woman being in the industry. She has a really tough couple of mental health days that Lu Si Cheng completely helps her through, including holding her while she cries. On the other hand, Lu Si Cheng loses a game because of the immense stress he’s been putting on himself to solve all of the team’s problems without asking for help or letting the other members of the team know about it. Tong Yao talks him through it before he finally lets her into his room to cry into her shoulder. On top of this, they slowly develop complete trust in each other as it goes on. And when the two finally get together and she worries about all of his fans who want to date him, he tells her that he likes her and that that opinion is more important than his fans wanting to date him. Not to mention how cute all of their moments together are. There’s an episode where they mutually take care of each other because he’s sick and she’s having bad period cramps. And they never break up! They solve all of their issues together and the show actually shows us how they are as a couple. We get to see the hand holding, the meeting the parents, all of it! This is what I want more dramas to do instead of throwing in a weird unneeded twist because they don’t think that the couple actually being together will keep the viewers interested. And the kissing is cute too and reciprocated, though it is mostly closed mouthed because this is a C-Drama and there are still censorship issues.

Feminism- Women in E-Sports is still not common. This is one of the most male dominated industries that I’ve ever seen. In fact, a few years back there was a woman who played Overwatch who was much like Tong Yao in this. She became extremely popular for being one of the best Overwatch players despite being a casual player. When Overwatch leagues started picking new players, she was eligible and fans felt sure one of the leagues would finally choose one of the first professional female Overwatch players. Every single team passed on her despite her being the best new pick. When they were asked why they didn’t choose her, most of the team representatives said that they didn’t know how dorm situations with a woman would work and thought it would be too expensive. They didn’t even try to pretend that it wasn’t about gender. Of course, in this drama Tong Yao is actually chosen and they delve into how difficult it is for women in this field or any male dominated fields. Tong Yao is attacked for the possibility of her dating players on the team before she even gets into a relationship with Cheng. She is blamed for every single defeat that the team has because of her gender and very closely scrutinized. She is blatantly told on multiple occasions that she’s not good enough because of her gender. One of the things Tong Yao has to learn throughout the show is to stop looking at comments online because of the way they affect your mental health. Not once does the show blame women for being weaker than men or prove any of the people saying that she can’t do it correct. Tong Yao beats all of the odds by herself and proves that she’s the best mid-solo in a male dominated field. And the show also shows a really amazing female friendship between her and her best friend, who is rich and provides for herself. This drama champions women, and I want to see more of this in every drama that I watch!

Tier A Side Characters- So I have split all of the main side characters very evenly into two tiers. One of the groups was amazing while the other group fell pretty flat for me. In this tier I first have Ming, who I wish we would have gotten more of but I understand that it wouldn’t have completely fit to give him more. Ming is the former mid-solo of ZGDX and becomes their coach after his forced retirement. He is the main mentor of this group and, if Cheng didn’t exist, I would have spent this entire drama wishing he was the main love interest. He’s such a sweet character and I loved every time a character would go to him for advice. I also liked K, who is the Jungler of ZGDX. He has an entire episode to himself about how his parents abuse and misuse him because they don’t think of his career seriously. The message here is to respect the careers of young people and let them follow their hearts. He also absolutely has a thing with Cat and you can’t tell me differently. They flirt on multiple occasions. Though Cat wasn’t my favorite and Ming really stood up for K against his parents, which made me kind of ship K and Ming instead. That aside, K was a hilarious and very dry Jungler and I loved all of his dialogue. I also like Jinyang, who I’ve talked about already a little. She is Tong Yao’s best friend who is incredibly confident, self sufficient, and probably the resident badass of the show. When she starts getting flack for her relationship with her E-Sports professional boyfriend, she takes it in stride and buys his company. Yes, you read that correctly. This show wrote some of the best women I’ve ever seen in any drama ever. Lu Yue was the other main side character that I liked. I liked his redemption and how upbeat and playful he was. They made Lu Yue so understandable. And of course, the close camaraderie in all of the friendships is part of what made this drama for me.

