Marvel’s new podcast, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow, stars Susan Sarandon as the titular character and premieres with the first two episodes. SPOILERS for episodes 1 and 2.
Marvel’s Wastelander: Black Widow Season 1
Episode 1 & 2
Marvel’s Wastelanders: Black Widow is the latest digital series to come from Marvel’s partnership with SiriusXM and is the third installment in the “Marvel’s Wastelanders” audio epic. Just like its predecessors, Old Man Star-Lord and Hawkeye, the story takes place years after the known event called “V-Day,” a day where the heroes of Earth failed and were defeated by the villains.
The setting for this podcast, specifically, takes place 30 years after “V-Day.” At Midtown Manhattan, in President Red Skull territory, in The Onar, a 161-story apartment complex.
Owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D., who are now reporting directly to Red Skull, the Onar is set up to favor its residents by class status. The uber-rich residents live on the very top floors in penthouses, enjoying peace, quiet, and the best of the best. The residents on the very bottom floors are people typically off the streets, poor, or running away from something or someone. The set-piece is an interesting change of pace from the previous Marvel digital stories.
With the first two episodes released, let’s take a look at the journey this Black Widow will be embarking on.
Chapter 1 – “Houston, We have a Spider”
Helen Black (Susan Sarandon) is a new resident of the Onars, living on the more humble “100 Block,” and is hired to teach a daily yoga class. Wanting privacy, she deals with a noisy neighbor and a yoga student, named Stanley (Michael Imperioli), coming on to her. As the story goes, glimpses of who Helen is comes to the forefront.
In episode one, we’re introduced to a young woman named Lisa Cartwright (Chasten Harmon). Lisa has been hired by Panopticog Solutions, which is a private security company hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. to monitor the Onar for any potential problems. As she is settling in her job, which is to monitor the Onar residents (without them knowing), Lisa comes across Helen Black, who seems to be possibly keeping a secret. After Lisa shares what she heard with her coworker, Jordan Temple (Nate Corddry), he (a very eager employee wanting to make a name for himself) theorizes that it could be one of the Black Widows, due to her mentioning a former employer being a S.H.I.E.L.D. subsidiary. Lisa doesn’t buy it and plays it off as nothing, but once her boss, Hank Hammond (Justin Kirk), mentions she might not be cut for the job, Lisa mentions Helen Black. From there, Lisa is assigned one on one surveillance on Ms. Black to find out more.
The first chapter of this story is definitely an intriguing start. Like the previous Wastelander stories, we take another step into this interesting post-war world. Where Old Man Star-Lord was focused on the man and Hawkeye spent time with the old archer and his family, Black Widow splits its time between the older Widow (referred to as a senior citizen) and a young analyst named Lisa. It’s a different approach, using Lisa to spy on the former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative. It kind of reminds me of a previous Marvel podcast, Marvels, which uses news reporters to tell us about the Fantastic Four.
Like any other Marvel podcast, the production value is stellar, and the writing is solid enough to keep me listening to the next episode (or waiting for the new one). Susan Saradon as Helen Black is good, she is a pro after all. I’m excited to see what she does with the character as the series moves.
Chapter 2 – “You See More”
Lisa reports for her first day of 24/7 surveillance of Helen Black, meeting with Hank Hammond first to get all her necessary tactical gear. After reviewing the case, Hank mentions he is going to the funeral of a fellow resident to committed suicide. That person jumped out of the window, and his name was Francis Molton. Lisa goes to attend Helen’s yoga class. Though Lisa has a bit of difficulty starting off, she is able to find an in with Helen and scores a private yoga lesson with Black. They do their private session, and Lisa is able to get a little bit of information out of Helen: an ex and a life she is moving on from, but the task is more challenging than expected.
Jordan, who is upset that Lisa has a more “exciting” mission, looks for his own case to chase. He comes across a resident, Stanley Petranella, who is selling “juice” to another resident named Marco (Michael Boxleitner). Jordan thinks that Stan is a drug dealer and pitches to Hank that this is something worth investigating. Hank tries to dismiss this because Stan has ties to people living in the top floor penthouses, the “Deca-Domes.” Jordan finally gets approval for a week of surveillance on Stanley, but Hank warns him the last person to tail him was Francis Molton.
The second episode really gets things moving. Lisa is a layered character, and I look forward to seeing where her character development goes. Her story let us spend more time with Helen, who was able to shine more during this episode. In the first episode, Helen seems more on the defense, keeping out of the way. After finding out that Lisa is spying on her, Helen reaches out and threatens Lisa to keep spying on her as a mole. Helen is taking control, and she reveals herself as Yelena Belova, the second Black Widow.
The development of Stanley being a connected drug dealer with his romantic pursuit of Black Widow is going to make him an exciting season villain. I am expecting a journey of Black Widow slowly making her way up the Onar ladder, tackling Stanley and the Deca-Domes residents, and a possible Lisa-Jordan conflict down the line. Only Marvel knows, but I am excited to find out.
Marvel Wastelanders: Black Widow stars Susan Sarandon as Helen Black. Written by Alex Delyle (Fear the Walking Dead), directed by Timothy Busfield (Thirtysomething, The West Wing), with sound design and original music by Daniel Brunelle (The Two Princes, Sandra). Learn more at marvel.com/wastelanders.