Marvel’s “WandaVision” in review

Arts & Entertainment

Nolen Kelly, Staff

Header Image: Marvel Studios

Editor’s Note: This review does not contain spoilers for the story of “WandaVision,” but does comment on some of its themes and content styles that may hint toward plot points for some readers.

I’ll start off this review by saying that “WandaVision” is already a success because it got me to rewatch “Malcolm in the Middle,” which is an amazing show. But, onto the main review: Marvel Studios has taken a quick breather from releasing two movies a day during these unfortunate COVID times to focus on a few miniseries centered on some characters that have already been introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) through films like “Avengers,” “Captain America” and “Ant-Man.” The first show on their list, “WandaVision” picks up a little while after the events of 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” focusing on Elizabeth Olson as the titular Wanda Maximoff, a Marvel Comics character known as the Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as a sentient android named Vision. What follows is a story told through unique visuals, clever referential writing and very few of Marvel’s typical tropes that make this an interesting debut to the small screen.

Marvel Studios

I was excited for this show since it was announced in April 2019, but I also tempered my expectations as it would be Marvel Studios’ first television series. I enjoyed Maximoff and Vision in their previous appearances of the MCU and the creators teased that each episode of “WandaVision” would focus on different decades of TV shows, starting in the 60s and moving to modern day. At first, they had my interest — then they got my attention. Each episode’s style is based off of a different decade of television and spoof “I Love Lucy,” “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Growing Pains,” “Full House,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Modern Family.”  From the get-go they nailed the aesthetic of every single decade. They included laugh tracks, emotional music when the problem is being resolved, theme songs that pay homage to the original show while including their own unique style and most episodes even feature some fun commercials. The costumes, camera work, thematic elements and episodic style of each show is pretty impressive, but the actual plot of “WandaVision” in between is something else. 

I have been wanting Marvel to get weird and psychedelic for a while, which is why I enjoyed the “Doctor Strange” film so much. The magical aspect of the MCU is crazy and hopefully we see more of it going forward into future projects. I knew this show would be a good ticket into the weird witchery the MCU had to offer and oh man, it is weird. Maximoff is a witch and an entire show about a witch is guaranteed to get creative. Without giving too much away, the show breaks its own reality a few times and leads to some spooky and compelling moments that make you wonder what anything means. Olson’s performance as Maximoff was great and she fit comfortably into each roll she filled. She goes through several rapidly shifting emotions throughout the series, and you can’t help but feel for her along the way. Bettany as Vision was also super fun to watch because he was finally given more space to stretch his comedic chops and breathe more as a character and a sentient being. Now with that all said I, of course, have some problems. 

Marvel Studios

First off, I feel like I should appreciate it when Marvel does the whole “obscure details that come back in a big way” trope that they do, but it’s just annoying at this point. It is not of huge importance to the overall plot, but it is just a Marvel thing that bothers me when they do it. My biggest issues with the show are the momentum, an individual character and some dialogue. I would say the first five episodes do a really good job of building suspense and showing a world that unravels piece by piece each week. By the sixth episode, the show feels like it has presented everything to the viewer. There is no more mystery — and typically I would be okay with that since the world is in front of me, but not when the rest of the story is plateaued from there on out. It feels anticlimactic. There are other notable moments in the remaining four episodes, but they just don’t pack the punch I feel like they should. Just to be clear, I do not think the later episodes are inherently bad, but they just lack anything substantially interesting compared to what the series began with. The writing just gets a little weak and depends mostly on the aesthetic of the show to carry the story rather than pushing their own story creatively.

My next huge issue with the show is the dialogue. Again, I will not go too far into detail as to why, but there are a lot of jokes and forced dialogue that do not work. There are two or three characters that speak mostly in clichés and it gets pretty stale pretty fast. And speaking of pretty stale pretty fast, there is a character in the show who is from another MCU franchise who I did not like at all. I can’t say who they are because it gives a bit away, but they are presented in a very important position and almost everything about this character falls flat for me, even their eventual reveal as a comic book hero. Their chemistry with the world and other characters, their purpose, the direction and future implications are just so bland and annoying that I think the show would have progressed way more smoothly if they maintained their same arc for the first three episodes and then built them in a completely different way. If you’ve seen the show, you know who I’m talking about. 

Aside from some bland direction and a small dip in pacing, I thought this was a pretty solid start for Marvel’s venture into limited series television. There were a few scenes that made me actually jump out of my seat with excitement, and a few others during which I continually checked my phone to see what else was going on. It is definitely worth the watch for all of the Marvel freaks and geeks out there and for those who appreciate TV history like me. To rank the show from “Awful” to “Perfection” I’d say it was “Good.”

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