WARNING: This article contains spoilers for all nine episodes of WandaVision.
Let’s make no mistake here; WandaVision was a big risk for Marvel. Their vast cinematic universe has, for the most part, stuck to movies. This new era, where television shows will have their equal share of the limelight, has brought with it a vast array of possibilities.
With that in mind, starting it all off with three episodes that appeared to be entirely unrelated from the rest of the MCU was the real-life equivalent of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner creating Vision after their Ultron disaster – going for broke. To say the gamble paid off would be an understatement.
Those three episodes, of course, all make sense now. Not only did they build a platform for the remainder of the show to thrive on, but they were the catalyst for the sense of mystery viewers were treated to throughout nine episodes. WandaVision has ushered in the new age of Marvel perfectly.
Wanda Maximoff’s character development was the real driving force behind this project. Starting the show as a 1950s housewife and ending it by embracing her famous ‘Scarlet Witch’ persona, everything in between helps to further endear us to an already-loved character. Her original naivety, her coping mechanisms when faced with grief (we’ll discuss that in more detail later on) and her strength when faced with personal dilemmas have led to her developing into one of the MCU’s strongest assets.
For fans, it was nice to see Wanda and Vision live a genuinely happy life – albeit for a limited period of time. Given that we find out in Episode 8 this is the plan they had all along, it’s rewarding to watch them live that happy life for a short while. Despite their love for each other being clear in prior films, they were never able to fully take advantage. They ended up on opposite sides of the Civil War battle and were in hiding at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, so for Wanda to experience true happiness for three episodes was gratifying.
Of course, this character development was stoutly supported by the incredible performance of Elizabeth Olsen. The 32-year-old had been brilliant as Maximoff since her first appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but she’s taken her acting to a whole new level via the WandaVision series. She controls whichever scene she features in, perfectly conveying the joy, confusion, sadness and grief her character is experiencing. For the majority of her screen time, she doesn’t even need a script to do this; her facial acting is incredibly powerful and gives us an insight into exactly how she is feeling. That’s what good acting does.
Paul Bettany continued his excellent portrayal as Vision, this time managing to encompass an old-fashioned, charming persona all while hinting at the darker side of Westview. He acts as mouth and ears for the audience; we share his confusion and he asks the questions we want to ask. What is really going on in this ‘hex’? Is anything inside it real? Who is controlling the town’s citizens? Bettany is at the top of his game here, perfectly complimenting Olsen’s performance and fulfilling his dream of acting alongside himself.
As if those two performances weren’t enough, the supporting cast are on top form. Kathryn Hahn is unbelievable, seamlessly switching between her “nosy neighbour” role and her true identity of Agatha Hakness, a mind-warping witch. Her interpretation of the role brings another famous comic-book character to life, and she does so in inventive and attention-grabbing fashion; just what the part needed. Upon rewatching the show in full knowledge of her true intentions, a whole extra dimension is added.
Randall Park and Kat Dennings add some light-heartedness at the right times as Agent Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis (the latter in slightly annoying fashion), while Teyonah Parris produced a strong debut as Monica Rambeau; her character’s development will be interesting to follow throughout Phase Four.
These actors and actresses were able to flourish because their script was so excellent. Jac Schaeffer’s writing was right on the money, near perfectly pacing the show and making sure everything was revealed at just the right moment. The first three episodes set up the fourth perfectly, and from then on the jumps between the ‘hex’ and the outside world are expertly timed.
The show continues to gather pace and slows down just at the right moment come Episode 8, where we get an emotional look back through Wanda’s traumatic life. The ninth episode’s final confrontation is perhaps rushed a little, but the final act halts the momentum just in time to round things off in typically emotional fashion.
On top of that, this show genuinely felt like it was ripped straight from the pages of a comic book – and it’s all the better for it. There were so many opportunities for Marvel to make things too cheesy, too over-the-top, but they adeptly masterminded that particular minefield.
Episode 6 (the All-New Halloween Spooktacular) gave us a chance to see the characters in their traditional attire in a believable scenario. The ‘House of M’ comic storyline was expertly adapted for the television screen. We were introduced to a host of new characters, none of whom felt out of place. If all of the MCU’s upcoming shows are written to the same standard, we’re in for a treat.
The way WandaVision deals with grief is nothing short of outstanding. While we have always known about the tragedies in Wanda’s life, we’ve never been able to fully appreciate them.
We knew her parents died in an explosion, but we didn’t know said explosion happened while the family were watching a young Wanda’s favourite sitcom (a reason behind her warped reality taking a similar form). We knew her brother Pietro was killed in Sokovia, but we never actually witnessed her grieving. We knew she and Vision shared an immediate connection, but we never knew it grew after he helped her through those tough moments. He, an android, explaining that her grief is “love persevering” adds a whole new layer to their relationship.
With Vision himself gone, we can sympathise entirely with Wanda’s decline in mental health. She feels as though she is drowning, as though there is no escape. Watching her break down at the site of she and Vison’s future home would tug at the strings of the coldest heart, providing us with a whole new meaning behind the heart on the calender in Episode One. She has no one left, and isn’t even afforded the luxury of burying her dead partner – before being framed for reanimating his body. If any of us possessed her powers in a similar situation, I doubt we’d be able to control them either.
The MCU is packed to the brim with emotional moments, and WandaVision has added to the list in realistic fashion while taking us through Wanda’s growth. By the end of the show, she has learned to accept what has happened; she lets go of Vision, of her children and of the happy life she always dreamed of. She got to this point by confronting her depression, albeit in a twisted way forced upon her by Hahn’s Harkness. The effectiveness with which Marvel went about this development deserves massive credit.
There are a small number of disappointments that arose while the show aired. High hopes of a Reed Richards appearance weren’t satisfied, with the “friend” Rambeau mentioned never amounting to much. Doctor Strange also remained an absentee, despite this series leading directly into his second movie in March of next year.
The “huge cameo”, which we were told would match The Mandalorian’s Luke Skywalker unveiling, did bring excitement with the introduction of a ‘White Vision’. However, his total screen-time lasted for around five minutes, he didn’t have a major impact on the plot and he disappeared into the unknown before we’d really got accustomed to his presence. The idea was strong; the execution wasn’t quite there.
Aside from these minor issues, however, this show stands up to the high expectations it inevitably set. This was Marvel’s attempt to branch out from blockbuster films, and they have started that journey on the perfect track. WandaVision expands character stories magnificently, explores depression masterfully and does it all with an unorthodox storyline that paid off as well as director Matt Shakman could have hoped.
This is a new era for Marvel, and the risk of WandaVision has ushered it in marvelously.
Feature Image Credit: IGN