Liam Hoofe ranks Marvel’s Phase Four Disney+ shows from worst to best…
Marvel’s Phase Four is finally in the history books. The phase was the biggest that the MCU has delivered to date, cramming in seven movies, eight TV shows, two presentation specials, and a mini-series in a little under two years. It’s been quite the run for the company, and many fans have felt a little bit of fatigue kicking in. However, the release of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special brings this run to an end and gives audiences a chance to take a breather before starting all over again with Phase Five.
Let’s use this time to take a look back at all of the TV shows and specials that have aired on Disney+ since WandaVision hit our screens in January 2021 and rank them all from worst to best…
11: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
I love Guardians of the Galaxy. Both the original and the sequel are comfortably among my favourite MCU movies. I also love pretty much everything else James Gunn has done outside the MCU.
Sadly, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special felt like a major disappointment. The whole thing felt lifeless, with forced laughs and a repetitive story. The attempts to inject some heart into things never really connected, and the extended sequence on Earth felt very one-note. This was easily the worst MCU show of Phase Four.
10: I Am Groot
It seems unfair to judge five short episodes against the other shows that were released in Phase Four. These were shorts that didn’t really add anything to the overall MCU but showcased some nice animation and no doubt drew in some younger eyes to the product. Groot is the franchise’s de-facto cute character, and this kind of format serves him nicely.
9: Werewolf by Night
Werewolf by Night was an attempt at something different by Marvel, and it’s fair to say that the results were a little mixed. It was the studio’s first Special Presentation feature, and it was a far cry from anything they’d done in the past.
Michael Giacchino, the award-winning composer, was put in the director’s seat for the first time in his career, and he showed that he is definitely a man of many talents in the role. The film was shot in gorgeous black and white, and it paid homage to many of the great horror movies of yesteryear.
However, the whole thing felt a little thin on the ground from a narrative perspective, and even at a short run-time, felt a little repetitive and uninspired by the end. Horror fans will no doubt have some fun with this, but in the greater scheme of things, it ended up being one of the more forgettable offerings in Phase Four.
8: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
It’s fair to say that Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Your enjoyment of the show is really going to come down to how well you get along with its sense of humour, with the show combining courtroom drama tropes with some fourth-wall-breaking antics.
There were definitely some very interesting decisions made throughout the series. Matt Murdock made his reappearance in the MCU, excluding a brief cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and it was definitely not what fans expected. We found out about Captain America losing his virginity, saw She-Hulk twerk with Megan Thee Stallion, and discovered Hulk has a son. This was all before a hugely meta-appearance from Kevin Feige as a robot controlling the show.
If there is one thing the show can’t be accused of, it’s playing it safe, and that certainly got some mixed results. On the whole, though, it makes for some intriguing watches and is worth your time.
7: The Falcon and the Winter Solider
Following hot on the heels of WandaVision was Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The series focused on Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes following the events of Avengers: Endgame. This was easily the most politically charged show in the MCU, providing audiences with an examination of what exactly Captain America represented in the US, and how political forces can manipulate these ideals.
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have great chemistry on-screen, while the return of Daniel Bruhl also provided the show with some of its best moments. This felt like one of the quieter entries in Phase Four, but it did what it needed to do – which was establish Anthony Mackie as the new Captain America for the franchise.
6: Moon Knight
Moon Knight felt like one of the more experimental outings from the MCU during this phase, and the use of top-tier actors like Ethan Hawke and Oscar Isaac only added to its quality. The mythical elements of the MCU were something that had not been explored before, and there is a very good chance the characters will return to the MCU if we meet Rama-Tut, one of Kang’s variants.
While there were elements of the show that felt a bit repetitive, this was, on the whole, one of the more interesting additions to the MCU in Phase Four. This Phase spent a lot of time introducing us to new characters and worlds, and Moon Knight is definitely one of the ones with the most potential going forward.
Let’s not beat around the bush, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye has always been the least interesting of the original Avenger’s line-up. His character was given more to do during Endgame, but he felt like an afterthought by the time the end credits rolled.
It’s funny then, that he also ends up being the least interesting thing in a show that is named after him. Hawkeye is a really fun show, and it’s one that introduced us to several new MCU characters.
Firstly, there is Kate Bishop, who is set to become the new Hawkeye moving forward. There was also more screen time for Florence Pugh’s Yelena, and we also saw the return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. This is a lot to cram into a few episodes but the show manages to juggle it all quite effectively, and it promises some interesting things for the future.
4: Ms. Marvel
Marvel has used the TV shows to introduce us to a lot more characters in Phase Four, and one of them was Kamala Khan’s Ms Marvel. This was definitely one of the more light-hearted additions to the MCU during this phase, and the show was one of the easiest watches. Sure, it was a fairly standard origin story, but it highlighted a different culture and injected plenty of humour into things as well. It felt like one of the more important shows culturally for the MCU.
Despite its breezy style, the show has plenty of bigger implications for the MCU, not least of which was the reveal that Khan was a mutant, complete with X-men intro music, in the season finale. It also sets up The Marvels quite nicely for next year.
3: What If…?
What If…? was the MCU’s first attempt at an animated show, and unsurprisingly, it was a big success. The show told six alternative historical versions of the MCU as we know it. This included a fun Zombies episode, a new take on Captain America, and a brilliant and tragic tale based around Doctor Strange.
Jeffrey Wright also made his debut in the franchise as The Watcher and was an instant stand-out; his commanding narration held everything together nicely. Marvel has since commissioned a second series and has also announced several other animated shows including X-Men and Spider-Man spin-offs. If nothing else, this was also a brilliant showcase of just what Marvel could do with a multiverse at its disposal.
Loki has always been one of the MCU’s best characters, and his first solo season is one of the best TV outings for the franchise. The series also introduced us to the Time Variant Authority and the concept of multiverses, making it essential viewing if you want to keep up with the MCU as a whole.
Of course, it also introduced us to Jonathan Major’s Kang the Conquerer, appearing as his ‘He Who Remains’ variant. The ending of the show also had some pretty big implications for the MCU going forward.
At just six-episodes long, Loki breezes by at a great pace and is easily one of the best shows that the MCU has produced.
Marvel really hit the ground running with their first real TV show, WandaVision. The show was a whacky mix of genres and TV tropes that promised some bold storytelling and interesting narrative choices.
Sadly, the MCU never really lived up to this first, bold statement, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that WandaVision was brilliant. The introduction of Agatha Harkness was so well-received that Disney immediately greenlit a spin-off, and it was also the first time we saw a crossover from one of the non-MCU-owned Marvel universes. Of all of the shows, it felt like the one where we needed to tune in the following week to see what was coming. It was bold and unpredictable, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of shows or movies in Phase Four.
WandaVision set a benchmark for the MCU on TV that, as of the time of writing, it has never quite managed to reach again.