WandaVision: what a Wanda-ful life (spoiler-free review)


Marvel’s WandaVision kicks off the long-anticipated Phase 4 of the MCU. / Artwork by Kyla Jones

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are well-established characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on long-running comic book characters, both were introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Neither were especially popular, being largely minor characters. While they had a romance in recent films, fans’ dreams were crushed when Vision died in Avengers: Infinity War.

Needless to say, the announcement that both characters would return in Wandavision struck many fans as peculiar. After all, Vision was dead.

I entered into WandaVision hesitant—being the first Marvel show, it shouldered great expectations. Plus, I wasn’t a fan of either character when I watched the films for the first time. However, the first two episodes sold me on both the series’ premise and the characters themselves.

In the same way that The Umbrella Academy isn’t the traditional superhero show, Wandavision isn’t the typical Marvel property. In essence, it isn’t a show about superpowers, but rather character and mystery.

Each episode is styled after a traditional sitcom episode from a decade. The first episode is in the style of the fifties; the second, the sixties. The episodes feature decade-appropriate sets, style, culture and dialogue: even the camera angles are retro. However, there’s a twist: a mystery threatens to tear apart Wanda and Vision’s idyllic paradise. Because the episodes are true to the decades they portray, breaks from the formula all the more unnerving. When color appears in a completely colorless world, what might normally be intriguing becomes unnerving. Even mundane conversations take on a double meaning in the face of the mystery. Despite the relatively tame horror, the viewer always feels a lingering sense of unease, of doubt. Can I take this at face value? Or is there something hidden beneath?

The series format has allowed Olsen and Bettany to expand upon their characters in a way impossible in the film format. Within minutes of their suburban life, I became enamored with their relationship. Whereas before, I felt their relationship was static, the first couple of episodes have developed their dynamic tremendously. Olsen and Bettany have excellent chemistry in the series, using the retro acting style to their advantage. Likewise, many of the actors have shined: Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris and Emma Caulfield struck out to me especially.

Though many fans didn’t like this departure from the traditional Marvel formula, I absolutely loved it. Personally, I’ve tired of the traditional “superhero” format: as a result, WandaVision’s fresh sitcom style stands out. Even though I don’t like sitcoms, the way that WandaVision breaks and bends the format’s rules is fantastic. Plus, the subtle references and allusions to previous Marvel films ties the entire piece to the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite its break from the formula. Though I personally found the first episode a touch boring, the more I watched the show, the more invested I became.

I could ramble on and on about WandaVision, about its faux commercial breaks and the irony laying hidden in its dialogue.

Overall, I would rate the show thus far as 4 out of 5. It’s absolutely excellent, and exactly to my taste.