Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 Wrap-up and Omega Theories

It's been a crazy summer of hot days and career changes for me, but Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been a consistent part of each weekend. Since my article kicking off the season, I've looked forward to this time to reflect on the series so far. Now that Season 1 has come to a close, and knowing we have a Season 2 ahead, let's take that plunge into the spoiler-rich Kaminoan depths!

First thing's first: this show is an epic visual and audio experience in every episode. The colors and lighting are stunning, reproducing masterfully crafted live-action cinematography in an animated format. The action itself is worthy of the Star Wars brand and on par with an action-packed Marvel film. Also, the sound design is a perfect match to the visual experience, including the use of the ear ringing effect after an explosion and simulating even the most subtle position changes of characters in the frame.

Completing the show is Kevin Kiner's engaging score, bringing the power and emotion we've come to expect in a Star Wars production. As he did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Kiner finds just the right melodies and impact for each moment in The Bad Batch. One musical moment that stands out for me is his blending the unique sound of Fennec Shand's theme into the action score during her confrontation with fellow bounty hunter Cad Bane.

Omega and Hunter

The basis for this amazing experience is in its writing: the stories and characters were engaging, and I was invested in each of them from the start. Our main characters, the Bad Batch itself, evolve into more than the stereotypes I introduced in my previous article. Season 1 forced them to adapt to a new world where the Republic and the humanitarian values the clones fought for have been absorbed by a cold, oppressive Empire. Former enemies are now allies in the fight to remain free from tyranny, and former allies are now showing them the business ends of their blasters. Crosshair, Hunter, and Omega each evolved a great deal by the season finale.

That writing comes to life thanks to some great performances. I trusted that Dee Bradley Baker would be up to the enormous task he had in the recording booth, and my trust was rewarded. Dee has taken his work from The Clone Wars to the next level. Every character he voices has a wholly unique sound, personality, and emotional profile: the entire Batch, Captain Rex, Gregor, and every other clone trooper, plus a few additional characters. As I watched, I was constantly amazed at Dee's performances, and I'd love to see him get some awards for his work on Season 1. Check out this Entertainment Tonight interview with Dee talking about his work in The Bad Batch:

As a quick note for those going into the voice acting career field, make sure you put Dee's website on your personal list of resources to read and reference: iwanttobeavoiceactor.com

Michelle Ang (photo by Sam Nixon)

Complementing Dee was Michelle Ang's performance as Omega, which highlights the character's wide range of experiences throughout the season. Every emotional state is distinct with lots of great nuance in Michelle's delivery. The writing for Season 1 doesn't leave Omega in the passenger seat as a perspective character; she's an active part of driving the story forward. And thanks to Michelle's performance, I feel like I'm fighting with the Batch right alongside Omega!

There's another dimension to my love for this show that I call the "Filoniverse factor." Dave Filoni created both The Clone Wars and Rebels, and he's been side-by-side with Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian, too. The Filoniverse refers to Filoni's original characters and storylines that gained popularity on their own and have cross-connected the shows he's been involved with. The Bad Batch, created by Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau, is solidly anchored in the Filoniverse with cameos from characters like Cut and Suu from The Clone Wars, Hera Syndulla and Chopper from Rebels, and Captain Rex and Cham Syndulla who were in both of those series. As a big fan of the Filoniverse, I was excited to see every familiar character.

Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume (left), and Hera Syndulla (right) appeared as adolescents in Season 1 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a great tie-in with a fan-favorite Star Wars couple from Star Wars: Rebels (center).

Early in the season, though, I was afraid that we would revisit so many other Filoniverse characters that it would take away from the Batch. I had a similar reaction when Ahsoka Tano became part of Rebels: for a few episodes, it felt like her presence put a dampener on the show's standalone story. But the writers eventually balanced Ahsoka's presence in the show without compromising the show's own characters and story. By the end, it felt like I was watching one larger story of the Star Wars universe, not a standalone series.

That's the same impression I have now with The Bad Batch. Rex, the Martez sisters, Hera, and more crossed over, but in a way that looks like we were just seeing some missing chapters in their lives. Everything is still tied to the story of the Batch, which is intrinsically linked to everything going on in the galaxy during this transitional time. I hope that balance remains moving forward to Season 2.

The Bad Batch helps Cid retrieve a spice shipment in an action-adventure sequence from S1:E13, "Infested."

I'll have to do another article soon reflecting on how this show and others are developing and cross-connecting the broader Star Wars universe. There's a lot ahead with the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano series, the continuation of The Mandalorian, and the new Boba Fett story. I am loving seeing all these brilliant creators working together to tell a single epic and engaging story. (And maybe us Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order fans will eventually get the Cal Kestis cameo we had hoped to see when the Bad Batch was on Bracca.)

Now, though, I want to go back to Omega and talk a bit about this ongoing mystery and popular theory about what makes her unique as a clone. 

Omega tells the Batch about a hidden access to enter the cloning facility on Kamino.

What we know: We've learned that Omega is an "unaltered" clone, so she doesn't have the rapid aging and soldier-related enhancements of her brothers. She's also female and doesn't display Jango Fett's physical features. It certainly makes sense that using Jango's X chromosome and not his Y chromosome would have affected gene expression. That said, The Clone Wars and Rebels aren't known for a lot of subtlety when it comes to hinting about character origins and abilities, so I suspect The Bad Batch is following that model. That leaves me asking:

Is Omega really a Jango Fett clone, or is her genetic donor someone else entirely?

The Force-sensitive clone theory: My question ties in with a popular theory that Omega is a Force-sensitive clone. But I have my doubts about Omega's Force sensitivity after watching through the season twice. Omega does have heightened perception, and she's got a sharper-than-average head for tactics. However, she hasn't displayed the more obvious Force traits like telekinesis. Even in the life-or-death situations, she was in during the season finale, she didn't unlock that ability. So if she is Force-sensitive, it manifests differently than the Jedi and Sith we know, or she's going to have to unlock it in a different way.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces Sheev Palpatine (left) to a young Anakin Skywalker (right) for the first time.

Looking at the clues: As I speculate the answer to my question and follow clues from Season 1, the most obvious "who else" answer would be that she's a clone of either Anakin Skywalker or Sheev Palpatine. In the broader Star Wars narrative, Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker told us that Palpatine had been experimenting with cloning technology since before the Clone Wars in an attempt to sustain himself in his rise to rule the galaxy. Also, when we look at the timeline, Omega's "adolescence" would put her around age 13, aligning her creation to two significant events:

Putting the clues together: If we combine those clues with a creative consideration of Omega's character design, we could guess that she's a clone of then-Senator Palpatine as part of his long-term plan. But Omega's curiosity, optimism, and skills in mechanics (when fixing Gonky and Todo 360) may be some less-than-subtle references to young Anakin from Phantom Menace. I would certainly see the logic in her being a clone of either Palpatine or Anakin, or some combination of both, maybe with Jango's DNA mixed in.

Is Omega (center) truly a first-generation clone of Jango Fett like Kix (left), or does she have genetic material from a Force-sensitive like Palpatine (top-right) or Anakin (bottom-right)?

In any case, Omega being a clone of a Force-sensitive person would be one explanation for why the Kaminoans hired bounty hunters to bring her back to Kamino. As to whether she'll manifest more noticeable Force powers, though, I'm happy to remain unspoiled and speculation-free as we anticipate Season 2. For now, it's enough for me that she's a clever and fun character to follow.

Crosshair finds his true purpose in serving in the Empire and encourages his Bad Batch brothers to do the same.

Wrapping up my overall impressions, I can relate to the perspective I've read from some viewers that Season 1 felt unfinished. As I reflect, I think it's just because I hoped that Crosshair would return to the Batch by the end of the season. But I think the writers were smart to acknowledge that even without an inhibitor chip, the clones are individuals who can choose different paths and be compelled by different values and purposes. That's a much stronger message overall. Plus, given its place in the Star Wars timeline, this isn't the kind of story they could wrap up with a nice neat bow. 

Once they announced a Season 2, I knew we would see an ending that was more like being in the eye of the storm rather than in its aftermath. Fortunately, they're set up to tackle some new adventures in Season 2. 

How are you feeling about The Bad Batch as we reflect on Season 1? And where do you stand on the theories about Omega's origins? Let's discuss in the comments!

What Effect Did Loki Have on the MCU Timeline? Series Review and Theories

Loki aired its last episode, which means that I can put all my thoughts into an article, review it, and ponder theories about it. Naturally, there will be spoilers from throughout the season. Without further ado, let’s get right into it! 

As a long-time fan of Tom Hiddleston (since Wallander), seeing his career grow was already a privilege, but now it’s just pure happiness. Ever since he was first introduced in Thor (2011) as the mischievous god Loki, I couldn’t wait to see more of what he would do with this role. I think it's completely fair to say that he loves this character dearly and, more than anything else, he understands it. After 6 appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally arrived at Loki's glorious return in the form of a Marvel TV series on Disney+.

Loki gives us the version of the character who escaped with the Tesseract during the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. From a character development standpoint, this is the Loki from 2012's The Avengers. This Loki obviously didn’t go through all the same changes as the Loki we lost in Avengers: Infinity War. So people were wondering (and rightfully so) how well the series would work. This version of Loki still has a very rocky relationship with his family. He still believes in his "glorious purpose" and can't see the bigger picture. Marvel didn’t disappoint, though. After his escape from New York, Loki was immediately arrested by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) and recruited to help by Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). 

