Edited in Post – The Falcon & The Winter Soldier

Disclaimer 1: Spoilers for The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. Seriously, if you haven’t watched the entire series, read no further.

Disclaimer 2: I enjoyed TF&TWS. After last week’s post, I was happy that the finale answered a few questions I had and focused enough on Sam that I wasn’t annoyed. Last week, I was definitely on a rage bender from The New Mutants, and jumped the gun on some heavy criticism of The Adventures of Birdman & Arm Man. I just wanted to take a moment to say I pro-o-o-o-obably should’ve waited for the final episode before tearing into it (last week’s post really could’ve been a well deserved, merciless takedown of The New Mutants, a movie that perfectly caps the bullshit spectacle that was the majority of the FoX-Men universe).

Having said that . . . I am a very heavy editor. I’ve admitted that a bunch of times on this site. It’s just in my nature to think about how a story could have been better. And nothing, from my favorite series to my own writing, escapes that obsessive “it could have been better” reflex. Seriously, I loved She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, but my very first “Edited in Post” was on that series anyway. Actually, I think this series might always be for movies and shows I love (because I tried a few weeks back to write one for a movie I didn’t like and ran out of steam 2 paragraphs in).

What I’m getting at though: as a man who likes Marvel stuff and enjoyed The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, I just . . . really think it could have been better.

To the extent that I re-e-e-e-eally had to do an “Edited in Post” after the series finale.

If you’re new here, “Edited in Post” is a script doctor series; a vehicle by which I, a random aspiring writer on the internet, explains how I would’ve edited a movie or TV show if its script hit my desk in pre-production. This is all 100% for fun, so if you love TF&TWS, cool. This post in no way threatens that.

How I’m going to tackle this: a list of edits I would’ve made followed by a super rough outline for how I would’ve reworked the story.

That said, let’s just jump into the edits. And yes, we’re starting gentle to establish a baseline for the kind of edits I’d make and the reasons I’d make them.

Edit 1: Make It So One of the Senators
Was Sam’s Former Commander

If there was only one change I could make to the show, this would be it.

I would’ve just added a named Senator to the cast. And, in the very first episode, in a brief, snappy exchange (in the crowd after the shield passing ceremony), I would’ve conveyed that when Sam was in the military, that Senator was his CO. And maybe that former CO is still comfortable speaking to him with authority (not belittling him, but definitely pulling rank, with Sam saluting and calling him “sir,” etc.). In this same scene, the Senator would thank Sam for taking his suggestion to give up the shield, conveying that he was pivotal in getting Sam to turn the shield over to the government.

In episode 2, after the reveal that the shield went directly to John Walker, we get a tense phone call between Sam and that commander who basically says, “This is just the way things have to be,” to convey that classic “it is what it is <shrug> oh well,” down-talking energy that shitty government officials have. Maybe here, he more abrasively pulls rank and asks if Sam is questioning the military, even though Sam is an Avenger who helped save half of the universe.

In the final episode, that Senator is among those saved from the Flag Smashers (maybe taking the lines of the one male Senator who told Sam he didn’t understand politics) and we’d get the catharsis of Sam challenging his morals and winning–on camera. Just to make things a bit more personal for Sam (which I think was missing) without making insane changes to every single episode.

Okay. Turning the Editing Dial up just a notch . . .

Edit 2: More Isaiah Bradley and the Project Rebirth Suit

Definitely getting crazier here, but I would have added another scene with Isaiah Bradley or his grandson, Eli.

I’ve thought about it a lot and there are so many ways this could’ve been done, but my goal for adding more Isaiah would’ve been threefold.

  1. I would’ve wanted him to seriously and more intensely challenge Sam’s feelings about the government way, way earlier.
  2. I would’ve wanted to (again) make things more personal for Sam.
  3. And I would’ve wanted him to somehow dismissively give Sam the suit he wore while he was doing missions after Project Rebirth.

