That’s all the work I’m doing for this week. Bye.
No, I know that’s a cheap answer. So I’m going to outline the whole first season, to showcase the idea. It would be basically a marathon, where you start with one character and the person they team up with, that team-mate gets paired with someone else, that team-mate gets paired with someone else… until eventually you end up with the last character teaming up with the first to put the story to bed.
The roughest aspect, of course, is that it’s tough to know who would actually be game to do this kind of thing. As a one-off, maybe most of them, honestly, but I’ll stick to the middle-tier of characters/actors, those without their own solo-franchises, particularly; it also makes it more of a challenge.
1. Captain America (Falcon): Everybody thought Hydra was pretty much taken care of after the events of Age of Ultron. Even Cap stopped hunting them. But Bucky goes missing. Falcon America interrupts a white supremacist meeting, planning the kidnapping of a governor. At first they assume it’s this plot that’s gotten his attention, but he instead asks about Bucky. A gunshot rings out, and the man he was interrogating dies. “Hell.”
One of the men Falcon knocked down gets back up, winding a balaclava off his face. It’s Tim Roth! And he’s becoming green, transforming into Abomination (looking more frog-like, and more reminiscent to his comics design than the one from Incredible). “Oh f-” Sam manages to raise his wings and the shield, and it buys him just enough protection that he survives the punch that knocks him out of the building and into a tree. Sam struggles to his feet then tries to spread his wings, but they’re destroyed.
Zoom in on Captain Falcon, barely able to move, trying to hail help over the radio, as the Abomination moves closer. Cap is in and out, blacking out several times as Abomination moves closer. Abomination lifts him up, and things are looking bad. We start to hear a high-pitched whistle, and suddenly Abomination is flattened by a big green foot on his face. Sam falls to the ground, and is again, in and out as the fighting happens behind him. He’s helped off the ground, by a woman who, it turns out, is taller than he is, and he realizes she’s steadying him with 1 green hand: She-Hulk. She asks if he can stand; he says he can, and tries to, only to start to fall; she catches him, then steadies him against the tree, and tells him she should only be a moment.
She-Hulk and Hulk tag-team the Abomination; realizing he’s outgunned, he runs. They take Sam back to his headquarters, and explain they just happened to be in town. He asks if he can have some back-up, in case he needs the help; if they’re hiding a hulk, who knows what else they might have up their sleeve. Hulk has another obligation, but Jen offers to stick around. Sam passes back out.
She-Hulk is there, with Night Nurse (I’m happy to have the Netflix version back, but I’m also okay to recast- in fact, that might be my preference, because Rosario Dawson is too cool to use as just Night Nurse, if we can convince her to take on a meatier character). She’s been keeping tabs on Sam.
And She-Hulk has made progress, using the law to track the safehouse Sam busted into to the organization that was paying the rent through several shell corporations. She offers to go it alone, since Sam is still laid up. He refuses, and forces himself, albeit a bit wobbly, to his feet.
This facility is more modern and expensive, concrete bunkers and sci fi garbage. They fight their way inside. At one point, they’re separated, and one of the soldiers Sam dispatches stands back up, glowing, because he’s been injected with Extremis. “This dude’s glowing. I don’t think he’s supposed to be-” the Extremis soldier explodes.
Sam is in a coma at the end of the episode.
Which we fix in the opening scene of the second, as his eyes open. Yelena Bolova, the new Black Widow, is standing over Sam’s hospital bed. Given her mercenary history, we should wait a beat, let the audience think she’s there to finish the job, until we reveal she’s drinking a mug of cocoa.
She-Hulk reached out to Sam’s and Steve’s contacts, and Yelena was the first to respond. She’s also got a PI investigating leads from the crater formerly known as the Hydra base they infiltrated. At that moment, Jessica Jones pops in to give her the lowdown (Kristen Ritter was great in the role, so I’m happy to keep her for the cameo; bonus points if she’s got Hellcat in tow).
