Sunday, July 18, 2021

Not So Free on 'Freedom Day'


I'm probably going to get a lot of flack for writing this, but here goes. 

Tomorrow is what the Government in the UK is calling 'Freedom Day', where all of the previous restrictions - social distancing, wearing masks, limiting numbers - is dropped in a hope that the massive vaccination scheme will pay off and everyone will just be 'alright' with COVID-19.

Since the first news of it reaching the UK back at the end of 2019 I've been concerned. Absolutely terrified, in fact. 

I was working at the shop in retail, out in the public, and spent every moment wearing a mask, keeping my distance, using hand sanitiser and washing my hands frequently. Refusing to buy take away food, decontaminating my groceries. 

When the various Lockdowns happened I ventured out of the house maybe once a week to get essential shopping, getting groceries delivered to the door, wiping them all down with disinfectant.

I'm vaccinated, both doses, as is my wife, but I still get nervous going to the post office or getting too close to people on my daily walk around the block. I don't know how I'd cope being back in retail, so many thanks to my new employer letting me work from home. Back when I was in retail last year I ended up in counselling because I was so anxious and stressed by being out in public and having to interact with customers. I honestly don't know how my old work colleagues at the shop have managed to keep going through this.

And now, it looks like Freedom Day is upon us and everyone can do whatever they want. The gormless prime minister says people will use their common sense. The same common sense that saw people sticking smoke flares up their arses at the football last weekend.

Don't mind me, I'll still be wearing my mask. I'll still be keeping my distance. I'll still stay home as much as I can. Gambling with lives just to maintain the economy. Relaxing restrictions so the MPs can have more affairs whereas I haven't even hugged my friends in 18-months. 

There we go, rant over. Sorry it's not gaming related, but that'll all change in a couple of weeks when #RPGaDAY returns. 

In the meantime, stay safe everyone. Look after yourselves.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Order in the (Marvel) Universe (Part VI)

Months ago, we started a marathon watch/rewatch of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU) in chronological order of events (rather than release). We've seen the formation of the Avengers, the Defenders, SHIELD, and realms and universes beyond.

When I last wrote a blogpost about this marathon, we'd just finished the one and only season of Inhumans

Next up was the surprise spin-off of the various Netflix series - The Punisher. I have no idea if The Punisher was planned with the other Netflix 'Defenders' series but it really feels like they saw reactions to his appearance in season two of Daredevil and decided to run with it. Like I said when we watched Daredevil, I initially had that problem of the casting because I hated Shane so much in The Walking Dead. A testament to Jon Bernthal's acting I guess! And he's really good again in this season. But, man, is this series brutal. Super-violent, and you have to wonder how half of the characters stay alive through it all. Castle seems to stagger around with a body full of shrapnel and bullets. 

In complete contrast, next on the watch list is season one of Runaways

Runaways was one I was looking forward to the moment the announced it, and I was not disappointed. A big fan of the comics, this was a really good adaptation. The only thing missing was Molly punching Wolverine. Really good casting, and a very interesting way of doing the first couple of episodes - following the kids in the first episode, then replaying the same timeframe in episode two but from the parents' perspective. A new mentions of other names in the MCU, but setting it in LA means the major events in New York are not so prevalent. 

Considering the limited budget of a TV series like this (originally on Hulu, though you can see it now on Disney+) they did a great job of 'Old Lace', Gert's telepathically connected velociraptor. And it's not happened yet, but there's a great connection to Kaecilius's cool cracking around the eyes in Doctor Strange as Nico is lured to use darker magic from the Darkhold (see Agents of SHIELD and Wandavision). All great stuff, really enjoyed watching this one again.

Speaking of Agents of SHIELD, following season one of Runaways, it's back to Agents of SHIELD, with the start of season five. 

Everyone's been abducted and taken forwards in time to a future where the Earth has been mostly destroyed. The agents are enslaved by the Kree, under the tentative control of Kasius, and Fitz gets to be super-cool, taking the long way around to the future. We get about halfway through the series, just as Coulson has managed to get his team (with rock-telekinetic Inhuman, Flint) to reconstruct the monolith that can return everyone to the present. Fantastic stuff as always, but hit that pause at the end of episode ten!

We head back to the Netflix Defenders series briefly after episode ten of SHIELD, to take in the whole of season two of Jessica Jones. Jessica's great again, though I wasn't as keen on the villain this time around. Hard to top the absolute creepiness of Killgrave from the first season. Her 'sister' becomes more obsessed with gaining superpowers, and 'Due South Cylon' makes a welcome appearance. Good to see this again as well, but looking forward to seeing season three as I've never found the time to watch that one.

