When I first learned that the new phase of Marvel content would kick off with Wandavision on Disney+, I had many misgivings.
By: Josh Chait
When I first learned that the new phase of Marvel content would kick off with Wandavision on Disney+, I had many misgivings. While the choice to make Wandavision a mystery-sitcom was undeniably unique, it was such a drastic shift from Marvel’s typical action-movie style that I doubted whether the show could pull it off. I was worried that, like most of Marvel’s more mediocre content (films such as Captain Marvel and Iron Man 3), Wandavision would play it safe and predictable. Most of all, I had no emotional investment in the titular protagonists Wanda Maximoff and Vision (played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, respectively), two figures that, to me, had been nothing more than uninteresting side characters up until that point.
Never have my doubts been more unfounded. Wanda and Vision, instead of the paragons of virtue they are presented to be in their previous cinematic appearances (Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War, and for Wanda, Endgame), are deeply flawed characters with personal trials to overcome. Vision, previously the confident warrior, ranges in the show from ignorant and naive, to confused, to frightened, to outright irate, all sides of him that had never been shown in the past. As a result, Bettany shines as Vision in a way he never could before, making the character feel more human than ever (even if he is a cybernetic android).
The spotlight of Wandavision, however, has to go to Wanda. In addition to her romance with Vision and subsequent grief towards his death in Infinity War, the show explores Wanda’s traumatic past, including the loss of her parents, her imprisonment by the evil organization Hydra, and the death of her brother, Pietro. Unlike Vision, who maintains his innocence and altruism, Wandavision depicts with harrowing clarity the effects of Wanda’s grief and guilt. More than that, the show focuses on the horrifying actions Wanda takes to suppress her emotions, creating one of the most three-dimensional, deeply flawed heroes Marvel has ever had. Of course, none of this could have been achieved without Olsen’s incredible performance, as she expertly conveys Wanda’s whirlwind of emotions, switching on a dime from humorous sitcom-Wanda to sympathetic grieving protagonist to intimidating, ominous anti-hero.
Even with its fascinating characters, the show’s strongest aspect is undoubtedly the unique mystery-sitcom format. Rather than the strange and uninteresting show I feared it might be, Wandavision’s breakaway from Marvel’s typical formula creates a sense of unease and suspense as the audience embarks on a journey that remains entirely unpredictable right up to the end. Wandavision expertly weaves the sitcom elements of the show in with its mystery plot, never allowing one side to dominate the spotlight. Even the first three episodes, which were almost entirely sitcom, maintained a subtle and patient unveiling of the mystery that promised a deeper, darker side of the show to come, a side that the show’s final six episodes eventually delivered in spades. Wandavision also uses Vision and his innocent naivety as an entry point for the viewers, with Vision unraveling the mystery alongside the audience.
Rather than a disappointment, Wandavision has proven itself to be a brilliant introduction to the new phase of Marvel. With its exploration of Wanda and Vision, the show promises interesting developments for Marvel’s characters, while referencing the past that made the MCU the cinematic behemoth it is today. Its eerie tone, generated by the mystery, indicates a darker shift for other Marvel projects. Wandavision establishes a high standard for all Marvel television, paving the way for a grittier, mysterious, and blissfully ambiguous future for the MCU.