Julien Neaves, Editor
Yesterday the newest trailer for Disney+ MCU series Secret Invasion dropped, and it looks awesome. In case you missed it you can check it out by clicking here. The series will see Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as cycloptic former SHIELD head Nick Fury and will join with allies to prevent a Skrull invasion of Earth. Remember the Skrulls? Shape shifting aliens from Captain Marvel? Yeah, those guys.
It will be the first series of MCU’s brand spanking new Phase 5 following the eight series of Phase 4, which is also when the Disney+ MCU journey into television began. Before the six-episode Secret Invasion releases next month (June 21st to be exact) it’s a perfect time to redux my list from January last year with a Top 7 ranking. And why Top 7? Well, it’s Robot Mango Reviews’ seventh anniversary and we are celebrating with seven Top 7 lists. And while the Disney+ MCU specials Werewolf By Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special are both great, they will not be included here. So, with that out of the way, and a giant-sized zombie of a SPOILER ALERT let’s get to ranking:
#7 The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
It says something about your show when the most interesting characters are not your headline acts. I mean, both Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier were okay, but the former’s acting was somewhat stiff and the latter had his character seriously under-utilised. The main villain Karli was also somewhat undercooked and the Agent 13 twist just did not work.
But on the positive side the Dora Milaje were 13 flavours of awesome sauce, Zemo was a revelation (dance like no one’s watching indeed), and John Walker made for a great anti-hero. They also touched on issues on race and discrimination in a resonant way, overly preachy speech in the finale notwithstanding. And the Falcon Cap suit did look cool. All around decent series but definitely one of the lesser offerings from the Disney+ lineup.
#6 Ms. Marvel
If I were to describe Ms. Marvel in one word, it would be “solid”. At its core it is your prototypical superhero origin tale, but it truly stands out in terms of character and setting. Iman Vellani imbues fangirl turned superhero Kamala Khan with so much relatability and verve that it is refreshing watching her onscreen both in and out of costume. Truly a breakout performance. And speaking of her costume, I enjoyed the design of it, and I also thought the reworking of her comic book abilities from stretchy to energy-based was well done and apt. I also really enjoyed the setting of a Muslim community. It is a culture that is not often portrayed by Hollywood, and even rarer in a positive light. So, to see a regular Muslim family dealing with regular family issues was very welcome.
Ms. Marvel is a really fun, light series with a sense of adventure and some of the most unique settings in the MCU franchise. And there is a beautiful central message about the importance of mother/daughter relationships which I enjoyed. The plot is not the most innovative and the season does go on about an episode too long, but I was still entertained. The series leads directly into upcoming MCU flick The Marvels (release date November 10, 2023) and of the three superpowered ladies to be featured Kamala is actually the one I am most excited to see more of.
#5 What If…?
As the sole animated series and one that did not have any ramifications for the wider MCU world (or so we thought) What If…? was definitely the dark horse of the bunch. And the show did start off playing it relatively safe. But then the excellent Episode 4 “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands” dropped and everyone who wasn’t paying attention started paying attention.
And from then on the show mostly kept up the momentum, with the fun Zombies tale and the intriguing Killmonger episode (yeah, I wasn’t a fan of Party Hearty Thor). They also ended on this epic Ultron/Vision two-parter that pulled everything together in an exciting way. Good stuff. And it would be remiss of me not to mention the very good voice cast (a mix of returning actors and new folks) with standouts being the always top of his game Jeffrey Wright as the Watcher and the bittersweet experience of the late Chadwick Boseman playing T’Challa for the last time.
Alright, alright. Calm down. I know many people would easily rank Loki as number one on this list. And it is a very good show with Tom Hiddleston knocking it out of the park while being supported by a fantastic cast in Sophia Di Martino (female Loki variant Sylvie), Owen Wilson (Time Variance Authority agent Mobius M. Mobius), and Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15. The series also had some gorgeous visuals, delightfully quirky comedy and some inventive action. In terms of lore, it is also critical in terms of breaking the multiverse.
But yeah, the show was repeatedly longwinded and at times kinda boring. Heck, 90 per cent of the finale was talking. Even the Architect from the Matrix would have been like, “Come on! Get to the point!” Yeah, the poor pacing really dragged things down on more than one occasion. Still a really good time otherwise.
Disney+ certainly went out of the box with WandaVision as its first MCU series. The first few episodes were quite avant-garde, with fans wondering what the hell was going on. And as the layers were peeled back, we were invited to Wanda’s family dream and the people of Westview’s nightmare. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany were so good as WandaVision both in the TV Twilight Zone-esque parodies and when the curtain came down. And Kathryn Hahn was bewitchingly entertaining as secret villain Agatha Harkness. Turns out it was her all along and not Mephisto. Go figure.
