Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 26, 2021
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GAGE SKIDMORE/CC BY-SA 2.0

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany star in Disney+’s WandaVision.

Marvel’s long-awaited television series debut — the first of many that will be released and watchable exclusively on the streaming platform Disney+ — has finally arrived. The first three episodes (there will eventually be nine) of WandaVision are now available to stream if you have a subscription. 

WandaVision is weird — consciously, knowingly, enticingly weird. The show focuses on its two namesakes, Wanda Maximoff and Vision, both of whom made their first full Marvel appearances in the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron. The show focuses on the lives of the two superpowered beings, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany respectively, as a domestic married couple. The two characters have been romantically linked in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for several years now, but this is the first time that any film or show focuses on them as the protagonists.

As a longtime MCU fan myself, I’ve been approaching the new set of Disney+ series with a sense of trepidation. Several of them just don’t seem that interesting, even for someone who loves Marvel content. For me, WandaVision has always been the exception to that rule. It is by far the most unique and original piece of media to be released by Marvel since Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, which came out close to two years ago.

The premise of WandaVision is hard to explain, mostly because it doesn’t really make sense just yet. The show is only a third of the way through so far, and there are many, many mysteries left to be solved and questions left to be answered. Also, if you’re not a big fan of the MCU in general, then this show probably won’t appeal to you. The characters aren’t particularly well-known, the vibe of the show is exceedingly strange and the intrigue will probably be far less interesting to someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the overall universe. However, for the large number of MCU fans out there, I think this show is exactly the kind of thing that we wanted to see from Marvel.

WandaVision is a parody of sitcoms. Not just a certain kind of sitcom, though, but of the defining sitcom from nearly every decade since the 1950s. The first two episodes are in black and white and shown in the classic 4:3 ratio that only fills part of your screen. Though the third episode is in color, it only extends to fill the whole screen at the very end of the half-hour runtime. The first two episodes parodied iconic sitcoms like I Love Lucy, and the third was a clear play on The Brady Bunch.

What WandaVision clearly wants is to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to be funny, mimicking the actual comedy of the shows it is harkening back to, while also always showing the sinister secrets hiding behind the show’s premise. The last time Vision was seen in a Marvel movie, it was in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, where he died. So how is he still around for this show? Wanda seems to have some kind of magical control of the world around her, and she refuses to accept the inconsistencies of her setting. There are other mysterious events that occur in the first few episodes that demand explanation but for the moment remain deeply unsettling. 

So the question is: Does WandaVision succeed in its mission? Is it both funny and confusing, both cleverly witty and eerily creepy? Personally, I think it’s a smashing success so far. I’ve laughed a lot at the comedy of the first episodes, but I’ve also gasped in shock more than a few times as well. This show has genuinely scared me, which is exactly what it wants to be doing. 

I do think that WandaVision prioritizes its larger role in the MCU (which in this case is the sinister undertone of the whole show) over its comedy, and that the show is at times maybe a little less funny than it thinks it is. Overall, though, WandaVision is successful in its endeavor to hit both notes simultaneously. 

Now, as of writing this, I of course don’t know how this show will end. Nobody does, no matter how convinced some people may be of their respective fan theories. And what that means is, if you ever intend on watching this show, you should get in on it right now. WandaVision is a show unlike any I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s certainly a first of its kind for the MCU. Eventually, the season will end, and us fans will have at least some of our questions answered. I can’t promise those answers will be as clever or as satisfying as I hope they will be, but right now I know that I can’t stop thinking about this show. Even if the payoff isn’t great, the emotional rollercoaster of watching it right now is incredible.

Watching WandaVision is a unique sensation, especially when everyone else is just as clueless as I am about what’s going on. I’m just not sure that feeling will be the same once the show is finished and the secrets are out there, especially since spoilers would absolutely destroy the WandaVision viewing experience. So, if you’re going to watch it, hop on the bandwagon as soon as you can. Nobody knows how this journey will end, but it’s a wonderfully confusing time at the moment, and I cannot recommend it enough.

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