If you have been reading my last couple recaps in this never ending series that is the MCU...first of all, I'm sorry...but second you might have seen Chrissy repeatedly rag me for making references to Star Trek properties. I don't apologize for it, especially since I've seen Kevin Feige do it in interviews too, but Chrissy started insisting I should recap the Kelvin Timeline movies. I am still resistant to taking that on on top of the increasing MCU workload, but we made a deal. If I could get through the next recap or two without making any random Star Trek references, she would quit bugging me to recap those movies.
Chrissy:And then I realized you had said you weren't even doing full recaps of the next couple MCU things.
Diandra: Which is why I have decided to add one movie to the brief recap since "Shang Chi" sort of piggybacks off of "Iron Man 3".
Chrissy:I still say it isn't really a fair deal, but it should at least be entertaining to watch you try to suppress that instinct for ten hours. I'm starting to doubt you are capable.
Diandra: Well, now I just want to prove you wrong.

Anyway. Here goes nothing.

Iron Man 3 (or: We Weren't Doing Subtitles Yet)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, the voice of Paul Bettany

Part of my justification for skipping directly to The Avengers when I started recapping the MCU was that the Iron Man trilogy - being the first in the series before anybody knew whether crossovers would work - pretty much stood on it's own. I did go back and do the first one, but that was mostly for the fun of it. The other two weren't really necessary for the larger story. Technically Shang Chi isn't either, but if I'm going to do a quick run through of that, I suppose I should back up and explain just what it is, exactly, that they felt needed retconning from this.

The story starts on New Year's Eve 1999, when our biggest worry was that computers would jump us back 100 years because nobody thought to teach them to start dates with "20" yet. Tony is at a party acting like his former playboy dickish self, trying to get into his then-assistant's pants and cluelessly shaking Yinsen's hand and promptly forgetting he ever met him. Happy has terrible looking long hair (and an earring) and so does Guy Pearce, who introduces himself as Aldrich Killian and generally gushes like a fanboy over Tony before offering to work with him because he runs a start up tech company. Tony lies that he is very interested in talking to him and sets up a meeting on the roof that he has no intention of actually going to.

The "assistant" has come up with a drug that "accesses" the part of the brain that repairs the body and "chemically recodes" it. She calls it Extremis. Except it has a major flaw that causes it to explode or something. Happy barrels into the bedroom at the resulting explosion and tackles Tony to the bed. It's...awkward.
Chrissy:You're sure Happy ended up with Pepper in the comics, right?
Diandra: Yeah, but Pepper was the one with the arc reactor at some point, so...it's complicated.

And then we skip to the present after the whole origin story, introduction of Black Widow and invasion of New York that led to the formation of The Avengers. Tony is working on injecting microchips or something that will allow him to summon the suit in pieces that will form themselves around him. This ends up being a recurring source of comedic relief basically for the entire movie as the results range from it arriving late and splattering on the ground before it actually gets to him to it nearly slamming his head off his shoulders like his AIs have decided to take out years of pent up aggression by lobbing projectiles at him. "As always, sir, a great pleasure watching you work," JARVIS says after the first attempt results in him groaning on the floor surrounded by bits of metal.
Chrissy:I miss JARVIS.
Diandra: We all do.

In what is probably the only time this series has really addressed this well, Tony spends pretty much the whole movie dealing with PTSD from the New York battle, not sleeping and having panic attacks because if he does sleep he has nightmare flashbacks and accidentally calls his suit to attack Pepper.

The Mandarin is introduced as the principal bad guy and he is seemingly played by Ben Kingsley as a total Bin Laden terrorist stereotype. He's introduced through some propaganda videos for the Ten Rings, the organization that kidnapped Tony in the first movie after Obediah Stane hired them to kill him. The government responds to the vague terrorist threat the videos present (and the actual terrorist bombings they are mostly keeping from the public) by introducing Rhodey's War Machine persona as "Iron Patriot", which...er...was a completely different person, but okay. [ETA: Turns out Rhodey did take over the title eventually, so I guess we're skipping right to that]

Guy Pearce is reintroduced, his character having made himself...hotter, but also smarmier. He has turned Extremis into a rapid healing...thing...via questionable science that he tries to sell to Pepper, who he apparently worked with at some point. It still has the glitch though, apparently, as demonstrated when Happy witnesses one of Killian's goons regenerate body parts that were blown off when another goon explodes. Unfortunately, the incident puts him in a coma, so he can't tell anyone what happened and The Mandarin takes credit for it. In what is probably the most spectacularly stupid move he made of his entire MCU run, Tony responds to this by giving his home address to the world press and acting surprised when the goons come after him and bomb the place to shit. He escapes to somewhere upstate and leaves a message for Pepper in one of his suit helmets. The woman who invented Extremis - Maya - reappears to reveal that she works for Killian, which explains how that happened, but she contacts Tony and Pepper because she says she believes HE works for the Mandarin. Except she actually helps Killian kidnap Pepper to try to coerce Tony into helping them get Extremis on the market. Yeah, the plot's...kind of a chaotic mess.

Tony uses Rhodey's log in to get into the government files on Project Extremis, determining that Killian's goon squad of supersoldiers were volunteer guinea pigs sold on the idea that Extremis would "fix" them. This works for some as there is video of a woman regrowing a blown off arm, but possible side effects include literally going nuclear.

Tony tracks the source of the propaganda videos to Florida, where "The Mandarin" turns out to be a construct Killian (the real Mandarin) invented played by an actor named Trevor Slattery. As Tony's talking to the idiot, a goon knocks him out and he wakes up zip tied to a bedframe tipped upright, hostage of Maya and Killian.
Chrissy:This is ALMOST like a fantasy I once had...
Diandra: Yeah, I kind of suspected this would be the scene you'd get the most mileage out of.
Chrissy:I mean, usually the bed isn't vertical, but I can work with this. Who wants to go first?
Diandra: MOVING ON.
Killian has injected Pepper with Extremis, which might kill her or might turn her into a superhero. At least until this particular movie is over, at which point this entire plot will be forgotten about immediately and never mentioned again. Maya realizes he's a psycho and threatens to kill herself and take all her knowledge of how Extremis works, exactly, with her and Killian just...kills her himself.

