Who out there is waiting with barely contained excitement for the return of the MCU? Even if you deny it, I know you are out there; the box-office shattering records of the movies have proved that beyond a doubt. Well, after the longest hiatus the MCU has seen since 2010, the world of Marvel is ready to swing back into action with the first of their Disney+ “blockbuster miniseries” WandaVision.
Here’s the thing though; WandaVision has more going for it than just being the first official MCU property since Spider-Man: Far From Home premiered in theaters in July of 2019, oh so many (what feels like) decades ago. Since Marvel Television was officially folded into Marvel Studios under head producer Kevin Feige’s supervision – this means that everything nominally set in the MCU on the tv side up till now is in a state of Schrodinger’s Canon – WandaVision will be the first Marvel tv series that explicitly ties into the greater narrative that as of now only the movies occupied on top of being the first movie/show of Phase 4. This means what happens here in WandaVision will ripple out into other movies and shows, most prominently Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, in which Wanda Maximoff will apparently have a major role.
To be honest though, I don’t care about that all too much. While I’m not an MCU hater, my interest in the franchise took a nosedive after the Infinity Saga wrapped up. Before I was a completionist, watching every new movie in theaters opening weekend. Now I’m only interested in watching MCU properties that grab my attention (this is less antipathy and more just the energy of keeping up with everything while exploring everything else). But, with that said, out of everything on the Phase 4 slate, the one that has captured my interest the most since I first heard about it was WandaVision.
On paper, WandaVision sounds pretty atypical for an MCU property. It follows Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) after the events of Avengers: Endgame, living with the android Vision (Paul Bettany) in a world that resembles sitcoms over the years. Here’s the thing though; as of Avengers: Endgame, Vision is dead by the hands of Thanos, and Wanda has magical abilities that can rise to the level of warping reality itself. So what might appear on the surface to be a simple show parodying sitcoms over the decades looks to be the vehicle for a grieving woman with the power of a goddess trippily creating the idyllic life she wishes she could live.
Since Doctor Strange, I’ve been waiting for the MCU to really go outside the box and just go nuts both visually and conceptually (though that’s not to say I’m against the more grounded approach they’ve taken over the years). So when I first heard about WandaVision back when it was announced in 2018, my mind was filled with possibilities. Looking at the trailers that have since come out, I’ve only gotten more excited. Not only is this the chance for two criminally under-utilized characters to finally get the spotlight, but it’s looking like it’ll be the most daring story Feige and crew have attempted (which is saying something, since people tend to forget just how risky the MCU was from conception).
One last thing before I start covering the episodes themselves.
While the cast list so far looks to be filled with previously established MCU players from all corners of the franchise, the one that has me interested is the original character Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), the typical sitcom nosy neighbor of Wanda and Vision. While it might be early to predict this, I’m betting that she’ll in fact be the Marvel villain Nightmare, a Doctor Strange enemy and ruler of the Dream Realm. I think this not only because of the ties between WandaVision and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness but because it is heavily speculated that the villain will be Nightmare. Granted, all of this is speculation, and I could be entirely wrong. That said, doesn’t it make some sense that not only is a dream demon insidiously influencing Wanda’s grief to reshape reality, but that it could appear to her as a stock character who can often provoke feelings of paranoia and anger?
With all that said, I hope you follow along with me as I cover WandaVision for you all.
WandaVision can be watched on Disney+. The series will premier on Friday, 1/15/2021, and will air episodes weekly.
Episode One: Episode 1
If I had to describe the feeling of the episode, it’s “Lynchian”. And yes, when I say Lynchian, I mean like the works of David Lynch.
At first, everything seems pretty sitcom typical. Wanda and Vision, straight from their wedding, move into their new home in Westview, a typical suburb-like neighborhood. As the episode goes along, it certainly feels like a solid 50’s-style sitcom. The plot is a classic tale of miscommunication. Wanda and Vision are unsure about a certain date on the calendar marked with a heart; Wanda thinks it’s an anniversary while Vision thinks it’s the day his boss Mr. Hart and his wife (Fred Melamed and Debra Jo Rupp) are coming over to the house for a dinner party. From there, shenanigans ensue.
By this point, everything is going smoothly. The chemistry between Olsen and Bettany is rock solid and their comedic timing is surprisingly on-point. The Marvel-flavored gags and jokes, while pretty hokey, are very on-brand for the sitcoms Episode 1 is influenced by.
Then, the weirdness kicks in. Mr. Hart asks Wanda and Vision about the story of how they met after dinner is finally served, and it functionally becomes a nightmarish inquisition – knowingly or unknowingly isn’t quite clear – about her whole reality. To further the point, the cinematography shifts. It goes from a sitcom multi-cam look to something more cinematic. It’s one hell of a stark moment that raises the bar of the episode, taking it from hokey homage to a sinister and melancholic mystery that begs anyone who watches it into diving deeper.
Then, the strangeness is cranked up even more once the credits roll. We zoom out, and then we see we’re watching WandaVision on a screen (as in, someone is watching the sitcom in the miniseries) while a voice is falling out “Wanda, can you hear me?”. It’s an ending that promises some real mind-screwiness and a deeper conflict underneath the saccharine humor of the sitcom, and I’m here for it.
My Recommendation: Recommend
Episode Two: Episode 2
All right Marvel, calm down, you’ve gotten me fully on the hook. Actually, what am I saying, screw that shit, keep ratcheting up whatever is going on in Wanda’s head.
So yeah, while Episode 1 is a fine episode that outlines the premise and mysteries of WandaVision, it’s here in Episode 2 that I’m truly sold.
On the surface, Episode 2 is just like Episode 1, just turned up to 11. Wanda and Vision are embroiled in another sitcom plot – ingratiating themselves with the neighborhood by performing at a talent show for the children that goes hilariously awry when Vision shows up essentially drunk on gum – where they get into some wacky yet surprisingly well-executed superpowered shenanigans. The weirdness is amped up, now more of an omnipresent background static with occasional shots of immediacy – like, what the hell is the beekeeper, who left that toy helicopter behind, and how are they connected? – that other people comment on in a dream-like fashion.
Looking deeper though, there’s more to this idyllic life Wanda and Vision are living in. If Episode 1 was about Wanda and Vision starting their lives as newlyweds away from the chaos of typical superheroics, then Episode 2 is about Wanda’s desire to have children. At the beginning of the episode, Wanda and Vision sleep together after their awakened by some thundering noise they dismiss as the trees. The talent show they kinda win is for the neighborhood children (side note, if the way the neighbors say “for the children” isn’t a cult red-flag, then I don’t know what is). By the end, Wanda is pregnant with Vision’s child. What’s more, once the pregnancy is definite (as in she’s all of a sudden in her third trimester), the world becomes technicolored, adding vivacity and life to their existence. It’s a great visual metaphor for someone coming out of a depressive state that makes great use of the sitcom style.
So yeah Marvel, keep up the good work. If WandaVision maintains this kind of quality, then it’s safe to say it’ll be the best MCU show since Jessica Jones S1, if not the outright best.
My Recommendation: Highly Recommend