For Pride Month 2020, Let’s Discuss The Year’s Biggest LGBTQ+ Moments In TV And Film!

SPOILERS FOR HARLEY QUINN SEASON 2 AND SHE-RA SEASON 5!

Happy Pride Month! As we begin to celebrate the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the community has accomplished already in 2020, through the mediums of TV and film. Though coronavirus has prevented many inclusive films from making it to theaters this year, there are still plenty that did get there before the world went on lockdown, and many more that have released on streaming. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the setbacks the LGBTQ+ community suffered early in the year, and three outstanding breakthroughs in representation that both occurred just last month which could signal big changes in the industry.

Of course, I should note that this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of every film or TV series released this year that touches on any of these issues – this is merely a discussion of some especially significant incidents spanning the course of the past several months, which I feel present a fairly accurate depiction of the year’s many ups and downs as a whole.

She-Ra LGBTQ
She-Ra rescues Catra | tor.com

2020 opened on a promising note with Marvel President and head producer Kevin Feige boldly announcing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would welcome its first ever transgender superhero in the very near future, at a Q&A where he used the words: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.” Unfortunately, the moment was irreparably tarnished when it was revealed that Feige hadn’t realized the question was specifically about transgender superheroes, and only meant an LGBTQ+ superhero was coming very soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender heroes aren’t going to appear in the MCU at some point (there are rumors that a transwoman superheroine, Sera, could appear in either the Loki Disney+ series or Thor: Love And Thunder), but it does cast doubt on when that will ever happen. It was a bad omen, heading into the new year.

Marvel LGBTQ
Marvel Comics’ transgender heroine Sera | mcuexchange.com

In February, Marvel’s rival DC had a golden opportunity to explicitly confirm that one of their most major characters was canonically LGBTQ+ – but instead, their hyped-up zany comedy Birds Of Prey danced around the issue of sexuality, giving only eagle-eyed viewers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to lead character Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in an animated sequence, while simultaneously hinting through stereotypical mannerisms that flamboyant, misogynistic villain Roman Sionis and his partner-in-crime were a gay couple. A lesbian character in the film, Renee Montoya, did play a large role and had an ex-girlfriend who also showed up, which makes Birds Of Prey something of a “one step forward, two steps backward” sort of situation.

Around the same time, the Disney+ streaming platform came under fire for a slew of reasons, most of which involved the service’s attempts to whittle down their roster of upcoming original content in a manner which many saw as discriminatory towards series’ with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. While Disney+ didn’t do this with all of their shows (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary Of A Future President both featured openly LGBTQ+ characters), they did make the decision to move their hotly-anticipated Love, Victor (a spinoff of 20th Century Fox’s successful gay romance Love, Simon, obtained during the Disney/Fox merger) to Hulu, deeming it too mature for their own platform. One of the service’s most high-profile original series’, a sequel to the Lizzie McGuire Disney Channel series, was shut down entirely – with some sources saying that it was due to the way in which the story tackled matters of sexuality. It didn’t take long before the whole situation had raised a very interesting discussion about what is “family-friendly”, but that hasn’t saved Love, Victor from heading to Hulu, nor has it resurrected Lizzie McGuire.

Love, Victor LGBTQ
Love, Victor | deadline.com

In March, as the world started falling apart thanks to coronavirus, the Pixar film Onward was lost in the catastrophe, and moviegoers barely had any time to acknowledge the fantastic animated feature or its moment of LGBTQ+ representation – a moment that would have been great, had it not been leaked to the press by eager journalists prior to the film’s release and subsequently massively overhyped. In the film, a cop played by openly lesbian actress Lena Waithe briefly mentions her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue. Despite how brief the moment was, the film was still boycotted by conservative groups like One Million Moms and banned by several Middle Eastern nations.

Within a few weeks, the coronavirus had already caused major shifts in the film industry: films were being reshuffled across the board, movie theaters around the globe were shutting down and studios were hurrying to push all their upcoming or recently released content onto streaming. Unfortunately, one notable victim of all the release date rearrangements was Marvel’s The Eternals, a film already remarkable for its diverse cast. The superhero epic directed by Asian-American indie icon Chloe Zhao is set to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple, and was supposed to release in November of this year. Sadly, the film has now been pushed back to February of 2021, meaning we will have to wait even longer before we can find out what Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman was talking about when he said that there’s a gay kiss in the film that’s so emotional it made people on-set begin crying. Another Disney film, Jungle Cruise, was delayed an entire year, and will now be opening in summer, 2021: though it’s been invisible in the film’s marketing so far, Jungle Cruise is supposed to introduce Disney Studios’ first openly gay character – which is already somewhat controversial, as Disney couldn’t even be bothered to find an openly gay actor to play the role, rumors say that the character’s depiction is “hugely effete”, and test screenings apparently revealed that the character has a coming out scene in which he never actually states that he is LGBTQ+. Perhaps a delay for that movie wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could allow them to do some much-needed reshoots.

But not everything has been all gloom and doom. The past month has introduced a wave of new representation: some of it from DC Universe, some from Netflix, some, most shockingly, from Disney+ – all of it through the form of animation.

In the first instance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series rectified Birds Of Prey‘s glaring omission by adhering to comics canon and having Harley Quinn and fellow Gotham City supervillain Poison Ivy begin a tentative relationship, which has even resulted in the two sharing a kiss. The duo now have to sort out their messy, complicated feelings for each other, and that’s great. It’s the first time the relationship, which was wildly popular in the comics, has been represented onscreen – and fans are already enjoying the canonization of the pairing, which they have labeled “Harlivy”.

She-Ra LGBTQ
Adora and Catra | polygon.com

However, something that sets Harley Quinn apart is that the series is exclusively for adults, meaning that its audience is necessarily limited. That’s not a problem that faces Netflix and DreamWorks, whose collaboration on the animated reboot of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power is something that can be enjoyed by all ages – the fifth and final season premiered on the streaming service just recently, and made the hopes and dreams of the series’ many LGBTQ+ fans finally come true when lead characters Adora (a.k.a. She-Ra, Princess of Power) and Catra rekindled their friendship: which turned into a slow-burn romance, which culminated in the two confessing their love for each other in the series finale, kissing, and saving the world with the power of love. That, my friends, is representation done right – because as much as I enjoy seeing “casual” representation (such as the cop from Onward, who simply mentions her girlfriend without making it a big deal), I infinitely prefer seeing characters whose sexuality or gender identity is something that actually helps to define who they are. And with Adora and Catra, whose relationship has been at the heart of She-Ra for all five seasons, it made complete sense that their love would play a huge part in the conclusion to the story – and it did, because showrunner Noelle Stevenson is a brave, brilliant genius, who fought to make sure that she wouldn’t have to pull a Legend Of Korra on her fans and just have Adora and Catra hold hands and/or gaze platonically at each other.

Out LGBTQ
Pixar’s “Out” | nytimes.com

Finally, we have to talk about Out. Though Disney+ is still new and working out many of its flaws, they did just recently make a big step forward – or rather, Pixar did it for them and Disney+ gets to take the credit: Out, the newest of Pixar’s animated Sparkshorts which debuted exclusively on the streaming platform, follows a gay man in an interracial relationship as he struggles to come out to his parents. Even though the story involves an unpredictable magical mishap and a lot of dog humor, it never loses sight of its true focus, which is a heartwarming message of acceptance. The short, which clocks in at around nine minutes long, is an understated milestone, becoming the first Pixar story to star a gay lead – and much to its credit, enjoyed a spot on Disney+’s top trending section, which shows that audiences are curious and eager for more content like this.