The first episode served two very important purposes: 

  1. Getting to know what the TVA was about. 
  2. Confronting Loki with the events he would have gone through if the time heist hadn’t given him an opportunity to escape. 

That second purpose was the answer fans were looking for after Endgame. By showing Loki what happened to him, his family brought out the side of him who was always there, the one Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Frigga (Rene Russo) saw and we all grew to love. Tom Hiddleston’s performance through those moments was incredible. It sure brought out some tears. 

After learning about the variants (people who disrupted the Sacred Timeline) and why it was important to keep them under control, the series revealed that the variant Mobius was after was, in fact, another Loki. They didn’t beat around the bush, and by the end of episode two, we met Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), aka "Lady Loki."

The endeavor of the two Lokis was both mesmerizing and exciting to watch through the rest of the season. I, however, want to share my only two criticisms towards the whole show. 

From the moment they hinted at it in Episode 3 through to the season finale, I just hated the idea of making Loki and Sylvie’s relationship romantic. It would have made much more sense to give them a sibling kind of relationship since Thor wasn’t around to fill that role for them. Even better, I would have loved to see Loki discovering self-love by seeing things through Sylvie’s eyes. I honestly thought that’s where all of it was headed, but they just had to make it weird. Like, disturbingly weird. 

That kiss in Episode 6一even if I do agree with others that Sylvie used it as manipulation to achieve what she wanted一almost made me turn off the whole thing. I know many people don’t like it and a few who do, but people, please, it is just utterly weird and creepy. Some bring up the argument that something like this would be very Loki-like, but I have to disagree on that point. 

The other thing I didn’t really like is how it started as a Loki-based show and then it turned into a Sylvie show. I do think Sophia Di Martino was the perfect casting, and she did an amazing job with the character. BUT the Loki we came here to see basically got reduced to a secondary character. At points, he was nothing more than a helpless love interest and a stepping stone to Sylvie’s goal. They made him seem like he was a bit dumb and definitely way too naive. By Episode 3, I started seeing the signs of this, but it got progressively more true by the end of the season. In the last episode specifically, Loki was basically just tagging along. 

That said, this didn’t stop Tom Hiddleston from being the absolute highlight of every scene he was in. He is Loki; he understands this character like no one else can, and it shows in everything he does. I think it is one of the main reasons why many love both Tom and Loki so dearly. 

I am still trying to digest everything we saw and all the information we got from the show, but these two things definitely bug me in this near-perfect entry to the MCU. 

Looking ahead, what effects will the events in Loki have on the MCU timeline?

It seems that WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier served more as character developments while also setting up these characters’ places in the future while the true start to MCU's Phase 4 is in the last episode of Loki. 

First and foremost, we were introduced to the next main villain of the MCU in the form of He Who Remains played by the amazing Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country). The show doesn’t reveal much at first, but people following MCU news closely know that Majors was cast as Kang, the villain in the next Ant-Man film. Kang the Conqueror is a time-traveling supervillain in the Marvel comics. He had several versions of him appear throughout the stories mostly fighting the Avengers and Fantastic Four. To quote He Who Remains himself from the last Episode: 

"If you think I'm evil, well, just wait 'til you meet my variants."

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) waits at the end of time

It's in this scene that He Who Remains revealed to Loki and Sylvie that they had two options. Option 1 was to kill him and, with that, break the Sacred Timeline, pushing it into war with his other variants wreaking havoc. Option 2 was to take over control of the TVA from him and preserve the Sacred Timeline indefinitely. With Sylvie being dead set on revenge, combined with not believing a thing that He Who Remains is telling them, she chooses Option 1.

With that one moment, the MCU changed at its core. 

I had a theory on why we haven't had a Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer yet. With the rumors already surrounding the movie, I said that the reason we didn’t get a trailer is because the events in Loki will have a serious effect on it. I now whole-heartedly believe that I was right. We already know that there are two confirmed returns in Spider-Man with Alfred Molina reprising his role as Doctor Otto Octavius from Spider-Man 2 and Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Rumors have been going around ever since, that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will be in the film. With the events of Loki in mind, there's now a logical way that both Tobey and Andrew could return, each one as a Spider-Man variant. 

Also keep in mind that the big boss himself, Kevin Feige, hinted that you need to see the MCU TV shows to fully understand the upcoming movies. 

Spider-Man is just one of the stories that could be highly affected by the events of Loki. We don’t yet know much about this year's upcoming films Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they also acknowledge the events from Loki. For certain, though, there are three other upcoming films that will have strong ties to the show: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is already very revealing just by its title. Jokes are flying around that poor Doctor Strange will have to clean up all the mess Loki and Wanda caused. Elizabeth Olsen has been confirmed to reprise her role as Wanda in the film, and rumors are that Tom Hiddleston will appear as Loki. Given the events in Loki, there are endless possibilities of where Doctor Strange’s story can go, and it would be impossible to even guess which way Marvel will take it. But, with Benedict Cumberbatch also returning in Spider-Man as Doctor Strange the chances of… well… madness… in his upcoming solo film literally multiplied. One thing is for sure, we are definitely not ready for what’s to come in this new era of the MCU. 

Natalie Portman from San Diego Comic-Con (2019) (photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Thor: Love and Thunder will be affected, not just because Thor is Loki’s brother and is rumored to return in this movie, but also as part of answering the big questions about Jane (Natalie Portman). We haven’t seen her since Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok revealed that Thor and Jane broke up. So it definitely came as a surprise when Marvel announced the Phase 4 movies and TV shows that Kevin Feige happily announced that Natalie Portman will make her return. During the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con where this was announced, Natalie herself even held up Thor's hammer, Mjölnir. This suggests we may see Mighty Thor from the comics in which Jane Foster becomes worthy to wield Mjölnir the same way Captain America did in Endgame. BUT, with Loki in mind and Jane Foster being MIA from the MCU for so long, one can’t help but wonder if this version of Jane is gonna be a variant.

Here's my logic: We know that Mjölnir got destroyed by Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor brought it back from the past during the time heist event in Endgame but it was returned to its original place by Captain America in the end. So at the moment, Mjölnir is in little pieces in the current MCU timeline, right? But then why would Portman have held up Mjölnir at SDCC? Given all that, I believe that the Jane Foster we are getting in Thor: Love and Thunder will be a variant. I might be completely wrong, but as the title of this article says I am giving you all my theories. 

Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania is likely going to be the film most affected by Loki. I believe that the TVA and the Citadel are both places existing in the Quantum Realm. In Ant-man and the Wasp, you can see a subatomic city structure for only just a second. Although it wasn’t confirmed by the end of Loki Season 1, I still stand by this theory. I think that what we see there is the TVA headquarters. Also, as I previously mentioned, we’re gonna see a version of He Who Remains in the next Ant-man movie in the form of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). 

The suspicious quantum realm city from Ant-Man

I won’t speculate about the upcoming shows like Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, or Marvel's What If...? because while I do believe Loki could have an effect on them, I also think that the major multiverse events will happen in the movies more so than in the shows. But, at this point, it is all a waiting game. 

Our favorite God of Mischief made sure that we are not without excitement, entertainment, and fun. Loki managed to add even more layers for us to love in Loki while also giving us many things to look forward to. We don’t know yet when Season 2 will arrive, but one thing is for sure: Loki still has a lot of things to do, and I can’t wait to see it! I won’t try and speculate which way the story will go because I strongly believe it will be affected by the previously mentioned films. I'm confident saying that the future is bright for the MCU. Maybe, even brighter than ever before, and I honestly can’t wait to see what else they will come up with. 

What's your take on the Loki series so far and how it's going to impact other MCU films and shows? Let's speculate in the comments!

Why That One Moment in Loki Meant So Much

It was 28 years ago, while I was in college, that I made the first mental connections to something I had felt prominently since my early teens. It would be another year before I had a name for it: bisexual. After another decade, I also better understood and accepted myself as pansexual and queer.

Since that time, it's taken courage to be out and stay out when it came to calling myself bisexual or pansexual. Like others who identify this way, I often felt that my sexuality was invisible. Some straight men I would date wouldn't seek to understand what that meant to me, they'd just get excited thinking this was their opportunity for a threesome with another woman. At the same time, both straight and gay acquaintances treated me like someone who was confused and just hadn't made up my mind yet. 

But what is there to decide? 

I'm sexually attracted to people of all genders. Plus, just because I chose to have a monogamous relationship with a man or woman doesn't change the fact that I am, still, a bisexual/pansexual person. That's still an important part of my identity, and I feel compelled to work toward a better overall cultural understanding of what it means.

So, when director Kate Herron and the amazing cast of Loki brought Loki's and Sylvie's sexualities into the conversation in June 2021, I was thrilled. Here's what happened...

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): "A bit of both..."

It's Season 1, Episode 3 of the series, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), settle in on a train as part of escaping a planet on the verge of destruction. Loki and Sylvie are "variants" of the same person across alternate universes, which we call the "multiverse" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This Loki is, in fact, a variant of Hiddleston's Loki that redeemed himself in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Instead of completing that arc, though, this variant deviated from the timeline just after leading the attack on New York City in The Avengers (2012). He's now fleeing the "time cops" from the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Sylvie is a Loki variant who was born female in her timeline and has lived a very different life, on the run hiding from the TVA since childhood.

This scene was the first moment where the two characters had time to compare their lives and start to make a personal connection. As often happens in such conversations, the question of love and relationships comes up:

Sylvie: "You're a prince. There must have been would-be princesses, or perhaps another prince?"

