Monday, August 1, 2016

Recap: Avengers Assemble "Ghosts of the Past"

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes on, the Marvel Animated Universe does its best to take inspiration from the latest MCU films. At the very least, this can be seen in the character designs for Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and other characters.

Today, we’ll see how Avengers Assemble takes inspiration from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of the grittier entries in the MCU with a politically-charged plot.

Ten bucks says the writers resort to missiles. That seems to be Avengers Assemble’s go-to generic threat.
The episode begins with Tony Stark in Avengers Tower, playing Chloe Sullivan to Captain America and Falcon, who are en route to a S.H.I.E.L.D. armory near Seattle. Apparently, it's been taken over by HYDRA. They have only one demand, which is the release of the Red Skull. Tony gives Cap and Falcon the GPS location, and they start flying straight there, Falcon in his wingsuit and Cap on his hoverbike. Falcon also takes the time to analyze the specs on the bomb HYDRA's threatening Seattle with.

Falcon: "If they blow it, it'll wipe out everything in a fifty mile radius. Them included."
Captain America: "They're loyal, not smart."

Tony asks if they want Hulk-ish backup, but Cap declines the offer, just in case drawing them all out of the tower is the real plan.

Tony Stark: "This is going to be good. Cap and Falcon are the best combo this side of chips and guacamole."

That was kind of random. Sure, he's eating chips and guacamole, but... I don't know.

Either Tostitos is sponsoring the show now, or the writers are cramming in setup for an eventual punchline.
Captain America: "Any questions on the plan?"
Falcon: "What plan?"

Captain America responds with a glare, but Falcon tells him it was a joke. But Cap still doesn't laugh. Probably because his literal and figurative wingman here is barely old enough to shave, as established in "One Little Thing."

Nah, he's probably closer to eighteen by now.
As the two of them fly over the base, the Winter Soldier watches them from afar.

Straight to the point. I like that.
Suddenly, the monitors in the base activate and Tony says that he'll be delivering the Red Skull to them shortly.

Tony Stark: "I also included free salad and breadsticks."

What, no soup? Come on, at least match Olive Garden's offer.

Then, just as suddenly, the alarm blares and Cap and Falcon make their big entrance.

What the heck kind of plan was this? Tony pretends to acquiesce to their demands... only to attack their stronghold less than five seconds later? They didn't even have time to process what Tony said; they might as well have come in unannounced. In fact, that might have been a better option, because then they wouldn't be expecting anything. All Tony's message did was give them a few seconds to prepare for a possible double-cross.

As Faclon keeps the goons at bay, Captain America finds the bomb ticking down from 58 seconds. But when the goons are replaced with a big ol' robot, Falcon gets his wings ripped off and thrown out of a demolished wall down a seaside cliff. Tony advises him to try and dive into the water, since Cap hasn't diffused the bomb with 20 seconds remaining and can't come to his rescue. And yet, Cap does come to Falcon's rescue by using the wings Falcon lost.

Falcon: "You saved me and defused the bomb?"
Captain America: "Not exactly."

As it turns out, Cap tied it to his hoverbike, which he then sent on an automatic course over the water. And it explodes far out over the open ocean, sending nothing but a gust of air and some splashing water toward our heroes.

Hope that thing isn't nuclear. No one likes radioactive fish.
So let's see why this scene is a major cop-out.

I mean besides that minor point.
Let's go back a second. What did Falcon say about that bomb, again?

Falcon: "If they blow it, it'll wipe out everything in a fifty mile radius."

Okay. Let's assume that Captain America hooked it up to his hoverbike with twenty seconds remaining, which is the number Tony Stark gave. Now let's assume that the hoverbike flew out fifty miles away, since the blast radius simply creates a gust of wind where they're standing.

That would mean that the hoverbike covered 50 miles in 20 seconds. 50 miles in 20 seconds is the same as 150 miles in a minute. Which means that Cap's bike was going 9,000 miles an hour, or about 11.72 times the speed of sound.

Such hypervelocity is, for all intents an purposes, impossible for the bike to attain within Earth's atmosphere, and the forces involved would probably cause the hoverbike to rip itself apart. At the very least, the rope would break.

I'm going to be generous here, though, and go by what we see. Or rather, what we don't see. Cap was seen with the bomb at 58 seconds remaining. 

Call it a hunch.
Then we last see his panicked face about 18 seconds later as Falcon gets tossed out of the base. So to be as fair as possible, let's assume that Captain America set his hoverbike up the bomb (sorry, couldn't help it) with 40 seconds to go.

And I'll even give the bomb the benefit of the doubt and say that its blast radius was decreased by ten miles because it was over water. Maybe not the most scientifically accurate benefit of the doubt, but I'm bending over backwards to be more than fair.