The most extravagant way to do all of this: Isaiah lives in Sam’s town from the very beginning. Maybe he was an old man Sam always knew, who always bitterly challenged him for serving in the military and/or wasn’t impressed by him being an Avenger, particularly for working with Captain America. When Isaiah finally reveals the truth to Sam and tells him to leave, maybe he adds, “While you’re at it, take this too. And you throw it in the goddamn gutter when you leave,” and tosses an old duffle at him.

When Sam leaves, he opens the bag to find an old, burned suit that’s similar to Captain America’s–an MCU take on his costume from the comics, with logical alterations (maybe no headband, no scales, different color tones, etc.).

The less extravagant way to do this (and the way that I definitely prefer) would’ve been Sam going back to Isaiah’s house, but only Eli comes to the door. I would’ve done this mid-series, with Eli telling Sam some story from Isaiah’s past to explain why Isaiah is done with all of this and won’t talk to him (allowing for a potential flashback). But maybe Eli wants his grandfather to be happy, or wants him to be remembered as the hero he is; and/or maybe Sam manages to convince him that he cares, which makes Eli go inside and come out with an old duffle bag. “I’d tell you to hide it and get out of here, but . . . I don’t even think he’d notice it was gone.” Sam takes it, opens it up, and finds the old, burned suit.

Either way, at the end of the series, I would’ve had Sam either wear this exact suit (after cleaning it up), or he would’ve altered it to make something new, showing that he wasn’t just taking up Steve’s legacy.

“But wait,” you might be asking. “What about that sweet ass suit the Wakandans made for him?”

Yeah . . . I mean, I like that outfit for sure, but . . . I don’t think the Wakandans would’ve been in my version of the story because . . .

Edit 3: Completely Cut Baron Zemo

Okay. Hear me out.

We’re in full challenge mode now, but before you close this window, let me just say: I cannot tell you how excited I was to have Zemo return for this show.

In the promo material, I was seriously freaking out when I saw his mask. Like Kang the Conqueror, Zemo has always been one of the Marvel villains I absolutely love. Like, without backstory, if either of those dudes walked into a room and started talking, I’d be like, “Who-o-o-o-okay! Who the fuck is this dude with the blue face and the super deep voice!?”

“Who the fuck is this smooth talking dude with a purple mask and a purple jumpsuit with fucking leopard fur shoulder muffs? And why does he have a sword??”

Seriously, I love Baron Zemo.

But he is just a waste of time on this show.

And, worse, he . . . kind of feels like a completely different character from Civil War Zemo? Like, seriously, Civil War Zemo didn’t frame Bucky and find the other Winter Soldiers so he could kill super soldiers–he did it to make the Avengers fight each other. If TF&TWS Zemo had been in Civil War, he would’ve just shot Bucky in the head the first chance he got and then tried to do the same to Steve Rogers. Like, he will just forever feel like two different people to me.

To boot, Zemo doesn’t have an arc on this show? And, at least to me, it doesn’t feel like his contribution to Bucky’s arc . . . matters? Like, if Ayo had asked Bucky if he was going to kill Zemo, and then warned him that doing so would be bad for him, and then we saw Bucky deciding not to kill Zemo even though he wanted to, that would’ve been good character growth. But, from the very first episode, it’s shown that Bucky doesn’t struggle with an itch to kill the people who used to control him, so . . . why is Zemo there?

Whatever. The real point here is, I would need time for more Isaiah and tense convos with Senator Douchebag, so I would’ve cut Zemo, meme dance be damned.

The biggest loss here for me would’ve been losing Ayo and the Dora Milaje kicking ass. Oh, and that cold open with Bucky in Wakanda was a good moment. I definitely would’ve tried fitting them in anyway (maybe Ayo is there to check in on Bucky?) but if it came down to it, yeah, I would’ve killed some darlings.

The Rework Outline

Episode 1 – Exactly as it was, only with the addition of Senator Douchebag.