Loki: "A bit of both, I suspect the same as you. But nothing ever..."

Sylvie (nodding): "...real."

Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) relates to Loki's relationship history.

I admit I felt some proud tears at this moment, and I couldn't stop smiling for hours. Kate Herron was already becoming one of my favorite directors with this series, but this moment was next-level. Kate herself even shared how much this moment meant to her as a director:

This is what we mean when we say bi-visibility and pan-visibility. Just this simple conversation between two characters is so big! I'm grateful for the courage that Marvel and Disney had to prompt real-world conversations that lead to increased understanding in our cultures worldwide. It's certainly not the first time we've seen something like this in entertainment, but it's one of the first times we've seen it so openly on this scale.

Why is this so important to the bi and pan community?

An identity label is a word we select because it holds a meaning about who we are. That one label condenses a bigger picture into something that people can quickly put meaning to. Consider someone who introduces themself to you as a "hipster," "flower child," or "geek." Do those evoke any specific mental images for you about that person? Do you feel like you know them better when they use those labels? 

That's what we want when we tell people we're bisexual or pansexual: for them to know what that label means to us and acknowledge that as part of our identity. While I can't speak for every bisexual or pansexual, I can speak for myself and acknowledge a lot of what we have in common. I want to take a moment and share that here to be part of starting that conversation for us all.

Pansexuality pride flag.

Bisexual and pansexual are labels identifying sexuality, i.e. who we're sexually attracted to. Pansexual means that we may be sexually attracted to someone regardless of their gender expression (male, female, non-binary, gender-fluid, etc.). Bisexual has traditionally meant that we may be sexually attracted to someone who is either male or female. However, many of us who are bisexual acknowledge that gender identity is not a binary concept and, thus, we relate bisexual to pansexual. 

That's it, really. That's the core of the identity. Everything else you might have heard is a mix of misconceptions. I want to start dispelling those misconceptions by pointing those out here. Maybe you can help us correct these misconceptions as you speak with others, too:

We're not "confused" or "haven't decided yet." We know we're queer, and we know our sexuality is on a spectrum that's independent from gender identity or gender expression. We're neither confused nor undecided; we're quite certain. We also know that we're still bi and pan regardless of our relationship status. And speaking of relationships...

We aren't inherently polyamorous or prefer open relationships. Our sexuality is not associated with our relationship preferences. Sure, you're going to find some bi and pan polyamorous people out there, and some who experiment with the open relationship model. Most bi/pan people I know, though, including myself, prefer one person in romantic relationships and forming a family. And, naturally...

We aren't all looking for threesomes and sex orgies. I already mentioned dating the guys who heard I'm bi and assumed that meant I'm down for a threesome. Regardless of whether I'm down, it's incredibly uncomfortable for someone to make that assumption about me. What we each want in a sexual encounter is very different and unique to each person. It's something we should each discuss in trust with each would-be partner. It's not included in our identity as bi or pan. These assumptions have led me and others I know into some situations that are awkward at best and scary or unsafe at worst. 

But don't just take all this from me. Check out this short video from Xtra Magazine with bi and pan individuals talking about their experiences and why bi-visibility matters to them:

Did the Loki/Sylvie relationship ultimately negate the value of that moment?

I have no doubt that some people will see it that way, but I don't. Through the remainder of Season 1, Loki and Sylvie formed a close bond that was definitely romantic in nature. But does that change anything about their sexuality? No. Choosing to express romantic love to each other doesn't suddenly make Loki and Sylvie heterosexual. Bi-visibility and pan-visibility is about acknowledging that we are bi and pan regardless of such choices. If you're disappointed or feel that their romantic interactions devalue the bisexual/pansexual reveal, I'd like to know: What is it that you wanted to see, instead? Share your thoughts in the comments, and let's talk about what the future holds now that Loki's sexuality is canon.

Before I close, I did want to acknowledge another Loki moment that could have been equally as meaningful to LGBTQ+ fans. The series credits have, on multiple occasions, shown Loki's TVA file with the label "gender-fluid." Some long-time comic nerds have acknowledged that Loki has taken a lot of forms throughout comic history, including different genders. Many simply attribute the gender-fluid label to that comic history. That said, I think leaving the label to that explanation alone misses an opportunity to extend visibility to gender-fluid, genderqueer, and non-binary people here outside of the fictional world. I think Tom himself is supportive, though: he mentions in an interview Raffy Ermac did for Out that he found it important and meaningful to be part of that reveal in the show. Maybe that's something they'll explore more in Season 2.

What films, TV shows, comics, or books have impacted your life in a positive way by representing who you are? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments and chat about how powerful media can be for visibility and representation.

Why Korean Movies and TV Shows Should Be on Your Watch List

I have to admit that Train to Busan wasn’t the first Korean movie I saw. It was actually The Host from acclaimed writer and director Bong Joon Ho. Back then, I don’t think I really appreciated that movie. I think I only watched it because everyone seemed to be talking about it. Years later, I went back and watched it again, and it was amazing. It gives a new shade to the monster genre and a depth that you probably didn’t even think was possible from a movie with a big monster in it. It’s not as much about the action as it is about the connection between the characters, the different relationships, and how they change. Although I have to admit, the action sequences are pretty damn good as well, especially the one at the beginning when the monster first attacks the people on the beach. But, I needed time (and an extra kick) to truly appreciate Bong Joon Ho’s movie. 


Gong Yoo (left) and Ma Dong-seok (right) in Train to Busan

In 2016 a new zombie movie rolled into the cinemas, and this time around, it came from Korea, not from the United States. It came at the right time when it seemed like that not even ‘The Walking Dead’ would be able to keep the zombie genre alive. In my personal opinion, Train to Busan single-handedly saved zombie films and is without question, the best one ever created. Yes, I know that is controversial to say, but I am standing by it with all my heart and soul. Once it came out, I managed to get it on Blu-Ray, watched it at least 50 times if not more, and I can’t get tired of it. I even got my hands on the novel version (it wasn’t an easy task).

I watched Seoul Station which plays in the same universe as Train to Busan and tells the story of how it all started in Seoul. This movie was such a huge success internationally as well, that we also got a second film called Peninsula which heavily involved the Americans, and not to throw any shade, but it sadly shows. Peninsula is nowhere near as great as Train to Busan was, and except for the opening scene on the ship, it fails on almost every level as it is heavily influenced by the simple curse of “More money, bigger effects and losing the heart and soul of the movie”. The characters are a bit flat and grey and they are your typical “genre characters”.

Not too long ago, we also got the news that James Wan (master of horror if you ask me) got the rights to create the American version of Train to Busan and I am not really happy with this news, to put it lightly. I love James Wan, respect him, and would LOVE to work with him one day, but I honestly wish that no one would ever touch Train to Busan. This movie was so good story-wise, in character building, and in the genre itself that it doesn’t need any remake/reboot. It needs to be left alone and exist perfectly on its own, please and thank you. I could go in-depth of why I think Train to Busan is the perfect zombie movie, but since I want to talk about other Korean movies and tv shows as well, I will link the video from the YouTube Channel ‘Wow Such Gaming’ in here because he explains it flawlessly:

After watching Train to Busan and falling in love with two actors Gong Yoo (he played the main character Seok-woo) and Ma Dong-seok (he played the absolute badass Sang-hwa) I did my usual ritual… I stalked them on IMDb and watched MANY of their movies and TV Shows. 

As I mentioned in my previous article, Ma Dong-seok will star in Marvel’s The Eternals this year, which I am overly excited about as it will be his first appearance in an American film. I would highly recommend some of his movies first for you all to fall in love with him. The two movies I love him in (besides Train to Busan of course) are two huge movies from Korea: Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds and Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days. In the first one, he only appears in the end but in the second one, he is one of the protagonists. These movies are mind-bending and I can guarantee you that they are very different from what you are used to. The first one tells the story of a firefighter who after his heroic death has to go through 7 trials in 7 hells over 49-days to disclose how he lived his life. He has the help of three guardians who are trying to succeed in defending him during the trials so he can be reincarnated as he is considered to be a model citizen. In the second movie, the Last 49 days we find out who the three guardians were in their life on Earth, and it is one of the most beautiful stories about how our lives can intertwine.

Watching these two movies made me realize why Korean movies are so appealing to me. The story-telling can be confusing at first because they are going deep from the beginning. They do not introduce their characters the same way other movies would, instead they go deep into the stories of their characters and the reason behind how they act during the main act. They don’t follow the so-called rules of story-telling. Therefore, when you fall in love with the characters on your screen it feels more natural, more human, as you find out who they really are and can get genuinely surprised when new characteristics are introduced through them. 

A TV Show I would like to recommend that stars Gong Yoo from Train to Busan, is called Sseulsseulhago Chalranhashin: Dokkaebi or as most people know it: Goblin. This series is mind-blowingly beautiful in every way possible: as a drama, as a romance, the cinematography, the story-telling, and the character building. It’s definitely a high peek of Korean television. Gong Yoo plays the titular character ‘Kim Shin’ aka ‘Goblin’ whose quest is to find a bride to break his immortal curse as he is a 939-year-old guardian of souls. It is at times heartbreaking, but all together just an absolutely breathtaking Korean TV drama. A must-watch. 

