Published on March 10th, 2021 | by Noah Dimitrie0
Wandavision is Disney’s first launch into the newest phase of the MCU. While it’s a thoughtful concept, it doesn’t escape the shadow of its franchise.
The following is list of things I did not like about Disney+ first foray into the newest phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—Wandavision:
- It’s a well-made homage to sitcom history, but it’s a little brief and simplistic with its parodies.
- The parodies, in the first couple episodes especially, are played so straight beyond the obvious gimmick that they just feel like ordinary, dated episodes of TV. They’d work if they were particularly funny, but their allegiance to old bag of sitcom tricks makes the first episode especially feel rather trite.
- The mystery starts to build around the 3rd episode, but its mysteries fall rather flat at times. There’s great potential there, like with the radio signal that seems to be speaking to Wanda and the man in a hazmat suit coming out of the sewer surrounded by flies. But these mysteries seem to have the anti-Lost problem—they’re solved too quickly and too simplistically. In Episodes 4 and 5, the show starts to feel rather comfortable with itself as the answers start to flow in. There’s really not a lot of genuine intrigue to be had, despite all the potential. The show rushed sense of pacing makes it hard for the mysteries to really breathe and bear weight.
- This leads to a more macro problem the show has. The mystery is kind of killed by the knowledge of who the characters are and their history. We know that Wanda is an Avenger. We’ve seen her in other movies. This show comes with the veil already lifted, setting itself back from the very concept. If you take out the Marvel factor, it becomes a much more compelling mystery. One that revolves around the unknown intentions of this woman and whether she is a victim or a villain. It’s an arc that would have more weight if she wasn’t well-established as a freaking Avenger.
- As well, the obvious history of Disney making a show to launch this new phase of Marvel is a problem. The show is clearly made for the fans, but in doing so it comes along with this winking attitude about everything that hurts its suspense and mystery factor. Once again, we kind of know everything will work out. We understand that this is a chapter in an ongoing Saga. For this particular “stuck-in-Wandavision” concept to truly penetrate, it needs to find its audience in the dark and let them grow their intrigue over time. It’s sort of the same problem I began to have with the Mandalorian. The show worked on its own but refused to even slightly become untethered to its servitude to the fans and the whole overarching Star Wars Saga. In doing so, it kind of killed the suspense and the stakes.
- The show structurally is inconsistent and begins to unravel when they start bobbing and weaving in and out of the Hex (the TV cloud Wanda has placed over Westview). We go from being fully stitched as viewers to the Wandavision show as it naturally “airs” to hopping back and forth from the ever-evolving sitcom to the S.W.O.R.D. camp set up outside. And one could argue that particular structural diversion works in its favor, that it makes it interesting and unpredictable. While to some extent I would agree, I’d add that it feels a bit more like an identity crisis rather than an intentional choice to be unpredictable. Or, if anything, the intentioned unpredictability just isn’t successfully teased out enough to really feel like more than anything other than a gimmick. It lessens the impact that Wanda’s fake show actually has. We can clearly see that it’s fake from the beginning, so the structure kind of takes the audience for a ride they’ve already been on themselves.
- The whole twins that grow up at an alarming rate storyline is weird and kind of freaky. It enters this weird, uncanny valley that makes it feel like David Lynch directed a sitcom. Now that may actually be a compliment. I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel intentional that they’d give me the creeps. There’s just something about them that feels evil.
So there is my list of gripes with Wandavision. You probably, from reading that list, have come to the conclusion that I did not like the series. That would be a very logical and adept reading.
However, the fact is that I was glued to the screen for just about every second. Sure, the show is predictably a little phony at times, but even when it goes through the motions, it still remains somehow delightful. The central couple that make up the show’s title are entertaining and amusing inside of their own context within the Marvel universe. While too familiar to be a really good mystery, sci-fi show, Wandavision denies the urge to cover up that familiarity and instead kind of wryly gives us what we all want: the sort of post-modern irony at the heart of this show’s concept. And it’s sort of cute enough to look at, but start pondering it, and the irony will suddenly bore you. That cuteness, in both a literal and a figurative sense, somehow sustains a show that I spent 5 hours of my life staring at.
Marvel really knows how to make certain character traits really stick, really penetrate beyond the nerds to the general public. Wanda and Vision’s love story has been one of the key elements I’ve picked up on while watching the whole recent whirlwind of MCU mayhem. I thought it was sweet and kind of clever, this idea of a Russian woman with telekinetic ability would get together with a robot powered by an All-Powerful Mind Gem. And the show’s sitcom parody definitely works in the couple’s favor, making them all the more charming. The uncanny juxtaposition of superheroes in this small town TV universe plays as more silly than really clever, but silly works sometimes when you simply know they tried.
That’s the conundrum of the series—it’s that I believe the show really genuinely has something to say and an inspiration. It’s just that those elements are kind of put onto the Disney pedestal in an awkward fashion. It’s an awkward mix that forces itself to work. And most importantly, it’s just enjoyable enough for the viewer to fully explore its weirdness. This strange, uncanny mash up of parody and franchise fare—just simply a bizarre pop cultural case study. Despite all its flaws, it clearly has a staying power in the mainstream. And just as it is clear to see its flaws, its clear to see why that staying power has made it a hit.