Killian's goons also kidnap Rhodey for...reasons that aren't immediately clear. Did I mention that Killian is himself infected with Extremis? Yeah, at one point he actually breathes fire at Rhodey, whose 'what the fuck, man' response is probably the moment when the movie becomes most self aware of just how batshit it is.

Tony fights off Killian's goons using just one gauntlet and one boot of his suit because the rest of the suit doesn't reach him until after it's over. Which is probably why he started working on the nano version of it that he was using in Infinity War.

Meanwhile, Rhodey hears an alert that Tony has broken free of their captors and fights his way out as well. Without his suit. Which is flying off without him. He calls Tony and they both return to the part of the compound where Trevor is. Trevor sort of...helps them, but he doesn't have much of a clue, so he mostly helps them hijack a boat so they can stop...some sort of plan to kill the president. Who I guess we kind of sort of cared about in this universe at the time as he is fictional. Rhodey calls the Vice President and tells him his "bodyguard" Iron Patriot has been hijacked by someone plotting to kill the President. Except the VPOTUS tells no one because he is in on it.

The goon in the Iron Patriot suit attacks Air Force One, stuffs the President inside the suit and sends it on autopilot to Killian, then sends a dozen people flying out the blown out door. Tony blasts a hole right through him and catches everyone in a human chain (that he actually likens to playing Barrel of Monkeys out loud) to soften their water landing in a practical stunt achieved with actual skydivers as the plane explodes. Or his suit does all of this without him because Rhodey already identified the "Dark Knight" scenario wherein they could rescue either the President or Pepper, but not both and this is how Tony could be in two places at the same time. He tells JARVIS to activate the House Party Protocol, which is the cue to activate all the suits still under the rubble where his house used to be.

Luckily for Tony, the President and Pepper end up in the same place. Killian plans to kill the President via oil fire in a tanker shipyard. All the suits arrive as backup and Tony instructs them to take out the goons by shooting at anything that has an Extremis signature (which...you'd think the problem with this would be obvious, but okay). There's a ridiculous fight sequence with a lot of explosions. Tony tries to simultaneously fight Killian and save Pepper while Rhodey saves the President, without the aid of a supersuit (because they're all coded to Tony's DNA). He's...pretty badass.
Chrissy:You know, he and Sam would make a pretty badass team.
Diandra: Yeah, there's something to be said for the people with military combat training being able to hold their own without super strength.
Chrissy:It also helps that they have weaponized flight suits and are often surrounded by or paired up with supers.

Pepper falls into some burning wreckage and is presumed dead for a while. Tony has another suit malfunction on it's way to him and just uses it to magnet Killian to a beam and self destruct. Of course, it's only a temporary solution as Extremis has made Killian practically unkillable. Pepper reappears to save Tony at the last minute because her superpowers conveniently activated. She manages to take out Killian by ripping an attacking Iron Man suit out of the air, taking one of its gauntlets and using it to blow a stick of dynamite in Killian's face. I think. Which somehow works.

It all ends with Tony exploding all the extra suits, curing Pepper completely (instead of just fixing Extremis like he must have done in the comics so we never have to speak of this again) and finally finding a doctor who can remove the remaining shrapnel from his chest so he doesn't need the arc reactor to keep him alive. The Vice President and Trevor are both arrested. Happy recovers. And the whole thing is framed by voiceovers that it turns out Tony is telling Bruce without realizing that he fell asleep, like, two hours ago. Bruce apologizes that he isn't THAT kind of doctor and Tony just launches into another story going back to his childhood and we close on Bruce's exasperated face.
Chrissy:You'll miss him when he's gone. Just keep reminding yourself of that every time he acts like a giant dick.

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Meng'er Zhang, Ben Kingsley, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu

The main reason I elected not to do a full recap of this one is that it is an origin story that doesn't directly tie into the continuing MCU yet. Which is why I skipped "Ant Man", "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Captain America" and "Thor". But I figure I can probably boil down everything you might need to know about the character since he probably will show up in whatever group they end up cobbling together with everyone who is left now.

We correct the whole Legend of the Ten Rings right away with a Chinese lady explaining that it is actually a centuries old story about this soldier (Xu) and referred to actual rings he wore on his wrists that gave him magic powers and made him immortal. Nobody really knows where they came from as the legends vary, but one of the theories is "crater", which would make sense as it would be on par with the origin story of Black Panther.
Chrissy:The other theory is "stolen from a tomb", which would put it on par with "Moon Knight" and are you going to address that series at all?
Diandra: My understanding is that that doesn't tie into the rest of the MCU at all. So no.

Unfortunately, Xu was corrupt so he used the rings to take thrones by force with his merry band...army, who became known as The Ten Rings. And they wreaked havoc for centuries in all sorts of places. In 1996 he caught wind of a "hidden" village called Ta Lo, full of mythical creatures and "ancient magic".
Chrissy:So in the way that Doctor Strange was a sort of magic version of Iron Man, this is the Asian answer to Black Panther.
Diandra: Yeah, comic writers like to recycle material.