So. 40 miles in 40 seconds. That's 1 mile a second, 60 miles a minute, and 3,600 miles per hour. Or about 4.7 times the speed of sound.

So depending on how much leeway you're willing to give the show, we're talking either impossibly fast or merely implausibly fast. Man, this show has some major issues when it comes to how fastthings can fly.

But implausibly or not, the day is saved, which Falcon thinks deserves a high five. But Captain America is not in the mood for fiving, high, low, or otherwise. Then a seagull flies into Falcon's arm.

It's about as random as it sounds.
Falcon's ready and raring to go fight the HYDRA agents, but Cap also managed to beat them all up in between disposing of the bomb and saving Falcon, which I can only imagine means that Captain America was moving just as fast as his Mach 8 bike to accomplish all this.

They head back to Avengers Tower as the Winter Soldier watches, and Falcon tells Cap that he'd like to partner up more often. Maybe make a two-man team of their own.

Yeah, like that would ever happen.
Captain America: "I don't think that's a good idea. I'm sorry."

Falcon is disappointed, but hides it as Tony Stark come along to break the laws of physics at a horrendously low frame rate by putting his hand on a wall that, judging by the floor, is at least five feet behind him.

This is a new low, show.
Tony Stark: "I've got something in the lab I wanna show you. Project: Rebuild the Robot my Dad Left Behind to be My Friend and Protector is not going as planned. But maybe you can help me crack it."

As they head to the lab, the Winter Soldier lands on top of the tower and shapeshifts his robotic arm into that tool that R2-D2 sticks in computers and spins around to hack into them.

The logical culmination of Disney owning Star Wars and Marvel, I'm sure you'll agree.
As Winter Soldier tells the system to open a door for him, Tony tells Falcon all about his problems rebuilding a robot with no blueprints. But Falcon is still distracted by Cap's refusal to start a Marvel Team-Up, and he lets Tony know it. All Falcon wants is to be part of a little duo like Hawkeye and Black Widow.

Tony Stark: "Or me and the robot."
Falcon: "But Cap wasn't really hot on the idea."
Tony Stark: "Doesn't surprise me. He was frozen in ice for decades."

That pun was bad and you should feel bad, Tony.

Tony Stark: "Anyway, you know what happened to his old partner Bucky, right?"
Falcon: "I know he didn't survive the war. Is there more to it?"
Tony Stark: "Yep."

Like the fact that he did survive, for one.

Tony Stark: "But if you really want the details, ask Widow. She's memorized all those old files."

Except for Peggy Carter helping to found S.H.I.E.L.D., if the films are any indication.

After Falcon leaves, the Winter Soldier tosses a snap-bracelet-taser around Tony's foot from a nearby vent to take him down.

But enough of that, we haven't seen what the other Avengers are doing with their downtime. Hawkeye has some kind of bet going with Thor, and a weekend's dominion over the remote control is at stake.

Thor: "Aye. but you must hit every target."
Hawkeye: "Yeah, yeah. Easy-peasy."

Peasy. Because it's a pea. I used to like puns.
Thor: "Perhaps I should've bet against your ability to make a jest instead."

Hawkeye flicks the legume (which sounds like the nerdiest dirty slang ever) at the wall, bouncing it off several surfaces until it comes to rest deep within the nose of the sleeping Hulk, causing him to wake up and sneeze himself into the wall. Then he throws the couch at the TV, meaning that Hawkeye's bet was all for naught.

Before they can all start brawling, though, the Winter Soldier tosses a gas bomb down to take them all out. You know, I'd criticize Thor going down from a gas bomb... but I don't know if that's ever been tried in the comics.

Elsewhere in the tower, Black Widow is still trying and failing to get any information out of the Red Skull. It probably isn't helping that she's still ignoring all that stuff he's writing on the wall.

"Stop muttering about 'five,' 'reality,' 'space,' 'mind,' 'power,' and 'time,' and tell me something useful."
As she continues to fail, Falcon shows up to ask about Bucky.

Red Skull: "Bucky...."
Black Widow: "He was Bucky before you got to him."

She gives a quick rundown of the situation. Captain America thought that his partner Bucky died, but he actually survived, was kidnapped by HYDRA, got a new metal arm, and was brainwashed into a living weapon. The Winter Soldier.

Black Widow: "But it didn't go well. For Skull or Bucky. Cap blames himself."

"So do I."
But suddenly, an alarm goes off, and neither JARVIS nor Tony answer Falcon's communications. Widow and Falcon rush to the databanks, since taking those offline is probably the intruder's next goal. But when they leave the room, the Winter Soldier arrives...

