Promotional poster for Marvel Studios’ first Phase Four project, “WandaVision.” In 2021, Marvel released five television shows that focused on different Avengers and heroes. Editor Joslyn Weber and Staff Writer Addie Ellison share their opinions and rank all five series from worst to best. (Marvel Studios)
Promotional poster for Marvel Studios’ first Phase Four project, “WandaVision.” In 2021, Marvel released five television shows that focused on different Avengers and heroes. Editor Joslyn Weber and Staff Writer Addie Ellison share their opinions and rank all five series from worst to best.

Marvel Studios

“Marvel”ous miniseries

Ranking Marvel’s 5 television shows released in 2021

January 21, 2022

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for trying to expand its horizons. In 2021 they introduced a new concept, television shows. Five television shows were released throughout 2021 starting on January 15 and ending on December 22. Which one is the best? Read below as we rank the Marvel television shows of 2021.

“WandaVision” – Originally aired: January 15, 2021 (9 episodes)

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” – Originally aired: March 19, 2021 (6 episodes)

“Loki” – Originally aired: June 9, 2021 (6 episodes)

“What If…?” – Originally aired: August 11, 2021 (9 episodes)

“Hawkeye” – Originally aired: November 24, 2021 (6 episodes)

Spoiler alert: This analysis reveals details that may lessen a first-time viewer’s experience of multiple films/series.

 

  1. “What If…?”

Even though I ranked this last, I will start off on a positive note. I can and do appreciate “What If…?” for its artistic and cartoon style. It also gave Marvel the opportunity to highlight the number of infinite possibilities out there and gave fans more of an insight into the multiverse. 

‘What If…?’ did not really carry the ongoing plotlines that were developing throughout Phase Four.”

— Editor Joslyn Weber

However, the show just was not captivating enough for me. After all of the action in “Black Widow,” “WandaVision,” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” action that I was following very intently, it felt like a strange deviation from the normal storyline. “What If…?” did not really carry the ongoing plotlines that were developing throughout Phase Four. Instead, it felt like a sidebar to show what else could possibly happen.

Another thing that probably contributed to my dislike of the show was the different versions they showcased. They just didn’t appeal to me. For instance, episode 1 focused on what would have happened if Peggy Carter became Captain America and episode 2 was all about what would have happened if T’Challa became StarLord. Honestly I found those episodes boring and they didn’t add anything interesting to the ongoing Marvel plot.

Marvel had such a good storyline that was developing extremely well and, once they added the show “What If…?” in, it felt like a weird sort of time jump. I do give Marvel credit for branching out with their style of introducing content to fans but unfortunately, “What If…?” did not hit the mark for me.

  1. “Hawkeye”

I have always thought Clint Barton never really got much recognition in the early stages of his introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Hawkeye” was a fantastic show to showcase Clint’s true talents and even delve deeper into who Clint Barton is as a person.

The audience was able to see Barton balance a family life with life as a superhero, as well as managing being deaf. It gives fans a closer look at the reality of being an Avenger and the surrounding risks. 

The show gave Marvel the chance to redeem Clint Barton and they took it with confidence. It essentially humanized Clint Barton and allowed fans to connect with him more.

“Hawkeye” also furthers the Phase Four storyline in a major way. With the introduction of Kate Bishop and the inclusion of Yelena Belova, it seems as though Marvel is on the track to introducing future versions of an Avengers-esque team.

Marvel also introduces Kingpin, previously appearing in Netflix’s “Daredevil.” Along with the too-short appearance of Matt Murdock in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” fans are left in suspense to see how Phase Four will continue to develop.

The only reason why I placed “Hawkeye” so low was because the final episode felt like a let down. It brought in so much information but, at the same time, introduced so little conflict. The bulk of the finale was fight scenes and a heartfelt family get together at the end (although who could complain about seeing Kate Bishop hilariously interact with Clint Barton’s family). 

Even the post-credit scene was disappointing. It was entertaining as it showcased the full “Rogers: the Musical,” but I wished Marvel had added something to hint at what kind of part Clint Barton and Kate Bishop would play in the new Doctor Strange movie, “Multiverse of Madness.”

  1. “Loki” 

With the off-screen friendship between Tom Hiddleston, playing Loki, and Owen Wilson, playing Mobius, the characters’ on-screen chemistry was allowed to flourish. ”

— Editor Joslyn Weber

I have to admit, the only reason why I loved the show “Loki” was because Loki is one of my favorite Marvel characters. I would probably say “Loki” was mainly a character show for me, one that I watched specifically for the character, not specifically for the plot or storyline. However, I still enjoyed the visuals and the humor.