And so, as we head into Pride Month coming off of small successes like Harley Quinn, She-Ra and Out, I must ask of all my readers that you keep fighting for change in any way you can: whether that means demanding more LGBTQ+ representation from Hollywood, or protesting police brutality because black lives matter – or, preferably, by doing both. One day, we will see that change, and it will come from people like you. 2020 is a wake-up call for all of us: to fight harder. To do better.

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Michelle MacLaren May Direct “Captain Marvel 2”!

Let me just tell you that, in my personal opinion, there was no reason for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to vacate their positions as the directors of the Captain Marvel franchise. Was Carol Danvers’ origin story the best-directed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and did the directing duo do the best job bringing the character to life? No, probably not from a technical standpoint. But Captain Marvel is still one of my favorite films in the entire Infinity Saga, and Boden and Fleck are good directors: their recent work on Hulu/FX’s drama Mrs. America should prove that. But they’re out, and they will not be working on the Captain Marvel sequel (though, intriguingly, it was also reported that they may not be out of the MCU entirely, and could be working on other projects for the studio).

Captain Marvel
imdb.com

In their place, Marvel is supposedly looking for a woman to direct the sequel, which will probably pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Carol Danvers proved herself vital to the fight against the Mad Titan Thanos. Though she was underestimated, belittled and demeaned for a large part of her own solo film by an assortment of sexist villains – and by the angry, equally sexist internet trolls who put together an inconsequential boycott that didn’t stop the film from easily crossing the billion-dollar mark and becoming one of the most profitable films of 2019 – the heroine, played by Brie Larson, has proven to be fairly popular with fans, though many claim that the character still needs to find her footing in the MCU, with the help of a great director who truly “gets” her: much like how the Russo Brothers elevated Captain America to the same level as Iron Man, or how Taika Waititi reshaped the character of Thor with his zany, comedic touch. I would still argue that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck could probably do it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to occasionally bring in a new vision, shake up the status quo, and give something else a try. If people are honestly still on the fence about Captain Marvel (I don’t get it, but whatever), then maybe she just needs a new director.

And I’ve got to say, Michelle MacLaren is not a bad choice. If it’s indeed true that she is one of several women being eyed for the job, then I would love to see this happen: MacLaren has never tackled a major film before (well, actually, she did try twice, but we’ll get to that), but her resume on TV speaks for itself – Emmy-award winning executive producer and director of some of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic episodes, and director of four fantastic episodes of Game Of Thrones (including The Bear And The Maiden Fair), three episodes of The Walking Dead, two episodes of Better Call Saulone of Westworld, and The Morning Show‘s pilot. In fact, she’s so ingrained in the TV scene that I have to wonder whether she might be directing a Disney+ series instead – perhaps even one that includes Captain Marvel in some capacity, such as Secret Invasion or Ms. Marvel. Then again, even though it might seem risky to hire a TV director for a blockbuster film, it’s worth pointing out that the Russo’s and Taika Waititi both had backgrounds in TV before moving to Marvel and directing some of the studio’s best entries. It’s just not indicative of anything.

Captain Marvel Michelle MacLaren
watchersonthewall.com

This wouldn’t be MacLaren’s first experience with superheroes either, though it might prove to be a more pleasant one for her than her last encounter with the genre. MacLaren was originally attached to DC’s Wonder Woman before abruptly leaving the project over creative differences and being replaced by Patty Jenkins (who did an absolutely incredible job, of course). The reason for MacLaren’s exit was supposedly that she wanted to make a more epic, action-heavy origin film for the heroine, but her TV background gave studio executives worries that she might be biting off more than she could chew. After a long and arduous pre-production stage, MacLaren left the project. Something similar may have happened with another comic book adaptation she was supposed to direct: Cowboy Ninja Viking, an action film starring Chris Pratt and Priyanka Chopra, shut down production in August 2018 and has been indefinitely stalled ever since. It was rumored that script issues were the problem in that case, but no details have ever emerged that would confirm or deny those suspicions. At least in the first instance, it sounds like MacLaren’s ambitions were simply too big for what Warner Brothers had planned – which doesn’t sound too bad, if audiences are looking for Captain Marvel to get a serious overhaul (again I ask, why does she even need one?), but Disney might not agree with that assessment, and the last thing Marvel probably wants is another director suddenly walking out on them.

Captain Marvel
syfy.com

But we’ll see. There are many talented women who could direct Captain Marvel 2. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that the MCU will try to be more committed to allowing individual directors the chance to break free from formula and run with their creativity, something that bodes well for the studio’s future – in the past, it was often said that Marvel films didn’t rely on the input of their respective directors so much as Kevin Feige’s overarching vision: which wasn’t a bad thing, since Feige’s vision allowed the studio to get to the place in which it finds itself today – a place where they can now feel free to hire more clever, unique directors: like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland, Sam Raimi, and Destin Daniel Cretton. MacLaren would be more than capable of holding her own even among their company.

How would you feel if MacLaren came onboard Captain Marvel 2? Do you think she could give the character the boost she (supposedly) needs? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Katee Sackhoff Will Join “The Mandalorian” As Bo-Katan!

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS AND THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD

When a franchise is as divided and fragmented as Star Wars is, it can be a welcome relief to find evidence of continuity between that franchise’s various offshoots. Katee Sackhoff, the voice-actress behind the role of Bo-Katan on The Clone Wars, joining the cast of the second season of Disney+’s live-action phenomenon The Mandalorian might not seem like too much of a big deal: in fact, to some it might seem obvious, even predictable. But for someone still terrified that Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be officially decanonized and all its cast of characters recast as soon as the series ends, it’s like a glimmer of hope for the future.

The Mandalorian Bo-Katan
nerdist.com

Sackhoff is, however, an obvious choice to portray Bo-Katan, whom she has voiced in several seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars – the fan-favorite character is a Mandalorian rebel aligned with the violent Deathwatch terrorists when we first meet her, but she quickly develops into a fascinating, nuanced woman, who hatches an elaborate plan to win her home planet back from the clutches of Sith Lord Darth Maul and his loyalists. After the death of her sister, the Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan becomes steely and frigid, but more devoted than ever to the Mandalorian way of life. By the end of The Clone Wars, she’s become the leader of Mandalore, and in Star Wars: Rebels, we see her accept the Darksaber, a symbol of Mandalorian patriotism, and embrace her destiny as the heroine who will unite the various Mandalorian clans. Sounds like she should be a pivotal figure in a story about the Mandalorians, right?

The Mandalorian Darksaber
slashfilm.com

Unfortunately for Bo-Katan, we also learned in The Mandalorian that her destiny was unfulfilled – as the villain Moff Gideon was seen wielding the very same Darksaber in the season finale, with no explanation of how or when he obtained it. It’s very likely that Bo-Katan was killed prior to the events of the series and the Darksaber taken from her, meaning that any role she may have in these upcoming seasons of The Mandalorian could be limited to appearances in flashbacks. But the Bo-Katan fan in me desperately hopes she somehow survived the brutality of the rebellion and the war against the Galactic Empire, not only because she’s a fun character who deserves a prominent role, but because Katee Sackhoff is a very underrated actress who could benefit from the exposure in what has proven to be Disney+’s most successful original series.

