Pitchmas 2020, Part 12: The Sentry

This is it, the season finale of Pitchmas 2020. I’ll still be working on Old Ventures, and Pitchgiving 2021 will likely start September 24th. I’ve been going back and forth on other projects, and what specifically I’ll be pitching then, though the crashing and burning of the Snyder Cut likely means that projects pitched at continuing that continuity are likely out of the running.

The Sentry

This is a big one, like, you could and should hype this as the biggest Marvel TV project, ever. It would cost a fortune, but done right I think would meld prestige TV with superhero cinema.

1. “All That’s Gold Is Gone” or perhaps “Whatever Happened To The Golden Guardian?”:  We start on Robert Reynolds, in bed with his wife, startled awake by a storm- but he doesn’t buy that it’s a freak storm, it drives a terror through him that at first he can’t put his finger on. The episode should be filled with building dread. The tension becomes too great, and Bob reaches for a bottle in its hiding place. There are two, and as he reaches for the one, his hand shakes violently. So he takes a swig from the other, normal booze. He pours a little into the cap of the bottle for his faithful dog to lap up, then tries to polish off the rest, but the bottle’s empty. He returns to the other bottle, and this time he powers through the shakes, and an image of him in a cheap, hand-sewn costume flashes in his mind and over the screen just as lightning strikes outside.

This time he isn’t consumed with nameless worry, this time he knows. He calls his dog Watchdog, and scans the horizon as lightning strikes again, and says they must be vigilant, because they’re humanity’s only hope if the Void returns. Bob’s hand shakes violently as he uncorks the bottle, but then recorks it, and tells the dog they have to be vigilant.

Only this time the dog talks back, and mocks his “vigilance.” We see the dog engulfed in shadow, with black tendrils snaking out from them and snapping at the air like a scorpion’s stinger. Throughout this first episode even Robert can’t be sure if he’s nuts or not, even as he fights his dog, who he thinks is being controlled by the Void to attack him, then has to explain to his wife why he hurt the dog, when its yelp jars her from her sleep.

She sees the bottle on the floor, and scolds him for drinking, and for taking his frustration out on the dog. She says she’s been thinking, for a while, now, about staying at her sister’s, and says she’s going to take the dog. “Okay” is the only answer he can mumble. He talks to himself after she’s gone, trying to make sense of the fact that no one- not even his wife – remembers the Sentry. But he knows he isn’t crazy. He can’t be. He reaches deep into the back of their closet, and for a moment he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, and doubts, but then his hand alights on and pushes aside a panel, and retrieves the costume we saw in the flash earlier.

I think we spend the first episode gaslighting Robert and, vicariously, the audience, trying to convince him that there is no Sentry, there never was a Sentry, and it’s crazy to think there ever could have been a hero who knew and was loved by the entire hero community, who had the power of a million exploding suns and saved the world as many times.

Subtly, his costume shifts over the course of the next few episodes, from the clearly home-made one he first digs out of his closet, until it’s the impressive comics-accurate one he’ll wear for the rest of the series. It still looks like a piece of crap, however, when we see Robert climbing up to the top of a crane on top of high building in New York City, his cape billowed by the wind. As we pan out, we can see a gigantic “4” atop the tower- that’s right, Bob is pretending to fly on top of the Baxter Building. A strong wind kicks up, and he rocks a little bit, but is able to hold his balance- until a pigeon flies into his face, flapping its wings, and he starts to fall, and we cut to credits.  

2. After the first episode, we take a kind of a hybrid approach, as Robert begins to remember his previous exploits with the heroes and confront them, and they start to question whether or not they really do know him, and if they do why they forced themselves to forget; each would combine elements from the mainline Sentry miniseries with the spin-off books. The episodes would be titled to foreshadow who was going to be featured, so the first guest episode, would be “Fantastic Friends,” where Robert confronts Reed. It picks up right where we left off, with Robert catching the crane, then pulling himself back up. Reed is there an instant later, curious how he got past his security.

Bob tells Reed that Reed was at his wedding, and Reed finds the unicorn Bob mentioned that he gave him, as well as a tape from the wedding. Meanwhile, Robert, still unsure whether or not he’s nuts, reminisces about his exploits with the Four, and how Reed really was his best friend… until he betrayed him. Reed is confronted by Dr. Strange, who tries to convince him not to tug at the thread, that the unraveling could very well end the world. But Reed is a man of science, and an unknown is irresistible; Stephen even shows him their shared past, when he begged Stephen to intervene in just this event.

With each subsequent episode, the Sentry becomes more certain of who he is, and also more determined that he must make them all remember the truth, or he won’t be able to rally them against the Void- and he’s going to need everyone to stop the Void. Also, building in the background, are these storms and natural disasters- hundreds, eventually thousands dying in what the world initially writes off as freak storms, but the heroes slowly recognize as the growing influence and power of the Void.

3. Incredible Heroes: Sentry tracks down the Hulk. It’s a time when Banner wasn’t with the Avengers, but was off smashing on his own. He’s a timid, even pitiful creature, smashing not because he’s angry, but because he’s scared, and he hides behind his anger, puffing out his chest- we learn, over the course of the episode, it’s because of how badly thrashed he was by the Void (note: this is basically the state Hulk returns to after his whupping by Thanos). Hulk has a rapport with the Sentry- he helps him not be afraid, helps him not take his anger out on other people. Their reunion should be a really tender moment- and also a terrifying one, because whatever makes he Hulk afraid, should scare the crap out of everyone else. It should also show a pattern: the heroes all lost something important, even vital, to their lives, when the Sentry was erased, something that would have spared them a lot of personal anguish over the intervening years; this was personal for all of them.

