The COVID fracas has delayed pretty much everything since it started a year ago, but Marvel has finally succeeded in airing their first Disney Plus show. There was a whole lot of speculation surrounding this show, which gave rise to a great number of unrealistic and, frankly, unreasonable expectations that practically became demands. Addressing that, first and foremost, it must be said that, no, no, this show does not somehow magically set up the entire rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with all the incoming mutants, multiverse of madness, and Fantastic Four and whatnot. It doesn’t do that, and it was never meant to.
Infinity War and Endgame were the grand culmination of crossovers, wherein everyone’s individual stories collided on a massive scale. However, all the movies and shows preceding that were focused on separate characters with their own stories. So let’s not be trying to make all the individual stories about all the massive crossovers, eh? Just let each story be its own thing. We’ll get the team-ups and Earth-shattering events again later, ok?
For now, WandaVision simply tells the story of its titular characters as they wrestle with their personal ordeals, including the grief which results from the loss of loved ones again and again and again, and the questioning of one’s very existence, as well as the nature of their power and how easily they can hurt people without even meaning to.
In truth, I’ve been struggling with reviewing this show. Not because of any particularly strong feelings, but, rather, the lack of any strong feelings. Oh, there’s plenty of emotions at play in this show, as they went for emotional gut-punches galore, but, somehow, out of all the MCU properties I’ve seen, this one seems to just leave me with the least amount of feeling for it, in either a positive or negative way.
Basically, how much is there really for me to say about it?
I can appreciate the basic concept behind WandaVision, and the particular angle it takes going into the story. We’re dropped into the episodic homages to classic sitcoms, but while it remains a mystery how and why it’s actually being broadcast somehow, it’s too readily apparent exactly what is happening and why. In short, Wanda went crazy with grief and drew on the sitcoms she loved as a kid to create a perfect fantasy world for herself to avoid escape her grief and her loss.
Which is something of a letdown, that Wanda just did all of this. Somehow. It would have been magnificent if she’d somehow been manipulated by some outside force, such as the much-anticipated and not-at-all-appearing Mephisto. For that matter the show suffers very much from a lack of an overall villain. Oh, the witch Agatha Harkness and the Director Hayward of SWORD are both bad guys, but they’re just opportunistic predators swooping in on the chaos. This leaves Wanda without any impetus for what she did, and for accidentally enthralling the inhabitants of an entire town to play bit parts in her sitcom. And, in the end, all she managed to do magnify both her own suffering and the suffering of those around her.
Not to say that there isn’t a great deal of development throughout the show. Wanda herself undergoes a tremendous personal journey towards understanding herself and her power, and how she might use it more capably and deliberately. Vision not only gets to exist again and gain closure for himself and for Wanda both, but his encounter with the White Vision opens the door of possibility for a Vision of some sort to return to the MCU as a whole. Wanda gains an entirely new motivation, and one which is quite worrying when paired with the means she now uses to truly master her powers.
In addition, the final fate of Captain Marvel’s friend from the air force is revealed, and the young girl who idolized her returns and gains power of her own. James Wu, from Ant-Man and the Wasp returns, complete with using sleight of hand as he presents his card, as he grows into a capable leader within the FBI. Darcy Lewis from the Thor corner of the MCU returns as well, now an astrophysicist in her own right and still as cute and personable as Kat Dennings has ever made her. SWORD is fully introduced as a power on Earth in the MCU, we get some payoff for the emotional trauma that Wanda has been through, and we meet Wanda and Vision’s children.
Also, it was a fairly meta experience seeing the characters in the MCU react to the sitcom broadcast much like fans in the real world react to the MCU. Example: “She recast Pietro?!”
So, it really does add more depth to the MCU, and shows us where Wanda will be coming from when she, as the Scarlet Witch, appears in future movies, like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It also has some of the bells and whistles we’ve come to associate with MCU movies, including personal showdowns with villains, but somehow it feels a bit lackluster.
When Wanda has to make the sacrifice that she eventually makes, letting go of her dream family, her two sons who are conjured from nothing and yet are still people, and whom she cares deeply for, and this echo of the one she still loves despite his recent destruction… well, considering the agony she just put the people around her through, that was more like a necessary price to be paid for ending the trauma she was causing. And it’s not like she’s given up on ever having them back, which is particularly worrisome to me, that she might become a villain in her pursuit of the loving family she dreamed of.
The emotional gut-punches are plentiful, and yet the show as a whole seems rather… well, forgettable to me. There’s no lingering hope that she might get what she wants, because she’s going down a very dark path to get it. There’s no lingering sorrow for what she and her loved ones have endured, because everyone else endured much worse. There’s no lingering connection to her or to Monica for their grief, because it just kind of… is. It’s there, and somehow they were supposed to simply connect through it, and didn’t. Not to mention, apparently Monica was back at work in a normal way almost immediately after she learns about the Snap and how her mother died while she herself was snapped out of existence.
It’s an excellently-made show, it adds to the MCU, Agatha is delightfully crazy, and Wanda finally starts coming into her own power, and yet… somehow there’s just no significant, lingering emotional impact. It’s kind of “meh” and “blah.” The most major thing I’ve seen about it is the debate on whether or not Wanda is a villain yet or not. That’s pretty much it.
All in all, I think they could have done a whole lot better with just a few tweaks and changes. Maybe if Wanda wasn’t so obviously conscious of what she was doing, and yet surprised by what she’s doing. Maybe if they had a clear and proper villain for the hero to be matched against. Maybe if they had something other than “Wanda’s hurting” to explain everything.
It’s just kind of… lacking something.
Rating: 5 stars out of 10.