Bo-Katan is only the latest in a steadily growing line of animated characters making the jump to live-action: others, however, like former Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Mandalorian Sabine Wren, have been or likely will be recast for their appearances in The Mandalorian‘s highly anticipated second season (Tano and Wren are also rumored to appear in just one episode of the season, which will serve as a backdoor pilot for their own spinoff series: if that is true, it makes sense why Disney and Lucasfilm would want to cast bigger, more recognizable talent for the roles). Boba Fett will also make his return to Star Wars in the upcoming season, though it is believed he will only have a small role.

The Mandalorian
thewookieegunner.com

Assuming that Bo-Katan did, in fact, survive her fateful encounter with Moff Gideon or his forces, she could conceivably run into Din Djarin and Baby Yoda while on the hunt for Gideon and her stolen Darksaber. The character lends herself nicely to cool action sequences – thanks to her jetpack, secret weapons and martial arts prowess – and I’d be eager to see her take on Gideon in a fight. If it’s only through flashbacks, and the outcome of the fight is predetermined, then so be it…but I really do think there are many more things that could be done with her character, and I hope that’s taken into consideration before a decision is made to kill her off.

So what do you think? How do you feel about seeing Bo-Katan in live-action for the first time ever, in The Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Ghost Rider” Coming To Disney+! Will The “Midnight Sons” Follow?

Though he’s probably among the most popular characters in the Marvel comics roster, Ghost Rider has had a hard time on screens both big and small. His first film adaptation came at a time when neither DC nor Marvel had yet figured out the magic formula for how to craft a comic book movie, and his appearance on TV, while still the best take on the character, had only limited appeal due to being on a TV show that far too few people actually watch – but now, it looks like Ghost Rider is heading to an even smaller type of screen (though, at the moment, a far more profitable one), and there, with the help of the established Marvel brand name and the tried-and-true Disney+ marketing strategy, he may finally get the success he deserves.

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

Ghost Rider is one of several dark, edgy characters who operate on the fringes of the Marvel Comics universe: the Rider in particular has always been one of the most unabashedly violent – he literally sells his soul to Satan himself (technically Mephisto, but whatever), so how could he not be? Whether the name belongs to stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze or car mechanic Robbie Reyes, a few key details always remain the same: he rides around at night with hellfire burning in his skeletal face, wielding whips, chains and a variety of other spiky weapons which he uses to harvest the souls of the damned, while fighting some of Marvel’s most powerful mystic villains – and occasionally, heroes, as he is rarely ever solely good or evil. It’s hard to imagine this character peacefully co-existing on the same family-friendly platform as other Disney brands.

That’s exactly why he was supposed to be heading to Hulu, with Gabriel Luna reprising the role of the Robbie Reyes version of the character – which he had already played, phenomenally, on the fourth season of ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., often said to be the series’ best. An idea for a spin-off following his character on more brutal, bloody exploits had already been written, but, sadly, the entire series was scrapped by Marvel president and producer Kevin Feige – at the time, it was believed that Feige had his own plans in store for the character, and now that has seemingly been confirmed. It looks like a version of Ghost Rider (probably Johnny Blaze, since it’s been strongly suggested that it’s not Reyes) will be going straight to Disney+, instead.

But whether Ghost Rider arrives on a motorcycle or in a muscle car, he won’t be alone. In fact, he could easily herald the creation of a new kind of superhero team in the MCU, one that is grittier and riskier than anything we’ve seen before. A couple potential members of this team are already popping up, though they will likely have to wait until the Rider arrives before they can actually form. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Midnight Sons.

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

In the comics, this team consists of a small, close-knit group of supernaturally gifted antiheroes, who usually work alone but come together in dire circumstances to protect the world from threats like demons, vampires and magic-users. Unsurprisingly, they’re closely affiliated with Doctor Strange, and his associate Doctor Voodoo. Membership changes on a regular basis, but characters like Ghost Rider, the Moon Knight, Blade and Elsa Bloodstone are all regulars at this point. And thankfully, almost every character on the team has a pretty good chance of showing up in the MCU in the near future, meaning that we could see them come together just in time for a third Doctor Strange film.

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

Ghost Rider, obviously, is the very reason why this team would and should be assembled, so he’s a lock for a spot in the team’s line-up. Moon Knight, a mentally unstable CIA mercenary possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian moon god, has his own Disney+ series on the way – some of his supporting cast, such as Werewolf By Night or even Stained Glass Scarlet, could make good Midnight Sons candidates. Mahershala Ali is set to play rogue vampire assassin Blade in an as yet undated solo film, which will probably also introduce the world to feisty British monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. And Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the Sorcerer Supreme’s long-awaited sequel, is heavily rumored to feature Doctor Voodoo, as well as Strange’s love interest Clea – the niece of primordial demon Dormammu – whose horrific heritage should be enough to land her a spot on the team. With those specifics out of the way, all that remains to be done is to find them a proper villain to fight – and there are quite a few already lurking in the depths of the Fear Dimension, and elsewhere.

One of the most obvious and natural choices to take on the team during their first outing would be Karl Mordo, who was set up as a villain in Doctor Strange but hasn’t appeared since. His whole mission is to wipe out all the sorcerers in the MCU, meaning he’d have good reason to want to take down an entire team of powerful magic-users. The only problem I see with this idea is that Mordo doesn’t seem to have the strength to take on all the Midnight Sons at once, so he’d probably need to recruit several other…well, sorcerers, to his own cause. And that could work, if Mordo had been shown to be a hypocrite – but from what little we know of him, we can see that he truly believes everything he espouses. That means if Mordo does become a Midnight Sons antagonist, he should either be a third party trying to take out both the Sons and whoever their real enemies are, or he should get a serious power upgrade that could put him on the level of a Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange.

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

But while we wait for that to happen, the Midnight Sons still need a villain – and in my opinion, it should either be Lilith, Mother of All Darkness and a frequent opponent of the team in the comics; or Dracula himself, who is rumored to make an appearance in the Moon Knight series and would probably also show up in Blade, whenever that movies comes out. Both of these villains are powerful and experienced: Lilith is an immortal survivor of the sinking of Atlantis (which means she could show up as early as next year’s The Eternals, which is said to feature that cataclysmic event), and comes with her own army of similarly demonic children, scattered around the world and waiting for her command to stir them into action; while Dracula, of course, is a 15th Century Transylvanian warlord and king of vampires. And while Dracula is actually the father of another character coincidentally named Lilith in the comics, the MCU version of the character could be the…wait for it….midnight son of Lilith, Mother of All Darkness. Writes itself, doesn’t it?

I’m partially kidding about that last bit, though I actually do think it would be a good idea to tie the two characters together somehow and have them both face the Midnight Sons in battle. In the Marvel comics, vampirism is often a hereditary trait, so it makes sense for vampires like Dracula to involve their whole families or clans in their own wars. And if we could see that war spread out across several MCU franchises, it could be a huge event with the potential for plenty of crossovers.

But what about you? Do you think Ghost Rider will bring the Midnight Sons into being, or will we have to wait even longer? Are all these characters possibly too dark for Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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If Marvel Is Making “Secret Warriors”, They Need The Agents Of SHIELD

You know the feeling when you finish work on a long post about the upcoming Ironheart series and say to yourself, “well, now I just have to write one about Ghost Rider and I’ll be done for the day”, only to find out that a Secret Warriors project has apparently been announced for Disney+ while you were writing? No? Is this not something I can vent about to anyone? Does no one feel my pain???

Well, I can assure you of this: Marvel Studios is going to feel my pain if they dare to do the unthinkable and try to create their own Secret Warriors team, when they already have a perfectly good one on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And if they even think about recasting characters like Daisy Johnson or Yo Yo Rodriguez…let me just tell you, I respect Marvel, and I love most everything they do, but that – that would be unforgivable.