4. Amazing Adventurers: Okay… this one would depend entirely on whether or not Spider-Man is part of the Sony deal or not. It’s also probably the most superfluous of these episodes; Sentry’s big contribution to Peter’s life was that he let him take the first picture of the Sentry, a photo which was monetized to a degree that he didn’t have the same kinds of money troubles as he used to- and forgetting him cost him his safety net. But it was also the Sentry’s coming out party- when the character went from blur and urban legend to the Superman of the Marvel Universe (with about as much baggage as that entails).

5. Uncanny Exemplars: This one would basically be a cross-over with the X-Men: The Beginning crew. I’d probably make it more of an ensemble piece, than the book, which was very Angel-centric; in fact, I’d probably focus it more on Xavier/Jean, since they’re going to play a bigger role later, as the MCU’s telepaths have to try and give him the equivalent of telepathic brain surgery to help save him; they also, subtly, share a powerset, so I could see Sentry being able to bridge the gap between the stoic, stern mentor figure who mostly says, “Do as I say, because I don’t do,” and a scared kid trying her darnedest to invent a whole new branch of heroic ethics while trying not to get herself and her friends killed.

6. The Void: The heroes, in particular those we’ve focused on, are gathered at the Empire State building, waiting to war with the Void under the Sentry’s command. This includes Sentry’s old sidekick, Scout, who lost an arm and an eye in one of their adventures, and has since lived without suspecting he was once superpowered, and is ecstatic to be reunited with his mentor.

Only something doesn’t sit right with Reed… and he and Stephen Strange put together the truth. Now, the book is good, so if you haven’t read it before, I’d suggest you go read the Sentry series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. But if you want the spoiler, here goes: the Void isn’t a separate person. The Void is manifested by the Sentry’s powers- a kind of evil version of him. Realizing this, the heroes realize why they forgot the Sentry- they did it to stop the Void- and that they’ll have to forget him all over again. Played right, the energy of the episode goes from heroic determination to tragedy- even the Sentry grasps immediately that their only choice is to put them all back under the same hypnotics that hid him away, and hope that this time it holds.   

7+: I think the back-half will be the Sentry arc from New Avengers, where he joins the MCU proper, now.

First, not because we’re exploiting the joke but because the time-skip actually kind of matters here, we do the five years later thing again. After a break-out of prisoners from the Raft, Sentry is discovered inside, having turned himself in for the murder of his wife. The other heroes dutifully locked him away, because if  Superman  Sentry insists he’s dangerous and should be locked up, you don’t ask questions, you just do it. He assists with containing some of the damage of the break-out, before disappearing. The Avengers then track him down. He’s suppressed who he is, again, and is back with his wife, neither of them the wiser.

Everyone shows up (or, since it’s a TV show, a hitter or two from all of the bigger franchises- preferably at least the characters from the feature episodes earlier in the season). The telepaths engage him, while the other heroes fend off the Void, who appears and attacks them (this time surprising no one). We see some more of Sentry’s past exploits. I think it might be fun to do a flashback of the 80s Avengers banding together to stop the Void, and the Ancient One using her abilities to make the rest of them forget their team-up, foreshadowing what happened shortly before the arrival of Thanos (which is when the Sentry disappeared in our story). 80s Avengers: T’Chaka (Black Panther), Ancient One (Sorcerer Supreme), Howard Stark providing access to his Bad Babies, Odin, a previous Ghost Rider, the previous Iron Fist.

After a fairly epic battle, the telepaths find it, hidden fairly expertly- the memory of his unmaking. Apparently, Sentry gets captured by a villain. The book doesn’t explain, but since Mastermind is involved, I’ll say that he was secreted to the Sentry’s home, where he convinced the Sentry’s mind to keep him asleep even as he was carried away. In the original telling, it was ‘The General,’ one of Sentry’s own arch villains, pulling Mastermind’s strings, but I’d probably instead swap in one of the better-known characters who are actively against super-powers, like Zemo or General Ross (or in the event that Disney buys Sony, Norman Osborne). They used an X-Men villain (and mutant) named Mastermind to convince the Sentry to subconsciously create the Void any time he used his powers, a nemesis he could never defeat, who created atrocity in equal to whatever measure of good the Sentry could do, and then erase his tracks. If we did use Ross or Zemo, we could go a step further with it- that Mastermind was trying to convince all heroes they were just normal people without powers, but that the Sentry fought his influence enough to preserve the other heroes, while losing himself.

The telepaths are able to hold the mind-control at bay long enough for Robert to become the Sentry, enter the memory of his brain-washing and destroy it (I’d say when he does, that’s when he learns who it was who captured him- that while we can hear them and see them in silhouette, they aren’t clear until he invades the memory and symbolically destroys its influence). In an instant, the Void disappears, and the Sentry flies away, leaving everyone else uncertain whether they won. Sentry reappears a moment later, his manipulator grasped in one hand, and Mastermind in the other, and he drops them to the ground, where they vomit profusely. He says he must have flown too fast for them. Captain Samerica offers his hand, and a slot on the Avengers, which he declines. He says he has a lot to process, scoops up his wife, and adds that he’s got a lot of lost time to make up for, too. Captain Falcon asks if they can call him if something happens, and he says, of course, and nods at the sky, at his Watchtower floating above them, and adds he’ll be watching, and flies away. Fade to black. White text: The Sentry will return… when we need him most. Then roll credits.

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