E-Sports- Not only did this drama actually focus on making E-Sports highlighted and interesting within the main romance plot, but it also succeeded in making it absolutely action packed. I was on the edge of my seat for every competition and I loved the animation style they used when they were showing what was going on within the game. I also loved how in this gorgeous animation they would show interactions between the characters Tong Yao and Cheng were playing; but the show didn’t care about the genders of the characters they were playing. I was worried that the show would make all of these romantic moments between the animated characters gender specific and they didn’t. It didn’t matter if they were both playing female characters, both playing male characters, or she was playing a male character while he played a female character. I loved that this didn’t matter in the animation. And I would have watched this drama for how beautiful those animation sequences were alone.

Private Lives and Fans- They acknowledge that all of them are celebrities in their own right and have to struggle with online perceptions, not looking at comments, and people trying to pry into their lives. Many times the characters choose not to let this get to them and sometimes you see the very real repercussions of fans attempting to steer their favorite gamer’s private life because of selfish reasons. I was very happy that this drama had the message of leaving your idols alone as well as acknowledging both toxic and non toxic fans. While they showed the consequences of toxic fan behavior, they also showed fans being sweet and supportive. For example, at the end of the show they decide to show this team that we haven’t really followed before as they end up having to leave the national league. At first I questioned this decision until I saw that the show was trying to have a positive outlook on failure while simultaneously showing the support of true fans and how much that really affects the people we support. What stuck out to me most here was a fan telling the former Captain of the group; “I didn’t come to you because you were at the top and I won’t desert you now that you’re at the bottom.” Which is such a beautiful idea and something that I immediately connected to one of my favorite K-Pop groups. If you follow this blog, you probably know the one I’m talking about. I loved the way this drama addressed everything that they did within fan communities.

The Losses:

The Side Plot Romance- This is between Jinyang and her E-Sports playing boyfriend, Ai Jia, who is on a different team than most of the main characters. I just didn’t think this was cute most of the time. There were moments where they threw public opinion aside to openly show off their relationship that I found really touching. But other than that, this relationship felt very one sided and otherwise unbalanced. A lot of the time it felt like Jinyang didn’t even like or care about Ai Jia. When the show starts they are exes and the development to them getting together was pretty nonexistent. Later when Jinyang finally decides to go to one of Ai Jia’s games to support him, she’s on her phone almost the entire time. And he seems really clingy most of the time, which is something she doesn’t appreciate. Neither of them feel comfortable within the relationship; he seems to think it’ll end at any moment and she seems to not care for him as much as he does her. And when she buys his company she becomes his boss, which creates yet another unbalanced dynamic with this couple. So this really didn’t work for me. Which was odd considering that the other relationship in this is so amazing.

Tier B Side Characters- Chubby, the support of ZGDX, was often only there for the other characters to make fat jokes. For a drama that seems progressive in a lot of other ways, this felt disappointing. He also cyber-bullies Lu Yue at the beginning of the show by releasing a video of a fight that Lu Yue got into in his past purposely to get him banned from the team. This is meant to be understandable, but I don’t find cyber-bullying to be acceptable for any reason. Cat, the top-solo of the group, is very temperamental and doesn’t get much time at all. I would have loved for him to have more, especially with K, but he mainly just got angry when they needed someone to be angry. Ai Jia expressed some of the most sexist views for being with Jinyang and he never got much character development aside from his occasionally overly clingy show of emotion. Rui, the team manager, is a character that feels largely unneeded and I wish his entire character had just been given to Ming. Ming could have easily also been the manager as well as the coach or something like that and it would have given Ming more time. Rui just didn’t have enough character for me. But none of these characters were extremely offensive. They just didn’t really hold up compared to the other side characters.

