Title: Derry Girls Release Date: 2022 Creator and Writer: Lisa McGee Director: Michael Lennox Production Company: Hat Trick Productions Summary/Review:
The third and final series of Derry Girls is once again full of laughs at the antics of teenagers Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle, and James. While still very funny, I’m glad this is the final season because it’s starting to fray at the edges, and the actors are definitely getting too old to play teenagers. Although I would not be opposed to a reunion episode with the characters as adults.
This season’s hi-jinx feature the girls getting arrested for breaking into their school at night, performing as the Spice Girls, having a troubled journey to a seaside amusement park, and attending a Fatboy Slim concert. Actually, for working class kids they seem to have a lot of resources for making costumes and decorations. Anyhow, the older generation of characters have always been fun supporting cast, so it’s appropriate that Mary and Aunt Sarah and co get a whole episode to themselves with flashbacks to when they were young and irresponsible.
The series ends with a longer episode that focuses on the Good Friday Agreement to bring peace to Northern Ireland and the choice everyone has to vote on the referendum set against Erin and Orla’s 18th birthday party. A great end to a great show!
Title: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Release Date: August 18 – October 13, 2022 Creator/Head Writer/Showrunner: Jessica Gao Episodes: 9 Production Company: Marvel Studios Summary/Review:
Up-and-coming Los Angeles lawyer Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) is traveling with her cousin Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) when a car crash causes her to be exposed to Bruce’s blood and thus acquire Hulk powers. Turns out that Jennifer is much better at controlling her Hulk powers than Bruce but has no interest in being a superhero. But her powers are revealed in the most public way possible, and she ends up having to work for a law firm defending super-powered beings while in her She-Hulk form.
This show ends up being something we haven’t seen from Marvel and don’t really see much of at all anymore, an episodic sitcom. And a very funny one at that. Following the precedent set by the She-Hulk comics, Maslany to comment on the story. It ends up kind of being a superhero story crossed with Fleabag and Ally McBeal (but in a good way). This approach is something that could’ve flopped hard but Maslany’s charm and talent win the day. I’ve heard a lot about her great work on Orphan Black, a show I’ve sadly not yet watched.
In addition to spoofing legal dramas, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law satirizes the dudebro culture of gatekeeping that all too often manifests itself as misogyny against women in superhero media. The final episode makes fun of the Marvel formula in a very funny way, although I felt a bit cheated that they didn’t offer an alternate resolution. Apart from that disappointment this was a very clever and entertaining series. Maslany is boosted by strong supporting cast and guest stars, including:
Ginger Gonzaga as Nikki Ramos, Jennifer’s paralegal and best friend.
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky / Abomination, the villain from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (and the first time in a long time Marvel has acknowledged the events of that movie) who has become considerably more chill.
Megan Thee Stallion as herself.
Benedict Wong as Wong, because everyone loves Wongers!
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock / Daredevil, Jennifer’s fellow lawyer/superhero who comes from New York for a team-up and a hook-up.
And the breakout character of the series, Patty Guggenheim as Madisynn King, who turns being a drunk party girl into a superpower.
Title: Stranger Things Release Dates: 2022 Season: 4 Number of Episodes: 9 Summary/Review:
The supernatural/horror/thriller/drama Stranger Things returns after a three-year (pandemic-delayed) gap with new adventures for a growing team of residents of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. After diminishing returns in seasons 2 and 3, season 4 feels like a return to form that comes close to greatness of the debut season. With a large cast of characters, the season is longer in both the number of episodes and the length of individual episodes to tell all their stories, so it can feel sprawling and uneven at times, but I personally feel the more the merrier.
The show reflects a bigger budget and more ambitious scope than previous series lending it a more cinematic feel. It also has more intense gore and horror elements than previous seasons. New cast member Joseph Quinn stars as the season’s breakout character Eddie Munson, leader of the Hellfire Club at Hawkins High School where the nerdy outsiders bond over Dungeons and Dragons’ campaigns. Sadie Sink returns for her third season as Max Mayfield getting a chance to really develop her character and show off her acting chops.
My review continues below with spoilers, so beware!