Anyway, we continue in this fashion, characters handing off the baton when their partner is better qualified to carry on with someone new; it turns out, telling everyone that Cap got hurt brings basically the entire MCU running, so they have their pick of partners, hence the revolving door. The partners, generally, having some kind of fish-out-of-water/odd couple contrast. I’ll rundown the episode pairings, and generally what would make them fun to watch:
- Captain America (Falcon)/She-Hulk: This one is fun because She-Hulk is irreverent, and Sam is walking around with two sticks up his butt- the first because he was a military guy and always at least a little serious, and the second because he’s still settling in as Captain America, so he’s still trying to out-Cap Cap, and not let on how out of his depth he is on this one.
- She-Hulk/Black Widow: Yelena is the less cuddly version of Black Widow, so her partnered with She-Hulk, the cuddlier Hulk, is kind of like a bizarro version of the relationship of their related characters from Age of Ultron. She-Hulk is also very moral, in a very legalistic way, whereas Yelena is all about shades of gray, and doing whatever the hell works. She also feels like Natasha would want her to do whatever she could for Cap, so she’s extra driven, both to prove herself and to prove she can fill her sister’s shoes.
- Black Widow/Photon: Photon is a by-the-books, above-board military operator raised in a military family. Yelena is a sneak up and knife them in the middle of the night spy. One is reasonably sunny and superpowered, the other relies on guile and Russian severity to survive. Because they are the least well-equipped to handle it, experience-wise, I’d have them discover M.O.D.O.K., having corrupted one of the Hydra cells and using it to create his A.I.M. offshoot, and being utterly, utterly horrified. I’d still have him played by Patton Oswalt, because he’s kind of perfect, just mo-cap him into a CG monstrosity and let him run.
- Photon/Human Torch: Photon takes the information they get from M.O.D.O.K. and takes it to Four Freedoms Plaza, hoping her friend Reed Richards can help with things. But Reed and the rest of the FF have all gone off to save the world. Except for Johnny. He’s a goofball and a kid, and she has discipline coming out of her butt (which is a medical condition in nonmilitary families). Johnny stayed behind to do something kind of silly and frivolous, like watch the Oscars or the Superbowl or something. So when presented with an opportunity to superhero, instead, he abandons it (maybe also hitting on Photon, a little, because Johnny). They attempt to use Reed’s equipment to figure out the intel, only to make things worse, stranding Photon in the Negative Zone.
- Human Torch/Hawkeye (Kate): A panicked Johnny goes through his rolodex trying to find a young, unconnected hero to help him; he can’t risk going to any one of the brains, or things might get back to Reed, and he’ll never hear the end of it. Kate Bishop, making it clear it’s not the first time he’s called her and she’s not amused, responds when she finds out it’s an emergency. They provide an interesting contrast because he’s kind of goofy new money, instafamous but also a gullible doof, where she’s from older money, aloof, cool and collected. And also doesn’t have time for his boyish attempts at being suave. She doesn’t do tech things, but she knows someone in Brooklyn who might be able to help; he’s smart, but also, he’s young, and not connected to the other big heads- though he used to be Tony Stark’s protégé.
- Hawkeye/Ms. Marvel/*: This is the place where we’d have a Spidey cameo. I don’t know what the Marvel/Sony contracts are like; I suspect Marvel could force the issue since they own the TV rights, but might not be able to have Tom Holland in the suit (if this ever becomes viable- Spidey Team-Up is the obvious spin-off). But that would likely be the end of MCU Spidey being in movies. If an episode could be agreed upon, it would be a coup and a few. But assuming not, he isn’t home. Hawkeye says he’s probably swinging around someplace. They hear a car accident, and respond, to find Ms. Marvel jaws-of-lifing someone out of a mangled wreck. They’re about to assist when Johnny gets a call. Reed wants to know why the Negative Zone was opened, and more importantly, why Ms. Rambeau was stranded on the other side of it, and proceeds to lecture him about how that’s not an appropriate way to end a date. Johnny flies off to deal with it, but we stay with Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel. Next episode, they put their heads together, and figure out a way to use the M.O.D.O.K. intel, involving a cameo from America Chavez. This one is honestly less about contrast, more about starting to play around with pairings for either a Champions series or possible recruits for the Young Avengers, or maybe both. It’s also just a nice mission statement about the future of the MCU being light, breezy, feminine and diverse.