As you can tell, there’s not a lot of bad that I have to say about this drama. It was action packed, swoon-worthy, and otherwise amazing. I don’t become absolutely head over heels for a drama easily, as you can probably tell if you’ve seen some of my other reviews, and I’m so glad to find another drama that I love so much. I could talk about this drama for several more paragraphs but I’ll limit myself and stop here. If you love adorable romances, watch this. It’s amazing! Just note that it will make you feel very very single if you are like me and not in a relationship.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: My Top 3 Phase 4 Shows

Screenshot of Aramis Knight and Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

This is technically a part 2 to a post I made a few days ago, so if you’re interested in my entire ranking of all the Phase 4 Disney+ Marvel shows, go ahead and check that one out! This post will just be dedicated to my top three Marvel shows of Phase 4 and it will have SPOILERS! This Marvel phase has been a mixed bag for me. All the shows underneath my top three are shows that majorly frustrated me in one way or another. These top three shows are the only ones I absolutely adored to the point I could watch each of them over and over with no complaints. Honestly, I don’t have many negative things to say about any of them, although not all of these shows necessarily show promise for Phase 5. But I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, let’s get to my ranking!

3. ‘Hawkeye’. ‘Hawkeye’ doesn’t generally make it to the top of many people’s Phase 4 lists, and I don’t really understand why. Granted, it isn’t the most hard-hitting or emotionally gripping show. But it doesn’t need to be. ‘Hawkeye’ sets out to be a fun, light-hearted, coming of age story for Kate Bishop. The whole point of it is to pair up the naturally hilarious and upbeat Kate Bishop with the naturally disgruntled and sarcastic Clint Barton in a student/teacher relationship. And it succeeds at this and the hilarity that comes along with this concept. Kate and Clint are such a fun duo to watch. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the car chase sequence where the two are tasked with communicating while Clint has no hearing aid. It’s so satisfying to see these characters learn how to work together as partners, as well as come to care for each other in a very father/daughter way. Kate Bishop herself is an intensely likable new character who I am happy to follow into future MCU projects. And I’m already anticipating a future team up between her and Yelena, who also kills it in this series. Yelena gets several amazing emotional beats here, including her reaction to the Blip and her fight with Clint due to her grief over losing Natasha. But she’s also so funny. Her slightly threatening conversation with Kate over Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite parts of the series. And then we have Echo, or Maya Lopez, who is our first deaf representation in the MCU and is actually played by a deaf actress. She’s a badass who definitely gets enough time and intrigue in the show to hype me up for her own solo show coming soon! This series is just so much fun and is full of so many powerful female characters who are playing major, promising roles in upcoming MCU projects. I personally can’t wait.

2. ‘Ms. Marvel’. Once again we have a more light-hearted show, but this time it does veer into more serious and emotionally impactful moments. First off, I want to note how visually stunning this show is. The bright color palette is irresistibly fun, as is the artwork that occurs throughout the show. The beginning of ‘Ms. Marvel’ demonstrates that Kamala Kahn is into art and has a uniquely cute sketching style, and that art style appears everywhere after the fact. Its usage feels like we’re seeing the world through Kamala’s eyes, but it’s always used tastefully and integrates itself well into each scene. Moving past that though, this show has absolutely everything I wanted out of it and more. It has a realistic view of high schoolers without making them appear too mature, including some great school friends for Kamala like Nakia. It explores feminism with its main characters, especially involving a plot where Nakia becomes a board member at the New Jersey mosque. It has a very funny and yet respectful view of fandom culture, which only helps to endear us Marvel fans to the major Marvel fan that is Kamala Kahn. It has a really wholesome familial center, specifically focusing on Kamala and her mother coming to understand one another. It has gorgeous and impactful nods to Kamala Kahn’s Pakistani and Muslim roots, showing Kamala and her family attending a mosque and highlighting her families’ Partition story as a major part of the series. Genuinely, the reveal that Kamala actually played a role in reuniting Sana with her father during the Partition nearly had me in tears. And although I wasn’t all that interested in Kamran by the end of the series, the Red Dagger is definitely a character I’ll be looking out for in the future. This was an amazing show on every level and I’m excited to see more of Kamala.

