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July 2, 2019. That’s the last time we heard from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
23 films in, after the greatest team-up that the silver screen has ever seen in Avengers: Endgame and the revelation of Peter Parker’s identity to the world in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the biggest franchise in Hollywood suddenly went silent, as if Thanos himself snapped his fingers and took it all away once again.
And now, in January 2021, the MCU is back. And it’s very, very different.
After the pandemic related postponements of Black Widow and The Eternals out of 2020 into later and later dates in 2021, the first signs of life from Marvel Studios come not from a massive CGI throw down with galactic ramifications, but instead…a black and white sitcom, as the first two episodes of the inaugural Marvel Studios TV series, WandaVision arrived on Disney+ on Friday morning.
Taking two of the lesser featured Avengers, the love-locked reality controlling sorceress Wanda Maximoff (known as the Scarlet Witch in the 4-color world, played by Elizabeth Olsen reprising her big screen role), and her gentleman caller, the wall-phasing android named Vision (Paul Bettany). Of course, this is the perfect duo for a Bewitched-homage, right? First idea you think of, yeah?
Turns out? They kind of are. In these initial episodes, we’re thrust into the suburban setting of Westview, as the Superduo, now apparently married, attempt to settle down into a less dramatic lifestyle. Wanda cooks and cleans as a housewife, and Vision makes himself look like a human so he can clock in at a 9-to-5 in a company called Computational Services, Inc., where not even their boss can describe what they do.
It’s got all the elements of a classic sitcom. A laugh track, a noisy neighbor (played pitch perfect Kathryn Hahn, having the most fun of every one here), recognizable plots from sitcoms of yore (the first episode includes a mix up of an anniversary dinner and having the boss over for dinner), and they’ve even got vintage looking and feeling commercial spots here.
Just, something feels…off. How did they get here? How did they become married? What lead them to Westview? Where is Westview? And why is that thing over there suddenly in color? And how did Wanda get pregnant at the end of that episode?
Yep. This one is a mystery. Critics themselves were only given 3 of the 9 episodes which the series run, so something must be to the mystery, but until then, WandaVision is an absolute curveball from a studio whose formula we thought we had down pat. Turns out the best way to change it is to toss it out completely, and their cast is completely game for the turn, as Bettany and Olsen both ham it up in just the right way.
Bettany in particular shines in the second episode, playing the Vision as a drunk, due to ingesting gum, pretty much stealing that episodes third act in the process. Olsen is more of the straight woman, but it’s quite clear that she’ll be showing the dramatic chops she refined in other projects soon enough, with the cracks already starting to show in these early episodes.
I’m not going to lie to you folks, this is not the Mandalorian-esq extension you’re expecting from the first Marvel Studios series to hit Disney+. All indications are, that’ll be March’s The Falcon and Winter Soldier. In the meantime, though, if you give yourself over to WandaVision’s unique charms, you’ll be looking forward to the next episode every Friday, if only to try to figure out the road ahead.
WandaVision is available now on Disney+.