Getting to the village requires crossing a bamboo forest that is capable of turning itself into a maze from hell and sending cars right off cliffs. Xu is the only survivor of the expedition he forced to take him there and he faces off against a woman capable of controlling the wind Crouching Tiger style, which quickly turns more into a courtship ritual than a fight. She slams him into a tree and drops him face first in a pond, then disappears. And a woman identified as "Li" concludes that that was "the first time I met your father." And we skip right to Li telling a child Shang Chi that there's more he needs to know about the ten rings when he's older. Oh, and she won that fight because her people are "empowered by the magic of the Great Protector" but she left those powers in Ta Lo with the dragon so she could have a kid. She gives him a jade stone that she says will help him find his way "home" if he is ever lost.

And then we skip right to Shang as an adult living in San Francisco and working as a parking valet at a fancy hotel with his buddy Awkwafina (Katy), who does what she does in anything she's in and completely steals the show. She also drops some exposition that his name is now Shaun and they've been friends for ten years like that doesn't make for some awkward dialogue.
Chrissy:Yeah, I know I periodically remind my friends of how long I've known them.
Diandra: Just in case they forget, you know. Speaking of which, here's my friend Emilio, who I've known for twenty five years. Did you call him?
Emilio: Yeah, she said something about needing me to know if you were making Star Trek references or not.
Diandra: Dude. I've known you for twenty years and you don't trust me not to pull a fast one on you?
Chrissy:We've been recapping for twenty years. I've known you longer, which is why I KNOW you would.
Diandra: I'm sorry, my brain kind of stopped working after you said we've been writing these things for twenty years.
Chrissy:Well, the good news is that no one will be able to tell the difference.
Diandra: ..................you're so going to pay for that.

Because that wasn't enough of an exposition dump, we have Shaun and Katy explaining to a friend's boyfriend at a restaurant that they met in high school when his parents immigrated to the states and she stopped a bully from beating him up by screaming the lyrics of Hotel California in his face. "It's the art of confusion," she explains. "Works great on stupid people." The friend is having a bit of an existential crisis based on the fact that half the planet just disappeared for five years and she thinks the two of them aren't living Their Best Life.
Emilio: This is a conversation that really resonated with everyone who lived through the never ending pandemic.
Diandra: Yeah. I forget which social media site produced the meme about people watching "Endgame" in 2019 and scoffing that everyone would just go on like this massively traumatizing global event never happened and then in 2022..."...oh."
Katy is like 'okay, thanks for that, MOM' and rants at Shaun later about it before kind of proving the friend right about them not being responsible adults by going to an all night karaoke bar when they have to work in the morning.

Further character establishment says Shaun picks Katy up in the morning for work and has breakfast with her multi-generation family, including Grandma, who answers his questions in English with Chinese like they can totally understand each other without either of them needing to switch languages. Until she asks when he and Katy are getting married and he explains that they're Just Friends.

They are taking the bus to work when some thug recognizes the jade pendant Shaun still wears and tries to take it by force. A fight worthy of Jackie Chan breaks out to dubstep music (which would make Deadpool proud, I'm sure). A thug with a retractable heated sword for a hand cuts the brake line on the bus at one point, of course when it's on one of the downhill streets and the driver is knocked unconscious by the steering wheel. So Katy has to try to steer while Shaun continues the epic fight both inside and outside the runaway bus. Sword Guy cuts the accordion part of the bus at one point and Shaun gets all the bystanders in the front and has Katy make a hard turn to snap the back end off with Sword Guy still inside it.
Chrissy:What is the best fight scene of the MCU and why is it this?
Diandra: Yeah. Unfortunately, I can never recap action shit, so I was never going to do it justice.

And after they do a shit ton more damage before finally getting the bus to roll to a stop, Shaun realizes Sword Guy got the pendant anyway.

All of this is shocking to Katy, who realizes she doesn't really know that much about Shaun. Shaun is like 'yeah, it's about to get weirder because those guys were totally sent by my Chinese Mafia father and are going to go after my sister I never told you about next and I need to get to her.' Katy is like 'okay, I am DEFINITELY GOING WITH YOU AND YOU WILL NOT ARGUE WITH ME.'

Shaun explains in flashback that Daddy Dearest started him becoming a martial arts master when he was a kid and his mom died. Did we skip that part?
Emilio: I just assume that mom always dies in Disney movies.
His sister (Xu Xialing, who I'll just call Sue I guess) kind of learned in tandem, but wasn't pushed as hard by Daddy Xu. Which is pretty much on brand. Fun fact: I took martial arts classes until my teacher became so focused on this one guy in class he felt was good enough to be his apprentice that he basically ignored the rest of us. Especially the girls. By the time Shaun was 14 and able to kill someone with any ordinary object, his dad gave him an "assignment", which is totally code for made him a Mafia hit man. Except he just ran away. And changed his name from Shang ("shong") to Shaun, which gives Katy a good laugh at his deep cover skills.

Once they get in country, Shaun and Katy end up at an Asian Fight Club for some damn reason where Wong is fighting some sort of monster in the main ring because the writers are just coming up with shit by random dice rolls at this point.
Chrissy:Hey, SOMEONE had to earn a living after you handed a goddamn infinity stone to a genocidal maniac and spent the next five years as a pile of dust.
Diandra: This again? It's called STRATEGY. I totally knew it would work out in the end and wasn't just pinning my hopes on an exact series of circumstances playing out that would lead to the ONLY scenario I saw us winning.
Emilio: I like how you just went with that like 'Chrissy's playing Wong now? Okay.'
Diandra: Yeah, I kind of figured she would once I realized the bickering married couple dynamic had carried from "Infinity War".
Chrissy:This is definitely going to be a thing in the next two movies, just so you know.
Diandra: Great.

