Finding Wonder Women in the Work of Michelle MacLaren

By  · Published on December 3rd, 2014


The news that Wonder Woman would be directed (and developed at a story level) by Michelle MacLaren may have whizzed past a lot of people. Society lost its shit, collectively, when Wonder Woman was given official confirmation by Warner Bros. Ditto when it came out that WB was looking for a woman to direct comics’ most wondrous woman. But if you didn’t know who MacLaren was (or didn’t care to Google her and see the words “Breaking” and “Bad” come up repeatedly), this particular Thanksgiving week announcement might be drowned out by Tie Fighter fire or the lip-smackings of a Mosasaur.

But rest assured, this news is just as meaty. Meatier, even. The crappiest Miss Cleo knockoff could have predicted that The Force Awakens and Jurassic World would, in fact, have trailers. And that people would be excited (what, really?) to see them. To guess that WB, after a string of farcically boneheaded creative decisions- say, deciding that one reasonably successful Superman reboot is grounds for a ten-picture expanded universe, or not immediately firing whoever came up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice– would make a pick as perfect as MacLaren takes a far more powerful hotline psychic.

Because MacLaren is perfect for Wonder Woman. For any franchise, really- she’s one of those names that you spot in TV credits for years, fingers crossed that eventually she’ll get a big(ger) break. But for comicdom’s premiere warrior lady, she’s especially well-suited. And thanks to the body of TV work that stands behind her, we have more than enough reasons to explain why- through the many quasi Wonder Women who’ve already appeared in MacLaren-helmed TV.

Hardcore, Armed-to-the-Teeth Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman’s status as an icon is directly linked to the gear she hauls around in her. What gut feelings pop into your head when you think Wonder Woman? For me, at least, it’s one intangible- the whole female empowerment, feminist icon, most famous female superhero deal- and a whole lot of cool swag. Red blue and gold armor, invisible jet, Lasso of Truth, bullet-deflecting bracelets. Sure she can fly and punch holes in sheet metal, but the list of superheroes with that powerset is several thousand names strong.

And in MacLaren’s many episodes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, etc., there’s special attention to detail given to instruments of death. Take Game of Thrones– in “Oathkeeper,” MacLaren was in charge of the handoff between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth; the passing of the titular sword (forged from another super-important sword and named after Jaime’s newfound redemption from Kingslaying) from the former to the latter. MacLaren gives Oathkeeper heft- it stretches impossibly long in the foreground, light sparkling along the length of the blade. The sword’s also a conduit for the feelings Jaime and Brienne might not be so willing to state out loud. Jaime picks it up and bobbles it out of nervousness (and because he’s not 100% used to having a golden hand). When he hands it to Brienne, their hands touch, briefly.

Or in Breaking Bad’s “One Minute,” when she imbues a totally average axe with a sense of otherworldy horror. When Marco Salamanca grabs the axe out of his trunk, there’s a hint of funhouse-mirror warp as it passes in front of the camera (complete with a stretchy-sounding synth in the background). And in the clip above, while Hank slips all over his own blood trying to load that gun, we hear the continual sound of axe on pavement in the background- a constant reminder that a very well-polished weapon is coming to cleave Hank’s head in two. Spooky.

In MacLaren’s hands, a weapon can have untold depth. Or, as was the case for Karl Tanner in MacLaren’s GOT ep, “First of His Name,” a weapon is nothing but a source of whoa, neat. Something you jam through the back of a dude’s head and through his open mouth (open both because of the pain and because even poor Karl could acknowledge how badass his death was).

Transplant any of this onto a set of bracelets and a length of glowing golden rope and we’re good to go.

Super Tall, Super Ripped Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was built as an empowering figure for woman- but just as importantly, she was built. Maybe not always (Golden Age Wondie had a fairly standard human physique), but she’s clearly been guzzling protein shakes in the last 70+ years. Check her look in the current run of”Wonder Woman” comics, as drawn by Cliff Chiang (who, sadly, has just been replaced- Chiang’s last issue hit store shelves at the end of October). Wonder Woman’s a solid head taller than everyone else around her, with shoulders like a linebacker. She’s an Amazon, remember? Amazons are roughly the size of Shaquille O’Neal.

