Marvel is known for taking chances. On the cusp of bankruptcy in 1996, Marvel was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the comic book industry started to collapse in the ’90s. After tense legal battles and struggles to pay back creditors, the company was salvaged in 1997. From there, after digging itself out of the depth of the grave, an idea floated around; “what if we made a movie out of Iron Man?” “Who? said the majority.
In 2008, Marvel took a chance on a scandal-ridden Robert Downey Jr. which helped establish the company as one of Hollywood’s major studios. Since then Marvel Studios has produced movies that embrace the ability to change with each passing year, bringing in little-known characters, allowing them to be weird, different, funny, and a Groot. But no matter how funny or godly they are, they are also allowed to have raw human emotions. Such as Thor representing PTSD in Avengers: Endgame, Loki never feeling accepted by his father, Quill being…Quill.
Then came along WandaVision on Disney+ which is not just the beginning of Phase Four but sets the tone for upcoming movies and TV shows by delivering on the unexpected.
WandaVision is not just usual but it manages to break apart every stereotype of a superhero: strong, brave, admirable by simply being human. In the show we see people with incredible powers, often admired by the world, now seen in domestic life, just trying to fit into a town literally written from a Leave It To Beaver episode.
Taking place somewhere after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda has finally gotten her dream she briefly spoke about in Infinity War before the Black Order attacked her and Vision; to be together without fear of being hunted or known. Now a married couple in the quaint town of Westview, they try to fit in with the ‘normal’ people in their neighborhood, which makes for great situational comedy. However, as the story progresses Vision and Wanda know something is just not right.
What we do know is Vision is dead and Wanda could be somewhere grieving his death after watching him die twice. We last saw Wanda in the real world-embracing Hawkeye who was grieving the death of Natasha / Black Widow. Wanda’s last words were one of comfort telling him both of their deaths were not in vain. However, we do not know if Wanda made it out mentally. Could Wanda in her grief-stricken moment created this reality for herself to block the pain? Wanda is no stranger to loss. She did lose her twin Pietro in Age of Ultron when took several bullets protecting Hawkeye and Sokovian child. Or is there something more sinister at play? Could she be trapped? And how exactly does this lead to Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Whom is controlling whom?
Filmed in front of a live studio audience, WandaVision is a TV show (the first for Marvel Studios) for people who love TV. It’s comforting and nostalgic literally portraying the styles, language, and cultural TV presented from the ’50s to the present day. From Bewitched to Roseanne and more, it reflects the evolution of a family and the role women played in the household and the world.
However, there is more to WandaVision than Happy Days and Step By Step, with the inclusion of Teyonah Parris as an adult Monica Rambeau (we last saw Monica as a kid in the 90s in Captain Marvel) she offers more insight into Wanda’s new world while guiding us through Marvel’s new Phase Four direction. Kathryn Hanh as Agnes also appears to know more than what’s letting on, the comedic best friend/neighbor playing her part until she no longer can.
With 9 episodes around 30 – 40 minutes each, this new venture allows for characters we’ve only seen glimpses of in the previous movies an opportunity to breathe. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are known for their dramatic roles (please watch Uncle Frank and Silent House) are refreshing in their comedic roles. Bettany clearly channeling Dick Van Dyke while Olsen gives it her best Lucille Ball. They navigate physical comedy with honesty, never once appearing uncomfortable or forced. It’s a delight to see Vision actually making jokes.
As the episode progress, there is a layer of sadness hanging in the air the show will have to address. Vision is dead and Wanda cannot stay in this town forever. Whether by force or coming to terms on her own, one day Wanda will have to accept reality, and the world she established is a façade. She will have to say goodbye to Vision for the last time.
There are moments when you see Wanda and Vision fighting this, hoping and wishing for just a little more time with each other. While the show doesn’t reveal what’s really going on until episode four there are moments that slowly crack through. Even though we don’t know what’s really going on and how much the residents know or where they originated from, the Twilight Zone-like mysteries of the show (hail Hydra) are very grounded in realism which makes investing in these characters that much easier.
At its essence, WandaVision is hilarious, weird, and brave, challenging the viewer to not just embrace the different but to accept change. It is the perfect escapism for today’s events. If this is what Phase Four has to offer with its future shows and movies, it’s a risk Marvel Studios will once prove it can handle.