WANDAVISION Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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It was Alexander Wallace all along.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is oftentimes slammed for being formulaic, not without reason. For all its quite unique settings and visual effects, its actual plotting and writing can begin to seem by-the-numbers after a while. There are fears that the franchise that rocked the entertainment world with Iron Man and then The Avengers, pioneering how to do a cinematic universe all the while, was running out of steam.

If the franchise is a steam engine barrelling towards the future, it is powered via coal. It is to our great relief and benefit that this train has a full tender, and WandaVision is shoveling in that fuel. Long story short: WandaVision is fantastic, and shows that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and Disney+, for that matter) aren’t going anywhere.

The nine episode series is now complete (and will tie into Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.) and is an easy binge-watch, but it starts off … weirdly. Much has been made of WandaVision’s central gimmick of recreating different eras of television situation comedies. As someone who has never really watched all that many of that sort of show, I know I must have missed several references, but the recreations of entirely different eras is done well. The writers knew what tropes to use, and they are used spectacularly.
That use is to create a feeling of familiarity that is constantly and deliberately undone by a sense of unease. This is done via the insertion of the supernatural in ways that feel distressingly commonplace, and are not explained for a good while. The most visible example of this is Vision’s head and hands, which are in his robotic form when he is away from the prying eyes of suburban conformity. There are other examples, like telekinesis, or some characters acting in a manner that is decidedly off-kilter but goes unremarked upon in-universe. The end result is a feeling I have only gotten previously when watching, of all things, The Room: the nagging notion that the whole thing was made by aliens who had the concept of a sitcom and life on Earth explained to them but never actually given firsthand experience with them, and then entrusting them to make a sitcom. It’s either that, or that you’re in hell, or an SCP article, or an SCP article about hell (and there are many creative SCP articles about hell).

But WandaVision isn’t just a series of sitcom pastiches; to go into any more detail would spoil the fun of figuring it all out; in that regard, the show is like a particularly complicated jigsaw puzzle. What I can comment on are the performances; WandaVision is carried by Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda and Paul Bettany as Vision. They play off each other very well, with a chemistry that is both romantic and deeply dramatic at different times. Other good performances are given by Teyonah Parris and Kat Dennings; Kathryn Hahn almost steals the show at several points.
If there is anything that is wrong with WandaVision, it is certain aspects of the ending. It feels like at some point the writers ran out of ideas and began to lean heavily on old MCU tropes that are tried and true but could use some shaking up. I feel like there could have been a way to use its innovations to bring about a better conclusion.

In any case, WandaVision has shown that Disney+ will treat the MCU well in the way that it has downright revitalized Star Wars after the deeply divisive conclusion of the sequel trilogy. As the franchise crawls slowly into its fourth phase and its second decade, we can rest assured if WandaVision is any indication.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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