Wandavision: Cashgrab or MCU Canon?
I was dubious of any new Marvel content after Avengers: Endgame. Oh, don’t get me wrong- I loved Endgame! And that’s what got me uptown pokies worried. After the Marvel Cinematic Universe successfully tied up a twenty-plus movie storyline with the literal universe at stake, what could possibly top that?
Not that I didn’t expect Marvel to not try and milk the franchise for all it’s worth. Hollywood has been ruining franchises like that for decades. So I mostly expected Marvel’s “Stage Four” to be a slow, tragic descent until the entire franchise ended up in the gutter muttering about pink elephants on the wall. It might very well be on that trajectory, but Wandavision won’t be its impetus.
Wandavision is the first television series that’s now canon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The other shows like “Agents of Shield”, “Jessica Jones”, and “Daredevil”, while acclaimed, didn’t count. They were allowed to take from the MCU canon but couldn’t affect MCU. This, unfortunately, relegates them to the same status as Star Wars Extended Universe content. Sort of still there, but Marvel doesn’t have to worry about keeping up continuity with them.
Wandavision is different. Aside from “Spiderman: Far From Home”, it’s the only released Stage 4 content so far (everything else was pushed back because of Corona). So, the question I’m sure you’re thinking: Was it any good, or is it just a dead horse Marvel is beating?
In short, Wandavision’s whole gimmick makes you go… what the heck?
It kicks off the series by dropping both Wanda and Vision back in time in a 1960s sitcom. Vision works a nine-to-five job, and Wanda is a stay-at-home wife, enjoying a happy, quiet marriage together. This is quite strange because Wanda wasn’t born until at least thirty years later than that, and Vision is canonically dead.
Each episode sort of paradise a new sitcom from a different decade. Starting in the 1960s, Wandavision successfully parodies shows like “I Love Lucy”, “The Brady Bunch”, “Family Ties”, and a number of others that I won’t mention to prevent spoilers. As each episode unfolds, you’ll be left wondering… what the heck? Until the showpieces it all together.
Now, I want to break down more of the plot and characters, but Wandavision’s greatest asset is its gimmick and the “What the heck” nature of it. Getting into some of the more plot-relevant characters and, well, the plot itself would be spoiling several episodes’ worth of mystery. However, I still want to talk about it, so I’ll put all those thoughts into a spoiler section below.
What I Liked (Spoiler-Free)
So, as I said, this show’s whole gimmick is the mystery and the sitcom thing. Both are pulled off with an immense amount of attention to detail. They put a lot of work into recreating both the visual sets, stylistic choices, and overall feel of each sitcom as the characters jump through them episode by episode.
Wanda and Vision are both done excellently. While the show initially throws you for a loop as to what’s going on and why these characters act the way that they do. When it all comes together, it’ll make you go, “Ohhh, now I get it!”
Also, the show does a great job wrapping up most of the loose ends with Wanda’s character. Even if there was no intention of continuing the MCU, Wandavision would work just as well as a sort of extra finale after Endgame to tie up some minor loose ends.
Without spoiling who or what it is, I should say that the villain of this series is easily one of Marvel’s better ones. The MCU has unfortunately had a lot of lackluster villains, aside from Loki and Thanos. I liked the villain here a lot more, who has a lot more personality than, say, Ronan or Mads Mikkelsen (the villains of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Doctor Strange”, respectively).
What I Disliked (Spoiler-Free)
So, Wandavision does a really great job at accurately portraying old sitcoms… and the problem is, if you dislike those sitcoms, that might turn you off. Specifically, the first episode is very faithful to those old black and white era 1960s sitcoms, and I nearly got turned off from Wandavision entirely because it pulled every trope that I dislike from those shows at once. This is really only a problem in the first episode, and there was still just enough there to keep me interested in watching episode two, and thank goodness I did.
My other biggest gripe with the series is this show’s secondary villain, who’s not really a villain, but the show treats him/her like one anyway. I can’t be more specific about that, but I’m sure I’ll be ranting about that below somewhere.
Also, there’s a side character who’s pushed as a protagonist but is basically irrelevant to the plot and approaches almost Mary Sue levels of “What the Heck-ery”. That character’s only saving grace is that he/her is basically sidelined for the finale. Again, more ranting below.
If you like Marvel stuff, you’ll like Wandavision. We’re given a lot more insight into who Wanda Maximoff is, and we finally get to see her reach her comic-book level of power. Wandavision has a lot of strong mystery and charm, and its tantalizingly short twenty-minute episodes will have you salivating for the next one. Aside from some hokey stuff with two of the side characters, Wandavision is otherwise great fun, with a cartoon villain and otherwise good character moments.
8 / 10
Obviously, if you haven’t watched the show, this is where you stop reading. Go watch Wandavision, then come back and read my uber-nerd ranting. I’ll wait.