Secret Warriors Quake and Yo Yo
comicvine.gamespot.com

Now, it’s not being reported that they will definitely recast, or that this take on Secret Warriors will break Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. canon – but there’s only two versions of the Secret Warriors team that they could be adapting, and one of them has Squirrel Girl. No offense to Squirrel Girl, but I really don’t see her joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon – or ever. And if I’m right, and Marvel wants to use the more classic iteration of the team, the one which includes characters popularized on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., well, that means that those of us who are fans of both the MCU and the MCU-adjacent TV programs could soon find our loyalties to both tested.

Honestly, it makes sense to bring the Secret Warriors into the fold of the MCU right now, as they play a crucial role in the Secret Invasion storyline, which is also supposedly being adapted for the small screen. In the comics, this small but effective task-force is assembled by Nick Fury to handle Skrull sleeper-agents who have infiltrated earth by using their shape-shifting abilities to impersonate government officials and superheroes. I didn’t know about the existence of this upcoming Marvel project when I wrote out my ideas for an entire Secret Invasion story arc just last night, but I think it would be easy to retroactively add them into my grand plan: since the main thrust of the Secret Invasion story seems like it might happen in space, simply have the Secret Warriors series (or movie; it’s unclear which it might be, though Marvel has yet to announce any Disney+ movies of their own) deal with the Skrulls who manage to slip in through the cracks and get past Nick Fury’s Agents of S.W.O.R.D. While team members Quake and Yo Yo have been to space before on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team as a whole is better suited to a small-scale, earth-based conflict.

Secret Warriors
outerplaces.com

In the comics, the Secret Warriors are made up of characters who, at least at the time of their introduction, were fairly new and unquestionably niche – characters like the Inhumans Quake and Yo Yo (the one a former hacker and political activist, the other a reformed weapons-dealer); Phobos, son of the Greek god Ares; Hellfire, a demolitions expert who wields a flaming whip; sorcerer Sebastian Druid; and superhuman strongman Stonewall (who, as his name implies, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community). But Marvel doesn’t have to go into this without any brand recognition: in fact, if they play their cards right, they could attract a pretty devoted group of fans – if they maintain continuity with the version of the Secret Warriors team that has already appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., where both Quake and Yo Yo are prominent members, and Hellfire also made occasional appearances.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t watch a new Secret Warriors series or movie that didn’t feature Chloe Bennet’s Quake and Natalia Cordova-Buckley’s Yo Yo, but I am saying that I would be much happier if I were (Hellfire, in my opinion, was a small enough part that it could easily be recast). Seeing anyone else in those roles would feel wrong, because Bennet and Cordova-Buckley have done an incredible job bringing those two very obscure characters to life, and because Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is already ending with its seventh season this very month: there’s no reason for Marvel not to scoop them up and bring them over into their own universe – especially since the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. versions of the characters have already had plenty of experience fighting the Kree, who are very likely to be involved in the Secret Invasion storyline, as the chief nemeses of the Skrulls in the MCU. Why not take advantage of that connection? Why not build on it?

Secret Warriors
superherohype.com

The thing is, I’m not trying to be greedy or unreasonable. I’m not calling on Marvel to include the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team in a Secret Warriors project, or anything like that (though, honestly, who wouldn’t want a Melinda May cameo?) – but I’m big on continuity, and I think Marvel is at its best when they find clever ways to tie all their various franchises together: in this case, it makes even more sense to do that because of how obscure the team is, even in the comics. More people might tune in to watch if they knew they could see some of their favorite characters again. At the very least, I would. But of course, this is all just my opinion – and it’s possible Marvel doesn’t even plan on using any established version of the team. Maybe they want the version with Squirrel Girl, I don’t know.

What do you think? Is this the perfect place for a crossover event with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and if so, how would you like to see characters like Quake and Yo Yo join the MCU? Would you also borrow S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s version of Hellfire, or recast that role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.

Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.

There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.

Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen –  the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.

So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Secret Invasion” For Disney+!

The Secret Invasion saga is a Marvel comics storyline that many fans have been asking to see depicted on the big screen since it was revealed that Captain Marvel would introduce the story’s chief antagonists, the Skrulls, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside their nemeses, the Kree. But it seems that, while the repercussions of the storyline will probably be felt in the films, much or even the entirety of the Secret Invasion saga will occur exclusively on Disney+, in the form of a new series for the streaming service, according to a new rumor.

That means that the details of the story will have to be changed for the MCU adaptation, because the scale will likely be far smaller – but that doesn’t come as too much of a blow, because we already knew that the storyline would have to be changed a lot after Captain Marvel revealed that the Skrulls were actually a largely peaceful people of exiled refugees, rather than the diabolical shape-shifting troublemakers they are in the comics. We actually have yet to meet any evil Skrulls in the MCU, though for a Secret Invasion storyline to work, there will have to be some: the whole premise revolves around a group of Skrulls led by the conniving queen Veranke, infiltrating earth by disguising themselves as prominent government officials and superheroes. In the comics, this story sprawls across the entire Marvel universe: it’s still possible that could work in the MCU as well, but we now know that the main characters standing in the way of Veranke (or whoever leads the Invasion in this adaptation) will be the Agents of S.W.O.R.D.

Secret Invasion
vocal.media

S.W.O.R.D., also known as the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, made what was almost certainly its MCU debut last year in an incredible Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene which showed former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury leisurely strolling around the hallways of a massive space-station manned by benevolent Skrull and human workers, while simultaneously giving orders to Skrull operatives Talos and Soren, who were posing on earth as Fury and his assistant Maria Hill, respectively. Since then we’ve also been given evidence to suggest that S.W.O.R.D. will have a large presence in the WandaVision Disney+ series. Now, it looks like the agents of S.W.O.R.D. will be getting their own series, in which we may be able to explore the inner workings of their organization, and fully understand their various responsibilities as protectors of earth against cosmic and extraterrestrial threats.

Obviously, we already have an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, and it’s quite good, so it does seem likely that at least part of the inspiration for this Secret Invasion story was borrowed from that MCU-adjacent TV program, which is set to premiere its seventh and final season this very month. In the MCU, S.H.I.E.L.D. ceased to exist several years ago, and the TV series, while popular with a small and devoted fandom (including myself), has drifted further and further away from MCU canon with each successive season. So, despite how unfair it is, there likely won’t be any reference made to the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or their many exploits across space and time (though if there is, I have a few ideas for how they could be implemented into a Secret Invasion storyline, which I’ll discuss).

Secret Invasion Agents of SHIELD
aminoapps.com

Barring a surprise cameo in Black Widow or The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, S.W.O.R.D.’s first official appearance is likely to come in WandaVision – which, on the surface, seems like a strange place to introduce a group of space-based characters whose mission involves fighting aliens. But the tie-in to Wanda Maximoff’s multiverse adventure probably comes through the character of Hulkling, a half-Skrull, half-human superhero and member of the Young Avengers, who is the boyfriend of Wanda’s son Wiccan and is already rumored to appear in the WandaVision series. While he may not yet be a full-fledged agent in the series, his status as a bridge between humans and Skrulls makes him a key player in the relationship between the two peoples and, occasionally, a pawn in their politics. Certain members of the WandaVision cast, most notably Monica Rambeau and Thor fan-favorite Darcy, are also presumably more closely linked to S.W.O.R.D. than to Wanda herself – as a child in Captain Marvel, Rambeau was shown to have developed a close connection with the Skrulls and her comics counterpart is a cosmically-powered superheroine, while Darcy is an intrepid scientist specializing in the study of astrological abnormalities, a niche talent that came in handy in Thor: The Dark World and could make her an invaluable member of the S.W.O.R.D. team.

