WandaVision is a funny and bewitching, albeit odd duck of a show that proves a series’ true greatness lies with its ambition.
This review of WandaVision Season 1 is spoiler-free.
WandaVsion is a really crazy little show. You may even think the creators here have gone mad after watching the first two installments when it premieres on Disney+ tomorrow. That is understandable since all your fears may be realized that the greedy little Mouse wants to squeeze as much coin out of every Marvel character it can until that well runs dry by dressing it the golden age of television gear. It’s also a show that one can’t necessarily call original since it makes an homage to classic television shows in each episode, that include The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and even The Brady Bunch (Wanda watches way too much television), but it feels like something we’ve never seen before.
The series takes place after Avengers: Endgame and if you remember, Vision was killed off in the Infinity War (Wanda was disintegrated and restored by Tony Stark and the gang during the finale). Here, things pick up with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as the two super-powered heroes living the ideal American dream with a suburban home, a green lawn, and a white picket fence. Though, as each minute passes, the duo begins to question that their perfect little world is not what it seems.
It’s easy to understand how hesitant any fan of Marvel would be by taking a couple of beloved characters and spinning them off into a 30-minute sitcom. It’s a truly odd combination of classic shows and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first three episodes that streamed for critics are not necessarily very funny or even exciting, but leave you entertained and with enough intrigue to give the rest of the series more chances to fulfill its promise. The episodes are also filled with Easter eggs to keep fans watching for repeated viewing.
The show has a good cast of supporting characters. Kathryn Hahn plays the “Ethel” next-door neighbor, Agnes. She welcomes Wanda to the neighborhood, shows her how to seduce her husband (it’s lady-like to faint), and be always be prepared to cook a three-course meal at a moment’s notice. The ultra-talented and underutilized Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk) plays Geraldine, a woman who is new to the neighborhood and helps Wanda in her times of need.
If you love classic sitcoms (of course, many fans of the MCU consider Friends in that category, so each generation may have to reframe their thinking) creator/writer Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shankman (who starred in a long-forgotten TGIF sitcom, The Ten of Us) have a real knack for recreating each classic program’s humor (cue the Progressive commercials). Olsen is surprisingly gifted in various comedy genres and has abilities that Ball, Moore, and Eden are envious of. She really is an all-around talent who could do more comedies if given the chance. Bettany is perfectly charming and plays the straight man well to the era’s ditzy female drawn characters.
The production design and special effects are flawless, with the digital effects reminding you of the ’90s classic Pleasantville, where blood turns red and toys that fall from the sky are in color. The show though, with each episode, always has a moment of sudden bipolar mood change that tips the viewer (intentionally) that something bigger is going on. I only wish WandaVision gave us a little more of those sobering and polarizing moments.
The episodes are oddly entertaining and will feed anyone’s appetite for something different, though advertisements and sites (IMDb in particular) give too much away and I recommend staying away from them before you watch the first batch. Some of the show’s intrigue, however, is also its downfall. This is like putting the cast of NYPD Blue in a light, 30-minute sitcom. It’s a device that will get old quickly, but there is an obvious hidden agenda during each episode that promises greater storytelling for subsequent installments (and nothing I mentioned now isn’t seen in the trailers).
Ultimately, WandaVision is marketed and masked as a sitcom, but it’s a miniseries that will have other intentions as each episode will turn into a different show (I’m waiting for the great, great-grandchild of Frasier’s Jack Russel Terrier, Moose, to make an appearance). So, the series is rich with possibilities, even though the coverage really owes a debt to a couple of films in the ‘90s I won’t mention because it will give away too much (even though it’s really quite obvious to anyone without a serious case of ADHD).
Though, I can’t help but think it was a mistake to not screen the entire series for critics because it’s almost impossible to give the show a fair critique since it hasn’t established what it is yet with the first three episodes. The viewer will need a lot of patience, more than most, to be rewarded even if the plan is to have an already built-in MCU audience hang in for the odd, intriguing ride for a show that will surely reinvent itself by WandaVision’s ambitious series end.