First of all, the primary villain (Agnes) reveal is amazing. It fits perfectly within the style the shows going for. Heck, you want a hateable villain? One of the first things she admits to doing is killing a puppy. Kathryn Hahn really chews on the scenery and steals every scene she’s in. The only sad thing is that we don’t get more of her. There’s not a lot to her backstory, and she’s just cartoonishly power-hungry.
However, something that Wandavision seems to slide on is morality. The whole premise is based around the fact that a heartbroken Wanda accidentally alters the reality of an entire town, converting it into her idyllic paradise and inadvertently forcing all the residents to play parts in her fantasy. While the show doesn’t hide how terrible this for everyone except Wanda, Wandavision also tries to alleviate some of the implications by making Agnes and the side villain, Director Hayward, into even bigger jerks / villains.
The problem is, while Agnes is certainly a villain, and Wanda is very much in the wrong in this situation, Director Hayward is not. The show doesn’t portray it like that, though. Hayward gets treated as a cookie-cutter, evil government agent sort of villain, despite the fact that everything he does is completely reasonable.
After Wanda takes over an entire town and surrounds it with a forcefield, he and the military swoop in and set up a perimeter. Hayward first tries to send in multiple people to try and communicate with Wanda. After Wanda forcibly ejects them from her little bubble, only then does Hayward escalate his response. He’s basically dealing with a hostage situation with thousands of lives on the line. He tries to send in a drone to kill Wanda, but that fails. He then sends in a reprogrammed Vision to destroy Vision and- sorry, I’ll explain that.
Basically, Vision died after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Wanda used magic to recreate Vision accidentally, but Visions actual body was still in the hands of the government (who rightfully refuse to handover 3 billion dollars worth of alien sentient robot metal to Wanda). Yet, for some reason, Hayward lies to his agents that Wanda stole Visions body as if to somehow justify taking action against Wanda… even though he already has more than enough reason to go after her because she’s literally holding an entire town hostage…? Anyway, so Hayward sends in a reprogrammed dead vision to destroy the new Vision, and the show treats him as Evil for doing so. Also, he’s a bit of a jerk, so I guess that means he’s unfathomably evil. The show ends with him being handcuffed and escorted away, but I don’t think he committed a single crime other than rebuilding Vision against Vision’s wishes. Hayward didn’t even think of resorting to nukes!
Meanwhile, one of the secondary protagonists we’re introduced to is (I kid you not) Captain Monica Rambeau, a kick-ass black lady to takes nothing from nobody. She’s also completely irrelevant to the larger plot.
We’re introduced to Captain Rambo as one of the members of Wanda’s little fantasy. She suddenly breaks free on Wanda’s hold before Wanda throws her a gazillion miles out of the town. From there, we’re told that she’s a super awesome mega astronaut and FBI-style agent. She, for some reason, argues in Wanda’s favor, despite having been both brainwashed and violently assaulted by her.
She tries to break back into Wanda’s bubble by driving a mega-tank truck at it. The truck gets repelled, so Captain Rambo decides that where the mega-truck failed, her massive forehead shall succeed. Seriously, after watching a monster truck get repelled by the forcefield, she decides to run face-first at it and- wait, that worked?! Also, she has superpowers now. What the heck?
Captain Rambo doesn’t even do anything that impactful on the plot. She doesn’t talk down Wanda. She doesn’t defeat Hayward or even fight Agnes. In fact, the non-super-powered side characters played by Randall Park and Kat Dennings end up being far more important than Rambo ever is. Even a super-powered Captain Rambo sits out 95% of the finale because… she’s just wasn’t important enough to focus on.
It seems like she is a completely irrelevant character forcibly added into the story. Part of me wants to chalk it up to poor planning and / or writing, but a more cynical part of me suspects she was an afterthought because the writers needed to fill a quota. And it sucks that this otherwise pretty decent show gets stained with this nonsense.
For vague and probably slightly racist reasons, the writers shoehorned in a black female superhero, and for vague and probably slightly racist reasons, made the white government guy a villain. And that’s just pathetic.
I don’t want to discourage you from watching Wandavision. It was good. I did like it. While I think that what I just ranted about are genuine criticisms, I did enjoy Wandavision, and so can you.
I may have gripes with how Captain Rambo and Director Hayward were handled, but I have basically no critiques for how Wanda and Vision, our two actual protagonists, were handled. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany both have great performances here, and the characters are portrayed are both comic-accurate while being cinematically appealing.
Wandavision isn’t perfect, but Marvel executed this miniseries far better than I would have ever given them credit before actually watching it. If you’re not at the end of your tether when it comes to Marvel-burnout, then Wandavision is definitely worth watching through.