Sunday, Captain America put his ethics into practice as he and the rest of the Avengers protected “diplomat” Doctor Doom from an angry, spurned Cabal in the newest episode of “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble,” “The Ambassador.”
While the Avengers struggle with the very idea of defending the Latverian dictator and uber-villain, they nonetheless risk life and limb to protect him from harm at the hands of the Red Skull and the rest of his wicked band of villains. Throughout the episode, the question remains whether Doom is being honest and authentic or taking the team for a ride via Cap’s unshakeable morality. In the end, the question is answered…and revealed to be a more complex than initially expected.
We spoke with Kevin Burke and Chris “Doc” Wyatt, who co-wrote the episode with Man of Action, and Supervising Producer Cort Lane about the Avengers’ growth, the show’s humor, and so much more. Grab your seat on the Quinjet, strap in, and take the ride with us, won’t you?
Cort Lane: What I would say is what one of the interesting things to even start this episode is that Captain America always makes the right decisions. You know he always…he is pretty much following the letter of the law, he knows always how to do the right thing. And now here’s a circumstance in which not only does he disagree with Doom, he comes into disagreement with the members of his team, with Doom’s enemies, and with Doom himself. It is a great way to look at Cap--he wants to do the right thing but he’s doing it for somebody who’s notorious for doing the wrong thing.
It’s funny at times because Cap’s helping Doom and funny for Doom to need the help because Doom is almost appalled by Captain America’s nobility and want to do the right thing. It’s a really fascinating place to start the episode.
Kevin Burke: It times well because, really, this idea is, in a way, similar to Cap’s upcoming film. Cap has this compelling ability to hold on to his ethics in a morally ambiguous situation when the other Avengers, perhaps, do not have his level of faith in his own efforts.
Kevin Burke: Well, as the episode goes on we find out Cap is following his ethics and his moral values, but things aren’t always what they seem and that Cap expects things will turn out differently than how they begin. To some extent I think the team realizes that Cap doing the right thing was the correct thing to do. How things turn out regarding Doctor Doom proves that Cap was in the right in more ways than one so they definitely come around to see there is strength in Cap’s ethics and his ability to navigate these ambiguous waters that he goes through in this episode.
Cort Lane: I think that Iron Man is the leader of our team, he’s the one calling the shots. Cap fills the role of living legend, you know, that symbol of the Greatest Generation in the sense that he’s sort of…he’s the moral leader of the team; he’s sort of the heart of the team, why they fight. He’s able to express that over the course of the episode in a way that teaches the team a lesson by example.
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: And I think it is also notable that even though the team may disagree with Cap, they’re all going with this particular plan. They all trust Cap enough--they may have disagreements with him--but they all trust that he will always do what is the right thing, ultimately, even though they’d like to talk to him about of it. That’s important. They don’t completely disagree with Cap to the point that they wouldn’t do it. They just feel he might be sticking to the rules perhaps a little too much, but over the course of the episode they find out that he isn’t, that the rules are going to change.
Marvel.com: The manner in which those rules change, would you say that also changes how Doom sees Captain America from the start of the episode?
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: [Doom] really feels like he is exploiting Cap’s weakness, that weakness being a moral compass, but as Cort said he’s not compensating his estimate for some of Cap’s other attributes.
Kevin Burke: Yeah, [Doom] misinterprets Cap’s strong ethics as naiveté and it is not at all.
Marvel.com: Another key conflict in this story takes place between Doom and Red Skull. At one point I think it is MODOK who makes the comment to Captain America that, in some ways, the Avengers should be allied with the Cabal in this because they should want Doom destroyed. But, similarly, it seems like Doom and Skull have more in common, should want to see the Avengers destroyed, than they do in difference. We understand why Doom has rejected the Cabal but what motivates Skull to not just accept that rejection?
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: I think it is equally within Skull’s character to not accept no for answer. He wants to control the world and when the world pushes back, he wants to push back even harder. I think it’s a little bit of a, it’s almost a childish impulse to try to get what you can’t have.
Kevin Burke: Skull’s plan is to rule the world and knowing that Doom is not going to necessarily be on his side in this puts Doom on this side of the enemy. The enemies aren’t necessarily do-gooders, they’re anybody who’s going to oppose Skull’s plans.