So already we have at least three characters who could easily be introduced as S.W.O.R.D. members who find themselves caught in the middle of Wanda Maximoff’s inner turmoil – perhaps due to Hulkling’s relationship with Wiccan, perhaps for another reason: it’s even possible that Wanda’s attempts to scramble the multiverse might endanger the earth, leaving it vulnerable to alien hostiles, something which could easily make her a target for S.W.O.R.D., though if that’s the case it’s hard to imagine why someone else, with a better understanding of the threat, wouldn’t be sent to deal with her instead. Again, I’m thinking Darcy’s experience with the Convergence incident could prepare her for dealing with this event, which might similarly feature a powerful and dangerous character trying to open a portal between worlds – though in this case, it would be Wanda, and her motives would be more sympathetic than Malekith’s.

The Secret Invasion series will most likely follow soon after – “soon” being a relative term in this case, considering that nothing is going to be happening truly soon with coronavirus still posing a threat to any filming in the foreseeable future. It is said to lead into the events of Captain Marvel 2, and could potentially feature a crossover with a Young Avengers series on Disney+, again because of Hulkling, who is a prominent member of that superhero team. Let’s start wildly theorizing now, shall we?

Secret Invasion Abigail Brand
pinterest.com

My guess is that the Secret Invasion series will start out with the core S.W.O.R.D. team already firmly established, having been assembled by Nick Fury prior to the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home but only just now emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the MCU. Apart from Hulkling, Monica Rambeau and Darcy, the team will be headed by a group of powerful individuals including Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Talos and Soren, and Monica’s mother Maria Rambeau, who was last seen in Captain Marvel, where she was Carol Danvers’ best friend and helped the heroine protect the Skrulls from an entire Kree army. The team’s commander in the comics, mysterious green-haired Abigail Brand, will also serve in a key leadership position. In the comics, a number of notable cosmic characters also stop in for guest appearances – some we’ve already met in the MCU like Captain Marvel, Peter Quill and Gamora; some we haven’t, like Thor’s long-lost half-sister Angela, and the bizarre alien warrior Beta Ray Bill. If we’re lucky, certain S.H.I.E.L.D. members might also make the jump to space, like Daisy Johnson, Melinda May, or the FitzSimmons duo: there are already rumors that Johnson, an Inhuman, could make a cameo in the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, which will star another Inhuman character – if that is the case, I wouldn’t rule out Johnson and even Ms. Marvel showing up as part-time S.W.O.R.D. allies.

The plot of the series will revolve around this team of characters working on the space station known as The Peak when the Skrull invasion occurs. The invasion itself will be led by Veranke, and could be motivated for a number of reasons: it’s possible Hulkling could have something to do with it, and that the fight breaks out over him, but he’s already getting a lot of attention, so I’d rather that Veranke be inspired to attack earth when she hears of the secret Kree sleeper agents already established on the planet – these agents were briefly mentioned by Talos in Far From Home, in a manner that felt very significant. This way, Veranke and her Skrulls are inherently fighting for a good cause, but they’re also positioned as enemies to S.W.O.R.D., who will of course want to defend earth and deal with the Kree in their own way. If Marvel really wants to rip off Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., they could even have Veranke be a S.W.O.R.D. member herself, who betrays the organization, though in this case she could do so because she feels like her and her peoples’ concerns are being ignored. She might also try to get Hulkling to join her on her mission, which could give his character a fascinating dilemma but doesn’t make him the chief focus of a Secret Invasion storyline.

Secret Invasion Veranke
comicbook.com

Of course, there would have to be some shape-shifting happening, or what would even be the point of a Secret Invasion? In the comics, Veranke herself takes the form of Spider-Woman, but Sony owns the rights to that character and is unlikely to want to stick her in a Disney+ series. Besides which, Veranke impersonating Spider-Woman only works if Spider-Woman is already an established and trusted character in the MCU, which she isn’t. And beyond that, the scope of this series will probably be far smaller than it would be if it were a film – meaning that whoever Veranke does impersonate will probably be someone like Nick Fury, or someone else in the core S.W.O.R.D. team, rather than a big-name Avenger.

In the comics, The Peak is destroyed during the Secret Invasion by a Skrull posing as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a character who has long been deceased in the MCU and thus will have to be replaced. Abigail Brand and a few other agents will, as in the comics, escape the annihilation of their headquarters with the help of emergency space-suits (though, as this event will likely happen at the end of the series, this could be a fitting place to kill off certain characters, even fan-favorites like Talos, who presumably wouldn’t have a large place in the MCU after a Secret Invasion storyline anyway). They will be saved by Monica Rambeau – who basically has to have gained her own superpowers and adopted the Photon mantle by that point, right? – and Captain Marvel, who could show up as a finale guest star. Having Captain Marvel there also sets up the events of her sequel film, in which she may have to team up with the remaining S.W.O.R.D. agents to take down both Veranke and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, which is still a considerable threat to the security of the galaxy.

After this story is concluded, I imagine we’ll continue to see the S.W.O.R.D. team in the MCU: Rambeau, thanks to her similar set of powers, can easily become Carol Danvers’ sidekick, and Hulkling will join the Young Avengers as a full-time member. It’s also worth noting at this point that the finale of this series has the potential to introduce – or at least tease – both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Mutants such as Lockheed the dragon and Hank McCoy both serve under Abigail Brand as agents of S.W.O.R.D., and Brand runs into Mister Fantastic while he’s being held prisoner on a Skrull starship after the destruction of The Peak. If either of these things happens in the series, even near the end, it has the potential to be the next big MCU crossover event.

Secret Invasion Skrulls
hollywoodreporter.com

So that’s what I think of a Secret Invasion/Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series, and how it could work. These are all just my personal theories and educated guesses: nothing based in substantial fact. This whole story is also only a rumor at this point – nothing has even been confirmed by Disney, so it’s possible I’m moving too quickly. Nonetheless, I’m very interested to hear what you have to say on the matter, so be sure to share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 11 Review!

Clone Wars Ahsoka

SPOILERS FOR THE CLONE WARS AHEAD

In its penultimate episode, The Clone Wars ties back into the events of the main Star Wars films in a way that could almost have felt jarring under worse direction – but with all the ingenuity and creative thinking that has made the series beloved by fans, this episode, fittingly titled Shattered, actually finds very clever ways to keep us, the audience, firmly invested in the stories of the series’ original characters while also throwing them into the midst of one of the films’ most memorable sequences: the brutal execution of Order 66.

Clone Wars Palpatine
slashfilm.com

All through the episode’s opening minutes, the haunting score keeps us on edge, waiting for that moment when millions of clone troopers all around the galaxy – clone troopers who, through the series’ run, we’ve come to love for their individuality – will simultaneously become mindless servants of Chancellor Palpatine (voiced here by Ian McDiarmid, using dialogue from Revenge Of The Sith) and turn on the Jedi Order with guns blazing, bringing the Clone Wars to an abrupt, violent end. After last week’s episode, where Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) was captured by the forces of former Jedi commander Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), one would expect a triumphant, victorious atmosphere – but there’s little joy or comfort to be found on the planet Mandalore as new leader Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) turns her attention to the grim task of rebuilding her peoples’ society from the ground up, and Ahsoka prepares to bring Darth Maul into the custody of the Jedi on Coruscant, while still weighing in her mind the Sith Lord’s terrible prophecies.

