A lovely and weird series—a promising sign for Disney+.
Wanda Maximoff (played by Elisabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are living the ideal suburban life in WandaVision. But everything is not what it seems on the facade.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
Barring the previous Marvel-adapted series on Netflix (Daredevil; Jessica Jones; Iron Fist), WandaVision paves the way for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) properties. It also sets the bar of storytelling that the other series need to reach.
There is no ultimate villain of WandaVision; there's no world-saving scenario (although we've only watched the first three preview episodes, so that might still change). It's not the usual Marvel fare you'd expect and that's okay. It's more than fine, really. A welcome respite and I'm glad that Marvel is taking a chance to be different.
If you're not familiar with Wanda Maximoff (or Scarlet Witch as she's known in the comic books) or Vision, her android beau, you will be a tad confused by the WandaVision pilot. At first glance, it's a black-and-white pastiche of early American sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. There are the laugh track (saved for the pilot that was shot before a live studio audience), the opening music (composed by Frozen's song writers, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez,), the newlywed hijinks but then colour and oddness seep in; they hit most of the right notes. Subsequent episodes will inherit different sitcoms through the decades. But then the colours seep in and the realisation that something feels… off.
If you're clued into Wanda's superpowers, one of her abilities allow her to manipulate reality. Which makes it easy for her to conjure up this cookie-cutter existence with Vision. It's understandable that the sitcom-format is something that Wanda and the Vision would retreat into. It's a safe space, a coping mechanism for dealing with loss and trauma. Think about all the times, after a long day of work, you plop yourself in front of the TV to watch Friends or Under One Roof and just escape for 30 minutes. After what has transpired in the MCU with the Snap and all, you'll need a little space to yourself.
Which brings us to the next point: if this takes place after Avengers: Endgame then the question in the form of that room-filling pachyderm is: how is Vision still alive? Is he even alive?
Is he even the Vision?
There are many theories that I don't want to get into but Bettany did mention that the series "works as a beautiful puzzle box" and as it unravels, we're able to piece it all together for the grand finale. I keep returning to this terrible thought that WandaVision might be a case of the twist in Last Christmas, which makes this even more crushing for Wanda.
I'm glad that Olsen and Bettany are getting their just due in the MCU. In the films, they were just set pieces, convenient plot devices brought in to remind the audience, hey, remember us? We're also crucial to the narrative!" For WandaVision, Olsen has space to play in. She's affable as the dutiful housewife armed her wits and a transatlantic accent. Bettany is fantastic as the comic foil, as the blundering and loving husband. The supporting cast are great as well. Kathryn Hahn is a joy as Agnes, the neighbour of Wanda and Vision and there's talk that Agnes might be Agatha Harkness, a powerful witch that taught Wanda in the comic books. (Also, shout out to Debra Jo Rupp for being in this; I'm getting a major nostalgic wave of The '70s Show.)
And way to go for keeping your viewers engage. I went in with knowledge of the source material (House of M and Tom King's run of Vision and I'm still surprised by the slow bloom of the reveal. Without going into specifics, there was a moment in an episode where I thought it was an editing mistake but it was actually part of the plot.
What we didn't like
Um. I couldn't find any.
What to look out for
A fake ad with reference to the Marvel universe plays between each episode; look of for these. And Bettany mentioned an upcoming actor that he's delighted to work with on WandaVision. I mean, from the interviews of him, it sounded like Bettany was starstruck by him or her.
WandaVision is exclusively streaming on Disney+.