Humor is a skilled tool in the world of visual media and it can be either a hit or miss. Marvel hit the mark with “Loki.” With the off-screen friendship between Tom Hiddleston, playing Loki, and Owen Wilson, playing Mobius, the characters’ on-screen chemistry was allowed to flourish. 

Hiddleston and Wilson’s ability to play off each other and elevate the script was the saving face for the show. Without it, and Loki of course, the show probably would not have been as successful.

Even then, most fans rank “Loki” extremely low on their lists, and I do understand why. In the final episode, fans were given an overwhelming drop of info about pretty much everything essential to the “Loki” show.

When Loki and Sylvie approach “He Who Remains,” the all-knowing, all-powerful authority of time who also is known as Kang the Conqueror, he explains how the TVA began and how, if they decide to kill him, Loki and Sylvie could unleash a multiversal war among, well, the multiverse.

In the end, Sylvie ends up killing Kang and the camera pans to the sky where the audience sees the destruction of the multiverse. Loki ends up back in the TVA, but it is not the TVA he is accustomed to. It seems as though the destruction of the multiverse has already taken effect. 

Mobius no longer recognizes Loki and in the middle of the TVA stands a huge statue of Kang, hinting to the fact that either Loki is an entirely different universe or somewhere along the line the timeline changed.

While “Loki” will return for season two, fans are left to scramble with their own theories and wait for another season to explain what happened in the final episode.

  1. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”

[I]t seems as though most of the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is hesitant to accept a black Captain America while fully accepting a murderer as their Captain America. ”

— Editor Joslyn Weber

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was unlike any of Marvel’s previous projects. The show dealt with many real-world problems that most media nowadays will not touch, and it did a fantastic job of portraying them while still staying true to the fantastical world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 After the horrors he went through as the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes has navigated the world while dealing with severe post-traumatic-syndrome. He has to learn how to heal and eventually goes to therapy. Including this plot point in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” helped continue the worldwide movement towards breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in the 21st century.

Bucky is not the only one in the show that deals with real-world problems. The audience sees Sam Wilson grow into his role as the next Captain America, wielding the symbolic shield, but through it all, he is faced with racism. Marvel then brings in John Walker, a holier-than-thou type guy that believes he is the true Captain America.

Eventually, the power he was given goes straight to his head and he ends up decapitating a man in front of a huge crowd with the Captain America shield, a symbol of hope for many. The moment was John Walker’s defining action, the one that made many question what the symbol of Captain America even means anymore. 

After this haunting event and its outcome, it seems as though most of the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is hesitant to accept a black Captain America while fully accepting a murderer as their Captain America. 

  1. “WandaVision”

Not only did ‘Hawkeye’ redeem Clint Barton and allow him to have a proper storyline, but through ‘WandaVision,’ Marvel finally got the chance to do Wanda Maximoff justice. ”

— Editor Joslyn Weber

“WandaVision” was the quintessential era that launched Phase Four of Marvel. It was a time of renewal for many fans. Taking place after “Avengers: Endgame,” “WandaVision” offered a fresh perspective on the events taking place after The Blip.

Each episode was dedicated to a certain decade, beginning with the ‘50s and expanding all the way through to the late ‘90s. The writing was creative and left fans in suspense after each episode. 

Most of the recent Marvel shows used their first episode to reintroduce characters and showcase events after The Blip. The only reason fans kept coming back to each series was because it was a Marvel show, they had to come back. However, in “WandaVision,” the very first episode feels a little eerie, much like something is off but fans do not know just what.

Obviously, Vision is supposed to be dead, as can be seen in “Avengers: Endgame,” so the visual given to fans that Wanda and Vision are supposedly living a happy life in what seems like the 1950s is extremely peculiar. That suspense is exactly what made “WandaVision” what it is and continuously kept fans wanting more.

Not only did “Hawkeye” redeem Clint Barton and allow him to have a proper storyline, but through “WandaVision,” Marvel finally got the chance to do Wanda Maximoff justice. 

She was able to showcase just how powerful she actually is and fans were able to see that throughout the entire show. By the third episode, it is revealed that Wanda essentially created Westview and that the true extent of her powers reaches far beyond what any other superheroes are capable of.

“WandaVision” also highlighted a human component that humanized Wanda. After watching Vision die twice in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” Wanda went through an immense amount of grief. Creating Westview and reincarnating Vision was her way of using denial to wrestle with the grief.

