WandaVision is the first foray into the streaming service world for Marvel Studios outside the purview of Netflix and under the leadership of Kevin Feige. And it could not have come a moment sooner given that COVID robbed us of an entire year of new material from the MCU. We were promised that this would be a departure of sorts from what we’d become accustomed to from the MCU and that we would be introduced to a grown up Monica Rambeau, although the details of that were kept a secret. Monica is known as Spectrum in the comics, but when we last saw her she was a regular kid in Captain Marvel.
So there were a few things that needed to be accomplished in nine episodes. In addition to whatever the plot of this thing was going to be there was Monica’s introduction, powering up, and reveal of her current relationship with Captain Marvel aka Auntie Carol. Then there’s the matter of connecting this to the MCU proper. Having teased that this is about alternate worlds and things magic related, was this going to be a major shift in the MCU as a whole or a compartmennnlized one off where the toothpaste gets put back in the larger tube afterwards?
As for the plot, what would it be exactly? Without getting too spoilery Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is still dealing with the loss of Vision, who was killed twice in Infinity War, once by her and then in gruesome fashion by Thanos right in front of her. She’s also got the loss of her brother Pietro at the hands of Ultron hanging over her, too. And instead of any conventional method of grief counseling she opts to take the town of Westview and use it to create an alternate reality where Vision is still alive and they live as a family, sitcom style, with their two kids. Meanwhile, government agency SWORD is trying to get inside the world Wanda has created to take back Vision’s body and stop her, while having an ulterior motive of their own for Vision’s body.
So what did I think?
I will always applaud getting the episode length right. Not counting credits everything was under 45 minutes and several of them were 30-ish. That is always preferable to the hour plus episodes of the Marvel Netflix world. 13 episodes at an hour plus is almost the same as a 22 episode season on regular TV. Cobra Kai changed the game here and I am eternally thankful for that. Plus it gave us a new MCU villain:
The casting was perfect. Elizabeth Olsen did her biggest acting job so far in the MCU and did great, as did Paul Bettany as Vision. But that was only the beginning. Teyonah Parris did great as Monica Rambeau and Kathryn Hahn was outstanding as Agatha Harkness, a character from deep Marvel comics lore that most of us had never heard of but were all singing ‘It was Agatha all along!’ with by the end of episode 7.
This series had a lot of heart, too. They had nine episodes to not just explain and introduce things but to also make us care about them. Wanda and Vision were both side characters in their previous appearances and while they were involved in some very important parts of the saga the only true, hard hitting emotional moment between them and us was when Wanda tried to blow up the mind stone in Infinity War. We needed to feel her loss beyond one line during a fight scene and they accomplished that here.
And of course I can’t leave out the hot song that was birthed by this series, ‘Agatha All Along’. The revelation that the nosy neighbor Agnes was indeed Agatha Harkness, and the catchy tune that went with it, was a totally unexpected moment in a superhero series and is worth watching just for itself. Agnes being in Wanda’s new reality but not controlled by it and in fact manipulating it herself was a nice way to hide a villain before revealing them. And it woke up what was at times a series that was a bit of a struggle to get through.
The first three episodes were a struggle for me. Although they were ultimately explained and fleshed out later they did not hold my attention well at all. I said on Twitter a few weeks ago that they could have done what they needed on that end in two episodes, and while I’ve softened my stance because of what they established I maintain my opinion that they are a big boring and that having them back to back on the front end was risky as hell. I was never really going to give up on it early but after episode 2 they were on the clock.
The real elephant in the room as this series went on was the fantasy booking that went on in many places as the series went on. Several people misread events as hints that certain Marvel characters may be introduced here, from Reed Richards to Magneto to Mephisto. There was a lot of talk that this is where they would introduce to concept of mutants since in the comics Wanda and Pietro are mutants, and when a fake Pietro showed up played by Evan Peters, who played him not in the MCU but in the Fox X-Men films that talk went up to 11. Well, none of those things happened so some people were not happy about it.
But here’s the deal: they never promised that nor did they give us any actual hints or evidence that we’d see them here. Fantasy booking in this century is when you conjure up some theory out of whole cloth and then act as if they promised it to you when it doesn’t happen. Monica mentioning a scientist as a contact may mean something down the road but that doesn’t mean Reed Richards or Blue Marvel is going to show up in this series. A scene that resembles Magneto’s standoff with the police im the first X-Men film doesn’t mean that Magneto is showing up here.
The other thing that needs to be addressed is this notion that a secondary character is somehow being done a disservice if they are treated like, you know, a secondary character. In this case it’s Monica Rambeau who is the source of the complaints. We met Monica and by series end she was starting to show some of her newly activated powers, but some people have been complaining on the internet that we didn’t get the full power up here and that she didn’t do much in the customary CGI fight in the climax. Ok people, the show was called WandaVision, not WandaMonicaVision. Secondary characters get a few things to do here and there but they more than likely don’t defeat the villain or upstage the main characters in any way. Seriously folks, Wrestling Fan Disease is showing up in other places and that’s not good.
I said on Twitter that while I felt it was really well done I don’t see myself rushing to rewatch the whole thing. I’m sticking to that. Ultimately this series is a bridge to the next movies for Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel and a device to flesh out Wanda’s backstory, and not something that really works as a standalone. Given the choice between rewatching this and an MCU movie that I like I’m going with the movie every time.. Between that and the way the first three episodes dragged I’m giving it a 7/10. 4/6 (good) for overall quality and 3/4 for overall enjoyment. There were parts that I thought were really fun and other parts that were pedestrian. If you’re a serious MCU fan you should check it out but if not then you don’t really have to catch it if you’re on the fence at all.