1. ‘WandaVision’. No other Marvel series has made me as obsessed as I am with ‘WandaVision’. I personally feel it’s both a stylistic and writing masterpiece amongst streaming shows. The love letter this series is to each era of television makes the whole thing worth a watch at least once. The fact that we go from black-and-white 50s television complete with old-fashioned effects, to 80s ‘Full House’ nods starring an Olsen herself, to modern-day mockumentary style sit-coms, is beautifully done. The series also perfectly mixes the comedic feel of the type of television shows ‘WandaVision’ is emulating, with the dark mystery lying underneath. In between laughing at all the corny jokes and falling in love with Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen’s chemistry, you find yourself disturbed by how much feels off or wrong. And the audience isn’t the only party trying to figure out this mystery. We’re essentially trying to figure it out alongside Vision, whose insane intelligence and genuine care for Wanda makes him the perfect character to follow. In between we also get characters like Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, both of whom appear at their most funny and most awesome in this show. We also get to follow Monica Rambeau, a character whose own personal loss makes her empathetic and interesting. Plus, she has one of the coolest superhero transformations in the entire MCU. And finally there’s Wanda, who goes through each stage of grief in this series to the point that you can’t help but understand her mistakes and feel her pain. And all of it comes together in her epic adoption of the Scarlet Witch persona. That said, I can’t say I’m looking forward to more of her character. ‘Multiverse of Madness’ threw her back into a grief stage despite the fact that the whole purpose of this show was Wanda learning to cope with grief. And then there’s the issue of her focus being entirely on either Vision or her sons at this point, which is stereotypical and irritating. Hopefully Monica fares better.

And that closes off my ranking of the Phase 4 shows! Once again, this list is 100% effected by my own personal biases. I clearly prefer more light-hearted shows, though I have no problem with dark content. I also like shows with strong character relationships and deep, emotional moments. But regardless of my personal tastes, I do feel that this phase might have been too off the rails between the amount of content that spanned multiple genres, and the Multiverse introduction. I’m sincerely hoping for something a bit more stable in the near future. But I didn’t dislike this phase. I appreciated the exploration of new concepts, many of which centered women and people of color, and I have a lot of hope for the MCU continuing to expand on what superheroes can look like. This feels like a rougher, transitionary period for Marvel, but I do think we’ll come out of this with even better content to adore.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: ONEUS MVs

Screenshot of Kim Geonhak (Leedo) in the ‘Come Back Home’ MV. Copyright goes to ONEUS and RBW.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve been really anticipating the ONEUS concert in a couple months and so that, for me, means that I watch MVs over and over and over again. And watching ONEUS’s performances and MVs is always entertaining for the stories and imagery that they use in each of them. Some of them are more story heavy than others, but I’m always a fan of the way they utilize each of the members individually as part of the MVs. I personally think the imagery in ONEUS’s MVs is some of the most gorgeous imagery in the K-Pop industry. Part of it may be their more graceful style of dancing that pairs with their beautiful and unique songs; but part of it is also definitely location and mood. After all, ONEUS did originally capture my attention because of intriguing thumbnails to their MVs. So I’m going to go through some of my favorites of their MVs and what they entail that makes them so addicting to me personally. This is your one and only MAJOR SPOILER warning. If you want to go into the MVs blind, then don’t read beyond this point!

