WandaVision: A Brilliantly Bizarre Start to Phase 4
After a year with no Marvel, I must admit to getting some goosebumps upon hearing that glorious theme music and seeing that title card once more. But what pulled on my heartstrings even more was seeing our beloved Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) reunited, albeit in a slightly bizarre parodical sitcom complete with casual 1950’s misogyny, and the classic laugh track.
This show sees The Scarlet Witch, Wanda, and her android husband try to navigate their new domestic suburban life without revealing their secret powers to the inhabitants of their new home – Westview.
The show is a love letter to the treasured sitcoms of the past, with the first episode set firmly in the 1950s and taking its cues from shows such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, while episode two send us to the 60s where the tribute is paid such iconic shows as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.
However idyllic their new life may look; all is not as it seems for our titular characters. As much as we would like to pretend it never happened, as far as the MCU is concerned, Vision is dead. This coupled with the forced smiles and the troubling lack of detail as to how Wanda and Vison ended up where they are now, creates an unsettling atmosphere, that is only intensified when in episode 2, Wanda begins to hear a voice over a radio mysteriously asking ‘Wanda, who’s doing this to you?’
The first of the two episodes centres on a miscommunication between the couple about a date on the calendar, which results in our two heroes both preparing for wildly different evenings. After consulting with her neighbour Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), Wanda prepares a romantic night for her and Vision, unaware that she should be preparing a meal for Vision’s boss and his wife, Mr and Mrs Heart. The two must scramble to make the evening successful, which they do, despite Wanda reverting the chicken to eggs, and Vision singing Old MacDonald while playing the ukulele.
The second episode is equally bizarre and farcical and sees our couple put on a magic show to raise money ‘for the children’ (as is ominously repeated throughout the episode). We see both characters struggling to fit into their new roles, as Wanda struggles to gain the approval of her fellow suburban housewives, while Vision gets "drunk" through some mislodged chewing gum, at what he thinks is a Neighbourhood Watch meeting, but turns out to be a gossip ring.
The genius of the story lies in the irony of the couple attempting to do a magic show while desperately trying to make it look fake. Vision, in his drunkenness almost ruins the whole thing, while Wanda must use her powers to bend reality and perform actual ‘magic’ to keep the show on track. Of course, the couple are a hit, and Wanda finds the piece of chewing gum, which was making Vision act so strangely.
But just as all seems okay with the world, the end of the episode reveals a sinister beekeeper climb out of the drain outside the couples’ home. However, unhappy with the events Wanda hits the rewind button on the event, literally rewinding them back inside, where ‘normality’ resumes. Only this time Wanda is pregnant, and the scene transforms from black and white to glorious colour.
While it may seem odd at first to see our heroes this way, Wandavision provides a welcome change of pace from Marvel’s usual formula. It perfectly marries comedy and an underlying sinister tone, that is an entertaining as it is intriguing.
The performances are a delight, with Elizabeth Olsen embracing the charm, and theatrics of the era, becoming a far different character to what we've seen before (surely a mask to the torture she is feeling inside?) Paul Bettany also does a fantastic job, taking on the charisma of sitcom icons such as Dick Van Dyke. Everyone's enthusiasm is nothing more than infectious and for Vision, is a great new side of his character, but also for Bettany as an actor.
The comedy is funny, despite the age of the style, which is a big compliment to the writing and production team that have ensured this keeps as faithful as possible to these television eras. Actors like Katherine Hahn also demonstrate the sheer lunacy, and fun everyone is having, nailing typical jokes about her character's husband and mother-in-law. Her theatrical performance and huge grin really sell the sitcom world, as well as the unsettling tone.
The attention to detail, in everything from the scripts, to the costumes and set, show just how much love went into this series and it seems that the next chapter in Marvel’s story is off to a strong start.
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