Creator: Jac Schaeffer
Director: Matt Shakman
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyona Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings
Streaming on: DisneyPlus Hotstar Premium
WandaVision has concluded its Season 1 with an emotional and action-packed finale. Now that the show is available in its entirety – how does it hold up against our initial assessment of the first two episodes from a month or so back?
There is no straight answer to this, really. WandaVision is a powerful, innovative, and even a great show when taken in a singular context, and when it’s not carrying the MCU burden. As an origin story of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), WandaVision is perhaps one of the bolder, more inventive experiments from the House of M(arvel), since Ant-Man and the classic Iron Man.
In WandaVision, the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 90’s (and more!) television show format allows Marvel to get funky while building mystery, paying homage and having some fun. However, the show really shines in its penultimate episode, thanks to its visually stunning and rather empathetic take on Wanda’s trauma.
It is our experiences that shape us – and we finally know why Wanda is holding on so dearly to the false world she has built in Westview. Sure, there is no grand villain like an AIM or Hydra – but it’s clear at that point in time that we don’t need one either. Grief, and our ability to deal with it, is one of the biggest villains we all face – and that’s enough to carry the show’s premise. After Joker, Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the original Superman (Christopher Reeves version), WandaVision arguably is one of the few superhero properties to tackle that subject head on and work it through the long season.
Even the final episode, uneven by several parameters, rounds up the central theme as best as it can. The final farewells evoke emotion successfully – and we are also given a brief glimpse into the anger and resentment of the trapped denizens of Westview. It’s a nice touch – and I am now invested in Scarlet Witch’s story arc more than I ever was or even expected to be. I have always liked Vision though, especially after the Tom King run in comics, so there’s great closure (and mystery) to be had there too.
But, like all things that come to an end, so must my praise for what WandaVision represents as part of the MCU. This is Marvel being bold and innovative, but also falling for its own tropes of subversion. It has been often said that Marvel tends to underplay the emotional heft of its characters or stories by adding unnecessary quips – and WandaVision and its Easter Eggs represent the same problem on a larger canvas.
Subversion is one thing, disappointment is another.
To take Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in the Fox’s version of the X-Men, and have him amount to nothing more than a genitalia joke is a disservice to the show, the Fox X-Men legacy and even to MCU fans. It is Marvel’s way of saying Chekov’s Gun does not matter when you’re as high and mighty as the House of M(ouse). But it is also disrespectful to many of us. Let’s not even get into the ‘aerospace engineer’ and Mephisto teases at this point.
As a standalone show, WandaVision is great. It not only accords genuine, heartfelt, and fresh origin stories to two immensely powerful A-List Avengers, but is also backed by some genuine performances by Olsen, Bettany, Park, Dennings and Hahn. The finale’s tearful ending ranks alongside the likes of Tony Stark’s funeral, Peggy and Cap’s hospital scene and Endgame reunion in terms of emotional heft.
But as an MCU show, the first offering in a post-Endgame, post Disney-Fox, post pandemic world – WandaVision amounts to absolutely nothing beyond its end credit scenes. And that is just not enough. In that sense, WandaVision may be the best indicator that MCU fans need to temper their expectations for the upcoming Disney Plus shows (Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier) – and understand that these shows do not represent Marvel’s Phase 4 really, but more “Phase 3.1. v1.final.final”
But hey, it is 2021 – we are (hopefully) on the way out of a pandemic, and we’ve been starved of MCU content for a while, so you know – we’ll all probably re-watch and re-binge this show anyway.