Final (Spoiler Free) Thoughts: “WandaVision”

Newlyweds Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are an unusual couple but nevertheless, they happily move into their new home in Westview, New Jersey, anxious to begin their lives together. But strange things soon start happening to their once perfect world and as we witness the various decades pass by in no time at all, Wanda and Vision soon start to realise that everything is not as it seems . . .

As the first Marvel TV series to make its exclusive appearance on Disney Plus, with the promise of many more to come, WandaVision certainly has been the “talk of the town” recently, providing us with a great many “watercooler moments” following the airing of each weekly episode and getting people coming up with so many different theories as they tried to unravel the central “mystery”. And how great is it that we can take a break from binge watching entire series and instead take in episodes on a weekly basis? Makes a nice change in my opinion. “Levels the playing field”, so to speak.

I’m sure that so many people have had their say already, WandaVision being so popular and all, not to mention the fact that some people are privy to certain “extra” knowledge as they’re more versed in the original source material and could identify certain characters and references that may have passed by the layman viewer, but, throwing in my two cents, I thought that WandaVision was a most excellent show as it used its unique, decade-hopping format really brilliantly and in addition, the performances were often wonderful, the visuals were incredibly sleek, the music was memorable, the writing was strong and, perhaps most impressively of all, each episode left me wanting more.

To begin with, WandaVision really does have a unique format, certainly one that hasn’t been utilised in any other TV series as far as I know, as it starts off by having our characters in a 1950s setting and then, with (most) every successive episode, time moves forward a decade at a time until we eventually arrive in the 2020s. With each successive episode, the instalments of WandaVision reference and parody different TV shows from different time periods including I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Malcolm in the Middle and Modern Family and in lesser hands, this technique might not have worked so well as they may have only “scratched the surface”, styling the episodes on these well established TV shows but never doing much more than that, but with WandaVision, it’s clear that the writers really understand what made these programmes great and as such, they’re able to replicate the style of humour, the set decorations, the costumes and hairstyles, the types of characters, the title sequences and the “picture quality” (which includes aspect ratios) that were found in these shows quite wonderfully and so in this regard, the series really succeeds as everything is just so lovely to look at and the “decade hopping” provides so much entertainment and joy.

But we then of course begin to ask ourselves just why we’re watching Wanda and Vision starring in their own TV series that changes decade from week to week and this mystery, which lasts for the first four episodes or so, really is very tantalising and must have led to people coming up with their own theories (myself, I went for perhaps a predictable answer as I thought that Wanda, as well as several other inhabitants of the town, was trapped in a kind of Tranquility Lane type situation (from Fallout 3), stuck in a simulated reality that was all being watched over by Hydra but obviously that was incorrect). The early episodes do a stellar job in setting up this mystery and when we begin the series, everything is apparently wholesome and good natured but gradually, small “cracks” begin to appear as humerous situations are suddenly infused with a feeling of darkness and tension and in the opening half of the series, the central mystery sure is an intriguing one and we are indeed left wanting more as that horrible “Please Stand By” message keeps popping up at the end of every instalment!

In the second half of the series, there’s a little less mystery as we’re (mostly) told what it’s all about in episode four and the “decade hopping” gradually becomes less important as the show races towards its endgame and gives us a lot more of the material that we’ve become accustomed to in the Marvel films, linking WandaVision to the events of previous films such as Age of Ultron and Captain Marvel, but still, there’s still enough intrigue and mystery to keep us thrilled and entertained and additionally, the show takes time to “slow things down” as it shines a light onto the grief and suffering that Wanda has been going through, with a penultimate episode that apparently had a profound effect on most people through its use of a particular line about grief and love (myself, I was honestly unaffected and have to admit that I completely switched off during that popular scene), and there’s also a “villain reveal” which, for my money, proved to be the highlight of the series as it ended that particular episode on an earth shattering cliffhanger and THAT accompanying song was a bona fide banger.

Regarding the cast, Elizabeth Olsen essentially takes centre stage here as Wanda and in WandaVision, she really has a lot to do, with so many different aspects of her character to explore, and she performs her role very well. Making a change from what she’s done before in the MCU, Olsen here gets a chance to experiment with some comedy and in the more lighthearted moments, she really is quite delightful and she clearly enjoys the more fun moments of the series but additionally, when events get dark she also sinks her teeth into the more dramatic parts of the show and as such, she appears menacing and unpredictable in some moments, fragile and grief stricken in others, and also strong, confident and powerful in other sequences; WandaVision really gives Olsen a lot to play around with, be it comedy, tragedy or high stakes drama, and she proves herself to be a dab hand at all of them, succeeding so much in showing a fun side to the character (which we haven’t really seen before) while also displaying her character’s despair and resolve.

Alongside, Paul Bettany also gets the chance to occasionally goof around a bit as in the first few episodes and he gleefully gets stuck in to the sillier and more comedy-laden moments of the series (which includes a slapstick routine set during a magic show) but when the drama kicks in, he proves himself to be a similarly strong and supportable performer as Vision attempts to uncover the mystery of Westview and overall, Bettany gives a very strong and well rounded performance. Elsewhere, Kathryn Hahn really lights up the screen as “nosy neighbour” Agnes, later on providing a particularly memorable performance as the truth of her character is revealed, Teyonah Parris has an important role to play and she’s an admirably strong performer in this, and the series also brings back certain characters from previous MCU films (as well as an unexpected appearance from somebody from OUTSIDE the MCU!) and they are played with charisma and good feeling by the actors involved.

As mentioned before, WandaVision really is gorgeous to look at and the show really needs to be commended for getting the aesthetic quality of all the different decades right, aspect ratios and ad breaks included, and also, Christoph Beck’s music is often chillingly effective (particularly during the closing credits) and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez contribute some fun songs (as well as THAT banger), and, as it’s apparently the most expensive TV show yet made, the epic superhero/action/fight sequences all look so sleek and at the end of the day, the series is just so visually pleasing.

So that’s WandaVision, Marvel Studios’ first TV series that we’ve been able to savour on Disney Plus. I really dug the decade-hopping format, finding it to have been conceived and executed brilliantly, and for the most part, it treated us to a tantalising mystery, full of intriguing drama and chilling developments, that it was a pleasure to muse over, and I eagerly await any and all future projects. Starting with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier!

A unique and exciting series with a tantalising central mystery, sleek visuals, well researched production design, and strong performances, particularly from Elizabeth Olsen. A bold new direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

★ ★ ★ ★

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