WARNING: This review contains spoilers from the first two episodes.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first television show, the highly anticipated WANDAVISION, dropped its first two episodes yesterday on Disney+. Set in a fantasy sitcom world, the series is slow to reveal the mysteries at its heart, instead dwelling in the neighborhood that has been constructed, and not giving viewers many clues as to why or how these characters are here. It’s a strange, surreal comedy that touches every cliché of decades past, with a dark undertone for what will surely be revealed as the season unfolds.
Elizabeth Olsen reprises her role from the films as Wanda Maximoff, while Paul Bettany returns as Vision. This premise is immediately suspect as, last we saw Vision, he had been utterly destroyed by Thanos. Yet, here he is, happily married to Wanda and in a suburbia that never existed. This isn’t just a reimaging, as the presence of a beekeeper (a familiar symbol of AIM to comic book fans) and a garbled radio broadcast asking Wanda what was done to her make it clear there is a life beyond this constructed one. So the question seems to be, who captured Wanda and what kind of experiments are they doing on her that has left her locked in this dream with her deceased lover?
WANDAVISION could easily just be Wanda-centric, given she is possibly the only one truly existing here, but the title and the way the story unfolds gives equal weight to both heroes, hinting that perhaps something of Vision has survived the removal of the Soul stone from his lifeless physical form. Given that Vision started in the MCU as an A.I., it is reasonable to think perhaps he can continue as such, even as fans (including myself) may hold out hope for him to rejoin the rest of the Avengers in the real world eventually.
I could easily see WANDAVISION as a film instead of a nine-part series that presumably will run about four and a half hours. It lingers so, so much in the fake scenario, going through entire stories in each of the first two installments. The premiere is about Vision having his boss and his wife over for dinner, and of course Wanda isn’t prepared and things go wrong. This one looks like the ‘50s in a The Dick Van Dyke Show house. Yet, as the second episode begins, they’re shifted over to a 1960s Bewitched format (with no comment on the change) for a talent show scenario involving the local women’s club. Each are stand-alone entries of slightly different styles, but there are small hints at reality trying to bust through. As enjoyable as these are, I began to quickly grow impatient to get to the larger narrative. Though a Pleasantville-style occurrence in the second installment indicates the pacing might speed up a little soon, and the ‘commercials’ are definitely leading to something.
Despite my wish that WANDAVISION not move so slowly, there are many familiar faces to help it along and make the wait go easier. Kathryn Hahn (Transparent) is fantastic as nosy neighbor and friend, Agnes. Debra Jo Rupp (That ‘70s Show) delights as Vision’s boss’s wife, Mrs. Hart. Emma Caulfield Ford (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is perfect as the mean lady that heads the local ladies. Teyonah Parris (Mad Men) is immediately magnetic as Geraldine. There are many others, as well, and if there wasn’t a mystery box waiting to be opened, this could be a fun throwback sitcom outside of Marvel.
One of the actors above has been confirmed to actually be someone who exists beyond this, and was played by someone else in an MCU film, though to avoid spoiling, I won’t say which one. Additionally, other performers from the MCU movies have been tied to this production, they just haven’t shown up yet. I’m anxious to get to those reveals.
I liked WANDAVISION, but I do wish, because they’ve chosen the drag the story out over 9 episodes, that they’d just released them all at once for us to binge. It’s frustrating and hurts my enjoyment to not get much towards the big picture in episodes 1 and 2. After this much anticipation, I feel like we needed a little more payoff. Let’s hope the ensuing weeks make up for that (and I suspect they will). I can’t help but think most of the glowing reviews are from those that have seen more than has been released to the public at this point.
WANDAVISION streams weekly on Disney+.