Episode 2 – Also as it was, but with Sam talking to Senator Douchebag. Without Zemo, the cliffhanger would have to be that Sam and Bucky are contacted by Sharon, who invites them to Madripoor, or gives them a lead in the city.

Oh, also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I would’ve heavily edited some of Bucky and Sam’s bickering. In this episode in particular, some of their back-and-forths were super cringey. To the extent that I would’ve crossed out entire pages and handed them back like, “No.”

Just throwing that out there for anyone who thinks I play favorites with Marvel; nope, I harshly criticize boardroom writing wherever I find it.

Episode 3 – Essentially the same, but cutting out the Zemo breakout to replace it with Sam going to Isaiah’s and talking with Eli, getting an Isaiah story flashback, and getting the suit. Continue with the trip to Madripoor, with everything Zemo would’ve done achieved via Sharon’s connections and Joaquin Torres providing tech support (i.e. guy-in-the-chairing) instead.

Without Ayo making a cameo, maybe it ends with the hint that Sharon is working with someone? Not sure, but I’d definitely be able to figure it out if I was actually in the writing room, instead of belting this out in four hours.

Episode 4 – Basically the same, but with Sharon instead of Zemo. Maybe work in clearly grey-area things Sharon is doing to hint at her being/working for the Power Broker, but give every weird thing she does a logical excuse. Or, if you didn’t want to risk spoiling her twist . . . maybe we could just use Joaquin? Like, maybe Joaquin Torres actually gets to step in and help a bit more, since he eventually becomes the Falcon? Just saying–it would’ve been cool to give the MCU’s first Latinx superhero more to do in his first appearance. Ya know, aside from getting his ass kicked by a super soldier?

Whatever. The episode still ends with John Walker killing a dude in public.

Episode 5 – Largely the same, only an alteration to the scene with Isaiah, with Sam showing him that he has Isaiah’s old costume. “Your grandson gave it to me. Because he wants what I want. To help you.”

Cliffhanger with Sam working on Isaiah’s old suit, attaching and repairing his wings with Joaquin’s help (I’m going to keep adding him into every scene I can).

Episode 6 – Almost identical, only with Sam in the altered “Isaiah” suit, making all the changes that would be essential for a suit that isn’t made out of vibranium (probably can’t block a crashing helicopter with his wings anymore). Also, of course, we add Senator Douchebag to Sam’s speech scene to make it more cathartic.

And that’s it. Outside of a full story overhaul, that’s how I would’ve changed The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. Just representing Sam’s military life the tiniest bit and adding more Isaiah while removing extraneous characters. In my eyes, that would’ve made it a bit more personal for Sam while making Isaiah a better mirror for him.

