Look, I’m sorry, Disney. I had to find some unscrupulous way to watch WandaVision, the latest entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first ever live-action series from this continuity. Out of all the things Marvel had slated for Phase 4, WandaVision was my second most anticipated show so I had to watch it by hook or by crook. But I kinda blame you for making me do this. After priming geeks all over the world with your movies, how dare you deny us of finding a legitimate way to watch this show? This wouldn’t have happened if you just made Disney+ available in third world countries like the Philippines. You forced my hand, Disney!
It might seem very late to review WandaVision since the last episode was released almost a week ago and, to be totally frank, it does seem so. But this review is going to be a little different from most of the reviews that have been put out for the show. That’s because most of them would do weekly reviews for each episode. This review, on the other hand, will be a more in-depth review of the entire nine episode run of WandaVision. Also, because there just might be that small number of holdouts who resisted the urge to see the show, this will be a SPOILER FREE review. I mean, this site has already posted spoilers for the show here and there since the series ended. It’s time to play nice and talk about WandaVision the SPOILER FREE way.
It would be practically impossible to give even the briefest of summaries for WandaVision and still keep this a SPOILER FREE review so I’m not really going to do it. What you just have to know is that both Wanda Maximoff and Vision, both played once again by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, respectively, are both living in seemingly suburban bliss in various pastiches or old American situational comedies. While this is happening, a group of people, including Monica Rambeau (the kid from Captain Marvel who’s all grown up now), FBI Agent Jimmy Woo from the Ant-Man films and astrophysicist Darcy Lewis from the first two Thor movies, are trying to figure out what’s happening to the former Avengers.
Probably the best thing about WandaVision is the level of detail given to the sitcom settings. As both Wanda and Vision move from era to era, so do the sitcoms they mimic. An extraordinary amount of work was put into the costumes and the sets as they perfectly reflect the shows they’re paying homage to without them being direct copies. Television nerds will get a kick from this as they will immediately recognize legendary shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, Malcolm in the Middle and Modern Family. Just to really hammer in the sitcom vibe, most of the episodes are even given their very own unique opening credits and commercial. It’s all in the details!
However, just because a lot of WandaVision mimics various sitcoms, it’s just not all that funny. For the first three episodes, which are all heavily focused on Wanda and Vision living in sitcom land, I didn’t laugh a single time. And I can’t help but think that it was intentional as, well, most of the old-timey sitcoms were rather unfunny by today’s standards. It’s kind of strange if you think about it. Usually, Marvel takes a lot of flak for adding a lot of humor to their products and, with WandaVision, a show that’s seems to be tailor made for telling jokes, isn’t funny at all. Even though they’re unfunny, I can appreciate how they did capture the style of humor for each time period, even if it doesn’t hold up.
The acting all throughout WandaVision is top-notch. Everyone here brought their A-game and, while I wouldn’t say the acting is believable and realistic (a lot of it is in the hyper-stylized and ridiculous world of sitcoms, after all), but you can definitely see everyone is having a blast with whatever part they’ve been given. The only real so-so performance comes from Josh Stamberg, who plays Captain Haward, the commander of SWORD. I don’t blame him totally for it because the character is supposed to be very one-dimensional. The problem is he’s not a very interesting one-dimensional character so his performance suffers. Everyone else, however, deserves high praise.
Of course, on the top of the list is Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, respectively. As the show does revolve around their dynamic with each other. They do get to flex their dramatic acting chops, especially during the more emotional moments of the show. But what caught me off-guard was how good they were in emulating the old-style of comedy acting. From the super-expressive facial expressions and almost vaudeville like mannerisms, both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany really got to strut their stuff throughout WandaVision. They’ve been working together in the roles for a good number of years so they’ve really created their own chemistry. In fact, I didn’t care for their entire relationship in the Marvel movies. But here? I was totally invested!
However, extra special mention does have to go to Elizabeth Olsen as she does have to do a lot of the heavy lifting here. As such, she has the more emotional and heavy moments throughout and she does a phenomenal job of displaying the right kind of emotion as well as the right level appropriate to the scenario. It might be too soon to nominate anyone for any kind of award but, right now, I will be very disappointed if Elizabeth Olsen does get nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes or the Emmys. This would feel strange as this would mark one of the rare times when a superhero show would be taken seriously. But I strongly believe she deserves it.
What’s even more amazing is that, despite Elizabeth Olsen giving a tour de force performance throughout WandaVision, I don’t think she’s the best performer! That honor has to go to Kathryn Hahn who plays Agnes, Wanda and Vision’s nosy neighbor throughout the times. Basically, she’s the scene stealer of WandaVision and Kathryn Hahn simply ate the role up! While you might say she was hamming it up, she did do it to a degree that most overbearing side characters in sitcoms act. You can tell Kathryn Hahn is just reveling in the part as she can go as over the top as she can and it would work! She even got that weird cackle that all annoying neighbor’s next door seem to have in comedies. I don’t think she’ll win any awards for her performance; after all, she is just overacting just a smidge but it just works right in the tone they’re going for.
But the sitcom portion of WandaVision is just a part of the show itself. There’s also the human characters who are trying to unravel the mystery of what’s happening. These scenes are important and do move the overall story along. But I didn’t really care all too much for that side of the tale. A part of me wishes that the writers found a way to tell the entire story within the sitcom world because, as good as the real world scenes are, the characters aren’t all that engrossing. I’m not saying they aren’t interesting characters. They’re just not as interesting as Wanda, Vision and Agnes.
But I do have to give props for using these more forgettable characters from previous Marvel features. I mean, not many people liked Darcy from the Thor films and she didn’t really factor into those stories. Nor can you say the same thing for Special Agent Jimmy Woo in Ant-Man as they were just comedic side characters. These two, along with a grown up Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel, do show some character growth and were capable heroes in their own right. They’re all definitely better written than in the movies they were in. Even so, I went into WandaVision to watch Wanda and Vision, not these side characters from other movies.
One annoyance I had with WandaVision was the overall pacing once we do get this mixing of the sitcom and real world. Once again, this is mostly because I really wanted to see more of Wanda and Vision’s blissful situational comedy hijinx instead of all the investigation in the real world. Splitting the focus into two storylines created this weird balancing act that just didn’t completely work as they would bounce back between them. And with each episode running at around half an hour, this didn’t allow for a lot of time for either story to be told satisfactorily. I would have been fine if they extended them to an hour when they had to pull double duty but they rigidly stuck to the limited time given for each episode.
Even so, I was fully engrossed with each episode but this was mostly due to some really devilish trickery as every episode would end in an eyecatching twist to make you wanting more. If you were like me and were watching each episode come out each and every week, you’re always left wanting more because of it. This is probably why they stuck to the thirty minute runtime for each episode. However, I do think WandaVision could have been better serviced if they either became more lenient regarding the length of each episode or if they added one more episode at the end. That’s because the last two episode tried to cram in too much story. They were asking so many questions throughout the previous episodes and just stuffed the final two with a lot of answers. At least they did answer the very questions they were asking but not all of them are told in a convincing manner.
Ultimately, though, I came out of watching WandaVision strangely satisfied. Some episodes are better than others but it feels greater than the sum of its parts. This was a great first outing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen. A definite must watch.
Have you seen WandaVision? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!