- Ms. Marvel/Moon Knight: The trio get in over their heads, though, and run afoul of the Moon Knight and his Moon Knighting. Hawkeye (and maybe America) draw away the pursuit, leaving Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel to take up the slack. This is an amazing pairing because he’s dark, gritty, and full of half-psychotic pathos, while she is the definition of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (okay, that would be Squirrel Girl… but wait for it…). I would even push him to be even more over the top, almost a parody of whatever his series ends up being- and I’d love to see Oscar Isaacs play truly over-the-top. Using his resources and gifts, they’re able to track M.O.D.O.K.’s intel to a new Hydra facility, this one housing a prisoner- or, rather, they’re housing a teleporter to a prison on the moon holding him. At the last second, Marc jettisons Ms. Marvel, thinking he’s saving her from a dead end and an ignominious death, only to discover the prisoner is Loki.
- Moon Knight/Loki: Loki and Marc are able to dispatch the death squad together; Loki, from the jump, tries to convince Moon Knight that he’s actually Khonshu, the one who gave him his powers, and he should definitely listen to him. Loki is still a little worse for wear- they were keeping him on a drip-feed of alcohol, since alcohol seems to impact Asgardians. Not only does that mean Loki spends most of the episode drunk, but he’s been suffering from alcohol poisoning for most of his capture so he isn’t at full power. Worse, Hydra turned off the teleporter, so they don’t have a way to get home. Still worse, the teleporter was also an umbilical cord, feeding the facility power and oxygen, without which they will die shortly. In a desperate attempt at rescue, they selectively set fire to certain portions of the base to spell out “Help.”
- Loki/Kingo: Help arrives, in the form of Eternal Kingo. He helps Moon Knight teleport back to Earth, but recognizes in Loki a larger threat. He’s also intrigued by the Hydra mystery he’s seen the human heroes contending with. I’ll be honest, this is entirely here because Kumail Nanjiani is a great comedian, and I suspect that will make his character a fun one to bounce off of. Loki, for his part, is stymied by a being just as far beyond humanity as he is. Kingo toys with him a little bit, before their ride arrives. Kingo called the Guardians, believing Thor was still with them. Instead, they’re picked up by half the usual crew; they were taking Howard the Duck to Earth and happened to be in the system, anyhow. So we get a cameo from Rocket & Groot (I’m assuming getting a full episode with them is too big an ask this season- or I would absolutely ask).
- Kingo/Howard the Duck: Howard, apparently, has come to the Earth because of a love of Raymond Chandler and all things noir. He wants to hang out a shingle and try living the life of a private eye. Rocket and Groot are sticking around because they have a bet as to how long (and if) he’ll last, and the duck’s agreed to pay them double for the return accommodations. So we get a lot of black and white scenes, with Seth Green narrating overly purple prose in a noir style about this oddball conspiracy involving floating head monsters, exploding soldiers, green abominations and murdered flying black men (Kingo interrupts to correct him, that Captain America is still alive). A dame comes in, maybe Madame Hydra or similar, a lead they can sink their teeth into, and they investigate. At the end of the episode, Kingo looks around the room, at the duck, the raccoon, the tree, and the chained Asgardian, asks, “What am I doing here?” and leaves. Basically walking past each other in the doorway, Squirrel Girl enters. Apparently her friend told her a mangled joke, “Why was the chicken a private eye? Because he was a duck.” She didn’t get it, and came up to understand it. I’d suggest keeping the cast of Milana Vayntrub- she’s adorable and funny (although Anna Kendrick is another strong choice).
- Howard the Duck/Squirrel Girl: This episode would likely draw from the fun Chip Zdarsky run on Howard the Duck. But it’s Squirrel Girl, mostly just being an eager beaver, trying to help him through his detective fantasy. He gives it up, however, when they’re met with a hail of Hydra bullets, and calls for his ride. Squirrel Girl pops her head inside, and she and Rocket have a moment, where they both say the other one looks “familiar,” before going their separate ways.
- Squirrel Girl/Punisher: Squirrel Girl hears the sound of more gunfire from where they left the Hydra agents a moment before. Punisher is there, standing on top of a pile of dead Hydra. He has it on good authority they’ve been paying local hoods to smuggle in science junk for their lasers- paying them in trade, meaning laser weapons are ending up on the street. His job’s hard enough without having to worry about laser-proofing his armor, so he’s there to cut them off at the source. She quips about there being a saying about cutting Hydra that she doesn’t finish. She’s perturbed by his use of force, and tries to convince him to use less lethal means. He’s confused by the request. She decides, over his protests, that she’s going to accompany him, to show him there are nonfatal ways to deal with villains. They have… mixed results, but they finally get the last piece of the puzzle, right before Frank shoots the Hydra agent who gave it to him. Squirrel Girl boxers his ears- yes, literally, before taking away all of his bullets. He tries re-arming with Hydra guns, only to find she’s disabled all of those, too. A pissed-off, but utterly disarmed Frank hails a cab (she also disabled his murder wagon, leaving a note saying he’ll have a long walk home to think about what she’s tried to teach him).
- Punisher/Captain America: Punisher, with the crucial piece of intel, shows up at Captain America’s hospital room. Frank says he’s not Captain America. Sam asks if it’s a race thing. Frank says no, and he says that makes him feel better sarcastically. Frank tells him Cap was half the reason he signed up. Sam asks if he means to kill people. Frank says for the Army (they exchange a meaningful look, both men agreeing that does not). Frank says he fought in wars, then fought domestic crime. Cap was the ideal, scrubs like them aren’t fit to hold his shield, let alone wear it. Sam says he’s trying to be, that Cap wouldn’t have given him the shield if he didn’t want it held up- want his ideals held up. Frank doesn’t reply, but he hands over the intel. Sam feels like he has to respond, that he can’t lead from behind, that he’s tired of people putting him back in bed, even as he struggles to stand. Frank gets under his arm to help him. Together they fight their way into a Hydra research facility. They find Bucky; Hydra have been trying to break him down again. They unleash the newly brainwashed Bucky to attack them, and instead he squares with Sam and Frank. The scientists run. The guards run. All except one- who starts to unwind his balaclava. “Aw, crap,” Sam says, as Blonsky’s face starts to turn green as he unwraps it. Sam tosses Bucky the shield, and he uses his robot arm to help protect him from Abomination’s punch, a punch that still sends him flying through several walls, landing out on the city street. Abomination leaps through the hole Bucky tore, widening it, landing over the stunned Winter Soldier. It’s eerily quiet. Whichever cameoing/guest-starring character would make the biggest impact (for my money right now, probably Hulk) says, “We heard Cap could use a hand.” Camera pans up from the Winter Soldier at Abomination’s feet (and eclipsed by his shadow) to pan across all of the assembled guest stars, as Avengers music swells. I think we should be able to composite them from when they’re on set, and won’t need them all gathered at the same time- so this can be done on the TV budget (though I wouldn’t swear to it). Cut to the Raft, where a purpled Blonsky is tossed into a cell roughly. He’s got an IV in his arm, keeping him unconscious. We do a polite wrap-up, Bucky and Sam bonding. I’d contemplate having Punisher take a shot at Bucky, one blocked by Cap, and accepting that he’s not going to get another, and walking away. But reasonable folk could disagree with that idea.