Still from the movie Forgotten

Netflix is a wonderful ally when it comes to Korean TV and Film, especially if you live outside of Korea. They have Korean originals and TV Shows and Movies (including the previously mentioned Along with the Gods) that are available to watch for the international crowd as well. The first Netflix original I saw was Forgotten. If you like heavily elaborate twists and true mind-bending… you HAVE TO watch this film. I adore Forgotten on the same level as Train to Busan (someone, please count how many times I already wrote down this title). Forgotten is about Jin-seok (played by Kang Ha-Neul) who’s brother returns after being abducted but he is a completely different person, so Jin-seok starts to search for the truth, and oh boy… the things he finds out and therefore we find out are so mind-blowing, that there’s no way you can guess ANY of the steps in this movie. It is masterfully done, every step, the way the story unfolds is something that should be taught to film students everywhere. It definitely changed my view on movies in a major way, especially on thrillers, as this counts as that. And what stands in the spotlight here as well? THE CHARACTERS. 

Another Netflix original I would very highly recommend to everyone is another TV Show called Kingdom. Kingdom is once again a major contender in the zombie genre BUT it plays during the Joseon period. It’s not just a simple zombie series, oh no… not even close, it is also a royal drama series with intricate story-telling and (once again) characters, who will very quickly grow on you and you can’t help but hold all your fingers crossed for them. This series easily knocks The Walking Dead out of the park, without any question. It focuses heavily on how greed is even worse than the dead coming back to life to bring chaos and destruction while also adding mystery and depth to its story. 

This article is very long. But hang with me as there are a few more titles that I need to mention as a must-see for anyone who would like to dive into Korean cinema (and oh boy, I hope you all do):

There are so many more Korean TV shows and films we could talk about, but I tried to highlight some of my favorites in this article. I’ve only really started to get into Korean cinema the past few years and I do regret not getting into it earlier. It’s so different from what I am used to that it is actually refreshing. I would give out a warning though… once you get in don’t be surprised if it completely sucks you in. As a matter of fact, I started learning Korean back in 2020 so I can watch and enjoy them without subtitles. 

Bong Joon Ho with his Oscars

Just to mention one last thing. Because I can’t leave without talking about it. Bong Joon Ho directed one of the best post-apocalyptic movies with a mostly American cast (khm… Chris Evans… khm) and I truly and fully believe that everyone should watch it. It’s called Snowpiercer and with it, you will glance into what Korean film-making and story-telling are like. It’s also worth it to mention that Bong Joon Ho is an executive producer on the SnowPiercer TV show on TNT as well. 

Getting Gritty with The Bad Batch

What do you get when cloning on Kamino goes bad in a good way? Answer: The Bad Batch. Fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars love this maverick group of clone troopers so much they earned their own series on Disney+. I'm one of those fans, so I'm excited to share my love with you all, introduce you to the group, and give you my review of the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Star Wars: The Bad Batch logo

You don't have to have seen the other animated Star Wars shows to appreciate this new series. If you have, though, you'll find yourself picking out references to both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about The Clone Wars through its original six seasons (2008-2014), and it wasn't until I fell in love with Rebels in 2015 that I finally decided to watch through The Clone Wars. To my surprise, I actually loved it! So my anticipation was high for The Bad Batch spin-off.

For a little background if you're not familiar with The Clone Wars, it's an animated series that tells the story between two Star Wars prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Disney decided to give series fans a much-desired Season 7 of The Clone Wars (Season 7) to wrap up the series. That was released in February 2020 exclusively on Disney+, and the story partially overlaps with Revenge of the Sith.

But who are The Bad Batch? The Clone Wars introduced a number of clone troopers with unique personalities brought to life by phenomenal voice performances from Dee Bradley Baker. Dee started with a basis of Temura Morrison's voice as Jango Fett and Commander Cody in the prequel films. He then extended that voice into something distinct for each clone. In the show's final season, we meet a group of four such clones that were genetic experiments by the cloners on Kamino. Cody called them "defective clones with desirable mutations," making them powerful assets if you're putting together a special operations team for a tough mission. And the Republic did just that, establishing Clone Force 99, a.k.a. "The Bad Batch," as a highly trained, highly successful team known for their unconventional methods.

The Bad Batch together in battle
The Bad Batch team up to face an army of battle droids back in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In spite of some social media backlash I've seen about them being blatant character tropes, The Bad Batch was well-received in their 4-episode story arc kicking off The Clone Wars Season 7. We wanted to see more, and Disney and Lucasfilm obliged! Star Wars: The Bad Batch debuted on "Star Wars Day" (May 4) in 2021. Dee Bradley Baker might have his work cut out for him voicing all those unique characters, but what a great way to showcase his performances!

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

The rest of this article includes details about the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Let me introduce you to the squad...

Hunter from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Hunter leads the force. He may look like Rambo with the shaggy dark hair and head band, but his heightened senses make him more like Billy, the tracker character from Predator. Hunter is a master of martial skills and moves incredibly fast in his signature knife fighting style. As a leader, Hunter brings his tactical genius, knowing what each of his team members can do, how to keep them focused, and how to best coordinate their approach in any situation.

Wrecker from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Wrecker is the stereotypical big strong guy with a heart of gold and a bundle of enthusiasm. Nothing fazes him as he faces ship crashes and enemy reinforcements as exciting challenges. He also doesn't think much before acting, assuming he can do some superhuman things in battle. And he's usually right. Wrecker is gregarious with his friends, and he's a big softie when it comes to sentimental things. It's hard not to love this guy, and he's easily my favorite.

Tech from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Tech has enhanced intelligence and a talent for breaking into computers, hijacking electronics, and translating languages. He also has stereotypical "nerd" spectacles and a penchant for correcting people or dropping in bits of trivia during conversations. Besides being a seasoned fighter with dual blasters, Tech's accurate, on-the-fly calculations in battle help the rest of the team execute the perfect attack.

Crosshair from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Crosshair is the silent type who always looks brooding and intense. His sniper skills and instincts are as superhuman as Wrecker's strength. And when he takes out his signature toothpick to speak, it's because there's something important to say. The Bad Batch fight scenes as a team show off Crosshair's brilliance and his ability to think several steps ahead.

Echo from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Echo is a recurring elite clone trooper from the Clone Wars series who joined The Bad Batch at the end of their story arc in the show's final season. Presumed dead after an explosion, Echo was captured and enslaved as a cyborg so a corporation could gather and sell intelligence secrets from his mind. The Bad Batch helped rescue Echo, and Echo earned their trust by applying his new inside knowledge and droid-like computer port to turn the tide on the Anaxes battlefront. He's also proved that he's still a top commando on the battlefield.

This team has kicked off their new show with style. Star Wars: The Bad Batch comes in with guns blazing, full of action, humor, and heart. I won't recap the whole 70-minute debut episode here, I'll just reflect on some key plot points and my reactions and encourage you to check out the show. 

The Bad Batch on Kaller in Episode 1

To start off, I have to talk about how beautiful this animation is. Though the series is a spinoff from The Clone Wars, it's building on the major upgrades the series made to its animation in its final season. The character faces seem to be the only artifacts from its highly stylized early seasons. This newer animation uses focus effects, lens distortions, and brilliant camera movement as though on a 3D set with conventional live action film technology. It's easy to forget I'm watching animation instead of live action with CGI.

Caleb Dume from The Bad Batch
The first 10 minutes of the series included a certain padawan who Star Wars: Rebels fans will be very familiar with.

Corresponding with the final events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the first episode starts with The Bad Batch witnessing the infamous Order 66 and trying to make sense of what's going on around them. I was relieved that most of The Bad Batch aren't affected by the inhibitor chips implanted in clones' brains to guarantee they would follow Order 66. As the order goes out, the "regs" turn on their Jedi leaders and kill them. But in The Bad Batch, only Crosshair seems inclined to kill the Jedi, and he's confused as to why. None of the team knows what "Order 66" was until Tech does a little digging.

After The Bad Batch returns home to Kamino and starts testing the waters, Admiral Tarkin arrives. Stephen Stanton returns to his Clone Wars and Rebels role as Tarkin, a performance that adds a unique brand of sinister to the character. Tarkin is strongly inclined to discontinue using clones for the new Empire, and he seems to have it in for this defiant Clone Force 99. That is all except for Crosshair, who is affected enough by the inhibitor chip's programming to file a report about Hunter allowing a Jedi padawan to escape.

Tarkin and Lama Su
Admiral Tarkin and Kamino Prime Minister Lama Su observe Clone Force 99 in a training simulation.

Tarkin's actions usher in the first big story arc for the show. After reading Crosshair's report, Tarkin decides that Clone Force 99 needs to prove their loyalty to the Empire. Tarkin sends the team on a mission to take out some "insurgents" on Onderon. When Hunter discovers that the reported enemy is actually a small group of civilian refugees, including children and elderly folk, he orders the team to stand down. Meanwhile, Crosshair is itching to follow orders and getting increasingly irritated with Hunter. 

In that same sequence, Saw Gerrera explains that the refugees' only offense was resisting oppression from the new Empire. Fans of The Clone Wars, Rebels, and the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should recognize Saw as the Republic-trained guerilla fighter who would eventually become a rebellion leader. Andrew Kishino reprises the role of Saw as he played it in The Clone Wars, which links perfectly with Forest Whitaker's performances in Rogue One and Rebels.

Saw Gerrera in The Bad Batch
Saw Gerrera hints at the rebellion to come.

