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WandaVision (1.1-1.3) Review

January 14, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
WANDAVISION, TCA
8.5
The 411 Rating
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WandaVision (1.1-1.3) Review  

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review for WandaVision based on screeners for the first three episodes provided by Disney+.

Wanda Maximoff and Vision are back, and they are living the idyllic suburban lives they always dreamed of in the town of Westview. Wanda is now just your average housewife with magical powers, and Vision is the synthetic AI android with a heart of gold working the average 9-to-5. Things are all just hunky-dory for them and their live studio audience…laugh track. Wait a minute, something’s not right here.

When Vision was last seen, he was apparently permanently disabled at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Now, he’s inexplicably back in this 1950s-era, wacky sitcom scenario. Wanda was last seen mourning those who were lost in the events of Avengers: Endgame. However, here they are, getting into goofy sitcom-style misunderstandings and high jinks, and something bizarre is afoot.

It’s not clear why Wanda and Vision have been thrust into this odd TV Land reality. What is clear is that beneath this peaceful suburban life they longed for as superheroes lies something quite sinister. It’s nothing more than a false veneer. It appears they are being manipulated into these roles by enigmatic circumstances.

WandaVision

The best part of WandaVision, aside from the respective returns of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision to the MCU, is seeing them play out generic sitcom tropes, plots and conventions. Olsen and Bettany get to show off their impeccable comedic chops, which are layered above a more tragic truth. When the cracks become visible in this fabricated sham, Olsen and Bettany’s true personalities emerge. Additionally, it’s great to see Bettany and Olsen having fun while riffing on classic sitcoms under the guise of their Marvel characters.

Seeing Bettany’s Vision take part in sitcom wackiness is amusing, but also interesting, because everything that takes place in the series is done with a mysterious purpose. Underneath Olsen’s act as Wanda playing a loving, dutiful housewife, there’s a desire to fit in and live a normal life. For Vision, there’s a desire to be closer to humanity.

Under writer and executive Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman, WandaVision is framed as both a riff and pastiche of different sitcoms of yore, with the decades progressing along with the episodes. TV’s Bewitched is the most obvious influence. Schaeffer and Shakman both play around a lot with classic sitcom tropes, complete with the in-show ads and product placements, but everything is carefully placed with clear intent. Each reference makes a particular point part of the charade that’s at play. The sitcom segments are even presented in ye olde fullscreen 4:3 aspect ratio for another layer of authenticity.

The premise of Wanda and Vision taking a trip through cliché, sitcom setups is a bold choice, but it’s by no means a bad one. Early on, it’s holding back on the traditional superhero action-adventure stylings as a means to offer greater perspective on Vision and Wanda as characters and what they truly want. Underneath the sitcom facade, there’s clearly a genuine love and purity about these two; and especially for Wanda, there’s a desire for something she believes she can never truly obtain. While this isn’t a faithful recreation of the more prominent Vision and Scarlet Witch storylines from the Marvel comics, Schaeffer is paying homage to those stories here. However, the 2015 Vision solo comic series was clearly the biggest inspiration for this show, with some of the 1980s The Vision and the Scarlet Witch series mixed in.

There’s also great talent within the supporting cast. Kathryn Hahn makes her MCU debut as Wanda and Vision’s loquacious, overbearing neighbor, who seems to be following the couple throughout the various sitcom eras. The wonderful Debra Jo Rupp of That ’70s Show fame also has a fun part in the central plot for the first episode.

In addition to the authentic sitcom look and style, each episode is also framed by some great original theme songs by the award-winning song writers and lyricists Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. These songs are great since they add to the TV sitcom illusion and also provide upbeat music for Wanda and Vision for the charming sitcom life they try to maintain.

Thus far, the series appears to be bit of a slow burn, but the show is doing an exceptional job of building the intrigue. The anticipation is high for when the band-aid is finally ripped off.

Marvel’s WandaVision debuts with the first two episodes on Disney+ on January 15. Episode 3 will debut on January 22, new episodes will be streaming weekly.

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
WandaVision is a fun romp through a fictionalized, idyllic TV sitcom land where Scarlet Witch and Vision have taken center stage. Writer Jac Schaeffer examines these characters in the early episodes through the lens of old TV sitcoms through progressing decades. However, while Wanda and Vision are trying to live a peaceful suburban life, there's a deeper mystery at foot and something far more sinister that appears to be at work. Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen deliver quite exceptional performances as they are playing roles of a cliche sitcom couple, with the cracks of their true identities showing beneath the surface.
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