But the major thing I would’ve loved: Sam in Isaiah’s suit. It would’ve been emotionally complicated and scenes would’ve needed to be tweaked to support it, but I definitely would’ve cried my eyes out.

~~~

A-a-a-a-anyway, that’s it for me. Thanks for reading if you made it all the way to the end; I really appreciate having this forum to at least vent these ideas.

That said, I post here every Sunday. If you’d like to read more stuff like this, feel free to drop by then or Follow my blog via the button on the left sidebar (on desktop) or top right drop down menu (on mobile). I don’t always do script doctoring, but I do heavily criticize blockbuster movies I don’t like at all (the other end of the spectrum from “Edited in Post”). Those posts are called “A Writer Watching,” and the last one I did was a two parter on Wonder Woman 1984 (Part 1, Part 2). Give it a read if you want to revisit your hatred for that movie. Or your hatred for people who hated that movie.

Until next time, take care. And, if you’re really down for getting into some seriously intense race issues in a comic TV show, holy shit, HBO’s Watchmen is excellent. Like, I hesitate to say things are “excellent,” but if you’ve already read Watchmen but haven’t seen the show, watch it. It’s so good.

Anyway, bye!

Edited in Post – The Rest of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

It’s been over two years since I did the first “Writer Watching” for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. While rereading it, I had a bunch of nervous laugh moments whenever I’d said shit like, “I’ll talk about that next time!”

Yeah, I have no idea what “that” was.

What I do know is that it was always weird for me that I just never came back to finish the series.

In one part, it was because it just felt weird–I was voicing really reactionary opinions on the first and second episodes of a TV show; it felt like I should finish the season and then comment.

But, on the other hand . . . it just felt like watching it while nitpicking was making me like the show less. Like, significantly less.

And, finally, it felt like the feminist angle of the show actually required more patience than a 30-something man, writing on his blog, could give it. Basically, I reached Seahawk, initially hated how he was handled, and decided to back away instead of writing a whole thing about how much I didn’t like him.

Well, I’m still in lockdown. It’s 2020 now, and, seeing as all of my time is spent in the one room, working or watching things on Netflix, I figured it was the perfect time to actually return to the series and finish what I started.

Instead of being absolutely insane and commenting on specific things, however, I’m going to try something new.

As I’ve said on this site before, I am a really intense self-editor; I will mercilessly edit and rewrite my own work, which is a double-edged sword because A) there’s always going to be room for improvement and, B) the new additions I make will always have grammatical errors of their own (it’s a thing).

A vent for that reflex (or maybe a result of it), is that I love imagining edits for existing works that I think can improve with a few tweaks (or, in the case of Episodes VII – IX, a ton of tweaks).

So, considering that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power triggered that reflex, I figured, “Why not write a whole post about it?” A post that I’m making the first in a new series: Edited in Post.

To be clear, my goal here isn’t to “improve” on the story as a whole; I am not conceited enough to think my edit of She-Ra would be better. All that I can say objectively is that A) it would be different from the end product we got and B) it would be how I would’ve edited the end product if I was in the writer’s room. Ultimately, this is just an editing exercise and a way for me to consider my identity as a writer.

All of that said, let’s start by establishing a really healthy baseline with . . .

What I Liked

1. Adora

Of all the things I didn’t think I would like in this show, Adora herself was probably number one. In my original post, I talked about how much I disliked the White Savior vibe I was getting from the pilot two-parter. I was super glad to see that problem didn’t persist because the show spends a lot of time with Glimmer, Bow, and other non-white characters.

Beyond that, however, I still didn’t think I’d like the no frills protagonist of any Fantasy show that much; I have become hard-wired to expect the typical batch of issues a protagonist has (like trying to understand their powers, trying to figure out a mystery left for them by an ancient race, etc.). For sure, Adora has that same batch.But . . . she still manages to be incredibly likable on her own. She’s funny, a terrible actress, cocky in a dorky way that’s super fun to watch, and–more interesting than anything, else in my opinion–she’s su-u-u-uper prone to making mistakes (which is probably the freshest breath of fresh air). Like, I often consider protagonist fatigue; whether they’re men or not, the lamest thing in the world is the no frills protagonist who just does everything right. Adora is not that character.