As I suspected, the Jedi Purge is set into motion during Ahsoka’s journey through hyperspace, moments after she has a telepathic Force vision of Anakin Skywalker‘s (partially voiced by Matt Lanter, partially using Hayden Christensen’s dialogue) turn to the Dark Side and the violent death of Jedi Master Mace Windu (voiced by TC Carson, with some dialogue by Samuel L. Jackson) during his fight with Palpatine in the Chancellor’s offices. Thankfully, The Clone Wars‘ method of showing the Purge doesn’t involve actually reenacting any of the notable Jedi deaths from Revenge Of The Sith through another devastating montage – instead, we witness the whole event through Ahsoka’s eyes, as her entire crew begins firing on her without warning, forcing her to make a daring escape. Despite the fact that, earlier in the episode, Mace Windu insists on calling Ahsoka a “citizen” rather than a Jedi and other members of the Order seem to subtly demean her for her choice to become a neutral rogue, it appears that Palpatine wasn’t willing to make an exception for the padawan whose banishment he had partially orchestrated.

Clone Wars Ahsoka
meaww.com

Ahsoka isn’t completely alone in the episode, however: during the initial attack, she can easily see that her long-time friend Captain Rex (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) has tears streaming down his face as he pulls the trigger on her with shaking fingers – meaning that, despite how effective Palpatine’s brainwashing has been, there’s still hope for any clone who can successfully remove the inhibitor chip planted inside their brain. When she unearths sealed documents and testimonies from Rex, she also stumbles upon evidence regarding the mysterious cases of Fives, who, in the series’ sixth season, discovered the plot to exterminate the Jedi far too early and was personally tortured by Palpatine to the point of madness. It’s a harsh reminder of another of The Clone Wars‘ most powerful, emotional story arcs, but a beautifully fitting way to give Fives the justice he deserves, even if it is a little too late to save most of the Jedi. The main thrust of the narrative in this episode follows Ahsoka as she tries to corner Rex and get him into the medical bay, with the intention of removing the inhibitor and freeing him.

Another character she has to free is Darth Maul himself, whom she actually saves from execution – somewhere along the line, Palpatine must have added Maul’s name to his long hit-list. Maul, even without the aid of his classic lightsaber, is still able to give Ahsoka the distraction she needs, keeping the clone troopers busy with his savage fighting techniques: he beheads people, he slices people in half, he even uses the Force to cut one man’s arm off in an automatic door. As of the end of the episode, we don’t know where he is now or what he plans to do once the ship is cleared of hostiles – will he and Ahsoka have to make a deal in the series’ final episode? Will he have already escaped by the time she and Rex are free? We have no clue, yet. But, since one of the unexpected joys of this season has been watching Ahsoka and Darth Maul put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, I really hope they get at least one final encounter.

There are a bunch of notable moments from this episode. Ahsoka and Master Yoda (Tom Kane) have their last conversation ever, via hologram: both are reluctant to say too much to the other, unfortunately, which makes their dialogue far sadder – neither one gets to say all the things that should have been said in that moment. Ahsoka also chooses to withhold the information Maul gave her last week regarding Anakin and his pull to the Dark Side: information which would definitely have been helpful just a few minutes later. There’s a cute scene where Ahsoka recruits her starship’s team of maintenance droids for help – which provides some organic cheerfulness in an otherwise dark and ominous story. The episode ends with Ahsoka connecting to Rex through the Force and locating his inhibitor chip – something which causes Rex to see through his brainwashing, convincing him to help Ahsoka. But, judging by the huge army of clones currently trying to break down the medical bay doors, I suspect the duo will need help if they’re going to escape from the starship: which is also, if I’m not mistaken, still on its way to Coruscant, the new heart of the Galactic Empire and Palpatine’s reign of terror.

Clone Wars
meaww.com

All in all, it’s been an emotional journey, and I’m excited (though also sad) that we’ll get to finish it on May the 4th, when the series finale premieres. In the meantime, we have the whole weekend to cry over the thousands of dead Jedi now littering the Star Wars galaxy, the uncertain fate of Ahsoka Tano, and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Like most Star Wars stories, The Clone Wars seems destined to end in bittersweet tragedy – but I’ve had a great time getting here. We’ve traveled from one corner of the universe to the other alongside Ahsoka, Rex, and the gang, and I’m glad we’ll at least get the chance to properly say goodbye to them as well.

Episode Rating: 9/10

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 10 Review!

CLONE WARS SPOILERS AHEAD!

Aided by a magical combination of fabulous voice-acting, stunning animation and mind-blowing writing, the tenth episode of The Clone Wars‘ seventh and final season has not only managed to exceed my wildest expectations (which were already high!), but has also quickly emerged as one of my favorite episodes of the entire series: all seven seasons, every choice made along the way, has led us to this – and the payoff is just as rewarding as we all hoped it would be (and mind you, the real payoff is still ahead: this is just a warm-up exercise for what’s to come!).

Clone Wars Darth Maul
meaww.com

Not a moment of screentime is wasted. This episode doesn’t even open with Tom Kane’s iconic voice-over recap, instead placing us directly into the action and drama, right where we left off last week – with Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), alone and outnumbered, standing against the massive, hulking might of Darth Maul (voiced by Sam Witwer) and his small but deadly army of loyal Mandalorian terrorists. But the fighting takes a moment to get started, because Maul, characteristically, has something he needs to say – and Witwer brings his all to the role this week (not that he ever doesn’t, but he’s particularly good now), truly elevating the material and dialogue he’s working with – which is already so well written that it’s sparked some jokes on the internet, where Maul is currently trending on social media platforms, about where the former Sith apprentice had time to take a crash course in political sciences. But along with an expanded vocabulary, Maul arrives on the scene newly equipped with a fascinating humanity and philosophical, introspective attitude: something that might have been hard to imagine back when Maul was first introduced in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace as the mute, cool-looking apprentice of Darth Sidious – in fact, it might still have been hard to imagine even when Maul was resurrected in an earlier season of The Clone Wars as a monstrous creature tormented by a lust for vengeance. But over time, as showrunners and screenwriters have slowly recognized his potential, he has transformed into one of the series’ most compelling characters: a villain, but one slowly moving into the extreme middle of the divide between the Sith and the Jedi. He may still fight with his classic, doubled-bladed red lightsaber, but he is just as much a neutral third party as Ahsoka Tano herself. Is he turning to the light side of the Force? No. Is he becoming more fair and just in his old age? No. But as he himself quips during the episode: “Justice is merely the construct of the current power base”. Maul is now working on his own, outside the influences of either Chancellor Palpatine’s Republic or Darth Sidious’ Separatist Union, looking to establish a place for himself in the coming chaos. But in the episode’s biggest, most shocking twist he reveals that he can’t do it alone – so he reaches out to Ahsoka for her help.

And Ahsoka wavers. Maul touches on all her weaknesses, pointing out that she left the Jedi Order willingly, because she could not stand for their hypocrisy and corrupt politics. He reminds her that the balance of power in the galaxy is about to shift, and that the Jedi will collapse in a matter of days, maybe even hours, or minutes. He informs her that Darth Sidious has been playing both sides of the Clone Wars, toying with the agendas of both the Jedi and the Sith. Ahsoka, whose entire arc has led her straight into the same neutral zone as Maul, can’t help but see the truth and reason in his words. She doesn’t hesitate long: she agrees to join him. But then Maul ruins his own masterfully crafted plan when he tells Ahsoka that her Jedi master, Anakin Skywalker, is destined to become Darth Sidious’ greatest tool and weapon in the fight to topple the balance of the Force. And Ahsoka, unable to reconcile with the idea that Anakin could ever betray her, makes her move, rejecting Maul’s proposal and initiating…a light-saber duel.

