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WANDAVISION review (S1: 1-3)

January 15, 2021


It’s been eighteen months since we last saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and it feels like the last time we were in a movie theater was longer than that. While COVID may have derailed Marvel Studios theatrical release schedule (alas, “Black Widow”), their long-anticipated small screen plans are finally streaming our way this month with “WandaVision”, which may look and feel very different from what the studio has delivered in the past, yet is very much paying homage to television shows of the past in a unique and entertaining way.

Indeed, the first three episodes of the Disney+ show are playing with the format of television, while embracing nostalgia for certain styles and formats of the classic television shows. For viewers who grew up watching syndicated reruns of shows like “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” with their multi-camera approaches and positioned laugh tracks, the show’s first episode will strike a particular chord. The second episode is a definite nod to “Bewitched”, while starting to introduce a dash of curious color to this grey tone suburban antiseptic world. Then there’s the third episode which embraces the vibrant colors and recognizable architecture of “The Brady Bunch”, all while hinting at something that is not sort of off under the surface.



It’s unknown how Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), known to fans as Avengers from “Age of Ultron” to “Endgame”, came to arrive and inhabit the idyllic town of Westview is a mystery to us, but it’s also unknown to them as well. They are a happily married couple living in a nice house, surrounded by other nice homes and nosy neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) and yet something odd happens one night when the pair host Vision’s boss, Mr. Hart (Fred Melamed) and his wife (Debra Jo Rupp) for dinner. A glitch, maybe a trigger slivers its way into a Norman Rockwell world where they’ve done their best to hide their powers. But what if something is being hidden from them?

Their neighborhood broadens in the second episode, where we get to meet more neighbors like helpful Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) and local queen Dottie (Emma Caufield Ford), and here is where the silliness and fun is dialed up a notch. After hearing noises outside their home, Vision thinks it might be a good idea to join other men at the library in a meeting of the neighborhood watch club which results in some hilarious moments thanks to a stick of gum. Meanwhile, an uneasy Wanda finds it quite difficult to fit in with the other women in the neighborhood at a Stepford Wife style meet-up where the focus is on proper etiquette. While this episode culminates in a very entertaining magic act that Wanda and Vision perform at a fundraising talent show, it’s countered with something strange that Wanda experiences, building on the feeling that things aren’t what they appear to be.



So far, much of what transpires is somewhat influenced by Tom King’s unique 12-issue comic from 2017 in which Vision tried everything to lead a regular human life with a wife and kids in a nice suburban neighborhood. Of course, their wounded be drama and mystery if everything stayed that way, which is why more cracks start to appear in episode three. If you’re at all familiar with what writer/artist John Byrne did with Wanda in the late 80s during his run on West Coast Avengers, then you have an idea where show creator Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman could take this story, with her trio of screenwriters Laura Donney, Megan McDonnell, and Cameron Squires.

This third episode is the weirdest and while it ends on quite an interesting note it seems like things are developing rather rapidly (that’s cagey yet loaded, but you’ll understand once you see it), it makes sense considering there are nine episodes in this season. It hasn’t been announced whether or not Marvel Studios has another season in mind, but it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing some of these characters show up in the sequels to “Captain Marvel” and “Dr. Strange”.

It’s no surprise that Bettany and Olsen are great together in “WandaVision”, but the main reason here is definitely due to what they get to do with their characters and how the show offers them a chance to play around with television history. The actors nail the cadence of the sitcoms from the 50s through the 70s, truly having a good time as they get a chance to do something different with their roles. Understandably, there will be many questions for viewers going in, especially considering where these two characters were left after “Avengers: Endgame” and, to be honest, the draw is how it will all play out.



Along with the television shows it pays homage to, I would also describe what I’ve seen so far as an amalgam of “Pleasantville” and “The Truman Show”, nestled somewhere in Rod Serling land. This is a show fans will want to scour through each episode in detail (pay close attention to some interesting commercials that appear) to pick up on references to the MCU we’re familiar with.

The show also has fun injecting animated sequences here and there, noticeably in opening sequences and a comical addition to the third episode. There’s also some fun music moments with the inclusion of oldies such as The Beach Boys “Help me, Rhonda” and The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak”, and the catchy albeit repetitive theme song called “Wandavision!”, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

While the laugh-track included throughout each episode is a sitcom staple, one can’t help but wonder what the show would be like with less cued laughter or maybe even none. Some of the more mysterious and strange elements that build with episode probably would’ve been heightened by a companion score with less levity. Maybe that will take place in future episodes. Overall, my curiosity is piqued and I’m definitely on board for what lies ahead.

Like “The Mandalorian”, each episode of “WandaVision” will be released weekly on Fridays. The first two episodes debut on Disney+ on January 15th with the third episode dropping the following week, on January 22nd.






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