Come Back Home:

This has to be one of my favorite MVs of theirs because of the storyline alone. This is also one of the main MVs that started the association of sword imagery with ONEUS. This MV alternated between individual shots of the members dressed in white, a dance performance at a theatre, and the middle of a medieval battlefield. All of the members are sword fighting with men in black and seem to be losing for much of the MV. Most of them are pretty scraped up and, heartbreakingly, in the middle of the battle is a child who is very obviously crying. While all of them defend the child to the best of their ability, one of the men in black traps him which causes Leedo to jump in front of the kid and take the blow for him just in time. This was an apt choice in member considering Leedo closely connected with the child actor on set and chose to get his college degree in child development. Thankfully, Knight Leedo doesn’t die. He’s able to turn around and take down the assailant. At the end we see the members of ONEUS all surrounding a throne that the child is now sitting on; meaning that the Knights of ONEUS were protecting their King this entire time. I’ve always loved Medieval themes to literally anything and was absolutely thrilled when I saw this MV. There’s sword fighting! What’s not to like?

LUNA:

If you want to see the gorgeous imagery I was talking about, this is the MV to start with. Each of the members have their own personal background themes, which distinguishes each member more. I kind of wish more groups would adopt this idea in their MVs because it really is a great way to make each member of a group stand out. Leedo starts out the MV on a rooftop at night with the moon in the background and holding a fan, Seoho continues with a more military style inside a gorgeously decorated house, Xion appears with long hair and a red background with a staircase to a traditional style painting, Hwanwoong appears in a room only lit by lanterns, and Keonhee appears in a low lit setting with perfectly pink cherry blossoms. This MV is particularly lovely for the traditional Korean imagery and the fan choreography. And the backgrounds do change for some of them, with some of them appearing inside with traditional decorating or outside the house under the cover of night. Each image makes you want to be transported directly into the video.

No diggity:

This is definitely a more hardcore song and the imagery reflects this. Hwanwoong gets a lot of the choreography that feels hard hitting and has a more playful graffiti style to his personal shots. Leedo is extremely intimidating in an all red suit with a half ring of fire behind him or he crawls on the floor next to a cannon. Keonhee has crystals underneath his eyes and sits at a table surrounded with people as he messes with them. Seoho has some extremely awesome looking black eye makeup in a hallway that is flashing between red and white. Xion is in a room that is on fire in the background with a statue of a horse in it. They all are very obviously villainous in these roles, and they look intimidating as they sing at a potential rival to back off of their girlfriend. For the lyrics of the song you might have expected a more noble type of theme, but I really like how they went for a more villainous and intimidating vibe.

Twilight:

This MV was obviously done on location at this beautiful historic building. It looks like an old fashioned style mansion and it has gardens all around it. It’s the perfect site for the choreography for this song, which is really graceful and incorporates a lot of lifts. This is the perfect MV for showcasing how much ONEUS has a focus on unique beauty. I don’t think any group quite captures this regal feel like ONEUS does.

Bring it on:

This is another one that features a more villainous theming for them. We begin the MV with the members all in the back of a van with sacks over their heads and their hands bound. The majority of the MV seems to take place at an odd amusement park that looks more creepy than fun. Leedo once again starts us off inside the theater at the park where he is still tied to a chair; though this also cuts to a shirtless Leedo looking villainous in a run down bathroom. Hwanwoong is in an elevator that shows a cityscape but he’s also playing a dangerous looking card game with Xion. Keonhee is in what appears to be an arcade, but not long after we see him it becomes apparent that there’s a bomb counting down with him. We see Seoho outside behind a fence outside of the park with some clown imagery in the background. Xion also appears to be in a dangerous situation as he is strapped to a wooden board that is made to look like a playing card, while also playing that dangerous card game with Hwanwoong. They all appear at the end running on the top of a moving train that, by the end of the MV, they appear to have taken control of.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE:

This MV is based off of Shakespeare which makes sense considering ONEUS has used Shakespeare in a few performances before. For example, if you haven’t heard their cover of ‘Be Mine’ by Infinite, I highly recommend it. I love it so much, it’s such a beautiful rendition of the song. That one adapts ‘Romeo and Juliet’, though I do feel it doesn’t focus on each individual member enough. In this, the members are depicted in a thorn like cage as well as their performance shots. Hwanwoong starts us off this time in a white room full of pure white flowers, while Seoho appears to be in between laying in white sheets and also strapped to a post with red lighting, Leedo is in a bathtub filled with what appears to be blood, Keonhee is in a white room where he is blinded by a blindfold and surrounded by flowers, and Xion has black running over his hands in a room with a gnarled tree in the background. But along with this we also see Keonhee standing above what appears to be a bleeding and dying Seoho whose situation only gets worse as the MV goes on. All of them are tempted by the same crown that they all seem to reach for but are tormented by. At the end of the MV they are all fired upon by a firing squad, but all endure despite it. At the very end, Keonhee ends up wearing the crown they were all tempted by. Go Keonhee!