And, because it needs to be acknowledged, she is not that character in massive part due to Aimee Carrero’s performance.

There were . . . so many moments where I laughed out loud just because Carrero’s delivery was so good.

“I’m a triple may-zhor, and I also teach, unless that’s not a thing students do. Is it hot in here?”

“Ah ha ha ha ha. Is that a good laugh or a bad laugh? Ha ha ha . . . Well, the longer it goes on, the more I think it’s a bad laugh.”

Really early on in my watch, I started getting super excited for Adora dialogue in fun situations.

2. Scorpia

The greatest failure of my life is that Scorpia isn’t real and she isn’t my best friend.

I’m not kidding; I’m actually sad that I can’t be woken up by Scorpia every morning, rushing into my room to ask if I’ve breathed in the new day yet (which I would absolutely hate coming from anyone else).

I think that in the great array of strong female protagonists, ranging from Super Sexualized to Tough and Angry, Scorpia is something completely different. She’s this extremely hug-able, determined, compassionate woman who’s also always the strongest non-She-Ra person in the room, and she has the freedom to be all of those things because her character is not her charging into a room, tackling the nearest man and flexing like, “I am Scorpia! I am strongest in the world!” Like . . . she’s just a character and her being a buff giant just adds to that character. I just love it. I’m here for Scorpia. I stan her and I want to see way more characters like her.

3. Basically the Rest of the Cast (and their Fun Drama)

I really enjoyed the majority of the Princesses and other characters (some more than others naturally; it is a cartoon show after all).

Mermista was the real standout for me, and she’s the one who made me realize why I liked the cast so much; they all had some low stakes drama with each other on occasion, and every instance of that was extremely fun and fresh to me (i.e. Mermista deciding that she was Sea-Ra, just straight up jacking Adora’s alter-ego for her character in the D&D episode). I really lived for those moments–those brief, beautiful nuggets of petty that really gave the characters life.

Those dynamics, and the show’s ability to showcase that drama, were great.

Okay. There’s a lot more I liked, but I have to start trying to shorten these posts. Suffice it to say I liked the show a bunch, but to get into the edit, here’s . . .

What I Didn’t Like / What I Would Change

1. The Not-So-Fun Drama

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the show wasn’t able to handle more complicated friendship drama later on. I felt Season 5’s Adora/Glimmer beef was a little exhausting–especially after it seemed to be solved by the end of an episode . . . but was still there in the next episode. I’m definitely not saying I didn’t want to see those characters fight; I just got incredibly tired of watching them voice the same issues, over and over, without working on them, which even the show points out is strange.

2. The Pacing on Catra’s Arc (and thus, for a while, Catra)

It must be reverse day, because of all the things I thought I’d love for the entirety of the series, Catra was number one.

When I first watched the show, I absolutely loved her. I enjoyed her attitude, her design, how her situation was understandable, so you wind up feeling for her.

But then the show shoots way past the point where she’s understandable . . . and the plot just keeps supporting her, for way too long.

It isn’t until Season 4, Episode 10 where she actually starts losing, and, as a person who’s experienced the full spectrum of gaslighters, it feels like it took way too long for her to be redeemable. Like, she opens a portal that almost destroys all of reality because she’s a jealous brat, and it is pretty impossible to forgive that.

It doesn’t help that the plot support came in ways that seemed over-the-top and devalued other characters.

Scorpia and Seahawk share an episode where they vent about the treatment they’re getting from their special someones. Seahawk leaves that episode triumphantly proclaiming that, fuck it, he doesn’t care about what Mermista thinks of him. Scorpia left that episode . . . determined to devote herself to Catra’s bullshit no matter what?

Hordak also, weirdly, winds up bowing to Catra because she rips out a gem powering his new exoskeleton . . . but then gives it back to him? So, like, he’s in charge, but really she’s in charge? The thing is, I wouldn’t have even minded her just straight up becoming the leader of the Horde, but it was done in this weird way where she still gets to be angry about being subservient . . . while also calling the shots? Why didn’t she just kill Hordak? Why didn’t the show just shift her into Queen Catra mode and give her a dope new outfit?

In the end, I just got tired of it. She stopped being relatable, the drama between her and Adora stopped moving, and her drama with almost every other character stopped feeling logical.

3. The Rest of the Pacing Too, Actually / Why Did They Save the Good Part?

This is not my first rodeo when it comes to Netflix Originals from Dreamworks.They usually have pacing issues. And weird half-seasons. I get it.But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that needs fixing.

