This review of WandaVision covers the first 3 episodes and features minor spoilers.
After 18 long months and much anticipation, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally returned with our first batch of original Disney+ content. Marvel fans have warmly welcomed what seems to be an entirely new chapter in the form of WandaVision. Marking the return of fan favorite characters Wanda Maximoff and Vision, who’s love story played out during the Infinity Saga and theoretically concluded during Infinity War when Thanos destroyed Vision to retrieve the mind stone.
This show spans a multitude of decades in the form of the evolving TV sitcom. An alternate reality of the couple’s relationship plays out in the suburban town of WestView, where everything is not what it seems. Phase Four is finally here and this series has the power to affect the timeline and reality of the MCU for the foreseeable future. Each week we will inevitably see the stakes rise.
To put it simply, WandaVision is everything we wanted and expected it to be. It wholeheartedly commits to the sitcom stylistic approach and it does not go unnoticed how clearly devoted the cast and crew are to bringing this vision to life (no pun intended). Marvel is known for their world building and we have seen an array of planets in space and different time periods and settings on Earth. From the get-go of WandaVision, you are sucked into an entirely new universe, one that is so different to what we are used to seeing from Marvel.
Each episode is inspired by the dominating sitcom style from the designated decade, beginning with paying ode to The Dick Van Dyke show of the 50s, to Bewitched in the 60s, and followed by The Brady Bunch in the 70s. Every opening sequence has a unique theme song made by Robert and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, the song writing couple behind Frozen and Coco, and pays tribute to how these iconic shows began. There are a few comedic moments throughout these first few episodes, but it’s also important to note that a lot of the humor is intentionally unfunny and cheesy as it reflects the comedy and gags that were found comedic at the time. It’s fun and goofy, reflecting the idealistic life Wanda deeply desires. A little tip is to keep your eye out for the infomercials in the middle of each episode. There are little easter eggs that each could be hints or simply just fun references.
This is such a unique show as with each installment comes an entirely different approach and feel. The costume, set, makeup and hair design effortless transition throughout the time periods. There is so much intricacy in each version of the Vision residence that perfectly replicates a cozy suburban home – it continues to evolve as they become a conventional nuclear family. Wanda is a spectacle at all times, Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic and gives perhaps her best performance yet. She nails every accent, all the physicality and energy of an authentic sitcom role and yet at times slips back into the Wanda we know in the blink of an eye without any hesitation. Paul Bettany is his usual charming self and flawlessly plays into Vison’s rather hilariously awkward attempt to fit into human society. The best way to put the pair’s chemistry would be heartbreakingly delightful.
There are some really wonderful romantic moments throughout these episodes as we delve deeper into Wanda and Vision’s relationship and see them settling into their new suburban life. It’s so easy to become drawn into their love and feel like it is real and authentic, which is heartbreaking when the realization of what really occurred dawns on you time after time. It’s as if you want to ignore the outside world and the real MCU timeline because it’s so joyous to see these characters we care about finally content, making it all the more easy to understand why Wanda might be creating these fictitious realities.
Among the romance and amusement is a looming sense of eeriness. It becomes very uneasy when you realize how out of place the characters are and that what is happening is presumably a projection of Wanda’s imagination. There are a few sinister moments which are a result of Wanda feeling like her illusion is beginning to crumble, proving that she can alter the playing field to protect the life she wants to live so badly. It’s obvious that something is wrong when there are multiple ‘glitches’ and it can only be assumed that the episodes will go deeper into the darkness and menace as the series progresses weekly. The writing is superb and makes these creepy moments so subtle at times that they become haunting. Wanda simply slipping out of her American accent into her normal one or even singing in Sokovian are small moments that make you notice that although this is a version of Wanda we enjoy seeing, it’s not really her and that this is not a performance she can put on eternally.
Speaking of performances, this is the first time we get to see Teyonah Parris as a grown up Monica Rambeau, who is also set to appear in the sequel to Captain Marvel. Parris also nails the switching of eras and displays her powerful and emotional acting abilities in the third episode. Monica does not know who she really is and we are yet to see how she came to be inside of Wanda’s pocket reality. She wears the symbol of S.W.O.R.D (the space based counterpart of S.H.I.E.L.D.) introducing this agency prominently for the first time on screen which will likely not be the only time we see this organization throughout Phase 4. Monica will most definitely play a large role in the entire series and it will be exciting to see what she has to offer and how this iconic Marvel character will become integrated into the wider scheme of things. Another notable performance is renowned comedy actress Kathryn Hahn who plays Agnes, a nosy neighbor who often mysteriously brings up her husband who is no where to be seen. Her character’s intentions are not set out in these initial episodes but it’s speculated that she will play a big part in the ongoing narrative. Nevertheless, Hahn’s performance is playful and refined.
Obviously, this review only covers the first 3 episodes of the series, and these installments leave us with so many questions about how and why Wanda is in these scenarios. Is she living through these moments or watching them in third-person as if they are on a television? Is this a conscious creation or is she being held against her will, emphasized by a voice we can assume to be S.H.I.E.L.D. and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), who we know from Ant-Man, communicating to Wanda through a radio, questioning who is doing this to her.
It is without a doubt that the effects of this show are going to dictate the next big events in the MCU, most notably Spider-Man 3 which is also concerned with the multiverse and, of course, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which Olsen is currently filming in London. These early episodes only scratch the surface of what is to come as the first two are essentially set ups to immerse you in this world and introduce the new characters and versions of Wanda and Vision. The third is where it really starts to pick up the pace and we see elements of the real world begin to seep in and threaten her perfect reality.
To sum it up, WandaVison is a true extravaganza. Although it was not meant to kick off the MCU’s fourth phase, it somehow does it impeccably. It is slowly unraveling what is slated to be an action and emotion-packed stage of new films and series. The weekly release format will work perfect for this story, allowing us to have fun theorizing in between. We are in for quite the ride if this series continues to perform to the same standard as these episodes, and I can only imagine that it will get better by the week. Gear yourself up for what is sure to be a wild ride.