Wong wins by using portals to get the monster to literally punch himself out. And then Shaun has to fight his sister because sibling relationships in the MCU. Shrug. Also because she later points out that even though they refused to train her along with the boys, she was able to teach herself to do everything they did, only better. Turns out she begged him not to leave all those years ago and he lied that he would come back for her in three days. And after six years she realized that was bullshit and now she owns the fight club. And she has an identical jade pendant, which after she kicks his ass and they retreat to her office to talk he warns her the Ten Rings are after. And then ninjas attack the building and Sue runs off and leaves Shaun to fight his way out and Katy nearly falls to her death until Sue comes back and saves her and joins the fight because she was just teaching him a lesson about abandonment. Or something. Random dice rolls, I'm telling you. One of the ninjas gets the pendant from her and Shaun nearly defeats him before dad shows up to "take them home."

In yet another flashback, Daddy Xu tells Shaun he will have the rings of power and immortality when he shows him he's strong enough to "carry them". This is followed by Daddy Xu explaining away the whole Mandarin thing in the present. A terrorist appropriated the name of The Ten Rings for a "boogyman", but didn't know Xu's name so he went with "The Mandarin", which is stupid because it only refers to either an orange or a chicken dish using said oranges.
Chrissy:Or...like...the most prominent Chinese dialect.
It turns out Daddy Xu has gone by many names in the centuries he's been living including the Warrior King and Master Khan but his real name is Wenwu, but Li was the only one who ever called him that.

We go back to the man eating forest for a montage of their courtship while he rambles about how she CHANGED him that ends in her leaving the village and him putting the rings in a box. He claims he finally found "something worth growing old for" as we go through them getting married and raising the two kids. And then she died. And the teenage kids ran away. He started researching Ta Lo again and discovered what they are guarding: some sort of gate where he is convinced Li is waiting for them. Because he heard her voice telling him as much, as well as begging him to "save her from her people." He is convinced she would still be alive and they would all be together in that village had the villagers not refused to let him in because he was deemed unworthy and that they now have her locked behind a gate as punishment for leaving.
Chrissy:Maybe it's time we had the discussion about putting dad in a home. I mean...he IS over 300. 500?
Diandra: Young in Asgardian years, anyway.

Wenwu plugs the jade pendant stones into the eyes of a dragon sculpture. The eyes glow and it "vomits a magical water map" (Katy's words) on the floor containing the key to getting through the moving bamboo forest. Apparently the one path only opens at a specific time, conveniently in three days.
Emilio: Really like the number three don't they?
Diandra: It's comforting. Most people stop at three.
Chrissy:Hello, "Sherlock" reference I wasn't expecting.
Diandra: No, but seriously, it might be a lucky number. And four is unlucky. Unless that's just in Japan.

The kids and Katy regroup to talk about whether the stories mom told them about her village were true and whether it makes a difference one way or another since dad is so determined to get to her that if the villagers try to reject him again he is threatening to burn the whole place down. And then they find Trevor in the basement, who was brought in because Wenwu tried to hunt him down and kill him after the whole Mandarin debacle until he did a spontaneous Shakespeare monologue that entertained his men and he ended up hiring him instead. Look...just...go with it, okay? And then this bizarre little fuzzy winged creature that looks like the footstool in "Beauty and the Beast" ambles out and jumps in Trevor's lap and he's surprised to find out that Shaun and Katy can see "Morris" too because he thought it was a hallucination.
Chrissy:Five bucks says the writer who came up with this was speaking from personal experience.
"Morris" talks to Trevor, who understands him somehow and explains that Wenwu smuggled him from the village where he knew Li and he would like to go home now. And again, conveniently, he can guide them there. Through the forest maze of death. Trevor says he's "90% confident" in his ability to do this, then the footstool trills and he corrects that he actually said "19%". "I've done dumber things with worse odds," Katy says.

The siblings, Katy and now Trevor all escape Daddy's clutches with the footstool dog and go to the forest of death. They have to sit in the car at the edge of the forest for a while listening to Trevor ramble stupidly about how he got into acting because he thought the actors in The Planet of the Apes were actual monkeys because Morris says they need to WAIT for the right time. And when that comes, Trevor translates Morris' directions through the moving trees. And then they go through a waterfall that portals them to a clearing in magic land with firebirds, anime foxes, more footstool dogs and some multicolored goat horse things. They arrive at the village proper where they are met with open hostility and what looks like some Chinese lion statues that have come to life until Michelle Yeoh tells everyone to stand down and introduces herself as their auntie.
Emilio: In this universe anyway.
Diandra: Yeah, I haven't seen "Everything Everywhere All At Once" yet, which I assume is what you are referring to and you're not trying to trick me into referencing the other multiversal story she's done recently.
Emilio: Uh...yeah.
Diandra: Chrissy put you up to it, didn't she?
Chrissy:Think of it as a test. If you can avoid an obvious connection to Star Trek, I've probably already lost this bet.
Diandra: Mmm-hmm. I'm starting to understand why you made this bet going into this particular movie.
Emilio: I told her about the obvious parallels.
Diandra: Et tu, Emilio?
Emilio: [shrugs] I think it would be kind of fun to recap those movies with you two.

Shaun says they don't have time for lengthy reunions because their father is coming and he's bringing his army. Auntie Michelle takes them to a river bordering the town with a giant cliff on the other side, which she says is where the "Dark Gate" the people of the town have been guarding for 4,000 years is located. Shaun reminds the audience that Daddy thinks mom is behind the gate. Auntie asks where the hell he would get that idea because they are all told it holds in something evil. Sue says he claims Mom is talking to him. Auntie asks if he's wearing the rings by any chance. Shaun says yeah, why?

So she takes them on a tour through the history of Ta Lo, which was attacked many many years ago by the "dweller in darkness", which is depicted in a mural by an army of monkey/bat/squid creatures.
Chrissy:Yeah, Batman really went off the rails.
She kind of acknowledges the multiverse here because this all happened in another universe and the Army of Darkness was threatening to cross over into THIS universe where the people of Ta Lo were able to hold them from portaling over with the help of The Great Protector, who is totally a dragon. And a she. Ultimately, they trapped the dark dwellers behind the gate and their descendants have been guarding the gate to make sure they don't escape again ever since. The Dark Dwellers (who Shaun is now calling Soul Eaters like where the hell did that description come from?) periodically lure people to try to bust them out, which is definitely what is happening to their dad. And they're targeting him because the power of the ten rings actually can open the gate.

