Review: WandaVision (2021)

WandaVision (2021) WandaVision (2021)

The show’s true meta is its eerie, impossible, prescience.

For much of their first ten years, the Marvel movies offered many of us the sort of familiar, serialised escapism that sitcoms and TV series did in decades gone by. How oddly and unintentionally prescient that, a year before the pandemic forced us all into our homes and shut down much of the world, including the cinemas the MCU films dominated for so long, their finale, Avengers: Endgame (2019), spent its first third pondering a traumatised world brought to a standstill by a catastrophic event, before its already-planned move to the small screen launched with WandaVision, a TV show all about the TV shows of decades gone by, in which its protagonist desperately seeks comfort in serialised escapism as a means of dealing with trauma.

The strange comfort, at least for this viewer, comes in knowing certain things: that this is TV made with a film budget; that this comes from a studio that has already produced a successful decade-long series, and with a satisfying finale no less; that this is a limited series, so its ending is part of its conception (and therefore presumably unlikely to fall prey to things like changing writers, network cancellations, or other pressures which often derail and disappoint with longer-running shows); that, on a purely technical level, each episode is an illuminating study in the tropes, antiquated attitudes, and production aesthetics of the sitcoms it references; that the yet-to-be-explained darkness that propels its mystery feels more Twilight Zone than Lost; that the wonderful performers include Elizabeth Olsen (and that face!), Paul Bettany, and the treasure that is Kathryn Hahn, all being goofy and weird; and that, wherever this is going, it is interesting enough in its delivery along the way.

Further Viewing

“The camera is now a storytelling tool in the way it wasn’t previous to that moment” – if you can’t watch the revealing (and beautifully-made) WandaVision episode of behind-the-scenes series, ‘Marvel Studios: Assembled’, Variety‘s ‘Making A Scene’ interviews key crew about the unique use of period-appropriate cameras, lighting, and even wardrobe for crew and audience, in the production of WandaVision:

The online conversation about the series has produced myriad videos and essays picking apart, like Vision’s corpse, everything from easter eggs to plot speculation. Interestingly, fans well-versed in the comic book lore seem to ultimately be as in-the-dark as anyone, since WandaVision seems merely to borrow from a range of, rather than directly adapt any specific, comic book texts. Combine this with the show’s referencing of other TV shows and its exploration of the medium itself, and we find channels such as ScreenCrush reaching beyond comics into more meta-textual territory, from philosopher Marshall McLuhan and semiotics to second-wave Feminism, in their reading of the show:

While not technically spoiler territory, Elizabeth Olsen’s promo for Captain America: Civil War (2016) recaps key comic book storylines for her character Scarlett Witch – storylines upon which WandaVision may presumably be based – which, while helpful, may inadvertently uncover more than first-time viewers might want to know (via Allure):

Olsen’s familiarity with the comics, however, raises questions about her participation in the lesser-discussed topic of the MCU’s whitewashing of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff

Romani responses to WandaVision and to the actor’s repeated use of a particularly well-known and oft-used racial slur against the people

… and the MCU’s “failure to celebrate an under-represented group“:

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