Clone Wars
newsbreak.com

What a duel! With original Darth Maul actor Ray Park returning to perform the motion-capture for his character, and Lauren Mary Kim doing the same for Ahsoka Tano, the fight feels fully realized and unique. The action sweeps through the great throne room of Mandalore (which turns out to be an amazing set-piece, something that became clear to me when the hall’s stained-glass windows all simultaneously shattered inwards, ensnaring the duelists in a breeze of flying, multi-colored shards), and then gets carried out into the fiery hellscape of the city itself, where Maul’s loyalists are fighting the Mandalorians led by Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff). Everything you want from a light-saber fight, you get in this episode – there’s acrobatics and a precarious balancing-act at one point, the opponents both have dazzling elegance, and there’s a lot of Force use involved.

But in the end, it’s Ahsoka, surprisingly, who gets the upper hand – catching Maul with her Force powers as he falls, pleading to die, and holding him there until her clone troopers can take him hostage. With Maul’s forces already surrendering on the ground, it looks like the Siege of Mandalore might already be over: but the season isn’t, which means something big is still coming.

It’s not too hard to take a guess as to what that might be. On the margins of the episode’s story, we hear little snippets of news about how the Clone Wars is going: Count Dooku is dead by Anakin Skywalker’s hand, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) is on his way to kill General Grievous on Utapau, meaning it shouldn’t take very long to get to the great purge, and the systematic extermination of the Jedi across the galaxy. In this episode, we already saw ARC trooper Jesse (Dee Bradley Baker) become a prisoner of Darth Maul and surrender his mind to the powerful Sith – it’s possible that something occurred offscreen during their encounter that will cause Jesse’s programming to malfunction, leading him to attack Ahsoka before Order 66 has even begun. That could give Ahsoka some warning so that she can try and save some of the other clones under her command – or she might be forced to kill them all to save herself, which would be heartbreaking and utterly brutal to watch. All I know is that somehow, someway, Darth Maul is going to escape from his bonds – and a chaotic melee between his captors would pose the perfect opportunity for him to do just that.

So what do you think? How are you enjoying this final season of The Clone Wars, and what do you think will happen next? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 8 Review!

Some will not be sorry to see the Martez Sisters story arc conclude this week on The Clone Wars, if it means we can move on to the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Siege of Mandalore. As for me, I have mixed feelings: am I undeniably excited to see if the entire story can wrap up in the next few episodes in an appropriately grandiose and epic fashion? Totally. But am I also very unhappy that the grounded, practical, no-nonsense Martez’s won’t be part of that finale? Absolutely.

Ahsoka Clone Wars
meaww.com

When this week’s episode starts off, the dynamic trio of Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), Trace Martez (Brigitte Kali) and Rafa Martez (Elizabeth Rodriguez) are all locked away once again in a Pyke Syndicate dungeon, awaiting execution – but once again, they make what would otherwise be a boring scenario extremely engaging and compelling: and I firmly believe Ahsoka couldn’t have done that alone, without help from these two sassy amateur con-women, who imbue every scene they’re in with a bit of their fun, conversational attitude. There’s more talking (by which I mean real talking, not exposition) in these last few episodes than I feel like there has been for a very long time in The Clone Wars. Trace and Rafa gave Ahsoka a place to settle down and blend in, and at the same time they gave both her and us, the audience, a welcome respite from warfare, military strategy, and the politics of the Jedi Order.

Has this arc been filler? Maybe. I really can’t say for sure until the season is done. But I hope that the lessons Ahsoka has learned from the Martez’s will help her in the near future, making her prolonged adventures with them essential to her character arc. Ahsoka was forced to confront some dark truths about herself and her way of life in these last few episodes: worst of which was the revelation that Jedi intervention has only caused pain, misery and suffering for the people they claim to protect – for Ahsoka, who has always positioned herself as a champion of justice and morality, that hit hard. She almost has an obligation to distance herself even further from the Jedi Order: leaving them wasn’t enough. Now, she may have to confront them.

If she’s going to be doing that, though, I really hope she gets a weapon upgrade. At this point, it feels like The Clone Wars‘ final season is sadistically teasing us with promises of epic Ahsoka fight scenes – and then snatching them away. I thought it couldn’t get worse than last week, but this…this topped it. Surrounded on all sides by Pyke guards, Ahsoka moves into one of her characteristically graceful fighting stances. There’s that tense pause. Then, she springs into action…and gets maybe three or four punches and kicks in before being taken out with a stun-gun. Meanwhile, Trace and Rafa, neither of whom is gifted with any Force abilities, take on an entire swarm of aliens on the lower docks and get into some sort of Indiana Jones-esque fight on a wildly-swinging crane. I appreciated giving the Martez sisters a cool action scene, don’t get me wrong: but why couldn’t Ahsoka get one too?

Now, let’s move into SPOILERS! Obviously you’d expect a few, what with the Martez Sisters arc ending and a new one beginning. And thankfully, The Clone Wars delivers.

The Clone Wars
readysteadycut.com

Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) is, as we all suspected, the link between the two storylines converging. Though for the majority of the episode she stands on the sidelines watching Ahsoka’s various escape attempts backfire, she pops in at the very end to whisk the former Jedi away on a mission to Mandalore – to take on their common enemy, Darth Maul (Sam Witwer). Yes, the Sith Lord has returned: here as a glowering hologram who nearly catches Ahsoka as she wanders through the Pyke citadel, in one of the episode’s more suspenseful scenes. But if a confrontation between Ahsoka and an intangible hologram seemed exciting, I can only imagine what the actual fight will be like: just, please, let Ahsoka actually fight. Darth Maul also throws in a shoutout to his criminal organization, Crimson Dawn, which was a crucial element of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and since then has never really proved to be of any importance. Maybe they’ll get something to do here.

The episode throws the core trio a bunch of curveballs, which they deflect or evade (or barrel into, head-on) as a group unit. Of course, there was no way the arc could end without Ahsoka revealing her secret identity to the Martez sisters – and though I wasn’t too keen on the way that reveal went over so abruptly, I admired how quick Trace and Rafa were to accept her, after everything she’s done for them. They even promised to have her bike waiting for her when she returns from Mandalore (will she be able to, though? If I’m not mistaken, we’re nearing the time when Palpatine will initiate Order 66, sparking the genocide of the Jedi: so Coruscant, at the heart of Palpatine’s Empire, may not be the safest place for Ahsoka to return home to after the war).

What did you think of this week’s episode? What do you want to see next on The Clone Wars? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

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“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 6 Review!

For some, I’m sure it’s a bit of a disappointment that the final season of The Clone Wars has so far devoted less time to the Clone Wars than the interpersonal dynamics of our main characters, with small-scale, introspective interludes providing insight into our heroes’ motives and agendas. So far, there’s only been a handful of battles, and for the most part they too have been smaller than in previous seasons.

But while I too felt the same way, my feelings on the current season have changed since watching today’s episode: as far as The Clone Wars stories go, this is one of the best I’ve seen – not because of showy action-scenes (there are none!) or shocking revelations concerning Star Wars lore, but because of the fascinating relationships between the core trio in this new story arc, and the surprising depth and complexity of their motivations.

