Sunday, 7 March 2021
Air Date: January 15th - March 5th 2021
Warning: This review is filled with spoilers... so please don’t read it if you are intending to see it (although, one of the big plot twists is something old comic book readers will possibly see coming).
WandaVision is the first of the new wave of Disney produced internet TV shows which tie in directly to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (in all of its current disarray). It builds from events in previous films in the continuity as well as leading into future films (and probably TV shows)... although, I think this latter component is possibly a bad move by Marvel since not everyone is going to want to subscribe to something like Disney Plus to be able to keep abreast of events affecting the characters in the main films. Which means Disney and Marvel are weakening their grip on potential cinema viewers as far as I’m concerned but, yeah, let’s not go there.
The show initially takes the form of sitcom episodes detailing the happy life of Wanda Maximoff (aka The Scarlet Witch) and The Vision, with both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their roles from the main strand of movies. Each episode is set in a different decade and evolves from 1950s sitcom to present day while at the same time being shot, in the initial couple of episodes, totally in the style of that week’s era... before then fading in and out of the sitcom setting while we see the outside world try to figure out why a big, force fielded town has appeared and why Wanda Maximoff is running it like her own private sitcom. Consequently, the shows start off in a black and white 4:3 aspect ratio with canned laughter (the bane of anybody who ever tries to watch a sit com) and then, gradually evolves as the show runs its course, into widescreen aspect ratios and full colour.
Now, I won’t say much about the story here because... well there isn’t much of one. The entire nine episode show could have been done just as efficiently as a two issue comic book but the main pleasure from this one is not the thin plot but the tantalising intrigue of the set up and trying to work out who’s pulling the strings and why (although, I have to say, I kinda clocked who the real main player was by the end of the second episode). So, instead of a neat summary, I’ll just go on to note some of the more interesting character appearances in the show and that is where the spoilers of this article will now come in... so please don’t read on if you don’t want to know.
Okay, so first person of interest is the wonderful Kat Dennings reprising her role as Darcy Lewis from the first two Thor movies. She’s a welcome addition to the cast and, though she doesn’t add much in the way of tie-ins to the other movies, she has a smart ‘problem solving’ role and is a very welcome addition. They should put her character in more stuff.
Next up... in a wonderful debut as a character who starts remembering things she shouldn’t and is quite spectacularly ejected from the 'show within the show' at the end of an episode... we have Teyonah Parris playing Monica Rambeau. Monica is, of course, the daughter of Brie Larson’s best friend in the first Captain Marvel film from Marvel (not to be confused with either the real Captain Marvel... aka SHAZAM! or indeed Ms. Marvel... who was actually the character Larson was really playing in that movie). The character was a little girl in that film but that one was set in the 1980s and this, as we find out, is set five years after the Thanos snap from Avengers Infinity War, literally taking place just weeks after the events of Avengers End Game (which actually puts the timing a few years in our current future... try not to think about it). Things happen in this show with her which lead to the first of one of two post credits scenes on the last episode which, I believe, will tie it in with the second of the Captain Marvel movies, when they eventually get around to filming it.
Thirdly, we have Quicksilver. That’s right, Wanda Maximoff’s brother appears to come back from the dead but, in a strange twist that only a corporation that has bought the studio owning the majority of the rights to the Marvel characters that got away from the MCU would attempt to pull off, the Quicksilver here is not played by the same guy who played him in Avengers Age Of Ultron but, instead, by the guy who played him in the 20th Century Fox strand of X-Men movies, Evan Peters. It gets complicated... let’s not go there.
In addition we have Kathryn Hahn playing nosy neighbour Agnes but, this is for me where the show suddenly got very predictable from very early on. Somewhere around the second episode I tried to figure out why the script kept kind of adapting itself to fit her annoying character in. Then I thought, if Wanda is really doing all this then the writers are going to need a scapegoat bad guy (or in this case gal) to be also pulling the strings. Hmm... Agnes... wait, you don’t think this is really Agatha Harkness, do you? After all, to fight a witch with powerful magic you need another witch, surely. That’s how my thought process went but, here’s the thing... it’s been a long time since I read these Marvel comics avidly. So to me, Agatha Harkness was what she was in the late 60s and early 1970s. A white haired old lady with a black cat who babysat for Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Girl’s son when they went out (and yes, Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood was, indeed, named after her). I didn’t think they’d want to invest the time explaining who this character was so I kinda second guessed myself but then was really sure about it when she acts differently to the other frozen humans in a scene where The Vision strikes out on his own to attempt to leave WandaVision. The problem is, they don’t take time to explain a lot of it at all because, as it turns out, in the modern comics continuity, Agatha Harkness has been recast as a villain (and presumably she’s now as young as this character too). So... yeah, a bit of a disappointment to me because I would love to see the original Agatha Harkness done properly as a character but, oh well, at least they brought her back in some form. It does strike me as being a bit ‘ageist’ though.
Okay, the other thing which was of no surprise to me was the introduction of a second iteration of The Vision. I figured out when the series was first announced that the whole reason behind this show was to find a way to bring the Vision back as a character in the films after his death in Avengers Infinity War. It’s shown that the version of The Vision we have been watching can’t leave the confines of the WandaVision world so, it was pretty obvious a new one would have to be constructed and that, somehow, they would have to get all the memories and thoughts from ‘our’ Vision into the head of the new one. So, yeah, they do that here for sure and, frankly, setting up the new version as a villain to start with wasn’t fooling anyone. They got there in the end but, like I said, it could have been told in two issues of a comic book rather than milking it out into a miniseries.
That being said, Olsen and Bettany are excellent as usual and there are some nicely quirky moments in the show. They’re also backed up with a superb cast and, asides from the last two episodes, I had a fun enough time with it. And even the last two were okay because I’d already figured out the ending would be a cop out anyway. Actually, if you stick around for the second post credits sequence and think about it, not to mention the final fate of The Vision, their two kids and also the troubling contradiction of an ending for Agatha Harkness (since the world she’s imprisoned in makes no sense... unless she’s now inside Wanda somehow) then, on reflection, it’s quite a grim conclusion for the show. It’s just presented as a little more upbeat and victorious than it actually is. Oh, and for the record, it’s a bit unsettling that one of the big reveals of the show was that Wanda Maximoff is actually, The Scarlet Witch. Who the heck did they think we thought she was playing since she first turned up in the movies? This really is not a big revelation, Marvel. Have you guys lost touch with your audience?
So, yeah, that’s me finished with WandaVision. It was fairly well done, was also mostly unnecessary but, ultimately, was quite a fun thing and I don’t blame Marvel for making it. However, whether the slew of other Marvel TV shows they have in mind for us later this year and next are going to be tolerable is anyone’s guess. She-Hulk is the one I’m most interested in because I love John Byrne’s run on the second series of the comics (The Sensational She-Hulk) although, Byrne is a hard act to follow and if they don’t remake the issue where it’s just She-Hulk naked using a skipping rope then I’ll be sorely disappointed. Until they disappoint me again then, I’ll just say ‘Make Mine Marvel’ with the caveat that, DC are producing some cool stuff too, just like always. Excelsior!