Title: Ms. Marvel Release Date: June 8 – July 13, 2022 Creator/Head Writer/Showrunner: Bisha K. Ali Episodes: 6 Production Company: Marvel Studios Summary/Review: Ms. Marvel, one of my favorite comic series, comes to life in this limited series from Disney+. Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is an ordinary teenager in New Jersey, obsessed with the Avengers (especially Captain Marvel), the child of Pakistani immigrants, and a faithful Muslim. A magical bangle reveals that she has powers and she begins to learn how she can be a superhero while uncovering her family history back to the Partition of India and Pakistan.
Vellani is perfect as Kamala capturing the conflict and joy of teenage life. The rest of the cast, including Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s parents, Matt Lintz as Kamala’s best friend Bruno, and Yasmeen Fletcher as Kamala’s good friend Nakia are also perfectly cast. The style of the show is great with colorful, comic book animations in the credits and backgrounds of the show, and magnificent soundtrack of American pop songs mixed with Pakistani music. Some people have criticized that Kamala’s powers are different from the comics but I like the change because 1) I don’t want to see the exact same story recreated, 2) I love how it ties in her powers to her family and cultural history, and 3) Marvels shows The Inhumans bombed so I can understand why they’d want to avoid that.
This was a delightful series and I look forward to Kamala Khan’s return in The Marvels next year.
The Star Wars franchise has a way of defying my expectations for good or for ill. There are some things I eagerly anticipated seeing that ended up being rather bad (The Phantom Menace, The Rise of Skywalker). Then there are things that I originally questioned why they needed to be made that turned out to be among the best Star Wars works ever (Rogue One, The Mandalorian).
When I heard there would be a show about Obi-Wan Kenobi set between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars, I didn’t really think that there was any good story to be told during that time. Then the news that Hayden Christensen was cast to return as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, I wondered what the point was since he’d be behind a mask and voiced by James Earl Jones. Well, all of my questions were answered to my satisfaction and beyond in this series that really delves into some of the most compelling characters in the Star Wars universe.
For all the flaws of the prequels, it did have some talented actors with Ewan McGregor among this best. This show allows McGregor to flourish as he portrays the Jedi master dealing with guilt and isolation as he’s separated himself from the Force while watching over they young Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely). Christensen, who was criminally underserved by the poor scripts in the prequel, gets to show off his acting chops as well. Newcomer Moses Ingram appears as Reva Sevander, a Force-sensitive Inquisitor working for the Empire to hunt down Jedi, also does a great job.
Of course, the best part of this series was a huge surprise and I’m going to hide it below the trailer in case you’ve read this far but don’t want to see spoilers.
Title: The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks Release Date: March 15, 2022 Director: Reginald Harkema Production Company: Blue Ant Media Summary/Review:
This two-part documentary on Amazon Prime Video is tied in with the release of a new season of The Kids in the Hall, the first in 27 years! I’m not going to review that series but if you’re a fan of the Kids in the Hall, watch it because it’s excellent and they haven’t missed a step. The documentary features interviews with all five Kids – Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson – as well as producer Lorne Michaels, writer Paul Bellini, and celebrity fans like Mike Myers and Eddie Izzard, among others. It also is rich in archival footage and clips from various KITH all projects.
I learned that Dave & Kevin were the closest partnership in the group and had started performing together in Toronto. Meanwhile Bruce and Mark began working together in Calgary before moving to Toronto. The four of them formed the Kids in the Hall (which Mark wanted to call The Audience) and then Scott Thompson willed himself into the group. I also learned that Scott had survived a mass shooting at his school in Ontario as a child which has informed his work. KITH also made a miniseries in 2012 called Death Comes to Town which I’d never even heard of.
This is a solid and informative documentary. But it does strike me as an extremely conventional approach for a documentary about an unconventional comedy team. At least Paul Bellini wears a towel during some of his interviews.
Title: Hawkeye Release Date: 2021 Creator: Jonathan Igla Director: Rhys Thomas (episodes 1,2, & 6), Bert & Bertie (episodes 3-5) Season: 1 Episodes: 6 Production Company: Marvel Studios Summary/Review:
Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), is the overlooked Avenger, who not only never got his own movie, but was just kind of there when the first Avengers movie began. So this is a belated Hawkeye story that focuses on the aging superhero/dad dealing with the trauma of losing his friend Natasha Romanov as well as hearing loss. Enter Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who as a child witnessed the Battle of New York in 2012 when her house in Manhattan was damaged and her father killed. Seeing Hawkeye’s heroics, Kate dedicated her life to learning archery and martial arts skill.
