WandaVision: almost perfect

Hear me out: Wanda Maximoff, now (finally) officially known as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is one of its best and most compelling characters. It was only a matter of time before we were going to get a Disney+ show delving into her rich and limitless potential. However – perhaps this was also WandaVision’s downfall.

Not only is she the most powerful character, but behind all that promise lies a lifetime of loss and unexplored trauma. From its initial announcement, WandaVision seemed the perfect opportunity to delve into all this. It’s the weirdest and most high-concept the MCU has ever gone, as well as being its first official Disney+ show, and on top of that kicking off a brand-new phase and era for the MCU. That is a lot of expectation to fulfil – and it so nearly stuck the landing.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN

Stars of the show, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. Image by Gage Skidmore available on flickr

From the off, WandaVision is not what it seems. It’s barely recognisable as the MCU (at first), since it’s so far removed from its typical model. Paired with a delightfully charming whistle-stop tour of American sitcom history, the show gripped me right from the start. I was utterly prepared to become totally charmed by and invested in Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany – who both give their all and are absolutely brilliant (shoutout as well to Kathryn Hahn, who is a delight as ever). And invested I was – in the mystery, how we as an audience had been left to question everything, as well as seeing Wanda’s idealised life for her and Vision play out. I was enjoying it so much that I think the show would have benefited from prolonging this façade for a little longer than three episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the interactions between Jimmy Woo, Monica Rambeau and Darcy Lewis (with Randall Park being the standout). It was nice to see some different strands of the MCU coming together in a way that made sense. But as soon as the action turned to them, WandaVision just became standard MCU business as usual. This was inevitable, but I felt it really interrupted the flow of proceedings. Occasional little clues from outside the Hex would have been sufficient; letting the audience investigate and theorize alongside Vision would certainly have added to the momentum the show was building. Because of this, the magic of the sitcom world vanished somewhat after Episode Four, though there was still plenty of enjoyment to be had.

Teyonah Parris, who plays Monica Rambeau. Image by Gage Skidmore available on flickr.

What really wins me over about WandaVision are the finer details. I loved how the episodes were all named after typical sitcom tropes that tied into the arc of the series. Each sitcom episode had its own theme tune (I especially enjoyed the Malcolm in the Middle homage), and the commercials were a perfect mix of the decade they were replicating and clever MCU nods. From the presentation and uses of Wanda and Vision’s powers adapted to the decade of the sitcom they were in, to some truly excellent dialogue, with the fight scene in Episode 5 and the whole of Episode 8 being particular highlights – I could go on. It is clear that the team behind the show put so much thought into every little detail, which is why the ending is a bit of a let-down.

The problem with WandaVision, is that it almost had too much potential: there were so many directions in which the finale could have gone. For a show with so much originality and creativity behind it, the fact that we were left with a fairly uninspired, bog-standard MCU CGI stand-off with a nice tidy resolution was disappointing. Yes, it would have been nice to see Wanda turn a little more to the dark side, and perhaps not be let off the hook quite so much. Yes, it would have been great to see Doctor Strange show up. And yes, most of all, it would have been nice to see Evan Peters and his much-beloved version of Quicksilver treated with slightly more respect and dignity than a ‘boner’ joke (don’t get me started). However, one has to admit that, at least to a certain extent, such endings make the MCU what it is – and we always end up coming back for more. WandaVision is already quite a standout from many of the other films the franchise has to offer, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. Image by Gage Skidmore available on flickr

It is also important to note that Kevin Feige recently announced that no major plot points will be revealed in the Marvel Disney+ shows, in order to avoid alienating the more casual MCU fans who might only see the films. Whilst I argue that Feige might be missing a trick here – I believe the majority of people invested in these characters are all in – it means that moving forward, expectations can be better managed. And I’m not going to question the judgement too much of the man who’s behind the greatest cinematic universe of all time.

As for Disney+ moving forward, this was definitely the home run they needed. The interface still needs work, as it can be as glitchy as Wanda’s alternate reality. In fact, I had the series only play in German for a few weeks so had to wait for the issue to sort itself out – needless to say, things were spoiled. But these cosmetic issues didn’t end up taking away from the overall experience; and, ultimately, it’s the content that matters. Disney+’s main problem was a lack of original content – sure, we already had The Mandalorian, but we only had The Mandalorian. Now that the MCU has officially entered the streaming field, Disney+ is going to become pretty unstoppable.

I’m fairly confident that Netflix will always be king (it basically invented the streaming game after all), but in a year Disney+ has half of the total number of subscribers that Netflix has achieved. However, one thing’s for certain: all the other services who were already losing steam are now being firmly left in the dust. Some argue that Feige is throwing everything and the kitchen sink into his cinematic universe too soon. I would have to agree to a certain extent, but if WandaVision is anything to go by, I honestly couldn’t care less. I can’t wait to see all of these characters be given the same care and love that Feige has treated Wanda and Vision with.

See you on the flip side of Falcon and Winter Soldier!

 

Feature image available on flickr.

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