But sadly WandaVision just couldn’t stick the landing. The whole Evan Peters Quicksilver teaser was paid off with a Bohner joke. Monica Rambeau’s arc ends up half baked. The promised epic battle in the end is super anti-climactic. But worse of all Wanda never faces any justice for terrorising these poor people. Yeah, we know you were mourning Vision and your made-up family but that don’t make what you did right. Not by a longshot. Still an adventurous, intriguing show that proved Disney was willing to take risks. And it is necessary viewing if you want to understand what the heck is going in Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Yeah, I did not expect Hawkeye to be as good as it was. But sometimes these shows can surprise you in the best of ways.
Where do I even start? Jeremy Renner shining like a boss in the comedic, dramatic and action moments? His wonderful chemistry with fan girl Kate Bishop (a hilarious turn by Hailee Steinfeld)? Florence Pugh’s Yelena being awesome in EVERY SCENE and having the best chaotic chemistry with Kate? The most adorably stupid henchmen in the Tracksuit Mafia? Alaqua Cox’s breakout role as Maya Lopez/Echo? Or all the superb set pieces including a couple of super cool Pym trick arrows?
But the two reasons that the series shot to the top of the list was one, how well it provided closure for Clint and Yelena following Black Widow’s passing, and two, freaking KINGPIN! We suspected he was coming so we weren’t all that surprised when he showed up but it was still mind-blowing. Easily the best villain of the still dubious Netflix MCU shows and one of the best live action Marvel villains ever, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is 13 flavours of awesome sauce and killed it here again. I could not be happier he has joined the MCU proper, and yeah, a little shot to the face isn’t going to take him out. He’ll be back.
Hawkeye was just the surprise Christmas gift that blew almost all the other gifts away. And for that reason, it is my number two Disney+ MCU series.
Honourable Mention – She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
All you math lovers out there you may have noticed that it this is a list of seven but there have been EIGHT series so far. Well, that just means that number eight is going to have to settle for an honourable mention. And that HM goes to none other than the mess that was She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
Now I for one was excited to hear that Tatiana Maslany would be joining the MCU as the eponymous character. She was absolutely mesmerising as the multiple clones in Sci Fi series Orphan Black, so I had full confidence in her acting abilities. And I was glad that such a cool Marvel character was finally entering the MCU. And though Maslany does give a really great performance here and I look forward to seeing more of her in the role (but not necessarily a Season 2), she was hamstrung by a show that was suffering badly from an identity crisis. Who exactly was this show for? It was ostensibly a comedy series with light action elements but after a pretty solid origin story with her cousin She-Hulk: Attorney at Law spends multiple episodes kind of meandering. There was no clear direction as to where it was going and the cameos of the Hulk, Abomination, Wong and Daredevil, while welcome, felt like the only reason to keep watching. The best episodes were actually The Retreat, which went full-on comedy, and Ribbit and Rip It, which went the action-comedy route with the aforementioned Daredevil teaming up with Ms Green. Maybe if the show had picked one of these two directions and stuck with it then we would have a better series.
But the worst aspect was all the meta stuff. Sure, her comic book counterpart does some fourth wall breaking but they went overboard here. Hey Disney, you already have the rights to Deadpool, you didn’t need a super strong female version. Yeah, in the unbridled meta spirit we had She-Hulk both trolling the trolls and regular MCU audiences, and all this culminated in a completely daft and intelligence insulting finale. What a waste. When the most memorable and talked about scene from your show is She-Hulk twerking with Megan Thee Stallion then something is wong. I mean wrong. Now they have me doing it.
#1 Moon Knight
And now we have our number one, Moon Knight. Of all the eight series this was the one that had no direct connections to the MCU, and this actually worked in its favour. Zero ties allowed Moon Knight to tell its own story, and a what a unique and fascinating story it was. Oscar Isaac is a fantastic actor and he brings his A+ game in portraying the multiple personalities of a man with dissociative identity disorder, namely Marc Spector, Steven Grant, and (SURPRISE!) Jake Lockley. And he looked great in both his Moon Knight Egyptian-style costume and his dapper Mr. Knight costume. Marc and Steven were such a fabulous comedy duo, and their banter alone was thoroughly entertaining. “They” also did quite well in the dramatic aspects which were thoroughly moving.
But Marc/Steven was/were not alone. We also had fantastic turns from May Calamawy as archeologist and Spector’s wife Layla, Ethan Hawke as chilling cult leader Arthur Harrow, and the booming voice of veteran actor F. Murray Abraham as shady Egyptian moon god Khonshu. Everything worked here. Just EVERYTHING. The setting was cool, the action was well choreographed, the visual effects were solid, the pacing was tight, and the story was riveting. In every aspect Moon Knight beats out all other Disney+ series so far and for that reason it gets the top spot.
I’m not sure if we’re getting a Season 2 or when and where Moon Knight will return, but Disney would be unwise to sleep on this awesome character.
Well, that’s my list. How would you rank the eight MCU series? And you can check out more great MCU content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.