Griffin Sendek | multimedia editor
WandaVision is a breath of fresh air unlike anything Marvel Studios has produced in over a decade.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles of Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and The Vision, kicking off the first of many Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) television shows slated for release exclusively on Disney+.
Though the characters were both introduced back in 2015 with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, both Wanda and The Vision were only ever relegated to the side to make room for the other Avengers.
Granting Wanda and Vision their own show finally gives the chance to explore these complex characters in ways that the other films unfortunately never could.
The story opens with newlyweds Wanda and Vision, a powerful witch and a sentient robot, moving into their suburban home to begin a new life together, just like any happy old-style sitcom couple.
WandaVision doesn’t use the sitcom style as a one-off gag, but the entirety of these two episodes preside within that genre of television. From the costumes and sets, the black and white, the rhythm of the dialogue, the style of jokes, physical comedy and hijinks filled plotlines down to the cinematography — WandaVision isn’t just replicating sitcoms, but is one itself.
As a superpowered sitcom, the show works incredibly well. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are able to fill the housewife and working man archetypes beautifully, without losing the spark that made their original characters so delightful. Another standout is Kathryn Hahn in the role of Agnes, the friendly yet nosy neighbor who completely steals the show every second she’s on-screen.
A criticism often weighted at the MCU is it’s poorly incorporated use of humor. Particularly present in the Avengers titles but present throughout the MCU are the quieter, high stakes moments which are undercut with short quips and cheap gags that only make for a tide of tonal inconsistencies.
In WandaVision, with a complete genre shift, the stakes are far lower giving air for the humor to breathe effectively land in this world of the sitcom, laugh track and all.
The lighter demeanor and jovial setting work in the show’s favor to elegantly contrast the brief, yet powerful moments of seriousness, revealing there is something deeply wrong in this perfect, cookie-cutter world.
These episodes of WandaVision clearly take heavy inspiration from 1998’s Pleasantville, a story of two teenagers trapped in a classic sitcom whose interactions introduce color to the black and white world.
The two episodes out on Disney+ are fun and cheerful, taking beloved characters and throwing them in a setting we’d never thought we’d see. However, it’s the subtle hints of something more, the questions it’s both asking and begging to be answered as well as how it connects to the rest of MCU that make these seemingly innocuous sitcom storylines into something incredibly compelling.
The biggest question the show has yet to answer is how Vision, after his tragic death in Avengers: Infinity War, is still alive. Or if he is truly alive at all. I’m certain, the answer will come as more is revealed in the following weeks.
For those arriving hoping to watch a little bit action, not a ridiculous expectation for a superhero show, won’t be finding any in these first two episodes. For that reason, I could see many being underwhelmed or even disappointed by what’s on display in this premier. I could see children who have zero basis for 50s television being particularly confused.
To those disappointed by this first taste, I say wait and see. Marvel took a bit of a risk and tried something different and they should be applauded for that. These episodes were very much a slow burn, and the rest of the show will likely be as well; however, I have hope that it will all very much be worth the wait.
From what these initial episodes show, it’s difficult to guess exactly where WandaVision will go but the hints of something sinister behind the scenes have me hooked, and awaiting the next episode.
Episode three of WandaVision will be available on Friday, Jan. 22. only on Disney+.