Katy is recruited to join the archers because why the hell not? And Shaun and Sue are given suits their mother kept waiting for the inevitability they would return. And Sue is given an arrowhead on the end of a rope weapon. And Shaun asks Auntie to show him how his mother defeated his father in combat.
Chrissy:Uh...by flirting? Are you sure about this?
She shows him some "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" moves and says "your mother knew who she was...do you?" They do some of the moves that look more like dancing than fighting before she does the wind summoning trick and lays him out flat. Then she maybe sort of tells him that he doesn't need her help because he is the "product" of both of his parents, plus every other ancestor they are the product of.

He has a flashback of mom teaching him to channel light and darkness, interrupted when some thugs who actually identify themselves as the Iron Gang come around to make "someone" pay for whatever dad did to them at some point. It turns out this is how she died because while she took out several of them, there was, like, two dozen guys. And Shaun saw the whole thing. Dad concludes that it would never have happened had he not given up the Ten Rings and now HE has to make THEM pay.
Chrissy:Because that's the thing about gangs. It just never ends.
Diandra: Until a couple kids from opposite gangs fall in love and die tragically. Yeah.
Wenwu takes Shaun to the Iron Gang's hidey hole so he can positively ID them before using the rings to slaughter them. Also right in front of Shaun. Because he HAS TO LEARN SOMETIME THAT THIS IS HOW WE DO THINGS. So the "mission" he was sending Shaun on when he was 14 was killing the man who sent those guys to kill his mom. And Wenwu promises they will both rebuild the entire Ten Rings army thing when he gets back.

In the present, Shaun tells Katy that he lied to her when he said he couldn't actually kill the guy his father sent him after. He totally did and then he tried to start over in America with a new, Americanized name and pretended like none of that dark shit ever happened. But now he realizes his dad ultimately killed his mom and now he's hell bent on destroying the place she came from, so...he has to die.

So we have a battle sequence sort of like the Asian version of the one in "Black Panther" with those weird lions instead of armored rhinos. Wenwu just walks past everyone fighting and Shaun follows to fight him one on one. Wenwu wipes the floor with him a bit before getting him good and riled with the accusation that he could have done something to prevent his mother's death. Somehow. And then Shaun suggests that maybe mom wouldn't want anything to do with him anymore even if he could bring her back and Wenwu magic ring punches him into the river. Then he goes to the Evil Gate and starts...magic punching his way through that. One of the demon creatures escapes and heads for the ongoing battle in the village, where Sue delivers this clunky ass line to Machete Arm Thug: "those things are gonna kill us all if we don't work together!"
Emilio: Yeah, that's another continuing theme of the Marvel universe.
Machete Arm is like 'nah, fuck that' and then one of the demons sucks the soul out of another thug and latches on to him and nothing either of them does has any effect at all, but Auntie kills it with a special stick designed specifically to vaporize the demons and he's like 'okay, yeah, sure. Sounds like a great idea.'

For the audience benefit, Auntie explains that any soul those things rip out gets taken back to feed the Dweller in Darkness until it gets strong enough to break the gate.

Katy tries to join the fight and the lead archer initially refuses on account of she just got here and barely knows what she's doing, but after a while gets desperate enough to let her. Everyone gathers at the river - including Trevor for some damn reason - to face off against the soul suckers. Obviously they don't quite know what to do with him and he doesn't know what to do with himself either because Morris finds him playing dead on the battlefield a couple scenes later and flops onto his back next to him like an adorable, cuddly abomination.

Meanwhile, Shaun wakes up underwater and comes face to face with an actual goddamn dragon. Because that's what The Great Protector is: a giant white Chinese CGI dragon. Which he hops on and rides to the surface, where it eats some of the soul suckers. He jumps off on the ledge with the gate to go another round with Daddy Dearest. At one point, Daddy slings five of the rings at him and he somehow...recodes them, turning them from blue to yellow and then taking control of them so the fight is more even matched. And then Wenwu punches him into the ground and when the dust settles ALL of the rings are yellow and floating around Shaun. He gathers them into a spinning ball and just...throws them on the ground and goes back to pleading with dad to see reason.

And then the evil soul sucker queen dragon bursts out of the gate and Wenwu's last act is to shove Shaun out of the way before it catches him and sucks out his soul. And to officially transfer all ten rings to him. There's some CGI bullshit as the two dragons fight each other with Shaun and Sue riding the white one. The black dragon catches the white one and starts sucking out ITS soul, which the lead archer notes will make it completely unstoppable before he is killed by a demon. Katy manages to hit the black one with an arrow, shaking it's hold and returning them back to their CGI battle. Shaun manages to kill the thing by firing all ten rings down it's throat and turning them into a spinning ball again that explodes.
Chrissy:Y'know...as cleanup in this universe goes...disposing of demon dragon chunks at least makes for an interesting story.
Diandra: Tell that to whoever had to get the giant dragon head out of the control center on the Rainbow Bridge.

The remaining population of Ta Lo have a lantern ceremony to honor everyone they lost, including Shaun and Sue's parents. And the white dragon forms half of a yin yang symbol underwater in case you didn't catch on to that symbolism earlier.

