The last time we saw an installment in the industry titan that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe was way back in July of 2019 with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home and now, a year and a half later the MCU returns with a completely new experience and the first foray into television for Marvel Studios. WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany,follows Wanda Maximoff and Vision as they come to realize that their idealized lives in the suburbs may not be all that it seems. The series marks a major turning point for the MCU being the first television series for the MCU (excluding Netflix originals and Agents of SHIELD) and the first, of many, upcoming MCU Disney+ series.
WandaVision, directed by Matt Shakman with Jac Schaeffer as head writer, has a lot of anticipation leading up to release and let me assure you the series does not disappoint. Being billed as a mixture between classic sitcoms and bombastic MCU storytelling it has felt like it would be a radically new experience for Marvel Studios. The first episode immediately sets the stage for what kind of show this will be.
We don’t know how or why Wanda and Vision are leading this new life but that’s not important (yet). The show is instantly and constantly engaging, with the mystery of just what exactly is going on pulling you in. The show doesn’t bother explaining what’s going on and it is all the better for it. Questions will be answered in due time but for now the experience is what matters.
And what an experience it is. The first two episodes lean heavily into the classic sitcom vibe, presenting itself as a classic 50’s sitcom following the newlywed Wanda and Vision. I hadn’t realized it prior to viewing, but the pitch of a superpowered couple trying to fit in with the 50’s lifestyle is actually something I’d watch an entire series of. WandaVision is a genuinely great sitcom when it veers into that genre.
The writing is superb, with laugh out loud moments hitting quite frequently and just all around clever writing throughout. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany shine as Wanda and Vision with chemistry that is palpable. They, along with the rest of the supporting cast, work to bring home and sell the classic sitcom vibe in spades. WandaVision isn’t exclusively a sitcom, though. As we know everything is not as it seems in Wanda and Vision’s new picture-perfect life, and the cracks that start to show draw you even further into the story.
Fully committing to the sitcom vibe the show pitched allows it to build it’s own world, narrative, and expectations, which also allows for easy and expert subversion of those expectations later in these episodes. The moments when the show breaks from it’s sitcom feel are some of the most powerful in the show and they garner that impact from the expert execution of every other element of the series.
The opportunity to explore Wanda and Vision’s characters in depth and at length via a television series is something that immediately excited me. They’re two characters who have had a consistent upwards trajectory in the MCU. Exploring and evolving the dynamic and relationship between the two of them in a longer narrative format offers a ton of space for quality character development and WandaVision is off to a fantastic start. While it’s certainly a comedy the series also hits several emotional beats with precision and power.
On a technical level WandaVision knocks it out of the park. Outstanding cinematography, top tier production and costume design, cinema-quality VFX, fantastic performances from the entire cast, clever writing, and clear direction keep this production at, and in my opinion well above, the quality the MCU has established.
WandaVision launches the MCU into the Disney+ era with a bang. Coming out of the gate swinging the series is firing on all cylinders and sets itself up to only get better from here. Setting out to offer an experience that is truly unlike anything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has attempted before, WandaVision injects some much-needed freshness into a now more than decade old franchise, proving that there are still plenty of avenues for the MCU to explore.