The episode eventually leads to Tarkin isolating Crosshair and having the cloners intensify the effect of his inhibitor chip. They then send him to kill off his Bad Batch brothers before they escape punishment for treason. I have mixed feelings about this part of the story. On the one hand, it's a good setup to get the guys on the run and in opposition of the Empire while still having a reason to stay engaged: to bring Crosshair back to his senses. On the other hand, opening this way doesn't give a lot of time for new viewers to connect with who Crosshair was as a member of the team. To really get that, you'd have to go back and watch those first four episodes of The Clone Wars Season 7. This missing emotional link was my only major concern about the opening episode.

Omega from The Bad Batch
Omega introduces herself to The Bad Batch on Kamino.

Another thing I'm loving is this new character, Omega, performed by Michelle Ang. Omega is an adolescent female clone working as a medical assistant on Kamino. She follows The Bad Batch around, clearly knows a lot about them, and snoops into their things while they're away. At first, I was worried they were putting her in as the trope of an obsessed fan who's stalking is rewarded by becoming a member of the team. But we find out later that she's already one of them: an experimental clone with desirable mutations who has a strong desire to escape what's going on on Kamino. We don't know what those desirable traits are yet, but she's a crack shot with a blaster the first time she picks one up. I look forward to seeing more of Omega.

It's not a long wait to find out what's next: Episode 2 drops in its usual weekly time slot this Friday. While Episode 1 was long, I'm glad they didn't try to divide it up across three "normal" episodes (20-25 minutes each). The first big chunk of story took us from Order 66 to The Bad Batch being on the run, opposing the new Empire, and looking for a way to rescue their friend.

We know from the series trailer and other announcements that Ming-Na Wen has brought her live action role as Fennec Shand (introduced in The Mandalorian) into this animated series. She wasn't in the first episode, but I look forward to seeing where she comes in!

Fennec Shand, live action and animated
Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian (top) and The Bad Batch.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is just the newest entry in a rich Star Wars universe, with a vast range of stories across film, TV, comics, novels, games, and more. I encourage all Star Wars fans to take time and indulge in the amazing stories that so many talented story writers have brought to life. Even older fans like myself can open their hearts and minds and find something they like about these newer stories and characters.

Look for my follow-up article on The Bad Batch when the season ends!

Have you seen The Bad Batch yet? What do you think so far? Got a favorite character? Let's chat in the comments below!

Talking with Desmond Chiam about Playing Games and Smashing Flags

Desmond Chiam is an actor from Melbourne, Australia, known for his roles in Reef Break and The Shannara Chronicles. More recently, you can see him as Dovich in Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS). Believe it or not, though, there was a time in his life where he thought that creatives (actors, directors, etc.) probably do this whole film business as a hobby next to their normal job. That may have been why he delayed starting his acting career until his mid-20s. But he is proving that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. I sat down with him to chat about games, movies and, of course, TFATWS

Since we are talking for Retro Replay, I have to ask: Are you a gamer by any chance? 

Yes. Firmly. I built my PC during this pandemic, put it together. I didn't do a Henry Cavill style video, unfortunately. 

You should have. Come on! 

I know, a fool am I! Huge into Xbox and PlayStation. I have on my Instagram profile "Xbox > PS," but I'm not trying to start fights. Get them all if you can afford it. I play cross-platform. 

I'm a huge gamer, man, since I was youuung--er. Gaming is what I have done mostly during this pandemic. It helped me keep in touch with a lot of friends and do something instead of just Zoom meetings. Zoom is nice, and you can hang out and have drinks with people, I’ve been doing that, too. Doing something, though, is, I think, an integral part of what we’ve lost in 2020. I think if you are a gamer, you've got to retain that to some degree. I'm just up on Apex Legends with my friends who I would have seen shooting shows and films. I’m playing It Takes Two right now with my wife. It's an amazing co-op game. It's taking up so much of my time. 

What is your favourite game then? Do you have one? 

Desmond Chiam, photo by David Higgs

Pretty hard to say. There are a lot of really good ones. Obviously Final Fantasy VII, I think the remake did a pretty good job recently. There is another game I played really recently that is FANTASTIC and hasn't gotten a lot of notice called 13 sentinels: Aegis Rim (PlayStation 4 and 5). It's like a tactical-RPG-mixed visual marvel. It's got a really convoluted time-travelly-twisty-wisty story that it actually handles really well. I was surprised because there are so many threads and it's a non-linear narrative. So, out of 13 characters, you can play any of them at any time in order to go through the story, and it all comes together neatly in a bundle in the end. Thirteen different strands of story. It's a really cool exercise. So check that out if you haven't! 

I didn’t even hear about it, so I am now very intrigued to play with this, too. 

It's a bit fanservice-y at some points, too. The guys who made it are the same people who made Dragon's Crown. There's some solid stuff there. 

Would you say that you are more into the RPG kind of games?

Yeah, but I’m a big shooter fan as well. I played a lot of COD (Call of Duty) growing up, and that was with all my actor mates, we all played it. Then we moved on to Halo, then went back to COD again, and then we went to play Fortnite for a second. Now, we are all on Apex, which is like hours out of our day. I also played some League of Legends. I won’t even pretend that the fanbase and community can not be incredibly toxic, and that’s what drove me away from League: the toxicity. When we were shooting TFATWS, I jumped back into a game of it with my stunt double because he plays League. Our first game out of the gate was so toxic, they were just… [he shook his head]

Oh no…

So I was like, "I remember why I left now." So I went to play Heroes of the Storm and that one is much less toxic. And it is easier, quicker and a little more casual.

Desmond Chiam and Lily K
Desmond Chiam and Lily K during the very fun interview, aka when 2 nerds come together.

If you would get the chance to be a voice in a video game, would you do that? 

Absolutely. Yeah, wink, wink. I would, in a heartbeat. Voice acting is a whole other barrel of fish, but it's fun because you can do stuff that's outside yourself, you know. Like, I have a particular timbre in my voice, I know that, and it lends itself to certain things on screen. But sometimes, you just "want to be the wacky gnome" [spoken in a wacky gnome voice]. And we get those auditions sometimes through my VO people where I’m just like, "I'm gonna swing for the fences 'cause I don't get to do this any other time." Oh he’s an underwater imp who resurfaces once every six years as a troublemaker? Oh yeah, we can do some crazy voice for this. So much fun. 

Any favorite voice actors out there? 

Troy Baker was one of the entries into the world of VO, the idea of being able to do it. He is a dedicated VO artist. Him and Nolan North were the two VO artists whose careers I was like: "Oh look, check that out." Far Cry 4 and all that. Shout out to them, really! 

Let's talk about your most recent high-profile acting role for a bit. How did you get the role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Did you know what you were auditioning for? You do such a fantastic job there.

Desmond Chiam and Erin Kellyman in TFATWS
Desmond Chiam and Erin Kellyman in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

Thank you, I appreciate that. Not gonna lie, it's not a big part, but it's important to do the work: there are no small scenes, there are only small actors. Marvel brings a certain quality, and that requires even the smaller parts to really do the work. Having led a series before, there's no less work that goes into this type of part than being number 2 or number 1 on the call sheet. You have to bring it every time. 

I did know I was auditioning for Marvel, but we didn’t know what it was for. There were code names for the project and the roles. We had no idea what we were in for. There was a really real feeling to it all. I had an inkling of the sides being so real, and every day I'm thinking, "Surely, this must be the most human corner of the Marvel Universe, which is Cap's corner of the universe." Based on that feeling, I was very excited. 

Jason Stamey and Sarah Finn were the casting directors. I worked with Jason through it, and he provided a very open, very lovely room. They let you do your work, they don't pressure you. I don't like working with casting directors who are cynical about actors and the whole process. Their job is to find the best performance from the best actor, and a lot of them justify what they’re doing with "Oh, we just need to see if they can perform under pressure." No, no. Those people are just cynical at that point and they're not trying to help. Jason is the opposite of that. He lets you do your work and it’s effortless. You’re feeling the nerves walking in, but you don’t feel them walking out. 

Desmond Chiam, photo by DFree

So we did that, and then we just waited for a few weeks. It sort of fell out of my head, and then suddenly, I got a call at the gym, out of all places. I was there with my wife and I hadn’t told her that I was out for anything, let alone Marvel. 

My manager was like, "Hey, we have an offer. It's for Marvel. And it's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." 

I was like, "I KNOW WHAT THAT IS! YOU DON'T NEED TO TELL ME!" 

And she’s like, "Ok, hang on, I have to talk to casting real quick but I'll be back with you in a sec." 

We hung up and I was like, "Marvel called, Marvel called!" 

I am sitting there, freaking out, and my wife asks, "What are you talking about? Marvel called? You have Marvel on speed dial? They're just gonna call you? Yeah, sure man, sure." So then she starts freaking out, too.

And I'm there in the gym, on the floor, almost dying. I remember this so distinctively: these three gym bros, 6-foot Hemsworth bodies, they come over and they are like, "Dude, are you ok? You need to sit up, you gotta get your blood going, you can't lie down! Make sure you're alright." They’re giving me water. 

I tell them, "You guys are so lovely. I haven't injured myself, I'm good, I'm good.” It was a really nice moment with my wife being there and shoving it to toxic masculinity. Big gym bros can be lovely, lovely people, too. 

That is so awesome! Can you share a favorite The Falcon and the Winter Soldier memory for the Replayers? 

You know what? I will share an exciting one, and then I share a really fun one. 

TFATWS tractor-trailer fight scene
That memorable fight scene from TFATWS on top of two tractor-trailers.

