Warning! “WandaVision” spoilers ahead!
Marvel Studios’ first foray into a cinematic style television series is introduced through “WandaVision”, a nine-part limited series on Disney+ that focuses on the story of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and her fellow Avenger turned husband Vision (Paul Bettany). The series follows two of the more freshman heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe directly following the life altering events during “Avengers Endgame”, which brought the ending to half of the original team’s stories.
A catchy jingle and an opening sequence yanked right from a 1950’s era sitcom introduces the audience to the two protagonists. We are then further submerged into the black and white sitcom inspired reality of Westview, a fictional New Jersey town Wanda constructed from her past, pain and her grief. A fictional town created by Wanda that has trapped thousands of innocent bystanders.
This same premise follows the show throughout the first three episodes as Wanda and Vision live out their ideal lives with one another. Each episode brings with it the influences of a specific decade of 21st century American sitcom television. Time passes at a higher speed in Wanda’s reality of Westview, moving through each decade as the sitcom style episodes air weekly.
Referencing quintessential sitcom television series like, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “Bewitched”, “The Brady Bunch”, “Malcom in the Middle” and “Modern Family” helps the director and producers to create scenes that are authentic to specific periods of time and style.
Director Matt Shakman (“Game of Thrones”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Executive Producer Jac Schaeffer (“The Hustle”, “Timer”) filmed the “WandaVision” series as era accurate as possible. Visual effects are traded in for special effects, further highlighting the show’s level of craftsmanship and attention to detail at every level.
While the foolish antics of this fabricated reality keep Wanda and Vision preoccupied, traces of the real world’s main reality begin to seep into their consciousness.
These two realities are differentiated on screen by switching between two aspect ratios. The traditional 4:3 aspect ratio depicts Wanda and Vision’s reality inside of the Westview anomaly, while the more recently adopted 16:9 aspect ratio signifies a return to the main reality.
The first three episodes set the tone and flow of “WandaVision” while introducing us to more of the cast. Agnes, aka Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), is a witch dating back to the Salem Witch Trials that is utilizing the ‘nosy neighbor’ trope in order to gather information on Wanda.
Accompanying the fourth episode is the introduction to the main reality, the world outside of Westview and all of its accompanying characters to the audience. Background details and character development for Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg), Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) are introduced to the audience in a distinct MCU style.
Beyond the technical feats and innovative methods involved in filming and the production of WandaVision lay the characters, their stories and their motivations. Wanda, Vision and each character successfully drove the plot of the story rather than letting the plot dictate how the characters interact.
Focusing on the emotional undercurrent of this sitcom turned Marvel movie reveals exactly what caused this split in reality, which turns out to be Wanda’s grief.
Wanda grew up knowing only heartbreak as she was orphaned when a bombing killed both of her parents. Once she and her twin brother Pietro joined the MCU in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” it was not long before she lost him to enemy gunfire. After falling in love with the world’s only vibranium synthezoid (Vision), Wanda is then forced to sacrifice Vision by killing him in order to save half of the universe.
Multiple years of untreated trauma, loss and heartbreak are channeled through Wanda the moment that her grief explodes into red chaos magic that reconfigures part of the real world into her Westview reality.
Other than the special and visual effects, unique production and amazing acting, the emotional journey of Wanda Maximoff is what holds the audience’s attention. Grief and its many stages are the main thematic centerpiece that is constant throughout this limited series.
The viewers meet Wanda during the first episode which coincides with the first stage of grief, denial. As the season progresses so do the stages of Wanda’s grief. Anger comes right after denial in episode two, and it is what helps guard the fictional reality of Westview Wanda created.
Bargaining for her happiness, Wanda blows past this stage of grief when she threatens military agents who tried to kill her to leave her alone. Bargaining bleeds into depression which is marked by her complete breakdown of control in episode seven. Grief’s final stage of acceptance arrives in the season finale.
Wanda realizes her responsibility to the town people she has terrorized while living in Westview as her final battle with Agnes unfolds. The importance of accepting reality and defeating Agnes is what finally brings Wanda to terms with accepting her grief.
The finale episode of “WandaVision” included MCU grade scenes filled with action, fight sequences and magical battles, after which Wanda flees the scene after receiving her infamous moniker: The Scarlet Witch. Post-credit scenes hint at a continuation of Wanda’s story as she grows more aware of her powers.
“WandaVision” is the first of its kind and a juggernaut of a show. It plays around with different methods of producing, set and light design, editing, filming and even acting to create the first television series of its kind. The superhero television show helped create a dialogue around how to deal with and discuss sorrow, grief and loss. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world and take lives, this lesson on handling grief seems quite poignant.
Community is one main reason why this series is as popular as it has become. During the age of streaming services, people tend to binge watch television shows out of convenience. Marvel Studios helped recreate a sense of community amongst viewers of “WandaVision” by dropping episodes every Friday. This weekly ritual drove viewership up while inspiring debate and connection with each other while the world has to social distance.
The first attempt at a television formatted MCU series hits a homerun in terms of quality, entertainment, conflict and resolution while staying true to Marvel’s core—a good story and great characters. Whether you are searching for a new show to binge, a diehard comic book fan or even a parent watching with your child, “WandaVision” has a lesson everyone can learn from or be entertained by. Watch all nine episodes of the limited series “WandaVision” available on Disney+ today.