*This review contains spoilers for the events in Episodes 1 & 2 of WandaVision*
The start of the fourth Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here, and it’s more different than you could have possibly imagined. After a long wait, extended by the pandemic we know all too well, the Marvel train has begun once again. Not only that, but with WandaVision, this is Marvel’s first foray into the land of television (Marvel Entertainment projects are different). Does Marvel keep their quality in this new medium?
Well, the answer is a plain and straightforward yes–however that doesn’t mean WandaVision is going to grab you right out of the gate. Marvel’s approach to the story is extremely unique, and it’s quite commendable that they chose to take the risks that the show embraces. In fact the first two installments are all but straightforward sitcom episodes, and not much more than that. Sitcom episodes that are pure love letters to those famous in the 50s and 60s. Influences from shows such as I Am Lucy, the Dick Van Dyne Show, and Bewitched are on full display. For some, you could come out of these first two episodes not having been pulled in at all, and not really understanding why you’d want to tune in for the rest of the season. There is certainly a polarity to the set-up of WandaVision. Even for those that really enjoyed their time with The Visions, it’s impossible to deny that the start of this epic new story is certainly a slow one.
Don’t go into the show expecting to know everything. In fact, the point of the entire show (thus far) is that you are thrown into the deep end of the pool without anything to keep you afloat. You know nothing, and it’s that deep underlying dread about what the truth to everything is, that brings those dark and intruiging undertones to the entirety of The Visions’ happy sitcom existence. The incredible uniqueness of the premise and presentation alone should keep most glued to your seat the entire time. There may not be supervillains running amok, or visceral actions sequences (yet), but there is still plenty on display.
WandaVision presents an endlessly creative story that we haven’t seen done by the MCU, and really even holds an intense uniqueness outside of those parameters. It’s obvious to say what the show attempts to do works so well because of the extremely intelligent and solid writing that is on display. Really though, full credit goes to every aspect of the show. The design is on another level–all the way down to the details in their house compared to the shows they are riffing off of from that era. The wardrobe, color pallet, sound, and the incredible attention to detail–it’s mind boggling how much work went into every frame. For all of those that love to find easter eggs, there are already a treasure trove of them in the first two episodes alone. I can’t imagine what the next seven episodes will have–let along every single installment of future Marvel shows.
While the art direction and design is one thing, the performances do just as amazing of a job holding these first two episodes up. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany shine through the entire time, with each clearly having fun with what is being given to them. How amazingly strange is it to see a full blown sitcom with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, both as their respective characters? It really is a hoot. Their performances, alongside the incredibly smart writing and overall production design, made me feel like I was legitimately watching some time lost old sitcom episodes. Even with the purposeful hokiness of the time period intact, the show manages to be really funny throughout. Filled to the brim with gags that fit the era(s), the show also subtly blends all of that with today’s sensibilities–while also managing to play off of the audiences expectations. I mean how fun was it to see Paul Bettany so wholly embrace a gum-drunk Vision?
Easily the weakest part of the first two episodes is the plot–which is all but absent. The slow start, and how little the show actually does give the audience by the end of episode 2, does drag the show down a bit. The intrigue of the mystery however is still very interesting. That dark unknown adds an uneasiness to everything going on. Even if the glimpses we get are brief and few, they are quite memorable. From the dinner table to the beekeeper–something terrible is afoot. Hopefully going forward, the glimpses we get behind the curtains will grow.
WandaVision certainly isn’t your usual Marvel affair–at least right out of the gate. While we have been promised that signature blockbuster action in the show eventually, what we have now is a love letter to old sitcoms–all created on a dark and mysterious foundation. The promise and intrigue of what is to come drives forward what are seemingly unrelated episodes of a decades old sitcom, just with Wanda and Vision and the main characters. If people were wondering how Marvel was going to keep things fresh going forward, well here’s your answer.