There’s a battle brewing, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television. If you’re too weak to resist, UnBinged is here to help, telling you what to hate, what to love and what to love to hate.
In lieu of a Comic-Con this year, fans of sci-fi sagas, fantastic fables, Marvel Comics, and universes far, far away only have to turn to their televisions to get their fix. This month, UnBinged takes a look at the latest branch of the Star Wars universe, a modern-day fantasy from Netflix, and a new series from the MCU.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney+)
Disney+’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch is the latest chapter in the ever-expanding Star Wars universe, as executive producers and series creators Dave Filoni and Jennifer Corbett prove once again that the best way for the Mouse House to grow their Star Wars interests is via the small screen.
Born from the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the series follows the exploits of Clone Force 99, a rag-tag group of “defective” clone troopers also known as “The Bad Batch.” The space saga follows squad members Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair and Echo (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) as they find themselves the unlikely caretakers of a little clone of their very own.
Recent theatrical outings have dulled the luster of the Star Wars universe for many due to muddled storytelling. But where the films may have faltered, television shows flourished. Disney has been slowly rebuilding faith in both the Star Wars story and the fan base on TV.
So where does The Bad Batch fall in this new world order?
The show follows a formula similar to the megahit The Mandalorian, taking an unlikely hero (actually, several of them), giving them parental responsibility, adding a few side missions, and watching hijinks ensue. But unlike The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch is a bit harder to binge.
The Mandalorian followed a template set by traditional Westerns and Kurosawa films, creating a framework that could stand on its own, even with only a vague understanding of the original Star Wars trilogy. And while Batch is meticulously made, it would be difficult to comprehend without first binging the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars. One must almost choke on a steady diet of Star Wars in order to grasp the premise.
In the end, The Bad Batch is a fun outing for hardcore Star Wars fans who want to know every aspect of the universe. But for those who are just looking for another Mandalorian, well, these are not the clones you are looking for.
Sweet Tooth (Netflix)
Adapted by Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are) and Beth Schwartz (Arrow) from the popular DC Comic, and exec produced by Susan and Robert Downey Jr., Netflix’s Sweet Tooth is a bittersweet tale about a human-animal hybrid boy born to a world on the brink of extinction. But the series is much more than an apocalyptic tale (of which there are many these days). It is a story filled with heart and soul that carries with it an important message.
It’s centered on Gus (Christian Convery) – nicknamed Sweet Tooth due to his love of refined sugar – a young deer-boy raised in isolation by “Pubba” (Will Forte) while a deadly virus ravages the globe. As humanity fights to survive, it is discovered that half animal-half human hybrid babies born at this time seem impervious to the pandemic. They are looked upon with scorn and as populations are divided and form sects, these new children are hunted and experimented on in hopes of finding a cure.
Fans of the comic will notice that the series doesn’t follow the source material. Story arcs, character backstories and motivations, as well as many of the darker elements of the tale, have been changed or completely eradicated. But the essence of the story is still intact thanks in no small part to Convery, who bears the weight of the show with as much grace as the antlers on his noggin. His character’s innocence and earnestness is mesmerizing as he gently guides viewers through the horrors of his journey.
Furthermore, the beauty of the CGI landscapes, the gentle narration provided by James Brolin, and the warm tones used throughout each episode enhance the fairy tale aspects, creating a family-friendly tale that can still be dark at times, but not soul-destroying or scarring for the kiddos (we’re looking at you, Watership Down).
It is the right time and place for Sweet Tooth. The discarded darker elements of the source material give the saga a softer edge, creating something more palpable for viewers to understand. The end result is an elegant and touching hero’s journey with a clear message: That which should have brought us together tore us apart … but it doesn’t have to. We can do better.
“What makes Loki tick?” It’s a valid question for fans of the Marvel Universe, and it turns out, the answer makes for a great TV show. Disney+’s Loki picks up from when we last saw the character in Avengers: Endgame, as his 2012 timeline counterpart picks up the Tesseract after the Battle of New York and moseys away. But this act of defiance did more than just keep the Trickster God (mischievously played by Tom Hiddleston) alive and well in the MCU. It nabbed the attention of the Time Variance Authority, a force so great that Infinity Stones are nothing more than pretty paperweights that tend to clutter their desks. They are a cosmic administration charged with protecting “the Sacred Timeline,” the single timetable the entire Multiverse must follow. And to do this, the TVA must keep “Variants” in check, such as our dear Loki.
Left in the hands of TVA Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), Loki is given a new part to play. Taking a page from the 48 Hour playbook by using a criminal to catch a criminal, Loki must use his experience as a devious scamp to track other Variants, thus reshaping his role in the MCU.
Once again, Marvel is leaning on a Disney+ show to do the heavy lifting for future film endeavors. Loki allows Hiddleston to fully explore the character, who is reset here to his early 2010s bad-boy version, giving him the chance to flex his acting chops in a role he was clearly born to play. In addition to Hiddleston’s screen savvy, Wilson’s gentle ribbing and calm temperament works beautifully against the titular lead’s god complex.
In addition to its actor chemistry, Loki also excels in world-building, exploring the layers of the TVA in all of its red taped bureaucratic bullshit glory. As Loki himself states, “No one bad is ever truly bad, and no one good is ever truly good.” This is the character in a nutshell. He’s as complex as he is entertaining. The jury is out on Thor’s adopted brother, but one thing is for sure – the show about him is very, very good. (New episodes of Loki air Wednesdays on Disney+ until the finale on July 14).