Premiering on Disney+ January 15th is WandaVision, which is the first of several planned new MCU-based TV shows for the Mouse’s streaming channel and officially kicks off Marvel Studios’ Phase Four. The series is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame and focuses on Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vison’s (Paul Bettany) new life together. In addition to Olsen and Bettany returning as Maximoff and Vision, the series will also reintroduce past MCU characters like Thor’s Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and a grown-up version of Captain Marvel’s Monica Rambeau (now portrayed by Teyonah Parris), as well as a new character named Agnes, played by actress Kathryn Hahn. The result is a big swing for the MCU, and in the first three episodes is a solid-hit that could become a home run by the end of the first season.
We Live Entertainment has screened the first three episodes of the series, which is very different than anything we’ve seen from the MCU before. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Wanda was snapped away by Thanos before being snapped back to existence by Bruce Banner, and Vison is dead at Thanos’ hands, the series begins unexplained showing us Wanda (Olsen) and Vision’s (Bettany) new life together now, which seems to take place inside the reality of classic TV sitcoms. In fact, each episode takes on a different sitcom-style and structure, with the first being a black and white I Love Lucy/The Dick Van Dyke Show type show, the second being more like silly 60’s series Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, and the third set in a newly colored 1970’s show with a The Brady Bunch or That Girl vibe.
While it’s not explained in the first three episodes, fans of Marvel Comics and the MCU will know that this probably has something to do with Wanda’s strange powers, but we will have to wait till later in the series to really know the truth. And comic book fans will also recognize that the series could be leading to an MCU adaption of the popular “House of M” storyline. Now, while it is likely that Wanda’s powers are responsible for this new reality, hints are dropped that there might be something more sinister going on, especially with Agnus (Hahn), who plays the “nosy neighbor” role but seems aware that this reality is not real. Meanwhile, another new character is introduced to this reality, Geraldine, played by Teyonah Parris. The actress had been previously confirmed to be playing the adult version of Captain Marvel’s Monica Rambeau in WandaVision, but whether she really is or not, has yet to be revealed.
With the exception of Olsen, Bettany, and possibly Parris, none of the other actors returning as previous MCU characters appear in the first three episodes. But I think it’s safe to assume that both Randall Park as Jimmy Woo and Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, respectively, will be introduced quickly into the remaining episodes. For a franchise as successful as Marvel’s MCU, I can’t begin to stress how much of a risk a TV series like WandaVision could be, but they seem to pull it off in the first few episodes, creating a truly original and stylistic series. The first three episodes work very well as individual representations of classic sitcom structures and styles, but I’m excited for the rest of the series as I think the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. The first three episodes really lay the groundwork for a more exciting MCU-type of series later down the line, but in the meantime gives you some really interesting episodes that dissect the classic sitcom-tropes.
However, for me, I felt the first and second episodes really ran into each other and there is not enough of a visual difference between the first episode’s I Love Lucy/Dick Van Dyke Show-style and the second episode’s Bewitched/I Dream of Jeannie-aesthetic, which is probably why both episodes will be released together on January 15th. But based on the wild jump to the colored-Brady Bunch-style, it gives me hope that going forward each episode will be more different than the last, which gives the series a wonderful un-predictableness. Keeping that in mind, I’m really impressed with the performances of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. They both transform their characters to adapt to the retro-style of each episode and demonstrate incredible comedic timing. Also, Kathryn Hahn is perfectly cast as a “Mrs. Kravitz” type character and exudes comedy, while at the same time hinting at a darker reality.
Olsen has been criticized over the years for Wanda’s lack of an accent, which was established in Age of Ultron but later dropped from other MCU appearances. I never thought that was fair, as people do tend to lose their accents when they move away from home, but WandaVision could eventually explain that away, as the character now speaks with an accent that matches the time period of the sitcoms they are spoofing. So, I think this inconsistency will be retconned away before the end of the series, and Olson perfectly imitates the cadence of past sitcom stars like Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, and Florence Henderson. Bettany too adapts a classic sitcom-style reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke or the two actors who played Darrin on Bewitched. This version of Vision is more human than we’ve seen in the past, which allows the actor to infuse humor and humanity into the role.
In the end, WandaVision is a big risk for Marvel, but based on the first three episodes seems to lay the groundwork for everything MCU fans love while opening up the character’s and the overall story to a wider audience by trying a new and original way of reintroducing these characters going forward in Phase Four. While I enjoyed the first three episodes, I’m really excited to see the rest of the series, and if Marvel is able to stick the landing on the intriguing story they have begun telling with this series.