WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their roles from the MCU films as Wanda Maximoff, Scarlet Witch, and Vision, respectively. The series is based on happenings that span several comic book story arcs and is streaming now on Disney+.
Here’s what happens in the first two episodes:
“My wife and her flying saucers…”
A series premiere that immediately immerses viewers in a black-and-white televised series of yesteryear which, given the fact that this show is streaming in 4k, is somewhat unsettling. But that’s point, right?
After marrying, Wanda and Vision have left their life of super-heroics for a sense of normalcy in suburban America, only the suburban American dreamscape is an idealized one similar to the ones portrayed in fifties and sixties television series like I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie. Similar to these series, after some humorous husband and wife banter, the episodes conflict is introduced: the calendar in the kitchen has today’s date marked with a heart and neither Vision nor Wanda can remember what special occasion they should be celebrating.
When Vision leaves for work (he has a job at Computational Studies where he…computes things), Wanda, with the help of her neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), has determined that it is her and Vision’s wedding anniversary. The two then begin planning and preparing for a romantic evening. While at the office, Vision is reminded that his boss, Mr. Hart, and his wife are coming over for dinner…and thus the heart marked on the calendar. In true crossed-signal-episode fashion, both Wanda and Vision believe the other to be on the same page and are surprised to find out that this isn’t the case. The ensuing night is strange and humorous and ends on an absurd note that will leave viewers scratching their heads.
“Are you using your night vision, Vision?”
A series of bumps in the night leave both Wanda and Vision fearing for their safety; to add to the humor of the situation, Vision cowers in fear while Wanda takes charge. It turns out that the noises they heard were caused by nothing more than some tree branches banging on their bedroom window.
Trying to better fit in, Wanda and Vision have agreed to take part in the neighborhood talent show fundraiser; for this, the team plans to perform a magic act with a series of tricks with a finale where Vision makes Wanda disappear in the Cabinet of Mystery. The two practice some and then they split: Wanda goes with Agnes to meet neighborhood queen bee, Dottie, at a community planning meeting, and Vision attends a neighborhood watch meeting. Before going to the meeting, Wanda finds a red and yellow toy helicopter in the bushes outside of her house; the gesture saying, “Yeah, you should be paying more attention than you are; focus and start taking notes if you want any of this to make sense in the finale…”
The neighborhood watch meeting turns out to be nothing more than an excuse for husbands to meetup and gossip and the planning committee meeting manages to showcase Dottie’s control and influence on the rest of the neighborhood’s wives. Both excursions end on sour notes. Vision accidentally swallows some gum that send him into an almost-intoxicated haywire state. Wanda has a brief altercation with Dottie that ends with a voice calling out to Wanda through a radio and Dottie losing sense of herself and the situation as if someone hit her reset button.
After a humorous performance at the talent showcase, Wanda and Vision return home where, randomly, Wanda becomes pregnant as if by magic. The banging that opened the episode has returned and when Wanda and Vision head outside to investigate, they are met by a mysterious figure.
Like the series premiere, the final moments of this episode will also leave viewers questioning what they just witnessed.
Beyond being an homage to the sitcom and early American television, WandaVision has something going for it, I’m just unsure of what that thing happens to be. You see, I appreciate the ever-present absurdity, but the series, thus far, isn’t absurd enough to be called as such. Partially responsible for this lack of commitment, I believe, is the fact that I, as a viewer who has watched (and recently re-watched) all of the MCU films, know that Vision was killed off in the process of Thanos acquiring the Mind Stone. Everything isn’t as it appears because I know that it can’t be, already, going into my viewing of the series. In order for elements of absurdity to work, they must be framed by normalcy, bookended by events and happenings that don’t require one to willfully suspend their disbelief. In short, if everything is absurd, nothing is absurd.
Still, with that being said, I plan to continue watching the series, seeing it through to its end.
It is apparent that there is a good deal of manipulation taking place in WandaVision, but at the moment it is unclear who the string-pulling puppet master; surely, viewers will be misdirected until a final epic reveal. While I am eager to find out who has crafted this television realm for Wanda and Vision to dwell within, I am more concerned that the manipulation extends beyond the television screen and into our living rooms. This leaves me asking: are viewers in on the joke, or part of it?
Sure, every piece of content that falls under the MCU umbrella ultimately serves it—that’s how a cinematic universe works. But is WandaVision more than just an exercise in extended stage-setting? Come series-end, I am curious to see if WandaVision, like the best films in the MCU, will be able to stand on its own outside of the context of the MCU. As it stands, now, I’m expecting to be let down, feeling as though I am being strung along on a long and inevitably unnecessary ride. Here’s to hoping that this isn’t the case…