Captain America, monitoring the security cameras, doesn't see this, because the system is going down. Falcon and Widow meet up with him, and they realize that the three of them are all that's left. Including the Red Skull. He's gone.

Suddenly, the Avenjet launches from the tower, turns around, and starts firing at the few remaining heroes. Luckily, Tony shows up, looking like he just woke up from a nap.

Tony Stark: "You mind keeping it down?"

Then he sees the chaos.

Tony Stark: "Is that what I think it is?"
Black Widow: "If you thought it was Red Skull perforating your living room with laser fire from your own let, you'd be right."
Tony Stark: "Actually, I thought the Hulk was getting another flying lesson."

I really hope he's being sarcastic, because Tony can't be dumb enough to wake up from his electrically-induced nap and not notice the thing on his ankle that shocked him into unconsciousness.

Tony armors up and tries to lead the Red Skull's hijacked ship away from the tower. Except that Cap doesn't think Red Skull's behind this, and heads off to prove his point while Falcon tries and fails to tag along. Widow wakes up the napping Avengers with her wrist-tasers so they can help take down the Skull.

Awww, Hulk and Hawkeye are snuggle-buddies!
Iron Man blows the Avenjet's door, and Falcon flies in to discover that the thing was set to remote-pilot the whole time. Luckily, that means that he can shut the jet down and return it to the tower.

But both Cap and the Red Skull are missing. And they're in the same place: a subway tunnel with the Winter Soldier (Bob Bergen).

Captain America: "Just as I thought. This isn't a rescue mission, it's a kidnapping."
Winter Soldier: "No. It's revenge."

"As well as kidnapping. But mostly the revenge."
Cap tries to appeal to the better part of Bucky's nature, but there is no Bucky. Only -Zuul- the Winter Soldier. Unfortunately, Captain America needs the Red Skull's mad ramblings so they can figure out how to save the world from Thanos, posibly.

Captain America: "Bucky. Earth is under imminent cosmic threat. It's unlike anything we've ever faced and Skull has information on how to stop it."
Winter Soldier: "Don't care."

He stuns the good captain with his phaser (no, really), and climbs onboard a passing subway train, which emerges onto New York's elevated train tracks. You know, the ones which aren't used in real life anymore, but still make appearances in superhero action scenes.

Bucky prepares to escape with the Skull, but Cap quickly woke up and followed the Winter Soldier onto the train. They fight for a bit while arguing about right and wrong, so Winter Soldier cuts the argument short by blasting away a section of train track and escaping into a hovering aircraft with the Skull before the other Avengers show up in their flying car.

What, no jokes about Cap having a train to catch? Writers can't resist that joke.

Wait, is that the Fonz?
Like in Spider-Man 2, the first thing the Avengers try is slowing down the train with brute force. Unlike in Spider-Man 2, this actually works, since not only are the Hulk and Thor there to slow down the train from the rear, but Iron Man is there to catch the train as it slowly falls off the edge.

Eat your heart out, Spidey.
Iron Man: "Don't thank me for the rescue, thank me for not doing a 'gotta catch a train' joke."

Yep. No writer can write a scene with a runaway train without involving that joke in some way.

Iron Man: "Just all in a day's work for the Avengers."
Passenger: "Thanks! Text you later!"

And she was never seen before or since.
With the day saved, Falcon reveals that he hacked into Cap's Avengers ID card and triggered a distress beacon, alerting the other Avengers as to his whereabouts.

Captain America: "You bypassed my security protocol?"
Falcon: "Cap. The word 'password' is not a strong password."

Another gem from the alleged tactical genius whose plans usually amount to "Hit 'em hard, Avengers."

The Red Skull had a tracer planted on him all those episodes ago when they brought him in, so Falcon gets to work on reactivating it while Iron Man tries to have a little talk with Cap about his hesitance to take on a new partner.

Iron Man: "You wanna blame yourself for something, blame yourself for letting the past keep you from kicking butt alongside kid genius here. Or take the blame for eating Hulk's guacamole, 'cause he's gonna smash me for that."

Hey, there's the punchline. Just as shoehorned as the earlier setup.

Falcon tracks down the Red Skull to a New Jersey missile base, so Captain America takes the only jetpack out of the car and heads off, to Hawkeye's disappointment.

Hawkeye: "Awwww, jetpack...."

Yeah, everyone wants a jetpack. I hear that's why Spider-Manjoined S.H.I.E.L.D.

Winter Soldier magnetically cuffs the Skull to a missile as the Avengers hurry to the base. And he also prepares about fifteen distractions for them, since he noticed the tracer on the Red Skull.

