WandaVision just raised the bar for Falcon and Winter Soldier — maybe too high

WandaVision is great — can Falcon and Winter Soldier live up to it?
(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

WandaVision is an inarguable hit for Disney Plus and Marvel Studios, downright owning the chatter every week online (which is the closest thing we have to viewership numbers). But as we all look forward to the next Marvel shows on Disney Plus, I'm starting to worry if WandaVision has set my expectations too high.

That's because the series, which started off as a high-concept ode to silver-screen TV, pretty instantly become a highlight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And after last week, look at how one line of dialogue from Vision "But what is grief, if not love persevering?" is now one of the emotional peaks of the entire MCU. 

That dialogue stands right up there with the sunset scene in the end of Black Panther and Tony Stark saying "I love you 3,000" to his daughter. But how will Disney Plus and Marvel Studios follow this success?

WandaVision broke the Marvel mold

As I wrote in my WandaVision episode 1 and 2 review and recap, the series grabbed audiences from early on because it was different. Yes, it now has the look and feel of any Disney Marvel movie, but those first episodes were crucial for anyone experiencing MCU fatigue.

The utter pleasant-ness of WandaVision — mixed with the eerie unresolved question of what's going on — accomplished one of the best rules of writing. It was showing and not telling. 

Did WandaVision just set the bar too high for the Disney Marvel shows?

(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

Eight episodes later, we learned what was at the root of it all, but along the way we got to know Wanda. Using the template of the sitcom, we slowly learned how much she desired family, but the undertones of sadness throughout gave Elizabeth Olsen the chance to flesh out Wanda Maximoff beyond the spare scenes she was given in the few Avengers movies she was in.

Similarly, the Avengers movies didn't really give Paul Bettany much time to explore the role of Vision. Here, in Westview, Vision awkwardly assimilated into human life, where his Android intellect somehow didn't have the knowledge that a stick of chewing gum could nearly incapacitate him.

Can The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and Hawkeye surprise?

The next Disney Plus show, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, benefits from a similarity to WandaVision. Its titular characters haven't gotten as much time on screen as the main Avengers, though Captain America: The Winter Soldier did show us a bit about Sam and Bucky.

My concern about the series lies in it looking very much like your average Marvel movie. The trailer primarily shows that they're sticking to two of the MCU strengths: action and bickering teams. This is the formula that made the first Avengers a hit and there's no reason to think it won't give Marvel another success here.

Will The Falcon and the Winter Soldier be as inventive as WandaVision?

(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

I hope it's not too much to ask that Marvel use these new shows to break new ground. We know that Sam will have concerns over U.S. Agent (the U.S. government's hand-picked successor to Captain America) and that Bucky will be in therapy and dealing with his emotions, but the extent to which either is explored is up in the air. 

This is not to say that the odds are stacked against The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. If the series tackles race in America — the question of "is America ready for a Black Captain America?" is obvious enough — it could truly impress. After all, Sam was given the shield by Steve Rogers at the end of Endgame, he is the true heir to the name, so why isn't he wearing the armor already?

WandaVision managed to set a new tone, can Hawkeye do the same?

(Image credit: Gregg DeGuire and Frazer Harrison / Getty)

And then there's the Hawkeye series, which seems very by the books. The leaked story is simple Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) trains Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to take over the bow and arrows. Again, banter and action will ensue, but will it feel fresh? 

The potential excellence, though, will be found in the execution and direction. This story is drawn from the critically-acclaimed Matt Fraction and David Aja run of the Hawkeye comic books, which have a dry wit and minimalist art style. It's too early to tell if Disney is going to hew closely to those ideas (the latter would be more surprising), but we'd be excited if they did. 

Loki, She-Hulk and Moon Knight seem more exciting

I'm less pessimistic about the chances for the Disney Plus Loki show, which is due on June 11. The trailer has given us a lot of signs that this series will be weird.

First, we get hardboiled True Detective vibes off of Loki, as the Time Variance Authority has the horn-adorned mischief maker locked down. And there's even a cop interrogating him: with Mobius M. Mobius (played by Owen Wilson). The clip even suggests Loki will soar through the skies as famed criminal D.B. Cooper, who once jumped out of a plane to escape custody. This is not your average MCU fare.

Then, we're getting a She-Hulk series, with Tatiana Maslany in the titular role as Jennifer Walters, the hero who's also a lawyer. It looks to be Law & Order: MCU, which should pack plenty of laughs and drama. The criminal justice system has tons of potential for stories, so that seems more open-ended.

Lastly, let's talk about Moon Knight. Definitely one of Marvel's lesser-known heroes the Moon Knight is Marc Spector, a vigilante who will be played by Oscar Isaacs. And it sounds like the Star Wars star will get a lot of room to chew on the character, which may or may not be drawing powers from an ancient Egyptian moon god. The fact that he's not sure of where his powers actually come from could give Isaac a lot of freedom to be a new kind of Marvel hero — think Doctor Strange with less confidence and more chaos. 

Disney Plus' Marvel shows are the key to the future

The run that Marvel Studios has been on since 2008's Iron Man is nothing short of impressive, and WandaVision (and the Marvel shows that follow it) play a pivotal role in the long-term project. While Black Widow is supposed to be coming on May 7 2022 (we still doubt this release date), the Marvel shows on Disney Plus will be the more active arms of the corporate cinematic body for the time being.

Take for example Nomadland director Chloe Zhao's The Eternals. Zhao's pedigree is strong and gives us reason to have hope for the film being a grand project, but one always wonders how much room directors have to color outside the lines that Marvel Studios gives them. Since Marvel films are all interlocking pieces of a larger puzzle, there's a constant reason to suspect the next project will be an Age of Ultron and not a Thor: Ragnarok.

Speaking of the norse god, 2022's Thor: Love & Thunder is the biggest sure-thing in the Marvel Studios arsenal (not counting Sony's Spider-Man: No Way Home). More excellent Disney Plus Marvel TV shows, filled with creativity, shows that the studio may know how to fill the huge shoes that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers left behind. More projects with the ingenuity and imagination of WandaVision would go a long way to keep us on our toes and prevent Marvel movie fatigue.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.