Westview allowed Wanda to shut out the truth and try to live the life she always dreamed of with Vision. A lot of the show’s structure reflected the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Marvel’s decision to focus on Wanda’s struggle through grief definitely gave Wanda the chance to express her human side and allowed the audience to sympathize and connect with her. This was a pivotal choice for Marvel and contributed a lot to “WandaVision”’s popularity and kept fans waiting for more.

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  1. “Loki”

I will preface this review by saying I have never been a fan of Loki or his character’s storylines throughout his time in the MCU. This is probably one of the reasons the series did not appeal to me. 

“Loki” lacks an interesting or well-developed story then has an explosive ending that makes audiences feel as though they sat through five hours of vamping. The first three episodes lack any significant plot points besides new information on variants. 

Four and five give the audience something they never asked for, a romance between two Loki variants. In “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker refers to the other Peter Parker variants as his “brothers.” So three Peter Parkers are brothers, but two Lokis are love interests?

Episode six hits audiences like a truck with the amount of information revealed. This episode confirms the existence of the end of time, reveals Kang the Conqueror as the leader of the TVA, highlights Sylvie’s betrayal, showcases the corruption in the TVA, and unleashes the unknowns of the multiverse into the MCU. Those five major plot points could have been scattered throughout the series or multiple series, but instead, they were thrown into the last episode making the viewing experience drag and confusing. 

Watching “Loki was confusing and boring, and yet some people will rank it higher because of the characters showcased. The multiverse may be a new confusing concept for the MCU, but making good content is not. I am all for introducing new ground-breaking material, but “Loki” makes watching the MCU grow very difficult.

  1. “What If…?”

Too often animation is seen as a “kids” genre that is either silly or boring. This is simply not true. Animation is also a great way for studios to portray things that are impossible in the real world or to not use CGI. “What If…?” does this while giving the Marvel Universe a new level of dimension that helps them flesh out the multiverse and grounds the endless levels of possibilities.

The main character of “What If…?”, The Watcher, grounds the series with a consistent main character who guides the audience throughout the vast multiverse without changing what we already recognize as cannon. He guides the audience throughout the glass-like universes with the ease that an already existing character would not be able to do. 

I found the individual episodes to be hit or miss.”

— Staff Writer Addie Ellison

I found the individual episodes to be hit or miss. Episodes 4,5,7 and 8 were the real shining stars of the individual episodes. The others lacked in plot or in excitement level, and I am not sorry to say but Captain Carter is not the attention grabber like Marvel Studios thought it would be. The finale tied everything together beautifully and gave audiences some of the character meet-ups we did not get in “Infinity War” or “Endgame.”

But it is not going to matter if you do not watch “What If…?”, right? Wrong. 

In the latest Marvel movie “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “What If…?”’s influence can be seen. In one specific moment, I can remember seeing The Watcher through the cracks in the universe. If you have not watched “What If…?,” the “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness” trailer was full of things you probably did not understand as well. 

Though “What If…?” was hit or miss with the individual episodes, it is confirmed for a season two. This show holds the keys to the multiverse and by association the keys to the future of the MCU.

  1. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” 

“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is one of my personal favorites for many reasons, but one of them is the way that it shows the “realistic” side of the MCU. 

Bucky goes to therapy, Sam experiences racism in the 21st century, and the “villain” is a teenager who has been wronged by the people who swore to protect her. Plus, we see a family struggling to stay afloat and a world struggling to achieve a state of “normal.” These are all real experiences that people can relate to, that is what makes “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” so charming. 

Another reason why I found this show interesting is because of the concept of good vs. evil. John Walker, the one character audiences hate from the very start, makes the audience question the definition of good. 

The shot of the shield with blood coating the bottom was one of the most chilling moments from Marvel this year.”

— Staff Writer Addie Ellison

Walker is almost exactly like Steve Rogers, valuing his morals, his friends, his country, but he lacks the innate “goodness” Steve had. This is clearly shown when he beheads the man who accidentally killed his partner with the iconic symbol of protection, Captain’s America shield. The shot of the shield with blood coating the bottom was one of the most chilling moments from Marvel this year.

The only critique I have of this show is what could have been. The release schedule of the show was changed due to the shooting schedule being affected by COVID-19, so plot adjustments had to be made. 

Ironically, in the scrapped plot there was a worldwide pandemic. The reasoning for the Flagsmashers destruction was due to the uneven distribution of supplies between the Blipped and the Un-Blipped. This would have seamlessly tied together with the Flagsmashers cause with the anger for injustice Sam feels about the government.  

