Marvel on the Television: WandaVision Series Review


Courtesy of Marvel/Disney+

WandaVision gained soaring popularity upon its release.

Matthew Gaetano, Staff Writer

This past week, “WandaVision,” the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which is Disney’s branch of interconnected films based on Marvel comics, came to a close. The series’ ending marks the first foray into a new era of the MCU also coming to a close. Though the franchise has had a number of television series prior to “WandaVision,” with shows like “Agent Carter,” “Agents of Shield” and the “Daredevil” family of Netflix shows, “WandaVision” is the first to debut on Disney’s flagship streaming service, Disney+. Additionally, while the past television releases of the MCU remain on the fringe of continuity, “WandaVision” is the first to follow the exploits of a major hero from the films, that hero being Wanda (or Scarlet Witch as she is known in the comics). With much of the next phase of the MCU planned in a style similar to “WandaVision,” with Disney+ shows featuring major characters from the MCU films, the show was given a lot of pressure to lead the charge on the MCU’s lineup of original content for Disney+.

In line with other installments of the MCU, “WandaVision” builds off of past events from the film series. After the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” Wanda is emotionally distraught and finds herself in the quiet suburban town of Westview, New Jersey. However, she also finds herself in a reality reminiscent of a 1950’s sitcom. If you’re confused, you’re right where showrunners Jac Schaeffer and Matt Shakman want you to be. The series thrives on the questions of its audience and seemingly adds more of them until the penultimate episode. While the show may be a confusing ride for some, and certainly for those who are uninformed about the happenings of the rest of the MCU, the series’ questions culminate in a finale that seems to tie up almost all of them in a nice and self-contained manner.

Until the last two episodes of the nine episode series, Wanda settles down with Vision (Paul Bettany) in a different decade of sitcom-like reality each episode. The show starts off in a 1950s “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” inspired sitcom and spans up to a 2000s sitcom with notes of “The Office” and “Modern Family.” It is with the recreation of each decade that “WandaVision” truly shines. Olsen and Bettany magically encapsulate the acting, mannerisms and comedic stylings of the styled sitcom at hand. Outside of the cast’s performances, a great deal of work was put into capturing the aesthetic of a given decade behind the scenes. The sets for every episode borrow almost exactly from those of the sitcoms that are being replicated, with an extraordinary level of detail. The theme songs for all the episodes, crafted by Christoph Beck, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (all of “Frozen” fame), capture the feel of each decade while also incorporating the same four-note “WandaVision” motif. Each aspect of production comes together for a show that will have telephiles practically foaming at the mouth for more. 

Aside from classic American sitcoms, “WandaVision” naturally gives tribute to its other source material: Marvel comic books. Similar to the joy experienced by any sitcom aficionados, comic enthusiasts would be delighted by the easter eggs and references to Marvel’s publications. Whether it be the comics-accurate costumes for Wanda, Vision and more in the Halloween-centric episode, or the inclusion of MCU newcomer Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), it’s apparent that the showrunners gave attention to the benday-dot world of the heroes. Outside of simple nods and character adaptations, the story itself borrows loosely from what are arguably the two titular characters’ biggest stories: “House of M” for Wanda and Tom King’s “Vision” for Vision. Drawing from the comics and American sitcoms and creating an original story off of the MCU should be no easy feat, yet “WandaVision” manages to balance its various elements with intelligence and charm.

The long running MCU has no doubt been a major success, as it has economically and culturally been unrivaled for the past decade. However, with such fortune, there are bound to be a few criticisms. For a long time, the franchise was criticized for its one-dimensional villains, something that it seemingly outgrew with “Avengers: Infinity War.” There was then a new concern that installments in the MCU were too formulaic. Like “Avengers: Infinity War” did for one flaw, “WandaVision” does for another: it’s difficult to think of a show or movie that carries out a story close to that of the new Disney+ series. 

On the subject of the story unfolding as a television series, it certainly has positives and negatives. For starters, the episodic format allows the show to build suspense and anticipation between episodes, something that’s necessary for a show that relies so heavily on keeping its viewers confused until the end. The problem with this is that a project as large as “WandaVision” is liable to a lot of speculation with theories based on the comic book world making the show somewhat predictable. Another side effect of the series’ scale is the fairly short episodes.

As big as the show’s budget was, only so much time can be filled up with the costs of movie-level effects and production. Ultimately, the televised setup for MCU installments has precedence in its serialized comic book counterpart and does well in way of characterization. Unfortunately, this characterization and the narrative itself won’t make much sense to those who haven’t followed the MCU franchise throughout. Since “WandaVision” can be confusing for those who haven’t seen the rest of the series, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like without any prior knowledge. The well-rounded “WandaVision” is an easy recommendation for the Marvel superhero fan, but it’s hard to suggest for the casual viewer or newcomer. For the most part, “WandaVision” succeeds in breaking in a new age of Marvel content, a trend that will hopefully be continued when “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is released on Disney+ next Friday.