Shaun and Katy return to that bar and tell their friends about this crazy adventure where they had to save the universe and their friends are like 'yeah, okay, cute little bedtime story there. Whatever.' And then Wong comes out of a portal, getting the attention of everyone in the bar, and tells Shaun to come with him and bring the ten rings. Oh, and bring Katy. She's important now. This is explained...sort of...by a mid credit scene where Wong is inspecting the rings, with the help of Bruce, who is inexplicably back in human form, and Carol, whose hair is long again and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Wong notes that the rings don't match anything the sorcerers know of. Bruce says they're not vibranium. Carol says they aren't from any alien species she knows of. She asks how long Shang's dad had them. Shang says a thousand years. Bruce says they're MUCH older than that according to some "scientific" reading. Wong belatedly explains that he summoned them because they could FEEL Shang using the rings all the way in Kamar Taj because the rings have some sort of beacon inside them that is sending a message to...someone. Somewhere. Not really sure yet. Something bleats at Carol and she says she has to go, but Bruce can give them her number. She disappears and Bruce is like 'yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh, she always does that. I don't know her number' like, nice of them to vaguely note just how much is going on between movies here. He welcomes the new kids to "the circus." And Wong gives them a speech that could probably be read as 'Marvel owns your ass now.' And then the three of them go sing karaoke. No, I'm not kidding, unfortunately.
Chrissy:In my defense, I probably drank too much "tea".
Diandra: That was in a different universe.
Chrissy:What, he can't do that here too?
Emilio: I feel like it might explain some things in "No Way Home" if he did.
Diandra: God, this really is going to be a thing in that recap, isn't it?
Emilio: Yay! Something to look forward to.

And in the post credit scene we find out that Sue was left to shut down their father's operations and instead takes over while the completely unsubtle lyrics "out with the old, in with the new" play us out.

Part of me regrets not making that one a full recap, but on the other hand...that was a lot of fight scenes. I don't think making it longer would have done more than make those tedious. Now...moving on to one I don't regret shortening at all...


Starring: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Florence Pugh, Tony Dalton, Fra Fee, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, Clayton English

So here's the thing. When Chrissy realized I managed to avoid the Star Trek reference in the ONE PLACE in this abridged recap when it was most likely, she absolved Emilio of his duties so he wouldn't have to sit through six hours of "Hawkeye" with us. Then we took a break. And then the highest court in our country announced its intentions to turn us into the Republic of Gilead. Which not only is the first time EVER they have actually taken away rights from a large swath or people instead of granting them, but I discovered is a direct first amendment violation on Jews like Chrissy because "freedom of religion" only refers to the one "true" religion as far as Republikkkans are concerned. It is tempting for me to escape into fiction instead of recaps, especially since my main WIP takes place in early 2016 before the world went to shit. But I'm remembering the person in the comments of one of my stories back in 2016 telling me to treat this sort of thing like the terrorist act it is and not let it disrupt our lives. Any more than is unavoidable anyway.

So. I can't promise this will be pretty or that either Chrissy or I will be able to keep our bitter rage in check. But we're going to do it anyway. Here goes nothing.

We begin by traveling back to 2012, where a little girl named Kate overhears her parents fighting and talking about moving and using foreshadowing statements like "things don't just fall from the sky". She is getting a board game from her room to play with mom when the Chitauri attack and everything wobbles with explosions outside the apartment and giant metal dragons and superpowered people fly past windows. She runs to her dad's office, where the wall has been blasted away entirely, revealing the nearby tower that still reads STA-K. A Chitauri spots her and starts flying toward her and is hit with an exploding arrow. Before her mom drags her away, she sees Clint firing arrows and jumping off a nearby building.

At her dad's funeral, Kate worries about the possibility that those aliens might attack again and decides that she needs to protect herself and her mom. And because of all of the Avengers, she specifically imprinted on Clint, she decides she needs a bow and arrow and archery lessons to do that.
Chrissy:Her mom should just be glad the first thing she saw wasn't the Hulk.
Diandra: Although maybe that's where we're going with She Hulk. I don't know.

We flash ahead to the present...or after the whole Thanos Blip thing, whenever that's supposed to be. Grown up Kate demonstrates her mad archery skills by accidentally destroying the bell tower on her college campus because somebody bet she couldn't make it ring using arrows or something. Typical dumb college kid stuff, really.

This entire series takes place in the week before Christmas, which is presumably why Disney felt pressured to release "Black Widow" without being able to do it in theaters, Scarlet Johansson's contract be damned. COVID already fucked up their timelines and they weren't about to wait another whole year or do it in the spring or something.

And this is where we introduce to the MCU the insane bullshit that is Rogers: the Musical, which I like to present as the following thought exercise. Imagine if somebody pitched an idea for 9/11: the Musical in the real world. I don't mean telling the story of how it impacted a family living a couple boroughs over, which I think actually exists. I mean the actual terrorist attack with first responders dancing and singing and noting how attractive they are. How fast do you suppose that person would be kicked from the room? Because that's the in universe equivalent here. Clint and his kids actually go to see this bullshit and probably the only thing keeping Clint from having a meltdown watching people doing a fucking musical about the New York attack while dressed like his friends is the fact that we're finally doing the "Hawkeye is deaf" story from the comics (reinterpreting it as hearing loss from all the explosions he's been around) and he has his hearing aids switched off.
Chrissy:It's actually sort of tolerable that way.
Diandra: Yeah. Sort of.
Chrissy:Wasn't there a Titanic musical a while back?
Diandra: Yeah, in the 90s, after basically everyone who would have been through it was dead. That would be the other way this would maybe be less offensive.

Apparently there's some fan wank about why Ant Man is a character in this travesty, but I don't care. To add insult to injury, some guy tries to get Clint to do a selfie for his kids who love him for some reason while they're both standing at urinals in the bathroom. Because I guess New Yorkers in the Marvel Universe are just...massively clueless. Thankfully, Clint's kids seem sane enough to realize how crazy it is and they all leave early, going to a restaurant where he is treated more reverently by getting thanked by the waiter and their meal comped.