Where we run into an issue is that our official live-action Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, is no Shaq. She’s 5’9", whereas Ben Affleck is 6’4’’ and Henry Cavil is 6’1’’ (for posterity’s sake, Shaq is a healthy 7’11’’). There’s something uniquely cool in Wonder Woman craning her head down to talk to Batman or Superman; a not-so-subtle reminder that this lady is definitely not human and could probably chew through solid steel if the situation required it. Gadot, realistically speaking, probably won’t manage that nifty trick.

But if necessary, MacLaren could absolutely give Gadot a boost of forced perspective. She’s already tweaked plenty in Game of Thrones– take any interaction between Jaime and Brienne. Brienne seems taller, right? Like, noticeably taller, by several inches.

Not really. Gwendoline Christie measures in at 6’3’’, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is just an inch shorter. If MacLaren could get Christie peering down at a guy who’s basically her same height, MacLaren could at least get Gadot high enough to be on equal footing with Bruce and Clark (plus, the heels might not hurt). Either way, MacLaren already has reams of experience bolstering the commanding presence of women who tower (or, should tower, ideally) over the dudes around them.

Stranger in a Strange Land Wonder Woman

(NSFW warning- F-words, skulls brimming with wine)

We don’t know what’s going on with Wonder Woman, plot-wise, (the latest rumor: half Themyscira, half Man’s World in the ‘20s), but it’s a stupidly safe bet that at some point in this franchise, we will be seeing Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s vageuly Greek-ish island home. And unless Wondie spends the entirety of her film franchise on Themyscira and only Themyscira (seems unlikely), culture shock is going to factor in somehow. It has to- at some point, either Wonder Woman takes a sojourn to our world, or us puny humans get transported to hers.

Either way (but especially where Themyscira is concerned), a sense of alien is key, because Themyscira is fuckin’ weird (did we mention the bus-sized alien kangaroos?). MacLaren can handle weird; weird is Breaking Bad every time it ventures out into the desert (say, her first episode for the series, “4 Days Out,” wherein Walt and Jesse are stranded in the baking Albequerque sun) or Game of Thrones every time it ventures north of the Wall.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a place seem alien- like a man licking wine out of another man’s skull. Which you can see above, if so inclined, from a MacLaren-helmed hour of Thrones. However weird Themyscira might get, MacLaren can match it to an oddly-shaped T.

Totally Crushing on Steve Trevor Wonder Woman

Like I said before, no one’s got a lock on this whole Steve Trevor thing. He might be a major part of Wonder Woman, or he might be replaced with a different love interest, or the concept of a love interest might be taken off the table entirely (although, probably not- when was the last time a solo hero didn’t have a kissing partner? Even surly leave-me-alone types like Batman or Wolverine get a Rachel Dawes or a Jean Grey to pine over). That rumored 1920s setting is the perfect era for scrounging up long-time Wonder Woman love interest Steve Trevor, an American fighter pilot with the hots for six-foot-plus women who can bench press a car. Neat! Although those same rumors also claim Trevor will have nothing to do with Wonder Woman. Less neat.

Whatever the case, MacLaren’s already spent plenty of time aiming cameras at a couple strikingly similar to Diana and Steve- once more, Brienne and Jaime. She’s taller, broader, stronger; once Jaime’s down a hand, she’s lightyears ahead of him in physical combat. In the typical world of humans and military complexes and all that, Jaime’s your typical man’s man, while Brienne is a little on the weird side. Plus, the oodles and oodles of sexual tension. All a nice, easy match for Diana Prince and her studly Lois Lane.

MacLaren’s the head honcho in charge of Wonder Woman- both script and screen- and if Steve Trevor shows up (or perhaps another dude… yet there’s a reason Man of Steel gave us Lois and not a different name with the same general purpose), it’ll be like stepping back into a comfy pair of shoes. Or a comfy red-and-gold armored breastplate. Same difference.

There’s plenty to worry about as far as DC’s film slate is concerned (that future films will never match the subtitle greatness of Dawn of Justice is a serious concern), but Wonder Woman should be officially worry-free. Society’s premiere superheroine is in the hands of the same woman that gave Hank Schrader the means to splatter two cartel hitmen across a supermarket parking lot, and Jon Snow the opportunity to make a bad man barf up sword. There’s nothing sweeter.