Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: Avengers: EMH "Everything is Wonderful"

You know, this really was a great show. When I think about the current state of Marvel's shows, I wish I could count to ten. Make everything be wonderful again.

The basic plot is taken from issue 9 of Avengers, but only the rough outline of "Simon Williams gets super powers."

In the comics, Simon Williams was a white collar criminal given superpowers by Baron Zemo to infiltrate the Avengers by pretending to be a good guy, then he died, then he came back as a hero. (Being a comic book story, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.) But here, everything's just a bit tighter, just a bit more connected. Simon's vendetta against Tony Stark is from the source material, but seeing how Tony's part in the situation affects Ant-Man was simply a stroke of genius.

It's not just a lesson of the week that comes up and is forgotten by the next episode. Here, Tony's communication issues with Simon are compounded by the issue between them reopening old wounds between Tony and Hank. And it's all tied in to the characters' pasts, Tony's attempted turnaround of his life, Hank's hesitance to embrace Avengers duty....

This episode is more than a lesson about good communication skills. It's a character study on Tony Stark.  Of course, this raises a valid question. "Isn't that what those Micro-Episodes were for?"

No. Those explored pre-Avengers Iron Man. This explores Iron Man as he is now. It's a fine distinction, but an important one.

Tony Stark

Tony Stark was once an amoral businessman, content to weaponize his advancements and sell them to the government to line his already quite wealthy pockets. And as I've gone over before, a firsthand encounter with the death and destruction he'd been causing turned him right around. Tony Stark has always been an egotist. So when he finally came to terms with the damage he had caused, there was only on logical thing to do.

He had so set it right.

The fact that he helped work on Hank's Ultron project shows that he could have easily made Iron Man into a legion of peacekeeping robots.

Though there are some problems with that idea, as we'll see....
But he didn't.

He chose to go out there and fix problems. But how did Hank put it?

Tony: “Everything I do is to help people!”
Hank: “Everything you do is to clean up a mess you made!”

But this isn't entirely true. Sure, it was certainly true before the breakout. But the breakout opened Tony's eyes. There would be some problems too big for him to solve. As much as he was pushing Rhodey and Pepper away, he admitted that he would need help. But he did it in the only way he could. Tony provided the idea. Tony provided the tech, the base, the transportation. And because of this, he became the team's de facto leader.

But Tony is a terrible leader. Don't get me wrong, he's a master strategist. He simply can't lead.

Tony's entire philosophy when it comes to handling problems is to say, "Don't worry. I got this."

That's why he didn't tell Simon or Hank why he was buying Simon's company. Tony knew exactly what he was doing. He was fixing the problem and he expected Hank and Simon to just let him work.

An infuriating mistake that makes you want to yell at the screen? Yes. But Tony neglecting to explain his plan works on many levels.

1. It's completely in-character for him, as I explained.
2. It shows why, despite him not being an original member, Captain America is a necessary component to the team. It simply needs a better leader.
3. It allows Tony and Hank's issues with each other to resurface, revealing things about their past history to the audience.

You're supposed to be mad at Tony for being an idiot and not telling Simon what he was doing.

Tony Stark doesn't suddenly become a better team player immediately after the Avengers form. It takes time. It takes mistakes. And Simon Williams paid for that mistake. Tying back to Iron Man's origin, Tony is learning that not only are there consequences to damaging the world, there can be consequences when you're trying to help, if you're not careful.

And while a certain other show is content to rehash the "Tony needs to rely on technology less" plot, Tony's lesson here sets the stage for a lot of plot points and character interactions to come.

While Ant-Man is the most calm and level-headed Avenger, we see that you don't want to make him angry.  It's an important character establishment that will become even more important later.

I know I give her interactions with Hank a lot of crap, but on the whole, I would say I like her. And like "Living Legend," this episode shows another reason why. She's fun personified. She loves nothing in the world as much as being an Avenger, blasting evil scientists with her energy blasts. And because Thor was born to be a defender of the innocent, it makes absolute sense that they would hit it off well enough to take on an AIM base by themselves.

Captain America
Unfortunately, here's the booger on the Mona Lisa. While it's good to follow up on Cap's alienation, his subplot ends up becoming a rehash of the very end of the last episode. Instead of a photograph from the son of a good friend, he gets a motorcycle. It's a little out of place as the only part of the episode that doesn't somehow tie in to another part. Still, despite that, it's a nice moment.

Simon Williams
I like that they've taken the original character and given him some depth. Tony Stark has driven him to the edge. And in his desperation, he's making a single mistake that he can't back out of. Namely, becoming a purple Doctor Manhattan. Actually, I really like that they included a bit of Captain Atom/Dr. Manhattan in Wonder Man's origin. Just in the details, like focusing on Simon's skeletal and circulatory systems as he disintegrated, and the fact that he had to reintegrate his body.

Whatever could she be up to? Hmmmmmm....

Grim Reaper
Not really the character, per se; I just wanted to mention Lance Henriksen's chilling, understated performance. It really is phenomenal. You know that the part of the Terminator was originally written for Henriksen? Now that would have been terrifying.

While I loved the non-standard teaser, this episode seemed a little... off. Just in the fine details. Sometimes, Janet's face seemed to be a little off, or Grim Reaper's eyes were too big, or MODOK's reactions were a nigh-on chibi-ish.

Final Thoughts
All in all, I'd say this was a very solid episode. It's not necessarily my favorite, but it contains all of the reasons why I like this show.

Was this the best episode? No. But it was a good episode that could have easily been skippable filler if they hadn't decided to give their all.

Next time, Black Panther finally decides to make his presence known. See you then.

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