WandaVision, Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest foray into bringing MCU characters to TV screens and the beginning of what is known as “Phase 4”, has been confusing and fascinating viewers for the past eight weeks since it debuted on Disney+. This literal power couple have so far been more supporting characters to the other Avengers throughout the MCU, but now they are at the forefront of their own show.
The series follows Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlett Witch, and android-but-seemingly-part-human Vision, in a post-Avengers: Endgame world as they try to live their lives after half the world was wiped out then brought back. But, as of course fans of the MCU know, Vision was killed by Wanda herself and then Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. So how is he alive? Well, not being human some thought it was easily plausible that he could be brought back to life. However, as simple as that may sound, the backstory of that is a lot darker than we thought.
When I, and many others no doubt, started watching WandaVision, it was clear the MCU were doing something very different with this show. We knew the premise was that Wanda and Vision are now trying to be able to live a quiet life after we assumed she is responsible for his revival. What we expected to see was this powerful witch who was once moments away from literally destroying Thanos singlehandedly in Endgame before he cried “rain fire”, exercise her powers even more alongside her partner in crime, who can phase through walls and blow things up using the laser from his Mind Stone.
However, what we got was a stranger than fiction sitcom-style series that pays homage to sitcoms of the past from the 1950s right through to the naughties. It follows the couple’s lives as they attempt to conceal their powers and fit in with their neighbours and the town of Westview. With a cauldron full of multiple references to sitcoms and the use of sitcom styles from each decade, a pinch of Bewitched, a dash of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a sprinkle of The Good Witch, it was like nothing we’d have ever expected from the MCU.
It was admittedly a slow, baffling series to begin with with only hints that things were not as they seemed dropped in here and there sporadically in each episode until the end of the third. The first three episodes were entertaining – comical and weird, though had us all quizzical about what was really going on and intrigued to know more without seeming too invested in case it never got any more exciting. By the end of the third, we understand a bit more and as that shifts to the fourth episode – set predominantly outside Westview – everything becomes a little clearer and suddenly it becomes a lot more interesting.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda is – pardon the pun – spellbinding. Apart from her portrayal of the character in previous MCU films where she is not really a main character and not given a huge amount of leeway for character growth, she has had little global prominence. Some of her previous roles have been critically acclaimed and she is by far the more talented actress out of her and her more (in)famous twin sisters, and it’s not hard to see why here. She grows into her character a lot more; she harbours the pain and sadness of losing both her brother and Vision, and she’s conflicted between the past before she joined the Avengers where she was on the wrong side of the tracks fighting alongside evil and the time when she was an Avenger – fighting for justice, freedom and against evil. In the episodes after more of the truth is revealed about what’s happened to Westview, Olsen plays the conflicted anti-heroine to a tee and even has the audience second guessing – is she really the one responsible for this warped reality or is she herself a pawn or being manipulated and controlled? She flickers between still showing heart and empathy, and being heartless and ruthless – shown in particular in one scene when talking to “Pietro” where she seems unsure of herself and how she managed to do what she’d done to blasting him away when he steps over the line with a comment about Vision’s revival.
Kathryn Hahn also stands out as their chatty, nosy and seemingly harmless neighbour Agnes, whose true identity and purpose are shockingly revealed at the end of the seventh and in the eighth episodes. A natural comedienne, Kathryn steals the scenes she’s in with her wacky personality as Agnes and then as one of the two real antagonists of the series (the other being S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward – but it was obvious he was trouble much earlier on), Agatha Harkness; a change from the usual comic relief characters she plays. Let’s hope she makes a return in the future!
Although it’s not yet known whether there will be a second season, the finale certainly set itself up to be continued in one way or another, and we know that Wanda will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, due for release in 2022. But at the same time the premise of the series was wrapped up neatly, though with only 9 episodes made and up to just 25 minutes per episode until the last two, it did seem disappointingly short-lived, especially when it took half the series for it to really get going. What we can expect in a follow-up is newly super powered Wanda in her fetching Dark Red Riding Hood/Wonder Woman-esque costume finding out more about herself, maybe even finding out what happened to the “other Vision” and there’s even hints in the final episode’s mid-credits scene that Monica’s story will be further explored (a character that is unfortunately pushed to the sidelines a bit in the series; we don’t even really know how she came to have the powers she exhibits in the last few episodes or what exactly they are).
However, WandaVision showed just how visionary and creative the MCU team are at expanding it, challenging audience expectations and giving certain characters the chance to come into their own and shine through. True Marvel Comics fans had hoped for Wanda’s true extent of her powers that she displays in the comics (the ability to warp reality and manipulate “chaos magic”) to be realised, and were treated to this revelation several times during the series. They cleverly incorporated sitcoms through the ages to help navigate the story, which were later interwoven with Wanda’s troubled past, making it clear to us where inspiration for her new reality came from.
The many twists and turns throughout the series (many of which were revealed in episode 8 and continued right to the final moments of the series finale) were surprising and gritty, allowing the flow of the series to go from intriguing and quirky sort-of-a-sitcom to eventually full-on mystery action and drama thriller and for Wanda to go back and forth between victim and villain, from in control then out of control, and from manipulative bitch to the Scarlet Witch. Bring on more HEXciting adventures of Wanda, please! Maybe even a feature solo film?