I'm not sure I really followed the actual plot of this show between fight scenes (something about Kate's mom's fiance being rich and his uncle being murdered and him possibly having an organized crime ring of Russian goons) and I really don't want to get into anything that even remotely smacks of politics right now, so...I'm mostly going to focus on the character moments here.

Kate picks up a stray dog, who of course steals every scene he's in and possibly for that reason is completely forgotten about for a couple whole episodes.

Kate is a master bullshit artist who, when confronted trying to pose as a waiter at a party with a black market auction going on in the basement by the guy she claims hired her, bursts into tears and says she quits because "you don't even know my name." The auction is attacked by some thugs looking for a watch and she ends up grabbing the sword Hawkeye used during his Purple Arrow Ronin phase because the writers needed some reason for the two of them to get together and him seeing her posing as the Ronin works as well as anything. Also, some thugs attack her thinking she IS him and set fire to her apartment, so there's that.

Clint is perhaps unsurprisingly really good at caring for battle injuries. And there's a mildly amusing nod to his replaceability at one point when they run into some Avengers cosplayers on the street and Arrow Person is clearly Katniss Everdeen, not him. And again, Ant Man is in there.
Chrissy:He's the most beloved character even though those kids didn't recognize Scott in "Endgame".
Diandra: Yeah, that's definitely not it.

And this is where we introduce Maya, Kingpin's deaf, one legged adopted daughter. If you don't know who Kingpin is, just go in any nerd group anywhere online and ask. Assuming you're willing to wade through the shit you will be bombarded with.
Chrissy:I just know him as the bad guy from "Into the Spiderverse".
Diandra: Yeah. Because we weren't watching the Netflix stuff that is slowly being integrated into the MCU now. Anyway. Kingpin is the boss of the thugs who are after the Hawkeyes.

We get flashbacks of Maya with her biological father, a Native American, who can't afford to send her to a special deaf school, but enrolls her in martial arts classes to make up for it. Even though it looks like he's going to die when she's a child, it doesn't happen until she's an adult. So she might not have been adopted by Kingpin in the MCU. She just thinks of him as her "uncle".

She is looking for the Ronin, because I guess he was responsible for her dad's death and she wants revenge. Clint claims Ronin is dead, killed by the Black Widow and he knows this because he was there when it happened. So...he's totally speaking metaphorically. They fight and Maya knocks out his hearing aid and steps on it so he has to spend the majority of the fight scene effectively deaf, making coordinating with Kate hilariously awkward. They escape Maya's goon squad and go on a pretty epic car chase while Kate shoots "trick" arrows that she complains are not labeled so she has no clue if they're going to explode or release smoke or at one point just stick uselessly to Maya's windshield because the end is a plunger. They take out a van with two arrows, one of which has Pym particles or something on the end to turn the other into a giant arrow and jump on a passing subway train.

Clint gets the hearing aid fixed, but still turns it off so he doesn't have to listen to Kate prattle. She possibly gets revenge by designing a costume for him (that a guy in a LARP group they befriended after he briefly acquired the Ronin suit can put together I guess) that is totally the classic comic purple Wolverine costume, which he says his wife would divorce him if he actually wore.
Chrissy:Eh, maybe. She would DEFINITELY laugh herself into a stupor.
Also, standing out is kind of the opposite of what he needs to do to work effectively. Also, he enlists his wife for help at one point, which leads to the reveal at the end of the series that she was a SHIELD agent with a designation comic book nerds recognize as belonging to Mockingbird. I'm...not thrilled with this as Mockingbird is a badass who was only briefly married to Clint in the comics and Laura abandoned whatever badass job she MIGHT have once had to be known as nothing more than the wife of an Avenger? Mother of his kids? Please tell me that designation doesn't mean she actually is Mockingbird and they're just throwing away her whole plot.

Clint is still broken up about Natasha, as well as haunted by those years he spent playing assassin. This brings us to the moment that was set up in Black Widow where a mission to get the watch that proves Laura's secret former identity back from Maya is interrupted by Yelena trying to kill Clint and giving up for a while when it proves to be too much of a hassle with Kate and Maya interfering. Or something. It's kind of contrived. Clint tries to shake Kate if only because her mom appealed to him as a parent not wanting to lose her child.

So we get a little flashback of what happened to Yelena during the Snappening, coupled with a sort of recap of stuff from Black Widow, which, again, explains why that movie had to be released before this. She and another former widow are on a mission to save one they believe is still under thrall (Ana), as she has been doing for many since the end of that movie. She goes to wash her face in the bathroom sink and dusts just as she's about to throw the handfuls of water. She reforms in an altered bathroom and finds Ana with her husband and a small child calling her mommy and Ana has to explain about Thanos and the missing five years. Yelena's first thought is of finding her sister to tell her she's okay.
Chrissy:Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhh. About that.

So now that we're caught up, Yelena crashes Kate's place and in a fit of boredom waiting for her to get back, makes herself some dinner and offers it to Kate when she gets back. She insists she doesn't want to hurt Kate. She just wants to kill her mentor. And, like...do some New York sight seeing, which includes a thing I apparently missed at some point: the Statue of Liberty in this world is now outfitted with a Captain America shield. Probably since Thanos' defeat? I'm guessing? Yelena asks why everyone has just FORGIVEN Clint for everything he's done. Kate says saving the world probably balanced whatever he did before. Yelena says he didn't though. Her sister Nat did. And Yelena's wording gets more passive here as she tells Kate that Nat is dead BECAUSE OF Clint, not that he killed her. Which is probably telling. She has probably the best line of the series here: "however he convinced you about who he is or how many people think or call him a hero...truth is it doesn't matter. We are defined by what we do. Not by nice words."
Chrissy:This is for all the "support our troops" and "family values" Republicans who cut funding for veterans and anything that might help children.
Diandra: I mean, you can broaden that out to a lot of other things, but yeah. There was a line in the "Family Guy" spinoff about a character being a Republican meaning he was too much of a coward to actually join the military and compensating for that by being very loudly and obnoxiously "supportive" of people who do.