This series is obviously a “passing the baton” story as Barton just wants to get home to his family for Christmas but gets caught up in a crisis that center around Kate. They have a good chemistry and the show has a good balance of humor, action, and more reflective moments. It also has an surplus of villains including the Tracksuit Mafia, Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) – a deaf leader of the Tracksuits set on vengeance against Barton’s alter-ego Ronin, and Natasha’s sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who was introduced in Black Widow and once again steals scenes left and right.
I won’t go into much detail but it’s an enjoyable series and another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Title: What If… Release Date: 2021 Creator: A.C. Bradley Director: Bryan Andrews Season: 1 Episodes: 9 Production Company: Marvel Studios Summary/Review:
The animated Disney+ series does what it says on the tin, asking “What If?” things happened differently in various Marvel Cinematic Universe stories. It helps to have a knowledge of the existing films to understand why the changes are significant, but I think plot changes are explained well enough to still be entertaining to a novice. The series is narrated by The Watched (Jeffrey Wright), an alien being who observes the multiverse and is sworn not to interfere. The animation is high-quality with a painterly quality that fits both the stories’ comic book origins and motion picture predecessors. The voice cast also includes a lot of the actors who played the roles in the movies, including Chadwick Boseman in one of the final projects he worked on before his death.
The What If? propositions tend to go for comedy or to go really dark. In the former category, Boseman’s T’Challa becomes Star Lord instead of Peter Quill and his competence makes everything go better for everyone involved, including Thanos (Josh Brolin) who is convinced to give up trying to kill half of all sentient beings and join the Ravagers. The dark episodes show us what happens if all the Avengers were killed before they could work together and what happens if the world was overrun by zombies (including some of the superpowered). My favorite episodes are “What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” where Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes the serum instead of Steve Rogers (Josh Keaton) and fights HYDRA with a shield bearing the Union Jack. The other classic “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” has Erik “Kilmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) rising through the ranks of Stark Industries where Tony Stark (Mick Wingert) had no life-changing injury to create Iron Man.
While the show works as a series of stand alone episodes. The penultimate episode leads into a cliffhanger with the final episode requiring The Watcher to be a more active character and bring together a team of characters from previous episodes to be The Guardians of the Multiverse. The show also ties into some of the recent movies and shows where the Multiverse is figuring to play a big role in the overarching theme of Phase 4 of the MCU. While not a vital series, it is a fun addition to the lore for fans of the MCU.
Title: Loki Release Date: 2021 Creator: Michael Waldron Director: Kate Herron Episodes: 6 Production Company: Marvel Studios Summary/Review:
WARNING: This review contains light spoilers, so if you’re sensitive to spoilers and not watched all 6 episodes of Loki, please don’t read
This Disney+ series picks up from a scene in Avengers: Endgame when the Norse trickster god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) uses the Tesseract to escape the Avengers, and over six episodes ends up in a completely different place that appears to be setting up the next phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki is captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), a bureaucratic organization that operates out its massive mid-century modern headquarters to maintain the Sacred Timeline by “pruning” branches from the timeline.
Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) condemns Loki to be erased from existence but Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) convinces her to allow Loki help investigate another Loki variant who has killed several time agents. They find the Loki variant and discover it is a woman who uses the alias Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Loki and Sylvie end up teaming up and begin uncovering the dark truths behind the TVA. The final episode avoids the typical Marvel battle for a quieter conversation with the TVA’s creator He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors). As someone who hasn’t read 60 years of Marvel Comics, I found it a bit frustrating to not be aware of the identity behind He Who Remains until after I read reviews of the episode, but he appears to be setting up to be the MCU’s next Thanos-level threat.
Loki is another excellent limited series that takes storytelling to new and interesting places. The acting is on point with Hiddleston getting a chance to show his ranges as Loki and Di Martino is a great addition. I also really enjoy the style of the TVA and the self-referential humor.