Anyway, after season two of Jessica Jones it's back to Agents of SHIELD. The agents are back in the present, set up shop in the Lighthouse - the base that was part of the remains of the Earth in the future. Daisy is determined not to become the "Destroyer of Worlds", but the last remnants of HYDRA are trying to create (with the ever dangerous Gravitonium) the Destroyer in the form of Ruby Hale, daughter of HYDRA leader General Hale. 

It was never going to end well for Ruby, and Talbot's reprogramming by HYDRA was just evil. Bigger things are coming. That's going to have to wait! Stop watching at the end of episode 18, as we're heading to New Orleans! 

Due to some annoying exclusivity deal, Cloak & Dagger is stuck on Amazon Prime in the UK whereas most places it's moved to Disney+. Hello free Amazon Prime trial! 

I LOVED Cloak & Dagger as comics. I read loads and loads of them. Especially in Strange Tales where it was partnered with Doctor Strange. I was excited to see them make it onto screen, and I think they did a really good job of it! Sure, they changed their origin story a bit, but I think it's a nice swap of their social standings, and tying everything into the pesky Roxxon corporation. And Cloak's harnessing of the Darkforce power alludes to stuff that was going on in Agent Carter and early Agents of SHIELD

Again, another bit of brilliant casting for the leads, and they thankfully got rid of Dagger's rather extreme outfit from the comics, but they do some excellent stuff in the dark dimension, wandering through people's hopes, fears, and memories. Excellent! 

Luckily, both seasons of Cloak & Dagger fit here chronologically, with the last scene leading into their appearance in a future season of Runaways

And that's where I'm up to at the moment. 

If you want to catch up and keep up with the rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we've been following the order that DigitalSpy produced a little while ago. If you want to join in, here's the list we've worked through so far...

1 - Captain America: The First Avenger

2 - Agent Carter (Season One)

3 - Agent Carter (Season Two)

4 - Agent Carter (Marvel One-Shot - on Iron Man 3 bluray)

5 - Captain Marvel

6 - Iron Man

7 - Iron Man 2

8 - The Incredible Hulk (on Netflix)

9 - The Consultant (Marvel One-Shot - on the Thor bluray)

10 - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor's Hammer (Marvel One-Shot - on the Captain America: The First Avenger bluray)

11 - Thor: The Mighty Avenger

12 - Avengers Assemble (the first Avengers movie)

13 - Item 47 (Marvel One-Shot - on the Avengers bluray)

14 - Iron Man 3

15 - All Hail The King (Marvel One-Shot on the Thor: The Dark World bluray)

16 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 1-7)

17 - Thor: The Dark World

18 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 8-16)

19 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

20 - Agents of SHIELD (Season One, Episodes 17-22)

21 - Guardians of the Galaxy

22 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

23 - Daredevil (Season One)

24 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 1-10)

25 - Jessica Jones (Season One)

26 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 11-19)

27 - Avengers: Age of Ultron

28 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Two, Episodes 20-22)

29 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 1-4)

30 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 1-4)

31 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 5-11)

32 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 5-8)

33 - Daredevil (Season Two, Episodes 12-13)

34 - Luke Cage (Season One, Episodes 9-13)

35 - Ant-Man

36 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 1-10)

37 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 11-19)

38 - Iron Fist (Season One)

39 - Captain America: Civil War

40 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Three, Episodes 20-22)

41 - The Defenders

42 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 1-6)

43 - Doctor Strange

44 - Black Panther

45 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 7-8)

46 - Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot (Episodes 1-6)

47 - Agents of SHIELD (Season Four, Episodes 9-22)

48 - Spider-man: Homecoming

49 - Thor: Ragnarok

50 - Inhumans (Season One)

51 - The Punisher (Season One)

52 - Runaways (Season One)

53 - Agents of SHIELD (Season 5, Episodes 1-10)

54 - Jessica Jones (Season Two)

55 - Agents of SHIELD (Season 5, Episodes 11-18)

56 - Cloak and Dagger (Season One)

57 - Cloak and Dagger (Season Two)

Next on the list is:

58 - Luke Cage (Season Two)  <-- We are here!

59 - Iron Fist (Season Two)

60 - Daredevil (Season Three)

61 - Runaways (Season Two)

62 - The Punisher (Season Two)

63 - Jessica Jones (Season Three)