WandaVision: Series Premiere Review
With the COVID-19 Pandemic knocking movies off their release schedules left and right all last year, nothing was rocked more than the MCU. Not only were films like Black Widow and The Eternals shelved for a later release, but the entire schedule for Phase 4 was shifted entirely leaving an unclear future for when it would return. Even now with theaters not fully re-opening, it’s really going to be up to the new slate of tv series to bring viewers back into the MCU after more than a year of absence. Enter WandaVision.
Of all the new series that Marvel was introducing on the Disney+ platform, WandaVision was easily the most striking simply because of how different it was. Rather than be an action-packed superhero series, WandaVision was set to be more like a psychological comedy trip with Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) going through different generations of classic television as they figure out what’s really happening with them. It was easily the most ambitious and artsy looking entry within the MCU to date and with it releasing before any of the films, the tough task of bringing fans into Phase 4 of the MCU fell on its shoulders. While it’s hard to say that this series deserves that burden and can live up to it yet, WandaVision shows a lot of potential to steer the MCU in an intriguing new direction.
As said before, WandaVision is not the usual superhero action epic we’re used to, but rather a psychological suburban mystery paying homage to classic television. Throwing things in black and white, adding a muffled sound design, and dressing everyone top to bottom in their best 50s digs would be a satisfactory nod old shows like I Love Lucy, but WandaVision takes its homage to impressive levels. The effects for Wanda floating kitchen dishes mixed with the magical sound effects perfectly fit with the style, the amazing episode intros are just eye-dazzling with the second episode having what I’m guessing is a nod to Bewitched’s animated intro, and even though the laugh track can be a tad obnoxious, it wouldn’t be a fitting a homage without it. There’re even some commercials in the middle of episode for a watch bearing a Hydra logo and the newest toaster design from Stark Industries that create a blend of past and present. Even better is how the writing and scenarios feel ripped right from its time and create small storylines that are a blast to see Wanda and Vision in.
The dialogue is filled with plenty of catchy words and phrases that characters spout and the pacing have this great rhythm to it that’s funny and fun to watch. Watching Wanda try to get her nosy neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) out of the kitchen so she can prepare an important dinner and Vision perfect his magic act with Wanda as his lovely assistant perfectly embodies the kind of funny episode scenarios found in old-school sitcoms. Even the overarching plotlines of Vision and Wanda trying to impress Vision’s boss with a delicious dinner and the two trying to pull off a visionary act of magic in the town-wide talent show are right at home with the sitcom style the series is going for. The MCU has always found a way to get to people’s funny bone, but WandaVision finds it a more stylized way that Olsen and Bettany thrive in.
For me, Scarlet Witch and Vision have always felt like sticks in the mud and more rigid compared to other characters, so to see them in the spotlight and a little looser is unbelievably relieving. The series really allows the love between Vision and Wanda to flourish and drive the series into wacky scenarios. Olsen really shines with the engaging charm she brings as Wanda in this environment as she tries to balance her magical abilities in a more domestic setting and keeping their secret identities under wraps. Bettany does the unthinkable and makes Vision a true comedy star with how he blends Vision’s technical way of talking with the sitcom situations he and Wanda find themselves in. His outburst of singing to distract people and the way that gum affects his innerworkings are hilarious and his chemistry with Olsen is better than ever. Frankly, I never cared about the romance between Vision and Wanda like I do here because there’s just something so wholesome about their relationship that makes every romantic moment between them so heartwarming. It’s also great that even though they’re back in the 50s, the series doesn’t have them fall back on nuclear family tropes and allows these characters to still feel like themselves as they attempt to piece together how they exactly got where they are and what’s happening.
Obviously, there’s a catch to Wanda and Vision being together in this sitcom town since there’re some oddities happening within the town and, the obvious, Vision being dead. The mystery behind what the hell is going on is the most enticing element of the series with how it’s slowly revealing the truth. At this point, it’s still hard to say what is really happening, but there’re some great clues to key into. From the way that these local residents break like robots malfunctioning to the cultish way they say “for the children” at the town charity event, there’s definitely something off about these people. There’s definitely of vibe of hypnotism playing a role in all this and that these residents equally have no idea where they really are and are just playing along for whatever the unknown observer has planned.
There’re even some moments where its fair to question if Wanda knows more than she’s letting on. As she sees a strange beekeeper character rise from the sewers, she rewinds things to keep Vision safe. That, along with her finding a colored helicopter with a strange sword logo on it and an interruption from Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), make it clear that there’s a greater impact this place has that will start to become clearer. It’s possible Wanda knows that all of this isn’t real but wants to stay here to simply stay with Vision. Regardless, there’s an enticing mystery afoot with WandaVision that’s incredibly intriguing – maybe too intriguing. Admittedly, while the sitcom scenarios are fun, they definitely pale in comparison, in terms of complex intrigue, to this mystery and, especially in the second episode, it’s hard not to feel like you want the episode to get past the twenty-five minutes of fluffy fun and get to the two minutes of mysterious development. With more time, there will definitely be a greater balance between these two sides of this show and, like I said before, it’s still a fun watch. Things are especially about to take a big turn as the series not only heads into a technicolor era but brings along some kids in Vision and Wanda’s future.
WandaVision offers a refreshing re-introduction to the MCU that’s Bewitched meets The Truman Show as it creates a stylized sitcom mystery that not only makes Wanda and Vision a total blast but sets up a different direction for the MCU that’s too enticing to pass up. While it’s still too early to say if this series can live up to the burden bestowed upon in opening up Phase 4 of the MCU, it definitively brings something new that’s full of thriving possibilities.