The Clone Wars
meaww.com

Once again, I have to hand it to Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein): the Jedi padawan turned exiled Coruscant rogue has always been one of The Clone Wars‘ greatest weapons in its fight to maintain relevance and pop culture significance – her lovable character, burdened as she is with regret, sadness and longing, touched our heartstrings when she made the bold decision to leave the Jedi Order, after being framed for a horrible crime and forced to turn against her friends. Now, stuck in the criminal underworld far below the surface of Coruscant, Ahsoka relies on her wits and social skills to carry her expertly through even the most dangerous situations.

Joining her for the ride (or rather, inviting her on the ride in the first place) are sisters Rafa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and Trace Martez (Brigitte Kali), a tough, wise-cracking duo. I found both characters to be mildly interesting in last week’s episode, which introduced viewers and Ahsoka to them for the first time, but now, with much better writing, both women come off as clearly defined, charismatic characters. Rafa, the older of the two, endangers them all when she enters into a risky bargain with the Pyke Crime Syndicate, which involves a journey through hyperspace to the planet Kessel (an important location in Han Solo’s origin story as a smuggler), but her heart is in the right place and she made the deal to try and buy herself and her sister an escape ticket from Coruscant. Trace and Ahsoka, who have developed a very close bond during their time together, quickly become entangled in the bargain as Rafa’s plan begins to unravel, with Trace having to pilot her work-in-progress starship The Silver Angel to carry out Rafa’s illegal scheme – and Ahsoka having to use all her Jedi training to figure out a way to keep the trio safe.

This task is made more difficult because Ahsoka is currently trying to keep her past a secret, especially since discovering that, in Coruscant’s lower levels, Jedi are looked upon as a corrupt police force prone to violence: when pressed about how she knows so much about everything from starship engineering to the political situation on Kessel, Ahsoka has to come up with more and more elaborate explanations – one of her best excuses is when she claims she graduated from “Skywalker Academy” in the upper levels of Coruscant. Another fabulously constructed moment involves Ahsoka nearly running into her former Jedi master by chance when Trace Martez accidentally steers her amateur ship directly into a military flight lane, prompting Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Admiral Yularen (Tom Kane) to question the ship’s crew over the radio. But it’s Anakin who tells the Admiral to back down when he reaches out into the Force and senses Ahsoka on the ship. The moment is absolutely heartbreaking: but Ahsoka’s subsequent silence only reinforces the divide between the two characters, who were once as close as siblings. Later in the episode, Ahsoka has no qualms about making a pointed jab at the Republic she used to serve for not shutting down the slave-worked spice mines of Kessel.

The Clone Wars
cheatsheet.com

Nonetheless, despite how cleverly Ahsoka is able to disguise herself, it’s very clear that Rafa has her doubts about the Martez sisters’ new working partner. She drives a wedge between Trace and Ahsoka’s close friendship, which in turn causes them to argue, which then leads to…well, SPOILERS.

Basically, the end result of the episode is that Trace Martez dumps three-thousand credits worth of quality Kessel spice into the void of hyperspace, an action she quickly regrets after she realizes she was misinterpreting Ahsoka’s “ethical argument”. Ahsoka, for her part, might have been wise to clarify that when she said she didn’t want to hand over spice to the Pykes, that didn’t actually mean she wanted to get rid of the spice entirely. But when the trio do come face to face with the Pyke Crime Syndicate at the end of the episode, it’s Ahsoka who briefly saves them all when she utilizes a hasty Jedi mind trick against the Pyke leader – which would have worked, had there not been other Pykes present: we leave our heroines stuck in a Pyke tractor beam, their escape plan foiled, their futures uncertain. Will Ahsoka be revealed as a Jedi in next week’s episode, as the three women presumably find themselves locked up in a Pyke prison? Will Rafa and Trace ride Ahsoka’s coattails to freedom, or devise their own plan? We must wait and see.

What did you think of this episode of The Clone Wars? Personally, I’d say it’s been my favorite of the final season so far, but I’m hoping the series can find a way to outdo itself next week. Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9/10

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Rosario Dawson Is Ahsoka Tano In “The Mandalorian”!

By a bizarre coincidence, the same day that Ahsoka Tano made her hotly-anticipated return to The Clone Wars in the series’ final season, news also broke that the former Jedi warrior would make her very first live-action appearance in the second season of The Mandalorian on the Disney+ streaming platform. The report, since verified by a number of other sources and trades, states that actress Rosario Dawson will portray Tano in the Star Wars spinoff, which will find Pedro Pascal’s titular Mandalorian and his adorable sidekick Baby Yoda hunting for the few living Jedi spread out across the galaxy in the aftermath of the Empire’s fall.

Ahsoka Tano
polygon.com

Obviously, Ahsoka Tano is exactly the type of character one would expect to run into the duo, so the fact that she’s showing up isn’t surprising at all (especially considering that Dave Filoni created Ahsoka’s character for The Clone Wars and is now part of The Mandalorian‘s creative team). Along with Luke Skywalker (and possibly the oft-forgotten Yaddle), Ahsoka is one of only a couple of Jedi who were still around during the time period between the fall of the Empire and the beginning of the sequel trilogy. But now that she’s supposedly making her live-action debut, the reaction has been…mixed, to say the least.

That’s not because people dislike Ahsoka. The optimistic, idealistic Jedi started out as Anakin Skywalker’s opinionated apprentice and went on to become a nuanced, introspective character betrayed by her own faith. Forced to survive on her own without friends or family, Ahsoka quickly became one of the Star Wars franchise’s most beloved heroines. The controversy surrounding this casting has everything to do with the actress chosen to play the coveted part.

Rosario Dawson, best known for her roles in Daredevil, Rent and Alexander (and for being the girlfriend of 2020 Presidential hopeful Cory Booker, whose campaign she endorsed), was the subject of a shocking lawsuit last year: an openly transgender man employed as a handyman by Dawson and her mother, and charged with renovating the family’s Los Angeles home, claimed that both women subjected him to verbal and physical abuse, which included repeatedly misgendering and mocking him. Their harassment of him apparently culminated in Dawson and her mother restraining the man while beating him up and threatening to kill his pet cat, before allegedly stealing his cellphone. The victim claims all of these events had to do with his gender identity, and the case, if verified, would incriminate Dawson as a violent aggressor guilty of a serious hate crime.

Rosario Dawson
slashfilm.com

As of yet, there is no other evidence to suggest that Dawson is transphobic, and we only know a little about her views on the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. The alleged victim was said to have been close with the Dawson family before coming out as transgender, when they only knew him as a lesbian woman, and this year, Dawson appeared to come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself. However, the allegation has had long-lasting impacts, and has made the casting of Ahsoka Tano a tumultuous and hostile occasion rather than a joyous one, as it should have been (and probably could have been, with any other actress). Unfortunately, even (or perhaps, especially) if no further evidence comes out against her, there’s simply no way of determining whether Rosario Dawson is transphobic or did commit a hate crime, and so this case will loom over The Mandalorian like a dark cloud. What with the show having just recently united Star Wars fans in their love for Baby Yoda, it would be a shame to disunite the fandom once again over something as serious as this.

What do you think of the casting of Rosario Dawson? Would you have cast someone else in the role of Ahsoka Tano, and how would you feel if the gentle, lovable character was played by someone who may or may not have committed serious crimes (for reference, I’d be really angry and disappointed)? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

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