Image credit: https://www.marvel.com/articles/tv-shows/wandavision-new-television-poster
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into a lot of plans to put it lightly. For us nerds, one of these much-awaited plans was the new phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the highest grossing film franchise in history, the MCU was set to begin their Phase Four initiative of movies and Disney+ series last May with the Black Widow movie, followed shortly by Shang Chi, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and WandaVision. Due to the pandemic, none of these were able to have proper release in 2020.
However, Marvel is back; starting Phase Four with the Disney+ series WandaVision.
Taking place shortly after Avengers: Endgame, WandaVision follows Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, in a completely different setting than when we found her. She and previously-deceased android Vision, played by Paul Bettany, are living the suburban life in the town of Westview. The series pays tribute to over four decades of television sitcoms while slowly revealing the answers to mysteries such as how Vision is alive, why does the world behave like an episode of I Love Lucy or Bewitched, and what lies outside of Westview.
The performances from our two leads are phenomenal. Marvel movies usually don’t give their actors much opportunity to explore their characters or have dramatic, realistic scenes, usually pushing those aside in favour of jokes, quips, and action. WandaVision, however, takes its time, peeling back the layers of the main characters. Bettany and Olsen fully embrace the trauma, internal conflict, and existential crisis their characters are facing. There is one scene in particular close to the middle of the series between our two leads which I think is some of the best acting the MCU has to offer. I can’t wait to see Olsen return to the roll in the upcoming movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Bettany and Olsen aren’t the only actors of note. Kathryn Hahn plays nosy-neighbour Agnes, whose bubbly performance is both funny and endearing, while sometimes being a bit unsettling. Randall Park reprises his role of Jimmy Woo from Antman & The Wasp, and he does a great job of being a loveable dork while still being a cool FBI agent who commands respect.
When the first trailer for WandaVision came out, I was a little put off by the concept. A superhero sitcom? How could that work? Luckily, WandaVision found a way to accomplish what I thought was impossible. The homages to the past decades of television are done wonderfully, and are legitimately funny. I wouldn’t have minded if this show was a straight sitcom just starring two superheroes, but the slow-burn reveal of the show’s drama (and even the heartbreaking reason for this sitcom-like world) are to great effect.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in this series though, as the positives are somewhat bogged down by a glaring flaw: the final episode. Everyone I’ve talked to says the same thing: “the series was great, but it couldn’t stick the landing”.
The final episode turns into a more traditional Marvel property with the fights and explosions we’ve come to expect. After such a divergence from the rest of the Marvel movies, it seems that trying to have an action packed finale just wasn’t the best note to end the series on. The best part of the last episode, and the series for that matter, is actually a tender moment between our two leads right after the big fight.
Along with the final episode, another flaw is the collection of unresolved plot threads that seem to have been included just so fans would speculate on what happens next. Side characters are brought up, mysterious circumstances stare the audience right in the face, and then are never followed up on. For example, Wanda’s power seems to let her affect the world around her, changing things to her whim. There are several times where she tries to change something, only for it not to work, so the audience is left wondering, “What’s happening? What is that supposed to be? Why didn’t that work?” And what is the reason she could change it? Nothing, there is no reason given, which just leaves the question why was that there to begin with?
The greatest offence is a certain character that appears halfway through. Without spoiling too much, when the character appeared I was awestruck. I thought, “oh my god, this changes everything. I need to know where this goes.” Then in the very last episode, this massive bombshell is revealed just to be a throwaway joke, and not even a very good one.
A final gripe I’ll bring up is the character of Tyler Hayward, played by Josh Stamberg. As one of the antagonists of the series, Hawyard is the director of S.W.O.R.D, an organization that monitors and deals with super-powered and alien threats. He originally comes across as a man who cares about public safety, respects those around him, and has had to deal with the aftermath of many of the MCU movies. However, in the middle of the series, he suddenly becomes an uncaring jerk, unwilling to listen to anyone’s opinion unless it reflects his own, keeping secrets, shoot-first ask-questions-never, and even insulting the people he’s been shown to respect. I thought there would be a reveal as to this sudden change in character, but nope, there is no catalyst or reason but he suddenly turns from an understandable commander into an insufferable schmuck. It’s like the series said, “we need the audience to have a character they hate, so lets just change this guy’s entire personality in the middle of the series. It won’t be jarring at all.”
The Final Verdict
Overall, WandaVision is still a worthwhile show that I feel comfortable recommending. Its highlights are some of the best moments in the MCU canon, even if the flaws begin to add up, especially in the final episode.
WandaVision get 3 1/2 stars out of 5.