Once she is satisfied that Kate has lost touch with Clint, she leaves with a warning for Kate to not get in her way again and that was probably the best scene of the series.

Possibly at the same time they put decorations on the Statue of Liberty, they put up a plaque at Pershing Square commemorating the Battle of New York and the first assembly of the Avengers. Which is where Clint goes to talk to Nat about why the FUCK she insisted on "winning" that fight over the infinity stone. Which begs the question...does he not know where she's buried? He cries a little, says he misses her and apologizes "for what I'm about to do". Which is arrange a meeting with Maya so he can, in Laura's words "end this". Which involves threatening her against ever coming for him and his family, but also explaining that she's being used and it was really her boss who killed her dad. And then he has to escape before she kills him, but at least now she has doubts.

Kate and Clint are reunited so everything can come together, which is when we find out that her mom was trying to disassociate the family business from Kingpin and also hired Yelena to kill Clint. All because of Kate, ostensibly. And yeah, it's pretty convoluted. Clint and Kate make a whole bunch of "trick arrows" using both Stark and Pym tech. He lectures her about What It Means to be a hero and she tells him about that day the Chitauri invaded and she saw him "fighting aliens with a stick and a string" and jumping from buildings despite the fact that he has absolutely no superpowers. "And I thought if he could do that, then I didn't have to be scared." And also, it proved that superpowers weren't actually a requirement for being a hero.
Chrissy:Yeah, you just have to be willing to toe the line between bravery and insanity.
Diandra: Yeah, what was it he told Wanda? Something about 'yeah, this is fucking crazy, but it's my job and SOMEBODY has to do it.'

They all end up at a fancy party where Maya's translator/protector and Yelena both try to kill Clint. While Clint is dodging the first, Kate tries to deflect the second, which mostly just slows her down. Clint gets caught in the Rockefeller Christmas tree while jumping from a building, necessitating Kate shooting the whole thing down with an acid arrow. And they have a big fight scene right on the skating rink with both Clint and Kate wearing matching purple and black suits wherein they somehow manage to use just the right trick arrows at the right moments without looking at what they're grabbing from the quivers. Or sometimes...looking at what they're shooting at either.

A lot of other bullshit happens here because this plot is chaos. Maya and her interpreter fight and she has to kill him. Kingpin tries to kill Kate's mom and has apparently gained superpowers that even the people who saw him in Daredevil were confused by. But Kate manages to subdue him by setting all the explosive arrows off at once. Or something. Although maybe Maya was able to kill him a few minutes later. It's not really clear. And mom is arrested for killing her fiance's uncle and framing him.

Yelena catches up to Clint and he tries to convince her that her sister sacrificed herself willingly to save everyone. He finally gets through to her with a totally awkwardly contrived recurrence of Nat's call and response whistle that Clint proves he knows because Nat talked about her little sister and how much she loved her all the time. And they share a good cry over how much they miss her because this series is apparently where they put all the closure for Nat that was missing in "Endgame".

And the whole thing ends with Kate burning the Ronin suit and spending Christmas with the Barton family. Which is probably the most cheerful ending of all the Disney+ series so far.

And after not having any mid credit scenes the entire series, they have ONE at the very end that they totally waste on the complete version of that Steve Rogers musical number. I don't think I will ever NOT be annoyed by that.

Chrissy:Let's talk again about how COVID affected this franchise before we get to the two movies that were probably most affected by the shakeup.
Diandra: Yeah, it's becoming clear that the initial wave that triggered full lockdowns and shuttering of theaters happened at the worst possible point in the planned order of releases. Although, as tempting as it is to assume that this was supposed to be released around Christmas of 2020, closing off the Infinity Saga BEFORE "WandaVision", "Multiverse of Madness", "Loki" and "No Way Home" (in that order) went skipping off in a new insane direction, it was announced as a 2021 release months before the pandemic even broke out.
Chrissy:Making it the only thing that was actually released on schedule while everything else around it was pushed back, reshuffled and generally thrown into chaos.
Diandra: Yeah, it looks that way. Although "Loki" wasn't that far off the original plan either. I wonder if we should start thinking of these as two separate branches of storyline. One that continues as normal from "Endgame" and includes "Widow", "Falcon", "Hawkeye" and probably "Love and Thunder" and "Shang Chi". They can mostly be separate from all the multiverse stuff with the three magic users and the order is a bit less important aside from "Hawkeye" coming after "Widow" because of Yelena's through story.
Chrissy:So it's okay that you lumped these three together. Could probably have done "Eternals" here too.
Diandra: I thought we agreed we were pretending that movie doesn't exist?
Chrissy:Right. Okay, well, I guess "No Way Home" is next then.
Diandra: Or we could take a break and do something else first. I mean...I'm catching up faster than usual by not doing full recaps, so we have time.
Diandra: The Star Trek movies?
Chrissy:But you won the bet. The terms were if you didn't make a Star Trek reference you didn't have to do those.
Diandra: If you'll recall the beginning of this recap, I said if I managed not to make a Star Trek reference, you agreed to quit bugging me about making Star Trek references from now on. I never said anything about whether or not I would recap them.
Chrissy:....................goddamn you.
Diandra: Or we could do "Night Manager".
Chrissy:Okay, now I think you're just messing with me and will NEVER do those movies.
Diandra: Or we could do that second SNL Benedict hosted since I already did the first.
Chrissy:......................yeah, okay.
Diandra: Wow, you're actually agreeing to that?
Chrissy:Well, if I remember that first one, I kind of involved myself anyway, so it might be fun to just join you from the start.