Naturally there are egos involved. Doom’s not going to want to work for somebody. It’s interesting that Skull has this ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’ mentality so the moment Doom says no, Doom becomes the enemy. So we do have very strong egocentric villain personalities in this episode.
Cort Lane: Some of the message of the episode is what we discussed before about Cap being the heart of the team. That if they follow him in this circumstance and trust his moral compass that they’ll get it right.
There are so many wildcards here, particularly with Doctor Doom, that I don’t think that Red Skull could predict those in the way that he did in the previous fight because he was using Tony’s tech to calculate probabilities and was successful in doing so. Doctor Doom is someone that he can’t count on to behave as you’d expect.
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: Doom does some clever things through the episode to thwart the Cabal, even without his powers.
Kevin Burke: And I think it has to do with the trust element. The team is getting stronger, they’re learning to trust each other more. One of the things at the heart of this episode is even in disagreement they’re still going to trust one another. So while Cap is now leading Doom and trying to get him to the Tower, Thor and the other Avengers are coming in. They’re still disagreeing but they’re helping take out the Cabal, protecting Cap, and I think that’s an important aspect of this episode.
Marvel.com: One thing I noticed in this episode is there is a fairly strong line of humor throughout, especially in reference to Hyperion’s hearing after his first encounter with Doom. I certainly appreciated and enjoyed it. I’m curious, from a writing standpoint, if you thought it was important to be included?
Cort Lane: It is so important, as with any Marvel experience, that there is a level of fun. That’s what our audiences expect from us. The Avengers are real people and they have a sense of humor. Hyperion is a specific thing between him and Doom that creates humor but the Avengers’ comments about that and a host of things keep it moving along with a sense of comedy.
Hawkeye has that number two joke in the beginning that he says to Doctor Doom and Doom loses it because he knows what [Hawkeye] is talking about. And viewers will too. It’s just that kind of stuff that we hope reminds people that the Marvel experience…that there’s always fun even when there’s darkness.
Marvel.com: Including the humor but looking more broadly, were there any particular moments in the episode that stood out as favorites for all of you?
Kevin Burke: My favorite, honestly, is the very end when it turns out that Cap had more idea what was going on then we realized and had kind of predicted Doom’s moves ahead of him. It’s a great reveal. We pretty much trust Cap, we go with Cap and we know that Doctor Doom is underestimating him, but to see Cap outsmart everybody is very rewarding. To see him play all these different levels is a great twist, very satisfactory. It is my favorite because it still could’ve worked with Cap doing the correct and moral thing, getting Doctor Doom where he needs to go. It still would’ve played with Cap victorious, but there’s something very satisfying with Cap playing so many levels at once, predict what Doom’s going to do, and outsmart the guy who’s playing himself so smart and intelligent. Cap just out-chess plays him.
Kevin Burke: In general this episode is really a lot of fun in that there are so many villains the come popping out the woodwork during this journey. There isn’t one…this isn’t Doctor Doom as jus the big bad guy. Everybody appears at some point in this. Any moment, from city block to city block, you start seeing new characters, new people coming out of nowhere and it’s really fun. The feel and thrill of adventure is really fun.
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: Umm, Kevin stole my favorite moment. So I’ll say Iron Man’s little malware thing at the end because they just love sticking it to Doctor Doom and then twisting a bit more because he’s such a jerk. His arrogance is so annoying.
But also Cap and Doom have a great showdown at the end of Act 1 that’s interrupted by the villains. It’s this powerful moment because Cap is holding on to his ethics--he tells Doctor Doom, ‘I gave you my word’--and Doctor Doom just challenges him. It’s interesting.
Marvel.com: Excellent. To shift from this episode to look forward at the next one, Cort, is there anything you can offer by way of tease or plot that fans can be excited for next?
Cort Lane: Sure. There’s always been a push and pull between Odin and Thor for five decades of Thor’s history in publishing where Odin thinks [Thor’s] wasting his time on Midgard and he should be attending to his duties on Asgard. But Thor feels that he has some sort of obligation, some sort of role to play in protecting all of us on Earth.
This comes to a head in episode 20. It’s called “All-Father’s Day,” appropriately enough, and Odin’s had enough of it and doesn’t think that the Avengers are worthy companions. He sets out to attack the Avengers which is an epic battle. Things go really awry when Mangog shows up. He’s a classic Thor villain and really very different than anything we’ve seen on the show so far.