Season 1, Episodes 1-3
LIGHT Spoilers Ahead
Taking cues from Classic sitcoms, Wandavision is a creative risk for marvel which pays off HANDSOMELY with a weird and fun journey through the eras.
Marvel is officially back after a long break, kicking off 2021 with Wandavision. It has been over a year since the MCU’s last film, Spider-Man Far From Home. That film concluded Phase Three and the Infinity Saga. Now Marvel is launching Phase Four with a series centring on Wanda and Vision living an ideal life in suburbia. However, not everything is at seems. Vision died at the hand of Thanos in Infinity War yet he is alive here. In Wandavision, the Avengers are nowhere to be seen. From the get go, fans should expect Wandavision to be anything but conventional.
Wandavision has a lot on its shoulders. Not only is the show following up The Mandalorian, it also has a creative burden. This is Disney’s first MCU TV show and Wandavision needs to deliver on two key fronts. There needs to a compelling original story and the show also needs to launch Phase Four. The marketing in the lead up to the show has been very promising. It has sold Wandavision as the MCU’s weirdest content yet in a good way. By the looks of the first three episodes, the marketing was not wrong. Wandavision has succeeded on both key fronts. The result is a delightful mystery series which pays homage to classic sitcoms while putting its own, unique spin on things.
The sitcom format
In many ways, Wandavision’s first three episodes feel like a classic sitcom and this is no accident. This particularly applies to the first two episodes which are both in black and white. Marvel is right in their decision to release these two episodes on Friday. They effectively follow on from each other and are very much in the same vein. It is easy to forget now and then that Wandavision is an MCU project. Each episode runs only around 30 minutes long. There is an opening credits sequence that feels like it comes straight from Bewitched. There are gags and a laugh track. The show was even filmed in front of a live audience just like the old sitcoms. Everything about Wandavision is authentic.
A Marvel twist
There is a Marvel twist on all of this of course. For example, Wanda and Vision still have their powers and are trying to hide them from their neighbours to fit in. The show takes this classic trope to a whole new level and pairs it with sitcom humour. At one point in the show, the couple try to host a normal dinner party. All sorts of mayhem ensues. You can tell that the cast is having a lot of fun especially Bettany who in one scene in the second episode goes all in on the silliness of the situation.
The show is campy (sometimes to an excess) but that is the point. Wandavision fully commits to its set up and never holds back. The show also embraces the period each episode is set in. The tone, fashion, and even aspect ratio along with much more all depend on the period. Wandavision is so drastically different to what we have come to expect from Marvel. Therefore, going from the films to Wandavision could be jarring for some. Crucially, it requires willingness on your part to buy into the set up. Whether you are on board with that ultimately decides how you will receive the show. Wonder Woman 1984 divided audiences in part due to its heavy emphasis on the 1980s. Hopefully, Wandavision will not fare the same and frankly deserves to be well received. Wonder Woman 1984 had bigger problems than tone whilst Wandavision ticks all the boxes. It seems to be making great use of its set up and so far it is crafting an engaging, mysterious story. The show has a lot to offer both as a creative standalone piece and as a start to Phase Four of the MCU.
a slow burn
As much as Wandavision functions like a classic sitcom, it is very much a mystery show. It should be no surprise to fans that something is deeply wrong with this reality. Vision should be dead yet he is alive, married to Wanda. The Avengers are nowhere to be seen. And the first two episodes are set more than half a century ago. This does not fit yet somehow it connects. There are many questions that audiences will find themselves asking. These first three episodes do not provide many answers but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This is the first third of the limited series so it was crucial not to corners. Skipping all the set up would be a mistake. Wandavision plunges us into this reality without any explanation. It just forces us to accept its rules. Only after audiences understand the set up can the show start answering our questions and deconstructing this bizarre reality.
However, there are hints throughout that something is up. There is the occasional odd line like Agnes, Wanda’s eccentric neighbour, commenting on Wanda being the star of the show. Strange items even start to appear. There are bizarre radio broadcasts. And the most obvious hint should be the time period changing. This reality feels a lot like the Matrix and it is beginning to fall apart just as it started. Even Vision gets a sense that not everything is as it seems. For example, in the first episode, he works at a company yet he has not a clue what they actually do. Whilst we do not get any definite answers, it is heavily implied that this is Wanda’s world and she is losing control. Wanda has everything she ever wanted but something is just not right. The tension is slowly but steadily mounting and it is clear that things will spiral out of control even more in future episodes.
Whilst one could view Wandavision as a standalone show at the moment, it has undeniable ties to the MCU and in fact is the launching pad for Phase Four. In these three episodes, the most obvious nods to the larger MCU are Stark and Hydra commercials. These commercials are simply genius and a lot of fun. As well as connecting Wandavision to the MCU, they pay homage to the era the episode is set in. Another MCU connection is Teyonah Harris who plays Monica Rambeau in Wandavision, all aged up from Captain Marvel. However, she calls herself Geraldine in these three episodes and acts as Wanda’s friend. That is all part of Wandavision’s intrigue that is just so fun to see play out in the show.
Perhaps the most significant MCU connection is SWORD. A lot of the strange occurrences in the show as mentioned above involve a specific symbol. This symbol relates to SWORD (an acronym for Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division). This is a change from the comics where SWORD stands for ‘Sentient World Observation and Response Department’ so SWORD might not be limited to cosmic threats in the MCU. What is clear is that SWORD will be an organisation devoted to keeping the world safe by observing and responding. How this relates to Wanda is up in the air in these three episodes. However, a guess would be that Wandavision will take inspiration from the House of M storyline making the events in the show pretty significant.
Wandavision will even tie into Doctor Strange 2 with Wanda set to appear in the 2022 film. This most likely means, as has been speculated, that Wandavision will involve the Multiverse in some way. The first three episodes do nothing to suggest this but with Wanda’s reality to fall apart, who knows what havoc she could cause - Maybe even opening up the Multiverse.
Wandavision marks a fantastic return for Marvel after more than a one year hiatus. The show is a creative risk for Marvel as it takes cues from classic sitcoms and the first two episodes especially feel like episodes from Bewitched. Fortunately, the risk pays off handsomely resulting in a thrilling, weird, and fun show which takes audiences through the eras. This is like nothing Marvel has done before. The show does require some willingness on the audience’s part to buy into the setup but if you do, it is all worth it. Whilst the first three episodes are a slow burn, they crucially plunge us into this reality. They set the foundation for future madness as everything starts to fall apart. There are even hints to the larger Marvel universe and there will surely be more in future episodes. However, what is great is that audiences can also enjoy Wandavision as a compelling original story beaming with creativity.