Review: Wanda/Vision (Episodes 1 + 2)
Some Spoilers Ahead
For some reason this was my most heavily-anticipated Marvel series. I can’t really explain why, either.
The fact that I love both the leads doesn’t hurt… especially letting both of them act more to their strengths. Paul Bettany is truly a hilarious ball charisma in ways he never truly got to be in the standard MCU. Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic when she’s able to sink her teeth into the role. Furthermore, Kathryn Hahn is never not hilarious when she’s Kathryn Hahning it up, and let me tell you… she Kathryn Hahn’s it up in this role as Agnes… a character I believe I’m on to, but given my limited scope of MCU knowledge and a fan theory I heard that can make that knowledge sound better than it is. Furthermore, her husband Ralph is a hilarious bit that I hope keeps up.
I adored the way it leaned into the sitcom world. Parody is best when it embraces the subject its lampooning, and I think that is why this worked so well. It’s a tribute to the medium that isn’t trying to mock it. It’s a love letter to the medium that frames itself just like it would if the medium was its natural presentation. The first episode, for the most part, would seem right at home on TV Land. Still, the subtle ways it brings it out of the sitcom universe throughout the episodes with camera shifts, tints of color throughout, a prominence of the color red, and the strangeness that appears on screen at the end of the episodes. Those subtle tones, slight yellows, and pinks, for example, help to keep you on edge and wonder if you’re really seeing them. (In fact, I’m still wondering if my mind is playing tricks)
As far as the plot, I admire the creators for sticking this closely to the formula. Yes, there’s psychic superpowers and Android men disguising themselves as humans, but these situations all happen in the way that you’d expect them to on Bewitched or something similar. At their heart, they’re classic sitcom fodder. What happens when the boss comes home for dinner, and what happens when the couple decides to perform at a talent show? Even the side gags… Vision swallowing a piece of gum and Hahn being the neighbor who has it all are right at home in the setting.
I don’t know Matt Shakman’s work all that well, but given a look at his other shows, it makes sense that he’s the director. Similar things can be said about Jac Schaefer’s writing. She’s starting to become a Marvel thanks to this, Captain Marvel, and Black Widow coming up. I can’t say I know her other work, but the variety has me excited to see where this show and her future projects are headed. Regardless, both of them work with a talented crew behind the scenes to make the show visually unique while also seeming right at home. There are also quite a few genuinely hilarious bits, thanks largely to a talented supporting cast and some genuinely clever gags.
I don’t have any major criticisms. On the one hand, some of the shots that are meant to bring us out of the sitcom world are jarring and take you out. On the other, it puts us in Wanda’s head, and, as such, I can appreciate it even if some of the crystal clear digital photography can seem a strange contrast to the rest in ways that can’t entirely be explained away by a creative choice. Other than that, I truly have no harsh critiques. The jokes are funny in a natural way, and the simple formula allows them to have more fun than even the most lighthearted Marvel movies to date.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t overanalyze the subtext that I’m already seeing. I can already see the allegories of grief and coping. Assuming that this actually takes place either sometime during Wanda’s initial attempt to kill vision for the greater good or sometime after Endgame, it’s easy to assume that what we’re seeing is inside of Wanda’s head. It’s… Wanda’s vision, if you will (hold your applause). Now, the only question is why it’s there. The sitcom offers a wonderful, fictional, idealized place where nothing ever goes wrong. We’ve already seen the ugly side almost come out in both episodes, from death scares to the ominous beekeeper. Wanda even rewinds it for us to change her mind in this mental Choose Your Own Adventure book. That’s where the choice of presenting this as a television show that knows that it’s a television show is fascinating to behold.
Is Wanda projecting an idealized human existence with a man he loves? What do those commercials mean? Is this some sort of deep meditation, hypnosis, or a trick played by an evil witch? If this is all just a dream, be it forced or natural, I think I see where it is coming from. Wanda likely grew up on television given the strange upbringing and status as a natural outcast. She cannot envision an typical life because she’s never had one. The most normal life she can think of is that on shows like I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, and other supernatural takes on the genre. Given all we know, I can only assume that this becomes more of a cosmic mystery. Still, by peeling away the sitcom they are peeling away the coping mechanisms that let her escape from the harsh reality. Now, my main question is odd any of this has happened in the past and has been reconstructed in her brain through television, or if it’s being programmed there inside her head.
I’m either overthinking this series or under thinking, and there’s a good chance I’ll have more thoughts on a rewatch. Either way, I haven’t been this hooked on a premiere in quite some time, and both these episodes brought everything I wanted and then some. I only hope that it can keep up the clever fun when the sitcom is entirely away and Wanda’s forced to reckon with whatever reality will come of this situation.