The exciting one was—and I don’t think that made it into the final cut—there’s a scene, in episode 2 with the trucks that we were fighting on. There's actually a scene before that where we steal them. It's me and Matias. We break into this place, we pull this chain link fence apart with just our bare hands, and then we get under the trucks and lift them. And they did that practically. They set everything up on hydraulics and stuff and had us do the lifting. These were massive semi trailers. That was a moment where it just felt powerful. I knew that it was hydraulics doing it, but if you are ever feeling down about your physical ability, just have Marvel rig you up a couple of special effects trucks. You'll be like, "Yeah, I'm really strong." You're gonna feel good about yourself for the rest of the day. 

The other one was, honestly, hanging out with the Flag Smashers. We did film somewhere in Europe, and we just wandered the city for like a whole day. Just hanging out and having fun, chilling in the park. It was so nice to be with friends in a cool, fun place. I will treasure that. That's not something you get on every set. 

Thanks so much for taking time with us, Desmond! Now grab that controller, Apex is waiting!

Desmond and I talked a little more after wrapping up the interview, and I can honestly say that he's a shining example of "if you work for your dream, there’s nothing that can stop you, no matter when you start or you get in the game." He is a true geek at heart who enjoys the process of film making just as much as sitting down and watching a good movie or TV show or playing some cool video games. He wants to play a Space Cowboy and has a serious obsession with Firefly, and I completely understand both. It was an absolute honour to chat with Desmond, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. I am sure that he will do even more great things. 

Desmond Chiam with Alan Tudyk in Con Man
Desmond Chiam with Alan Tudyk in Con Man

Follow @deschiam on Twitter and Instagram, and don't miss his performance in Reef Break, where he plays a lead role. The Shannara Chronicles is my personal favorite performance from him, and his character, Riga, was created for the series (he wasn’t in the books)! If you share the Replayer love for Con Man, go back and rewatch Desmond as one of the auditioners in Season 2, Episode 6 "Gum Drop." And, of course, definitely check him out in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier if you haven't already.

What are your favorite performances from Desmond Chiam, and what would you like to see him do next? Let's chat in the comments.

The Future of the MCU

The MCU. Love it or hate it, you simply can’t deny its effect on how movies have changed thanks to its "planning way ahead of time" strategy. Let’s be fair here, other big franchises are trying to do exactly what the MCU has done successfully. 

10 years of character, story, and world-building came together in Infinity War and Endgame and once it all came to a conclusion some people rightfully asked: ‘What now?’ I am one of those people who blindly believe in their favorite creators and let me tell you… I wholeheartedly believe in Kevin Feige. He is an absolute genius in my eyes. And trust me, I don’t call many people that. So even when they started announcing the new MCU titles I cheered like a 5-year old even though I had never heard of some of them and a few just seem downright strange. (Doctor Strange… get it? Not funny? Fine.) WandaVision was one of the titles where I was like: ‘I don’t know how I feel about this’.

Truth is that I’ve never really cared about Wanda or Vision on the same level as I cared for Captain America (who’s my absolute favorite) or Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spidey and I could go on. It’s not that I disliked their characters oh no… no. I can assure you that I wept like a child at the end of Infinity War. I also adore Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, but logically, Vision’s dead, and Wanda is grieving so what could this show possibly be about and how are they back together and why does it look like a sitcom and there were so many more questions. Then it simply arrived on Disney Plus and officially blew away almost everyone who sat down and watched it every Friday.

Still for the final episode of WandaVision

The care that went into the story and the building of this post-blip era showed from the beginning to the end. Wanda’s struggle and how they chose to tell her story after losing everyone she loved is probably the smartest decision they’ve ever made at the MCU and it was the perfect opening to Phase 4 without any question or doubt. I think one quote from the series says it all: 


What is grief, if not love persevering?” 

WandaVision closed down its run perfectly by leaving open many questions and creating new possibilities for the future. So what is the future of the MCU? 

By the time this article sees the light of day, it is highly possible that the next chapter of the MCU has already started its run with ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’. Yet another TV Show with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan returning as the titular heroes and probably the best duo on screen. If you want to watch something funny dear readers, you should watch interviews with Mackie and Stan because they are absolutely hilarious together so I am expecting some great laughs from them. How their story will affect phase 4 is another interesting question. We left them at the crucial moment where Steve Rogers handed his shield to Sam (The Falcon). We also know that Winter Soldier and Falcon are not exactly friends (the co-worker's promo hints at this even more and it’s hilarious) and that they might have a bit of a harder time working together (I am sensing a type of buddy-comedy that I am honestly dying to see). I personally LOVE that Zemo (Daniel Brühl) from Civil War is back. I think he is definitely in the top 5 MCU villains list (even if we could argue whether he is a villain or not). It will be interesting to see how he has changed since we last saw him. The fact that he chose a purple mask to instill fear in people by evoking Thanos already gives away a bit of his character. The question with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is how much connectivity will it have to WandaVision and then how will later projects connect with it. I mean, sure, this is the question in every case when it comes to the MCU, but I believe that now that we have the TV shows next to the movies and the knowledge that WandaVision will heavily connect to Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and Spiderman… well, it begs the question. Are we getting even more connections than we are used to? Will there be an even bigger web to unfold when it comes to connecting the lines? Let’s look at it this way. 

WandaVision -> Other projects -> confirmed connection 

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier -> Other projects -> High possibility of connection 

Loki -> Other projects -> Big question 

Let’s stop here. We know that Loki is the very same Loki who got away with the tesseract when the time heist went a bit wrong on Tony, Steve, Scott, and Bruce’s end. Therefore, if we go by what they said about time travel and its rules in Endgame, it means that whatever happens with Loki happens on a different timeline meaning that it won’t have an effect on what happens in other MCU titles. Unless they pull a trick on us, logically Loki is a standalone series that’s bringing back everyone’s favorite God of Mischief. I might be completely wrong and then you are free to refer back to this article if I go into denial.

 
Another title that we can be pretty sure about is Black Widow. Sure there are theories out there (mine included) but as far as we are all concerned Black Widow takes place before Natasha becomes an Avenger. It will also be the first MCU movie to drop in Phase 4 so I’m just saying, anything is possible. 

We have two more familiar faces showing up this year. Hawkeye with his series and Spiderman with his movie. Hawkeye is still a bit of a mystery and we know that Kate Bishop will enter the MCU through it (played by the amazing Hailee Steinfeld) but story-wise they are keeping everything a secret. Spiderman, however, will possibly be our first official look into the multiverse if we believe all the casting news of course. News? Or just rumors? Or even better an elaborate marketing campaign to get people even more hyped (even if I don’t know how that could be possible)? 

What really interests me are the new heroes that will get introduced this year. Shang-Chi, the master of Kung Fu, will be the first one to arrive. He first appeared in 1973 in Marvel Comics but his first solo comic didn’t come out until 1983. Seeing his story come to life in the MCU opens new possibilities for them to expand their world in a new direction. It will be interesting to see how he will become part of the Avengers team or if he will become part of the team at all. 

The other newcomers this year who will open a completely new world will be the Eternals. Their story is one of the greatest from Marvel and I have to be honest, it’s one of my personal favorites next to Captain America.  When they announced it and when Angelina Jolie stepped on the stage, I almost fainted. Jolie is something of a hero for me and I look up to her in many respects, so I think I can safely say that I am very VERY excited to see this movie. There’s one more actor they cast in this movie that I am really excited about, Ma Dong-Seok. Being a major Korean cinema fan, it was mind-blowing to see him among the cast. He is an excellent actor and I would highly recommend checking out his work in other movies including Train to Busan (Busanhaeng). Important to note is the arrival of the first deaf superhero in the MCU played by Lauren Ridloff who is a well-known deaf actress (The Walking Dead, Sound of Metal). 

Another great thing about Eternals is the director: Chloé Zhao who’s now on a winning streak for her beautiful movie Nomadland. Seeing her step into the director’s chair gives even more hope for this movie (even though we already established that I have blind faith in Marvel :D). 

The cast of Eternals and their director Chloé Zhao at SDCC


The future of the MCU doesn’t stop in 2021 though. We could go on and on about what’s to come and just to give you all a brief look through: 

Captain Marvel 2

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

She-Hulk

Blade

Ms. Marvel

Thor: Love and Thunder

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

What if…?

Secret Invasion

Armor Wars

Black Panther 2

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

If you ask me, a completely biased fan of the MCU, I would say that the future couldn’t be any brighter and that it’s an amazing time to be a fan of these films. Seeing how their shows and films make a lot of people utterly excited and gives them a platform to create theories of their own is beautiful, to say the least. Even the weaker entries into this big build-up are welcomed and will find their footing in the Universe. Knowing that they plan years ahead with their stories and how they build up their characters is what makes them special for me and the reason I trust them, without a doubt. 

It is an amazing time to be a Marvel fan. 

What is your favorite Marvel character and what movie or TV show are you most looking forward to?

SPOILERS and YOU: A Guide to "Twists"

Vader is Luke’s bad guy. Rosebud was the name of a 2-hour long question. From the beginning, Bruce Willis was in the movie the WHOLE time. 

We live in a time of SPOILERS everywhere. One of the big questions about it, if you haven’t heard, is "Does knowing the twist of a movie or video game actually ruin the whole story for you? Or was the whole thing only hanging on the twist alone, making the story weak by comparison.”  Well, much like buttholes, everyone has an opinion. And I have a butthole because I’m one of those "everyones." So, let’s explore my… "opinion" in this article, which I’m certain no one asked for.