There are so many other ONEUS MVs and all of them are so worth watching. Their imagery is breathtaking and the choreography always packs a punch at the same time it always looks so graceful. And it’s interesting that the group seems to enjoy covering both noble aesthetics as well as handsome villain aesthetics. And I’m very glad that they put so much effort into singling out every single member and giving each their own aesthetic and theming for most of their MVs. I know that a lot of idols have talked about struggles with not being distinguished from the other members of their group enough and I definitely understand the want to be seen as an individual within a group. ONEUS makes this a priority, which I always love to see. But seriously, if you haven’t started stanning ONEUS, this is your sign to do that. Their music is gorgeous, it’s unlike anything else in the industry, and they’re constantly passed over when they shouldn’t be. They deserve more than they get and I hope that they get some more recognition for their amazing contributions to music as a whole. I can’t wait to see them in concert! And so close!

Note: I did not want to address this again, but the situation is still a bit out of control. I know that these MVs contained another person. Due to Leedo’s words and the wishes of every single member of ONEUS, the omission of this person was entirely purposeful. ONEUS is a five person group and wishes to be seen that way. It’s that simple.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: Ranking the Phase 4 TV Shows Pt 1

Screenshot of Tom Hiddleston as Loki in the Disney+ series ‘Loki’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

After a year of taking some time away from Marvel, I’ve officially caught up with the Phase 4 releases! And just in time for Phase 4 to come to a close as well! At some point in the future I’ll make a post about the Phase 4 films, but for today I’ll be focusing on all of the shows that were released on Disney+. I have to say, Phase 4 has been an extremely mixed bag for me. Where a few past MCU phases were completely consistent all the way through, this phase feels like Marvel threw a bunch of concepts at the wall to see what would stick. Which explains the vast differences in genre, and the massive amount of content and characters we received. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the fact that superhero projects are now expanding their horizons thanks mostly to Marvel. But Marvel’s recent projects vary in quality and many just don’t fit well together. To be honest, I don’t really see a cohesive story emerging out of all of this content. But that doesn’t mean I disliked Phase 4 either. I’m not sure where the MCU is going, but there are several projects that hint at a bright future for it. I’m just going to get into my ranking, so here’s your SPOILER WARNING. I’ll be talking about spoilers and details for each of these series, so if you aren’t caught up, come back later!

8. ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’. Putting this show last in my ranking is a bit dangerous considering all the blatant misogyny we saw directed at it as a form of “criticism”. So while I didn’t really like ‘She-Hulk’, I want to make clear that I had no problems with the character of Jennifer Walters or the obvious feminism in this show. In fact, my favorite part of ‘She-Hulk’ was the fearless way the show discussed women being ignored or mistreated in the workplace, women receiving clearly unwanted advances from men, and even something as dark as revenge porn. I loved that Jennifer Walters’ problem with the She-Hulk persona wasn’t about a lack of control, which makes so much sense for a female character who experiences a lot of ridicule in their day-to-day just for being a woman, but about the way She-Hulk twisted her public and personal self-image. Also, unrelated, Matt Murdock was a joy to watch in this.