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” highlights the true meaning of what it means to be Captain America, and Sam Wilson is modern America’s Captain America. Where the iconic shield will turn up next, no one knows, but this series sets up the future of Cap and restores the legacy Steve Rogers had. 

  1. “Hawkeye”

Clint Barton has always been one of my favorite comic book heroes, so it is safe to assume that for the last few years I have been pretty upset about his lack of characterization. When this series was announced I was pretty apprehensive about where they would take his character. As a long-time fan of Hawkeye, this series redeems the MCU’s Clint Barton for me.

Clint’s deafness is something fans have been angry about for a while. Marvel Studios realized their mistake and finally corrected it in a way that allowed it to happen without forcing a plot point. Being an Avenger comes with lots of risks, head trauma is one possible injury. Hearing loss that comes with the repeated explosions is a good way to incorporate Clint’s hearing loss without trying to convince the audience he has always had it.  

‘Hawkeye’ is a show about familial love, overcoming the sins of your past, and growing into the person you were meant to be.”

— Staff Writer Addie Ellison

Kate Bishop gives the series the bit of fun and humor that it needed. She truly gives the audience the “outsider’s perspective” on the Avengers. Her excited fan energy next to Clint’s “tired dad” energy gives the audience one of the best comedic duos in MCU. 

The storyline of the series is one of family and how mistakes can affect the ones you love. How Clint’s dark time as Ronin affects his family is one of the driving factors in the plot. Whereas Kate’s mother’s mistakes with the crime bosses of New York forced her to commit acts that scar Kate for life. One final example of this is the deep friendship between Clint and Natasha Romanoff. “Hawkeye” showcases the true friendship that they had, Clint’s guilt about her death, and how Yelena was affected by it. 

Cameos are sprinkled all over the show with all different types of characters making appearances. Maya Lopez as Echo, Jack Duquesne the Swordsman, Kazi Kazimierczak, Agent 19 or Mockingbird as Laura Barton, and the star of the show is Kingpin. The confirmation of Kingpin and Matt Murdock from Marvel Studio’s “Daredevil” is the shining star of cameos.

“Hawkeye” is a show about familial love, overcoming the sins of your past, and growing into the person you were meant to be. Every character feels well-rounded and feels as though they serve a purpose for the story. “Hawkeye” is a love letter to Clint Barton and Kate Bishop that genuinely feels heartfelt and fun.

  1. “WandaVision”

From the beginning, Wanda Maximoff has been a character that people always thought needed more screentime. Her fiery personality, multiple heartbreaking losses, and intriguing powers made her a perfect candidate for a television series. 

I found this series to be the best because it presented two things that the others just did not have – a strong plot and no weak episodes.”

— Staff Writer Addie Ellison

I found this series to be the best because it presented two things that the others just did not have – a strong plot and no weak episodes. “WandaVision” played to its advantage by using the mystery of Wanda’s powers. In this series, we finally see the full extent of Wanda’s powers and get the true version of the Scarlet Witch. 

There is not a “bad” episode of “WandaVision.” Episodes 1, 2, and 3 draw the audience into this unknown world while revealing very little. Episode 4 gives us our first look into the outside world, while 5 and 6 docs on the ever-evolving dynamics inside the Hex. Episodes 7 and 8 focus on Wanda and her personal story while we see her breaking her illusion in real-time. Episode 8 is the most heartbreaking showing of Wanda’s grief throughout the MCU. The finale is satisfying but leaves the audience empathizing with Wanda’s grief. 

The themes in “WandaVision” are some of the most heartfelt of the entire batch of 2021 shows. Grief and how people recover from loss are the main themes that carry throughout the series. In her time in the MCU Wanda has lost her parents, her brother, her friends Natasha and Steve, her husband, and both of her children. The amount of grief she has is so beautifully shown throughout the story while adding a unique Marvel twist. 

“WandaVision” caught my attention in the first episode because of the suspense and mystery. The commercial breaks, changes in music, camera angles, and the use of color all brought me back constantly wondering about the small hidden truths they held. Some of the small moments where the camera shifts brought the episodes to life in a way the other series could not quite accomplish. 

Though the main character is obviously Wanda Maximoff, “WandaVision” also introduces new characters that are most definitely going to come back into play at some point in the future. Agatha Harkness teaches Wanda how to use her powers in the comics, and Monica Rambeau who later becomes Photon, and Captain Marvel are both confirmed to appear in the MCU again. Two other characters introduced in “WandaVision” are Will and Tommy Maximoff, the sons of Wanda. These two characters are two of the iconic members of the Young Avengers. With Kate Bishop and these two confirmed we could be looking at the Young Avengers sometime soon. 

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