Here’s a short story for you to set up the discussion:

A woman walks into a room with a glass of wine, sits next to her husband, and says, “I love you so much. I just want you to know that I couldn’t make it without you.” The husband says, “Is that you talking, or the wine?” The woman says, “Neither. It's me talking to the wine.” (pause for laughter)

This is an example of subverting expectations, otherwise called "the twist." This twist is what can be "spoiled" for an audience if they know about it before experiencing it. 

Let's science this bitch.

Expectation subversion a commonly-used tool in telling jokes. You set up the story and tell it in a way that forces the audience to logically think of how it's going to end. By the end of it, you have presented a "twist," forcing the audience to rethink the story and see it in a new way with new information. In joke-telling, you have to make this new information work without the need to think too long about it. It needs to hit quickly, register fast, and invite the audience to laugh at the jab. The audience laughs not because they were tricked but because they feel rewarded for deciphering the information correctly. 

And that's the word I want you to focus on when it comes to the twist: the REWARD

Ok, lesson over. 

Now my big question: Is giving key information about a story actually spoiling that rewarding experience?

Let’s take that concept of reward and try to contextualize it to a shared experience. Given the subject matter, I believe many people familiar with this website and its contents have completed a little unknown Indie video game called Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. If not, get the hell off the internet and go play this masterpiece of a game and have your life changed forever. NOW! If you prefer to trudge on, please be forewarned: MAJOR ACTUAL SPOILERS AHEAD! Let's do this.

So after Nathan Drake dies… ok, just kidding (always wanted to do that). 

Zoran Lazarević: A mug only a mother can love... after a whole bottle.

The entirety of Uncharted 2 tells you the story of Nathan Drake and company trying to blah blah blah. If you made it to this part, you know the story. The point is that the focus of the story always sustained itself to one primary objective: finding the Cintamani stone. The only character that actually knew what was going on was the antagonist, Zoran Lazarebitch (great joke, and I don’t know how to do the accented c on my keyboard). When you finally realize what all the cryptic information about the stone actually meant and what it did, it was a proverbial "kick to the nuts."

I’ll never forget what I felt when Drake said, "You gotta be shittin' me," after realizing the stone's true purpose. When he knew something was up, I knew something was up. When he received the new info, I figured it out with him. Granted, he was quicker than me to grasp the concept, and then he told me, but I was there for the ride every step of the way. WE earned this together. And everything in my soul felt that reward. This is subversion done correctly.

So, for Uncharted 2, is knowing this key information spoiling the rewarding experience?

Well... EVERYTHING about the information gained in your first playthrough affects how you experience the story on the second playthrough. Noticing the twist being foreshadowed throughout the game and putting the information together actually AMPLIFIES the reward felt each time you play it. That’s why so many people play the game multiple times a year even to this day.

That's why I'd refer to this as "good" subversion.

Now for an example of bad subversion (dun dun duuuuuun). For this one, I'm going to exploit my headache-inducing memory at the expense of making my article work: Game of Thrones' series ending. (Sorry, Michelle!) Obviously, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Honestly, this would have been an improvement.

Unlike Uncharted 2, the Game of Thrones series is all over the place. There are characters making decisions on things everywhere for different reasons all the time. When they eventually act on those decisions, their actions are arbitrary at best. If you think about their actions for more than half a nanosecond, you'll notice toward the end of the series that all the characters started acting in different ways (like complete dumbasses) than we recognize because they needed to get to the predetermined (bad) ending the show-runners created. The result was that every character's decision was forced to trigger that "twist effect.

When the subversion itself is done well, as in Uncharted 2, the media in question gets noticed and elevated to artistic ranks. It’s no wonder why everyone is trying to capitalize on this "expectation subversion" mechanic. But when you continue to do the "expectations" part for years and then "subvert" only in the final minutes, it has an opposite effect on the people taking in the information: they feel no reward and, instead, feel cheated.

So how does knowing Game of Thrones' key information affecting that rewarding experience?

The setups were cheap thrills that kept me watching through the end of the series but then left me feeling punished for retaining all that info by the end, making me a sad, sad boy. Many current shows are actually guilty of this same tactic. And that’s by design. Not the sucking part, but trying to keep people guessing and then forcing the twist at the end. Bad subversion.

By the way, if you're loving this topic, dive into it more in this video from Overly Sarcastic Productions, which inspired my article: Trope Talk: Plot Twists.

So, knowing the twist in a story will absolutely change the experience. That said, it can either hurt or enhance your experience. If I spoiled the punch line of the joke at the beginning for you, it wouldn't have had the same impact. It would have weakened your experience and cheated you out of a laugh. Knowing the end of Uncharted 2 won't lessen the impact of such an incredible story because you need the whole story for the impact to matter. In contrast, knowing the end to Game of Thrones does spoil the ending because you know that the cheap thrills they give you aren't leading to a rewarding payoff.

People will experience things differently, that much is known. People also want to have control over how they consume those experiences. When someone changes that organic experience for someone else by forcing information on them about a story, it can rob them of the intended emotions created by the storyteller. Everyone has the right to choose what information they want going into a story, and that’s always fine. But please keep in mind not everyone thinks like you.

As a writer, I create stories that I hope will "wow" the audience. I want the reader to enjoy the journey, and I hope they'll want to return to that journey and experience a new kind of joy each time. Even if knowing the big "twist" doesn’t ruin their reward, it would deny them that FULL experience I initially intended. It robs them of that gut punch from the reveal, something that storytellers usually work very diligently to create. So, to all the people that get a rise out of spoiling things for others, I say this:  

Don't be asshats… um... please

You made it to the end! This is for those of you that didn’t TLDR.

What stories have you had spoiled for you? Or what are some great, or terrible, twists that you'd like to praise or vent about? Let's chat in the comments, but let’s try to keep things spoiler-free. (You know, like I didn’t.)

Unpopular Opinion Series, Level 1: Game of Thrones

Hello and welcome! This is the first of who-knows-how-many in a series of UNpopular opinions!  You might be thinking to yourself, “Why? What kind of opinions are we getting into, here?” Have no fear, the purpose of this series is to spark conversation and healthy debate over each article. I definitely want to clarify that if you disagree with my opinion, which I expect may happen, I am in no way demeaning, insulting, or bashing your thinking. I want this to be a fun place for us all to be able to share opinions that some people might just not agree with!  I expect there to be disagreements with what I write and ask for respect and healthy debate in the comments. Trolls be gone!  

So, without further stalling, let’s get started!

Here in Level 1, I'm tackling a smaller, potentially out-of-date reference. (The heavy hitters will be in future volumes, hehe.) Today, we're looking at Game of Thrones Season 8 and how it was actually quite satisfactory!

Note: There WILL be spoilers after this point. If you have any interest in watching this series through Season 8 and haven't yet done so, I highly recommend you do not continue in this article. You have a season to watch! Get to it!

Game of Thrones had its controversial final season in 2019. It raised quite a lot of irrational anger in the fans, and petitions to re-do the entire season. Since we're living in an age in which it’s as cool to hate something now as it was to smoke back in the 70s, this season was another victim. Others are calling it the "cancel culture." Now, while I do agree, and will always agree, that the last season was rushed, I don't think it was a terrible, unfocused ending that came out of the left field. In fact, it tied up loose ends quite nicely, followed storylines to full completion, and left others to the imagination. 

Let's break down the unpopular opinions for a closer look.

The Starks were victorious.

The remaining Stark siblings in their final season.

Beginning all the way back at Season 1, even Episode 1, the Lannister family was pinned as the villain. I mean, Jaime pushes Bran out of a window to close out the episode! This, then, begins the spin of the Stark family and their seemingly unfortunate demise. Sure, there could have been decisions made that prevented some of the tragedy ("Hi, Ned, DO NOT go to King's Landing and take your young daughters with you," for starters). However, the show and book set things up to where you would like the Stark family to be successful. Throughout the series, we follow the Stark family members through their trials and tribulations, cry with their tragedies, and rejoice in their victories (even if it's just one of them seeing another for the first time in 4 seasons *cough Arya and Jon cough*).

By the end of Season 8, the (remaining) Starks are victorious! Bran, of all people, is the King of Westeros. Sansa is Queen of the North. Arya gets her wish, to explore that which is west of Westeros, and Jon gets to live his life as the outsider he always felt he was. The Lannisters have been put in their place, including the always-charming and quite intelligent Tyrion. And the White Walkers have met their doom (EFF YEAH ARYA!). Is this not what we as an audience have wanted to see in the 7 years of this show?! 

Daenerys was "The Mad Queen" all along.

Daenarys after watching her closest friend beheaded by Cersei Lannister.

Heading back to Season 1 again, we see a small, quaint little girl that will grow to wreak havoc, destruction, and murder on King’s Landing. A lot of fans considered this a turn of character and did not believe it fit into her mold for Season 8. However, the entire series discusses the madness that runs within Targaryen's veins, and that she IS a direct offspring of "The Mad King." In Season 1, she has a very cold and calm reaction to her husband, Khal Drogo, viciously killing her only living (known at the time) kin and brother. Whilst his actions towards her are not desirable, to say the least, her demeanor of acceptance seems… odd, for such a quaint, innocent little lamb. 