All that said, She-Hulk had some huge problems. The biggest one was She-Hulk’s attempts to go meta. Moments where Jennifer Walters breaks the fourth wall to speak to the audience are few and far between leading up to the finale. It’s jarring whenever it happens because she does it so little, and almost every time she does it she’s acknowledging a writing problem with the show. I see writers do this all the time, where they perceive a problem audiences could see with their writing and figure that being self-aware about it makes the issue funny rather than irritating. This tactic NEVER works. So whenever Jennifer addressed that the show was using too many cameos, or a plot point came out of nowhere and halted the progression of the story, or even that the finale wasn’t doing a good job of tying up all the major storylines, I was extremely irritated rather than charmed. Speaking of the finale, despite how little ‘She-Hulk’ utilized fourth wall breaking, they decided that the finale would be an entirely meta episode where they threw out all their plot points and had Jennifer Walters confront a writing AI named KEVIN (Kevin Feige) so she could get the ending she wanted. Which was jarring and came across as though the writers didn’t know how to end the storylines they’d introduced. Add in the fact that all of the female characters who weren’t main characters were portrayed as dumb valley girls (Titania, the woman who befriends Wong, the woman whose wedding breaks up the plot), and this show rubbed me the wrong way. All of that and I didn’t even mention the questionable CG in some scenes.

7. ‘Moon Knight’. This was presented as one of two “dark” projects Marvel was attempting for Phase 4. ‘Moon Knight’ didn’t wind up going as dark as some people expected, but it’s definitely darker in tone than most other MCU projects. There’s quite a bit of brutal killing, explored trauma, and depressing scenes compared to other MCU shows, though it does keep the classic Marvel humor. I personally found that Moon Knight walked between the usual tone of the MCU and the darker subjects it was handling very well. I also appreciated the amount of love and work that went into representing each Egyptian influence on the story. The highlights of ‘Moon Knight’ for me though, were the costume designs for both Marc Spector’s and Steven Grant’s Moon Knight, which are now some of my favorite superhero costumes we’ve ever gotten on screen, and Steven Grant himself. Steven’s the character you’re meant to relate to when the series starts and continually succeeds at endearing and anchoring the audience throughout the rest of the show. He’s adorable and so likable, to the point that whenever he’s gone you spend the whole time missing him.

But clearly, overall, I didn’t love this show. None of the characters, not even Marc Spector are developed well enough to endear them to the audience. I firmly believe that Steven Grant only avoids this because he’s such an obviously cute character who’s easy to root for, but even he isn’t developed well enough in the plot. The only episode where I felt Marc and Steven were given enough development was the second-to-last episode where Marc and Steven’s past trauma was front and center. But that still didn’t do an amazing job at explaining why Marc had been such a jerk to literally everyone for the whole series, or how Marc and Steven’s co-existence within their body had been rapidly changing throughout the series. Then there’s Layla who looked awesome in all the trailers, but barely gets any time to explore her character and never gets a wrap-up in the finale despite having just become a superhero. And of course there’s Arthur Harrow who, aside from his hilariously bad attempt at Mandarin, holds no interest and has no personality. ‘Moon Knight’ definitely had some interesting concepts, but it never got me to care about the characters. ‘Moon Knight’ also could have benefited from doing more research into dissociative-identity-disorder before attempting this kind of plot.

6. ‘What If…?’. ‘What If…?’ is a mix of both good and bad episodes. That’s because all episodes are stand-alone’s, with most of them tying together in the finale. Episodes like ‘What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?’ work really well by giving us in-character stories that still reimagine how a character might have turned out differently with a completely new backstory or set of circumstances. Episodes like ‘What If… The World Lost It’s Mightiest Heroes?’ go for darker concepts that might not appeal to children, but still come across as movie quality with enough intrigue to make the story worth every minute of its run time. Plus, this episode also has the best and most badass version of Natasha Romanoff we’ve seen in the MCU. But other episodes, like ‘What If… Killmonger rescued Tony Stark?’ fail at making anything interesting out of their plot despite a promising premise. There’s even an entire episode dedicated to what would happen if ‘Doctor Strange’ was just about fridging Christine, which is a terrible premise no one asked for. Ultimately this show is extremely worth it for those episodes that hit the mark, and not worth it at all for the episodes that miss it entirely.

