WandaVision is the first live-action Marvel episodic series to debut on Disney +, and it’s a bold swing from the studio that brought you Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, and so many more. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return as their MCU characters Wanda / Scarlet Witch and Vision to a bizarre new world that celebrates sitcoms of the past. As Wanda and Vision attempt to blend in with their suburban neighbors and create a seemingly normal existence for themselves, it’s becoming increasingly clear that not everything is what it seems and every sitcom tribute is tinted with shades of The Twilight Zone.
Does that sound strange? It should because WandaVision is weird. It’s fun and trippy and feels different from anything Marvel Studios has put out to date, and sets a bold tone for the studio’s next chapter. There’s a lot going on on this new show, but WandaVision handles the various elements in an intriguing and clever way, as evidenced by the first three episodes shown for critics. Each new episode repeats a different decade of past sitcoms, starting with I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show from the 1950s in the premiere episode. The second episode deals with series like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and the third shadow The Mary Tyler Moore Show and so on. The main author Jac Schaeffer and the director Matt Shakman make each episode seem like a world of its own and thread the series history of the season through a different filter in every half-hour bite, without completely disorienting the audience with every change.
In WandaVision, look for a nod to Full House and the Olsen Twins
At the center of the WandaVision hurricane are Olsen and Bettany, who keep the series on the ground, reminding everyone that they both have good comedic skills that weren’t fully utilized in the MCU films. Olsen makes it easy to follow in the footsteps of Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore as she displays a seemingly natural torch for physical comedy. Meanwhile, a chewing gum incident in episode two paves the way for Bettany to swing after the rafters and deliver an extravagant level of performance we haven’t seen him since A Knight’s Tale. Wanda and Vision have often been too busy saving the world from intergalactic megalomaniacs in The Avengers films to show that a psychic witch and an almighty cyber being make a charming couple, but they really do. When you put Kathryn Hahn in as her amusing nosy neighbor, Agnes, you can see why WandaVision is not only ambitious but delightful too.
It’s hard to find faults in the design of WandaVision, at least not after three episodes. The problematic part of the series arises from the rollout strategy that needs to be considered as the TV landscape moves out of the “Peak TV” era and merges into the streaming wars. There is still a lot of debate about whether the drop-a-season-all-at-once-binge or the week-to-week model works best, but the answer isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, it depends on the show . WandaVision will premiere its first two episodes on Friday, January 15th, and will post new episodes weekly thereafter. Disney + has stuck firmly to the weekly model, and while this has proven to be a good strategy for other Disney + shows like The Mandalorian, it can do WandaVision a disservice.
The Mandalorian is set in a well-established universe, and the series’ first season consisted mostly of stand-alone adventures that felt like a space cowboy process. With each episode of Mando being an adventure in itself, the weekly deployment felt satisfying. While Wanda and Vision are established characters, the world of WandaVision is a new corner of the MCU where no rules or parameters have been set and which are not clear even after the first third of the nine episode season. The Star Wars series was pretty simple, too, in its premise: protect Baby Yoda at all costs. WandaVision burns slowly when it comes to revealing the bigger picture of the series, and the first three episodes make it clear that answering burning questions from the films of how Vision apparently lives after Thanos (Josh Brolin) ripped out the soul stone is Being Head at the end of Avengers: Infinity War isn’t an urgent priority. Plus, the episodes of WandaVision are much more closely related than the first appearance of The Mandalorian.
Why Disney +’s WandaVision is the perfect start to Phase 4, according to Marvel’s Kevin Feige
Hardcore fans who have read the source material will have an advantage in watching this series, while those with only knowledge of the film universe – arguably the largest group of Marvel fans at the moment – and those who go completely blind into WandaVision may The dripping pace of the explanations was more boring than fascinating. WandaVision’s marketing team bills the series as a nine-episode film – a description most televised filmmakers feel obliged to give their projects – but if that’s really the case, who do they like to know see a single movie? the course of eight weeks? Fans willing to acknowledge that patience is not a personal virtue will find that saving episodes of WandaVision to view at once is less frustrating.
Aside from the settings, WandaVision sets an interesting path for the MCU. It shows that Marvel is not afraid to try new things and keep moving, which makes us curious not only to see how the rest of WandaVision will perform, but also what other surprises the rest of the Marvel Disney + Slate has in store.
TV Guide rating: 4/5
WandaVision premiered Friday January 15th on Disney +.