This is a non-spoiler review of the first three episodes of the series.
It’s hard to believe that the vast accumulation of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame and the aftershocks felt in Spider-Man: Far From Home, audiences had an entire calendar year without MCU anything in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the start of Phase Four and delayed projects such as Black Widow, The Eternals, and what would have been the first Disney+ entry, Falcon and The Winter Soldier in release date flux. For the finality for some characters and storylines that occurred in Endgame, Disney had hinted at the groundwork for the MCU to go into interesting territory. A world of multiverses, alternative versions of characters existing, and possibly crossing between timelines. So, the first project out of the gate should be WandaVision – a show that so far emphasizes Scarlet Witch and Vision’s relationship in different scenarios. On the surface, it’s charming and heartwarming, but some layers feel a bit more nefarious.
The first three episodes of WandaVision are callbacks to shows like Dick Van Dyke, The Honeymooners, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch. Everything is built to scale down from the camera shots, the furniture, and the atmosphere. Cinematographer Jess Hall provides a picture-perfect snapshot of how these old shows look and felt. There are faux commercials in the middle selling products from the respective time periods and a unique theme song for each episode. The production used an actual studio audience, providing that extra laugh or ‘aww’ vocals during scenes. This isn’t your typical superhero show. In fact, the first episode may feel anything but anything you’re used to seeing from the Marvel universe.
A lot of the uniqueness comes within the writing of Jac Schaeffer and Gretchen Enders and director Matt Shakman. The episodes place characters with powers in conventional sitcom situations. They both have to integrate into the new town of Westville seemingly or Vision’s boss comes over for dinner and hijinks happen. There is a great care of showing their powers more as an inside joke that is then a jovial play into these episodes. There are a lot of Easter eggs placed within conversation or character names that will make the Marvel comic faithful happy. An example would be Wanda and Vision not knowing when their anniversary is. The performances of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are a delight. They both display comedic timing shown in old-style shows and master the verbiage of that time to where you almost forget who they actually are. The supporting cast such as the sassy and noisy neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), Mr. and Mrs. Hart (Fred Melamed, Debra Jo Rupp), and neighbor ‘Geraldine’ (Teyonah Parris) all have exceptional moments within these changing words.
Now, there’s a saying that things aren’t always what they seem. The first episode may seem jarring to people at first, but there are hints at something more macabre under the surface. Things appear suddenly, there are sudden jolts in reality, and a Twilight Zone-esque hold suddenly sifts through what would appear to be this perfect union. For those who are waiting for things to reveal how these things occur, the show asks the audience to trust the journey you venture on. Around episode three is where things reveal themselves further. Even then, it’s an intelligent, slow burn for things to even get to that point. Rather than drop surprises like a blunt object, keep your eyes and ears open to see where the fabrics unravel.
WandaVision’s beginnings are a bold first entry that strikes a different tone into the universe of Disney+ shows. For those kids now turned adults who stayed up to watch the sitcoms that aired on Nick At Nite, there will be a certain familiarity. Rather than electing to be a straight-up continuation of where we left off in tone, the first three episodes propel us back in time to move the universe forward.
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel