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“WandaVision” is a Dazzling Risk That Pays Off [Spoiler-Free Review]

I’m actually glad I’ve had some time to sit with “WandaVision” before putting my thoughts into words and attempting to surmise its bizarre beginning. There’s a lot going on here, everything from surface level homage to the early 50s and 60s TV shows they’re simultaneously parodying and while also perfectly recreating, to the ominous more complex superhero level boiling beneath the surface, to an ever larger narrative of predictions, theories, comic storyline possibilities and more. There is a lot to digest even with its easily consumable and comfortable layer of good old fashioned America life, and “WandaVision” somehow makes all of this work effortlessly.

Before we dive into why my first impressions of “WandaVision” are nothing but praise and adoration- let’s address some of the naysayers who, for reasons unbeknownst to me, don’t understand why the show isn’t like everything else they’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Clearly you haven’t been paying attention, because Kevin Feige and co have continually made it VERY clear over and over again that “WandaVision” was going to be unlike anything they’ve ever done in the MCU before. While the underlying mystery is shrouded in secrecy, what we were told to expect from this show is exactly what we were given in the first two episodes. If you thought or felt it to be anything different, the mistake lies with you and not the show.

Marvel doesn’t have a reputation of outright lying to their viewers, and the beginning episodes of “WandaVision” proves that they had and have no intention of starting now.

“WandaVision,” Disney+

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what makes the first two episodes of “WandaVision” so damn great.

First, the surface level sitcom recreation is perfectly crafted. Turns out if you play it straight rather than constantly forcing your audience to join in some meta narrative they didn’t know they were suppose to be a part of, you can absolutely make shows like “Bewitched” and “I Love Lucy” work in their respective decades for audiences today. You don’t even have to make them exist in the present, either. Bettany and Olson’s chemistry is undeniable here, the best its been since…well, ever.

They dive into their roles and embrace the cheeky silliness of it all with complete abandon, delivering some of their best performances as these respective characters yet. Honestly, if there was nothing bubbling underneath in “WandaVision” the old timey surface level sitcom could work all on its own. I would absolutely watch an entire series of “Wanda and Vision move to the Suburbs in 1960 and Try to be Normal People” and watch all the simple silly hijinks ensue.

Of course, there IS something boiling beneath the surface in “WandaVision.” The balance of perfectly recreating a comforting all American world juxtaposed with a constant state of dread knowing that something isn’t right here would make Thanos proud. The breaks in tone and norm from characters and scenery are all the more unconformable because the surface works so well. “WandaVision” being relaxing and simple on the surface works as a catalyst to make the slow burn realization that something isn’t right here more effective and unsettling. See, the show is SO good as a sitcom that we the viewer don’t want anything to disrupt it. It’s a fun trip down memory lane and the palatable world is clearly by design, not just for us but for Wanda and Vision too. So when anything, the slightest misstep oddly placed item or sound of person appears that draws attention to the illusion, we are as unsettled as the characters are.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.
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Try to wrap your mind around how hard that is to do. “WandaVision” does it effortlessly, fully aware of the endgame but more than willing to take its time fleshing it out. Everything matters, and “WandaVision” is intent on making you earn it. The puzzle pieces are scattered about the floor, seemingly disconnected from each other at first glance. There’s no way “The Dick Van Dyke Show” goes with the Avengers, one of which is suppose to be dead. But piece by piece, line by line, joke by joke, everything is slowly creating something much larger and purposeful. There is something at work here, and we, much like Wanda and Vision in their own little world, are suppose to sit back and enjoy the ride and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Of course, we are the same as our protagonists (or antagonists if some of the more out there theories are to be believed) in that we HAVE to look. We want everything to be nice and simple and cute, but we also need to know WHY things are the way they are. We want to figure it all out right now, but something or someone isn’t ready to reveal their secrets yet. I for one love the tug of war in “WandaVision.” It is desperate to keep us shrouded in the comfort of our television shows, and every time something goes bump in the night, it bewitches us right back into the fantasy. This makes it all the more fascinating and unsettling, captivating its viewers hook, line and sinker.

WandaVision” is weird in that it is both equal parts familiar and unique, drumming up a huge dose of nostalgia while also making itself integral to the overall MCU phase 4. There are certainly more questions than answers, but I have to believe that this is wholly by design and unequivocally intentional. For me, I’m all in on this ride. I’m ready for the drop, when it all comes together and training wheels of sitcoms fall off and, for lack of a better phrase, shit hits the fan. For those who dislike this slow-paced, silly, face-value black and white sitcom recreation, I’m confident all that will fade away in time, and the show will dive more into familiar territory. At the end of the day, however different they are trying to be, it is STILL a part of the MCU, and will always have its purposed inexplicably tied to the larger story instead of solely existing on its own.

But as much as I’m intrigued and eager to see how it all shapes up, I’m in no hurry for this series to shed its sitcom skin. The show is odd, unique, familiar, unsettling, funny, quirky, and last but not least, just damn good. After only two episodes, my final verdict is I’m all in.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

90%
Outstanding
  • Bold and Brilliant