While she did go forward through the series and free slaves, showing empathy and value to those others thought of as beneath them, those efforts were typically accompanied by large-scale destruction. For those who were unprepared for Daenarys’ decision to burn King’s Landing to the ground, I consider this:

Daenarys was raised as a sheltered young bird in Essos, far away from where her family had conquered land. She did not have parents because one was murdered and one died during her birth. She was sold into sex slavery by her brother who forced her to wed a Dothraki Khal expecting the Khalasar to become his army. Her life from then was a small bubble; her only desire was to reach Westeros, with all her actions attempting to get her there, surrounded by the same small group of people and beliefs. She never met a worthy foe and actively surrounded herself with folks that would support her and not oppose her. 

Once she reached Westeros, she felt she had a huge amount to prove. She was carrying the weight of her family line and legacy on her shoulders. Then, in the span of very little time, she thought she found love, which got ripped from her. She found out she was not as equipped at war as she had imagined. Her small group of comfort was growing to a large group of untrustworthy advisors (to her). She found a kind of opposition she had not experienced before (not being accepted by the people, and petty girl vs. girl stuff between her and Cersei and Sansa). She discovered a foe she was not prepared for. 

Then, she lost a child and a dragon, found out she was banging her nephew and lost her most trusted hand-maiden, advisor, and friend--all very quickly and close together. And y'all want to think she wasn't going to snap?! King’s Landing was the largest gesture of revenge, boasting, and proving herself she could have performed. Her thoughts were not on the people and place she was destroying. It was on the evil woman in the castle who had snapped the last straw and on her family legacy she was trying to uphold. Daenarys truly thought she was doing the right thing, which is what made it quite terrifying and convincing for me, and ultimately led to her death.

The Episode 3 lighting was perfect for its setting.

Still from Season 8, Episode 3, “The Long Night” when Arya saves the... night.

When Episode 3 aired, there was a buzz of people saying, "It's too dark!" Ok, for this one, it was filmed at night. It was filmed in 55-night shoots over 11 weeks! That is incredible work and dedication. I was SO excited for this episode, and I remember specifically the weekend it came out on was the same weekend that Marvel's Avengers: Endgame came out. Talk about a weekend! All nerd groups needed support systems and checks--we were not ok!  

While yes, it seemed difficult to follow the dragon fights in the air at times, the atmosphere presented made it perfect for what it was: blue flames and clouds, orange flames to counteract.  While I will say I was disappointed that the Azor Ahai and Lightbringer storyline did not come to fruition (if you're unfamiliar with that, check out this link), they were able to provide a HELL YES! and OMG! moment that left a lot of us with hands in the air and jaws dropped. Arya showing up and showing out was actually predicted in Season 3, Episode 6, when she first meets Melisandre who then predicts the color of eyes Arya will shut forever. As we know, Arya goes on a badass storyline of learning how to be a face-stealing ninja, and she follows through with Melisandre's prediction. Even the phrase from her dancing master in Season 1, Syrio Forel, seems to propel Arya toward becoming the Night King destroyer:  "What do we say to the God of death?" "Not today!"

Jaime and Cersei got the end they were destined for.

You will get no argument from me that Cersei definitely got off easy. Jaime's storyline was a bit weak in Season 8, however, it was also foretold. His love for Cersei won out. I don’t believe the roaring lion of the Lannister that his dad instilled in him ever really left, and he could not justify leaving her for good, let alone killing her. Though he did rip out our precious Brienne of Tarth's heart, she saw him for what he was and seemingly understood in the end. Jaime and Cersei dying in a crumpled heap below the castle that molded them was quite symbolic. What they both lived for and loved, killed them. For Cersei, it was herself and her power. That castle and the Red Keep gave her that. For Jaime, it was Cersei. I absolutely wanted to see some type of awful, gruesome death for them, however, the quiet symbolism was quite appropriate, even if unpopular.

There are several more items I could delve into, but these were definitely the most prominent points I wanted to make. I believe Season 8 of Game of Thrones, while yes, it was rushed, was a solid ending to the series, tying up loose ends and bringing conclusions to character arcs and storylines. 

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, and what you agree or disagree with!  Leave a comment below and let's discuss!

Avatar: The Last Airbender Rewatch (Book 1, Ep 1-2)

I have always been a person who has marveled in imagination, often wondering as a child whether all that we are seeing on television or in films is fact or fantasy. Nickelodeon was my television channel of choice growing up; their shows were strange yet always guaranteed a laugh from me. Although I enjoyed a lot of the shows on the channel, there was never anything that gripped me, piqued my interest, or let my imagination run free. 

Fast forward to 2005. I remember the day clearly, at the age of seven, sitting crossed-legged on the floor in front of the television ready to watch the new show that Nickelodeon had been advertising for the past few weeks: Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was shown as something that would truly have me gripped, with fantasy animals, bright colors, comedy, and, of course, the bending. Everything I was wanting in a program was right there in front of me. From the opening credits to the very last words from Zuko as the episode closed, I was HOOKED and ready for more. 

For those just hearing about the show, Avatar: The Last Airbender was a Nickelodeon animation created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. In the Avatar universe, the world is split into four nations: the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Air Nomads, and Fire Nation. Most individuals from each nation have the ability to manipulate the element of their nation. Only one person can control ALL four elements, and this is the Avatar. But as tensions rise between the nations and a war begins, the Avatar disappears and isn’t seen for one hundred years.

The story follows Aang, a twelve-year-old monk, who was discovered in an iceberg by a brother and sister from the Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara. After finding that Aang is the last Airbender, they also soon discover that he is, in fact, the Avatar, the only one who can stop the war and save the world. The children decide to team up and help Aang master the elements so he can complete this goal. This comes with some challenges as they are chased around the world by angsty Prince Zuko from the Fire Nation, who's set on the task to bring Aang to his father, the Fire Lord. The show received immense success, garnering 9.2 on IMDb and 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a massive cult following and an equally successful spin-off show The Legend of Korra

Katara and Sokka from the Southern Water Tribe

This show ended up becoming my favorite very quickly. At such a young age, I was not only enthralled by the concept of bending the four elements and the overall adventure, but I felt like I was learning along with the other characters, growing up with them and maturing as they did throughout the series. I had found the program I was looking for as a child, and I grew up rewatching and adoring every moment, still calling it my favorite show today.

Fast forward to 2021, lockdown is in full swing and driving everyone insane. It's fair to say we all need an escape. I looked no further than my favorite show, but I wasn’t going to do this alone. I posted a little tweet to the Twitterverse to any person who had not experienced the glory that was the Avatar world. My good friend and fellow nerd, Anthony, joined me in this rewatch, and we embarked on the first two episodes. We thought having a first-time watcher with a superfan would be something awesome. 

Prince Zuko from Book 1

From the get-go, we both loved it. Anthony and I agreed that the level of comedy was absolutely perfect: you could tell that it was a show made for children, but it didn’t go over the boundary of being “super cheesy”. The overall aspect of having the ability to master the elements was something we both found very interesting, and the ferocity of Zuko and the level-headedness of his uncle Iroh was very enjoyable. Anthony said he looks forward to seeing how their relationship plays out through the upcoming episodes. 

Another thing that Anthony brought up was how much he enjoyed Sokka as a character, he was very much the comic relief yet, he was left to be the man of the village, as he was the only man and warrior left while his father along with the rest of the men are currently fighting in the war. Sokka didn’t have to stand up to Prince Zuko when he arrived at the South Pole, but he felt as if it was his duty to himself and the defenseless tribe. Although their standoff was quick, it was memorable, and it had the perfect amount of comedy and action to keep us glued to our screens. 

Aang flying with his glider

Aang was a super fun character, and his energy was so infectious. Anthony wasn’t sure how he was going to fare in the fight, so seeing him take on numerous amounts of Zuko’s men with his hands tied behind his back was amazing. Although the fight scenes are mostly fast-paced, it didn’t feel like you were missing anything. In a weird way, it made me feel like a little kid again, getting so excited by the action and bright colors of the water and fire. 

The moment that stood out the most for us was when we saw Aang go into the “Avatar State” for the first time. We were both at the edge of our seats begging with Katara as she called out Aang's name when he was knocked off Zuko’s ship. When his eyes and tattoos began to glow we both started shouting out in not just relief but amazement. Watching this little kid create a whirlpool as he shot himself back onto the ship was insane, and it definitely brought out our inner children! 

I asked Anthony if he enjoyed the show and was up for watching the next episode, “The Southern Air Temple.” He agreed, and he said he was already really enjoying it and could see where the hype was coming from. He wanted to see how Aang was going to develop as a character and Avatar and see if he would grow out of his goofiness as the series progresses. I told him that there will absolutely be growth from all the characters throughout the show. Already, Anthony says that Uncle Iroh is the best character and, although he seems like a level-headed soul, he can imagine he’s also a badass. Without spoiling too much, I will say he is 100% correct there! 

Katara and Sokka discover a child trapped in an iceberg

We look forward to watching the next episodes during our weekly rewatches. Of course, if I was doing this alone, I would be deep into a full-on binging session right about now. But I'm finding it so much more fun introducing such a beloved series and piece of art to fresh eyes. It's pretty hard to not spoil things and get too biased and overexcited, but we’ll see how that goes! 

We hope to see more people join us as we watch each week and discuss the episode at around 7 p.m. GMT on this Discord server. I will be filming and writing our thoughts in the hopes others will join us!  

If you've seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, what were your initial impressions seeing those first few episodes? Share your experiences in the comments!