5. ‘Loki’. Damn I wish I could put this series higher. Episodes 1 and 2 of ‘Loki’ are some of my favorite pieces of content we’ve seen come out of Phase 4. The amount of character development they do for Loki in just these two episodes is extraordinary, especially paired with Tom Hiddleston’s acting. And Loki’s relationship with Mobius is both hilarious and endearing. I could have seriously just watched these two banter back and forth for the entire series and been completely content. But then we got to Sylvie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sylvie. She’s a badass with a promising future in the MCU, and I found her a very intriguing character to follow. But once Sylvie comes into the storyline Loki abandons Mobius to follow around Sylvie like a puppy dog. The playful banter, and the fun Loki schemes we got in the first few episodes, give way to Sylvie’s ambitions for revenge while Loki’s character development slows down to a crawl.

And then there’s Loki’s romantic relationship with Sylvie, which is a whole other problem. First, there’s the issue of the two being the same person. Considering they both have memories of the same family and presumably some genetic similarities, many people, including myself, immediately saw them as siblings. So you really can’t blame the audience for being caught off-guard when the two suddenly kissed. And the writers, due to the backlash, gave us two extremely stupid and contradictory reasons for putting Sylvie and Loki together. One of them implies that these two are completely different people, and the other implies that Loki is exhibiting self love through his relationship with Sylvie. Clearly Loki and Sylvie aren’t completely different, but they are different enough that I wouldn’t call a romantic relationship between these two a version of self love. Not to mention that just before the two kissed, Loki was confirmed as bisexual in a throw away line, which made it seem like Marvel was throwing scraps to the LGBTQ+ community while still refusing to put any major relationship on-screen that isn’t straight or straight-passing. Add on the cringy moment where the Loki variants scoff at the idea of a lady Loki existing and you have some really poor writing decisions.

4. ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’. Yet another series I wish I liked more than I actually do. This series does justice to both Sam and Bucky as characters. It was a joy to see Sam explore what the title of Captain America would mean to him as a Black man, especially with the amount of racism he frequently experiences in modern-day America. It was also really nice to see Bucky finally dealing with his Winter Soldier trauma, all while delivering sarcasm in the most endearing and amusing way possible. I loved seeing these two bond over the course of the series. I also loved seeing Sam Wilson step into the role of Captain America in another one of my favorite superhero suits we’ve seen in the MCU, while shining a light on the way society sweeps those in need under the rug at the first sign of violent resistance. And, somehow, this series endeared me to Zemo, a character I considered to be one of the worst villains in the MCU. I’m still genuinely bewildered by this.

This series had a lot of issues, though. First there’s John Walker, who they’re now clearly expecting us to embrace as a redeemable character, or at least an anti-hero, considering his act of heroism at the end of the series and his upcoming return in ‘Thunderbolts’. But John Walker is not only a very firm symbol of racism and intolerance in this series, but he also straight-up beheads a guy with the shield. Then there’s the treatment of Sharon Carter who is turned into a villain because they didn’t know what to do with her, I guess? But she barely gets any time anyways so she might as well have not been in here at all. Along with these we also have extremely underdeveloped villains, once again, and horrible pacing that leaves us with Sam and Bucky fixing a boat right when the show is nearing its tense finale. With a little more organization this show could have been a lot better.

I didn’t expect that I’d have so many things to say about the Phase 4 shows, so I’ll leave my top three for my next post! There’s so much I’ve really liked and really disliked about Phase 4 so far. But I do think it’s worth noting that while I feel my praises and critiques are valid, my ranking is also effected by what kinds of media I like to consume. I’m not as big a fan of darker themes or situational comedies, which explains why nothing really made up for the problems I saw in ‘Moon Knight’ or ‘She-Hulk’. But that’s what’s nice about this phase. There’s something different for everyone and everyone’s lists will look extremely different as a result.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie