A spoiler-free review on why you shouldn’t touch that dial!
After a year and a half long hiatus due to COVID-19, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is back in crime-fighting and cape-wearing action. Wandavision, the first of many shows released on streaming for Disney+, is a weekly drama/mystery/horror wrapped in the aesthetics of different eras of sitcoms. Oh, and they’re superheroes, did I mention that?
At first Wandavision might seem like it’s biting off much more than it can chew, and I think the heavy marketing push prior to it’s debut didn’t exactly capture it’s appeal. At the time of this writing, six episodes have been released, so I’ll try to sum up what makes the show so compelling without spoiling it. In essence: Wandavision’s got a lot of moving parts and intricacies that all compliment each other to create a great show.
For starters, the superhero elements! Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have been historically doomed to an eternity of standing around and doing absolutely nothing for their past seven years of Marvel movies. Their romantic subplot has been shoved to the background of movies like Civil War or Infinity War. Wandavision gives Olsen and Bettany a chance to actually act for once, and their performances are phenomenal! Their dynamic is engaging, whether it’s played for goofy sitcom laughs or tense drama.
Speaking of, the sitcom/mystery dichotomy is another draw of the show! Prior to Wandavision, Vision, well, died! Brutally! Now he’s back to life and doing wacky sitcom dad hijinks, which raises a lot more questions than it answers. Wandavision relishes in this, and figuring out what the heck is going on is integral to both the show’s plot and it’s appeal. The show uses and distorts sitcom tropes for genuinely disturbing moments, masterfully contrasting the sunny suburban americana aesthetic with the sinking feeling that something isn’t right. It helps that the sitcom side of the equation is genuinely enjoyable in it’s own right, parodying famous eras of sitcom history from I Love Lucy to Full House to Malcolm in the Middle, providing cross-generational appeal. When things get disturbing and the sitcom illusion breaks in some scenes, you’ll desperately want to go back to the safety of laugh tracks and one liners. To further explain the horror and mystery elements would ruin them both, but needless to say if you’re not a fan of sitcom shenanigans I recommend sticking the first few episodes out to let the other elements fester.
Combine all of this with a stellar supporting cast consisting of some of the “normal people” from other Marvel movies, like the power trio of Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris) and fan favourite FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). The three of them work to figure out the mystery of Wandavision the same way the audience is, which helps ground you in the mystery and keep you up to speed. They’re also hilarious together, which definitely helps.
Overall, Wandavision is a grab bag of elements that don’t seem like they should work together, but do regardless. If you like classic sitcoms, tense dramas, supernatural mysteries, or even just feeling scared sometimes, give Wandavision a watch. Despite looking old, Wandavision’s take on sitcoms is very new.