Particularly because . . . the last season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is fucking awesome.

If you’re not aware, the last season is actually the season that most resembles the intense, desperate-rebellion energy of the original show. The stakes are insanely high and it absolutely rocks.

The fact that it’s only the last fifth of the show will always feel like a weird mistake to me. Especially because the middle seasons just spun wheels on a lore-based plot twist that just didn’t feel unique (basically a perfect example of the “mystery left for protagonist by an ancient race” plot line that’s already deep into trope town).

The Edit in Post

Okay. So, how would I have reorganized all of this?

  • Delete a lot of the plot mystery: I liked Mara and thought some of the lore episodes with her were amazing. But I would completely cut the Heart of Etheria plot line. By the end, it got super convoluted, and the plot twist that the Princess’s energy was meant to power a weapon that would destroy the planet was weirdly antithetical to the message of the entire show. Other details, like the planet being in another dimension, are such weird, late-game additions that it just felt like the writers were hitting points on a checklist of “Things We Have to Do Because the Original Show Did Them.”
  • Move up Horde Prime–and thus the stakes–by, like, 2 seasons.
  • Move up Catra being exiled from the Horde and make it permanent.
  • And I mean move her exile up to Season 2 so Catra and Scorpia take over the Crimson Wastes. Catra builds her gang by stealing Horde tech, or maybe finding a new character to enlist. This results in a new faction that fights both the Princesses and the Horde. Would actually be way cooler to see Catra build a stronger army than the Horde, come back, and beat Hordak.
  • Move up Double Trouble’s intro. Absolutely introduce her in Season 2, in the Crimson Wastes, and have her work for Catra. Give the audience a slower, better burn on the mystery of who she is among them and let her work more subtly on putting a wedge in the gang. It would be . . . such good drama.
  • Give us a full season at least of Entrapta and Hordak. Just bolster the idea that Entrapta would actually, logically decide to stay with the Horde because she and Hordak are the most adorable friends ever.
  • Pad out everything with new episodes of good filler that explore character relationships and drama (i.e. gimme that Bow and Glimmer flashback solo adventure!).

So, to be clear, my changes would’ve looked like this:

Season 1: Introduce main characters and setting. Establish stakes early early with Entrapta getting captured way sooner. Use remaining episodes to establish Entrapta / Hordak friendship via B plots. End season with Catra beating the gang, who narrowly escape, and then she takes over for Shadow Weaver.

Season 2: Establish early in the season that Catra is tired of Hordak. She miscalculates a first attempt to manipulate him (or maybe trying to fight him), gets banished to the Crimson Waste. Catra, Scorpia create a new faction via B plot, gaining power with Double Trouble’s help. Plot A remains the cast fighting the Horde, but maybe also getting infiltrated by Catra’s faction? Establish that there’s some super powerful Old One’s weapon (basically, the Heart of Etheria minus a bunch of lore episodes), and the season ends with all three factions fighting for it. Hordak is defeated by Catra, but he hints heavily at Horde Prime’s arrival.

Season 3: Catra as Queen of the Horde, fighting She-Ra for the season with Shadow Weaver drama and question of how to get the weapon to work. Full season of peak Catra / Adora drama via “Catra, why the fuck are you fighting us when Horde Prime is on his way!? Goddamn!” but worded differently. Also peak Entrapta drama as she joins Catra to “keep working on tech,” but is really trying to figure out how to free Hordak. Peak season for the drama. I imagine that right as Entrapta is freeing Hordak, Horde Prime shows up and handily defeats everybody. Hordak goes to Prime, his mind gets erased, and Horde Prime captures both Glimmer and Catra.

Season 4: Basically the same as the Season 5 we got, only with Catra ingratiating herself to Prime at the beginning. I’d love to write her being frustrated at having to be subservient to Hordak again. But, more than anything, I’d love to write the argument where Glimmer tells her, “If you had just helped us fight him, none of this would’ve happened.”

Again, this outcome would’ve been different (not necessarily better), but I can say that I absolutely would’ve loved to write it and watch it.

~~~

It was weird to write this out (this is usually just an exercise I perform in my head for a week after watching something), but I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider Following the House of Error; the field to do so is to the left side of your screen on desktop, or in the drop down menu (i.e. the hamburger icon) on the top right on mobile.

Next week is going to be a post about my writing process–the ways in which it’s similar to and differs from Brandon Sanderson’s. Until then, stay safe, everyone!