Speaking of distractions, Hawkeye's upset that he has to sit next to Hulk's smelly feet in the flying car. Why didn't they just use hoverbikes? We've seen in previous episodes that they have multiple ones, and this episode established that those things can go faster than the speed of sound. Sounds like those would be a lot faster than the car.

But Winter Soldier's distractions manifest in the form of fifteen missiles, all headed in different directions.

"Quindectuple jeopardy."
Iron Man: "They're state-of-the-art. You need to take out the thruster then the detonator within a half-second. It's a two person job."

So Falcon takes one out all by himself. Despite the fact that it takes him twice as long as half-a-second to do it. I timed it. This mistake will keep popping up as they destroy the missiles, so I won't stop to mention it every time it happens because we'd be here all day.

Iron Man: "Cap and Falcon, you take the Atlantic. We'll take the locals. Avengers, assemble!"

He says right after giving the order to split up.

Thor and the Hulk take out a missile, the former of whom laments that the Soldier of Winter has ceased his fight for his country. Black Widow explains that Red Skull rewired a few things. She also tells Hawkeye that she has a little something for him in the back.

The heck is that?
Okay. So Black Widow has given Hawkeye what is essentially a very limited Green Lantern ring which can make a green, holographic crossbow.

I have several questions.

Why don't they use such a useful device more often?

Where did they get this thing from?

Was it reverse-engineered from the tech they used to fight Thanos?
And most importantly, where will it disappear to before next episode? Because it would definitely come in handy next time.

Hawkeye: "Mi gusta giant crossbow."

Ah, I see the writers are down with the kids.

Iron Man chastises Hawkeye for not shooting both the thruster and detonator, having had to fix Hawkeye's mess himself, so we cut to the ones over the Atlantic. Falcon takes one out, and Cap asks for the trajectory of one headed for Belarus.

Falcon: "On it. But why Belarus?"
Captain America: "Location of the HYDRA base where Winter Soldier was created."

Um... okay.

If the MAU version of HYDRA was a Nazi organization, as it was strongly hinted to be, than why was Bucky created in Soviet Russia?

Oh, right, because they're trying to mix the version from the films (where he was created by HYDRA) and the version from the comics (where he was created by the Soviets).

I'm not saying that the show's version of events is impossible, mind you. I'm just saying that this is a very unlikely plot point unless HYDRA, a Nazi organization, had ties to Soviet Russia. (And yes, though never outright stated, HYDRA is a Nazi organization in this universe just in as the films, judging by all the Germans in its ranks during World War II.) And if that's the case, then that requires a more thorough examination of this universe's post-WW2 politics that I think this show is prepared to handle.

Anyway, they catch up with the Belarus missile, which has two people clinging to the side. Guess who. Cap heads off to take the Winter Soldier down while Falcon goes to stop the other missiles. Speaking of them, the other Avengers keep destroying them. Typical banter all around.

Anyway, Cap notes that the last time he and the Red Skull were on a missile over the Atlantic, it didn't end well. And since the Winter Soldier is running around trying to take both Cap and Skull out, things might not end well this time, either.

Winter Soldier continues ranting over the atrocities the Red skull committed while resuming his fight against Cap, and I'll be skipping over a bit of the action here, since there are only so many ways to say "Cap and Winter Soldier fight," "Cap and Winter Soldier argue over who Bucky is inside," and "The Avengers destroy missiles."

It's a well-choreographed fight scene, though, and it ends with Winter Soldier escaping with a wingsuit that makes him look like a flying squirrel while Falcon shows up to save Cap and the Red Skull from the final missile.

A thunder of jets and an open sky!
A streak of grey and a cheerful "Hi!"
A loop, a whirl, a vertical climb!
And once again you know it's time For the adventures of Bucky and Skull-winkle and Friends!
Captain America: "Thanks. Partner."

In little time, the Red Skull is locked back up, and Cap asks Falcon if he'd like to do recon work at that Belarusian HYDRA base.

Falcon: "As long as I'm getting to work with Captain America."
Captain America: "Sorry, I always work solo."

Wow, Captain America just forgot today's lesson faster than Tony forgets that he shouldn't over-rely on his technology.

Captain America: "...A little pre-fight humor? I'll keep working on it."

And in a final punchline, the Hulk starts rampaging about the mysterious disappearance of his guacamole.

Tony Stark: "Nope. I pay the bills around here, I'm not taking a beating for eating his food."
Hulk: "Hawkeye!"
Hawkeye: "I don't even like guacamole!"

Tony, you're one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Hire a catering staff, already! The Avengers have been fighting over food since Falcon brought cookies in the second episode.

And with that, the episode ends. Now let's review.

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