It’s a new year and we can all agree 2021 pretty much sucked. Know what else sucked? 2020. The sucktitude of these two years was mostly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected health, business, and even entertainment. As you are all aware, the pandemic hit early in 2020, which resulted in no new MCU properties being released that year. MCU movies were put on hold, which meant that audiences had to wait until the next year to see any Marvel heroes on the big screen. The streaming platform Disney+ launched in 2020, promising new MCU shows to coincide with the films. The last time fans got any sort of Marvel-based show on a streaming platform, it was in the form of the Netflix Defenders-related programs (Shameless Plug, Go!) so fans were excited to see more. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was meant to premiere in the summer of 2020 and Wandavision would have dropped in the winter. Unfortunately, the shows were pushed back along with the movies, so we had to wait until January of 2021 before we got to see anything. Now that 2022 is here, let’s take a look back at the first year’s worth of MCU shows on Disney+, starting with Wandavision. Also, consider this a spoiler warning in case you haven’t seen this show.
The Best Sitcom Based on a Comicbook Ever Made
As explained above, Wandavision was meant to premiere after Falcon and Winter Soldier but ended up getting pushed ahead since filming had almost finished by the end of 2020 while FATWS had to stop for several months. That meant the first show on Disney+ would be perhaps the most bizarre thing Marvel had ever put to screen.
One would expect the show to be about the Scarlet Witch and Vision fighting bad guys and while that did happen at the very end, we get treated to a sitcom instead; pretty much the first sitcom to be base don superhero comics. In fact, it was a weird exploration of the history of the sitcom genre with each episode featuring a different era. The first episode was a throwback to early 60s sitcoms such as Dick VanDyke. The next episode transitioned into color, much as TV did in the mid to late 60s and seemed to have a lot in common with the Bewitched. It went on from there until it landed in the 90s/00s with a Malcolm in the Middle-like episode. As expected, all the episodes had era-appropriate opening theme tunes and, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll I really like when TV shows get creative with their intros. Oh, and it also had commercials, which often hinted at the overall plot or Wanda’s background.
I loved this bit of nostalgia. Obviously, the 80s, 90s, and 00s send-ups were a lot easier to spot for me as those were the shows that were on when I was a young lad. When it comes to shows from the 60s and 70s, I have less to go on, but I did watch a lot of shows from that era in syndication or, of course, on Nick-At-Nite. It should be noted that the show never spoofed Friends or Seinfeld, which made sense as it focused on Wanda starting a family with Vision so it had a lot more in common with family-oriented sitcoms like the Brady Bunch or Full House.
Now, some people didn’t really like the humor of the show and I can understand that. Sitcom humor isn’t for everyone and usually, people laugh at them more than they laugh at the jokes. For me, I thought Vision getting drunk on bubblegum before a magic show was adorable and I had no idea Paul Bettany could do comedy. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but it reflected the time pretty well. Also, the overly cute and innocent atmosphere was a great contrast to the fact that…
… it was kind of a horror series.
The series began with no explanation as to why Wanda was suddenly a sitcom housewife or why Vision was, y’know… alive. The first episode was harmless enough until a dinner party turned into a surreal nightmare straight out of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. It was made all the stranger when Wanda seemingly brought everything back to normal in a second and the schmaltzy sitcom theme continued with no one reacting to the chaos that happened a few moments before. The next few episodes would have similar breaks in reality with people “breaking character”, Wanda having to reverse unexpected events, or weird visitations/radio broadcasts from the outside. There was a lot of mystique surrounding the show with people guessing what would happen every week (Disney+ made the smart decision to release every episode weekly instead of dropping entire seasons at once, which helped generate a lot of long-lasting buzz). It helped that Vision gradually became more and more aware that things were not as they seemed up to and including being very suspicious of Wanda’s dead brother coming back to life and looking/acting differently. Then you had the wonderfully villainous Agatha played by Kathryn Hahn who had her own wicked theme song to go along with the reveal that she was the Big Bad.
The episodes dealing with events outside world had their moments as well. I loved the scene of Monica Rambeau waking up from the Snap and all the chaos and tragedy involved. One of the great things about the MCU shows is that they explore the fallout from things like the Snap. At any rate, the show had a lot of mystique surrounding it every episode, which gave it a nice, creepy atmosphere, but it also led to some of its failings.
The MCU’s Version of Lost
Remember when Lost was on TV? Remember how Lost built up a lot of mysteries over several seasons but the payoffs were often considered lackluster? Wandavision had a similar problem. Now, to be fair, a lot of fans, including myself, got really excited and began theorizing that anyone from Mephisto to Mr. Fantastic would be showing up. People picked apart every line of dialogue, every character, and every background detail to guess what sort of twist would be coming up in the next episode. Some of that was on the fans. At the end of the day, there weren’t too many twists and turns in the plot and no big character appearances… except one.
Leading up to the series, Marvel finally reacquired X-Men which meant they could now appear in their movies and TV shows in one form or another. Marvel was also promoting Wandavision as a part of a trilogy dealing with the Multiverse along with Spider-Man No Way Home and Dr. Strange: Multiverse of Madness. So, of course, people suspected the X-Men would be crossing over to the MCU soon and low and behold, Evan Peters showed up halfway through the series as Quicksilver. As you probably know, Evan Peters played Quicksilver in the Fox X-Men movies so with Evans coming on this show to play Quicksilver, everyone assumed there was some crossover event happening.
Now, when he appeared, I had my suspicions that there was more to it than meets the eye since he was acting weird and Wanda didn’t seem to initially realize he was a different version of her brother (the two movie franchises famously had two different versions of the Quicksilver character in their films). What I did not expect was that the series had nothing to do with the Multiverse and Evan Peters was playing some guy called Ralph Boner (because penis jokes are funny) who was being manipulated by Agatha Harkness. The whole thing seemed like a cheap way to get audiences tuning in and speculating. He served no purpose to the plot since Agatha was already manipulating things behind the scenes, so she didn’t really need to include a fake Quicksilver. It didn’t help that once the reveal came that he was just some random guy, he disappeared and was never mentioned again. Needless to say, fans were disappointed. The showrunner gaslighting fans by pretending the show was never meant to hint at any connections to the X-Men movies didn’t smooth things over, either. Apparently, she just liked Evan Peters and cast him in the role as a guy pretending to be Quicksilver without considering the fact he played Quicksilver in X-Men. Riiiiiight.
Oh, and Paul Bettany made a joke during the show’s run that he would get to work with an actor he had admired for a long time. People began speculating Al Pacino or some other famous actor was going to play opposite him. Turns out, Bettany was talking about the Vison vs Vision scene at the end. At least he apologized, though.
The Show Was Black and White (no pun intended)
One other thing that kinda bugged me was the lack of nuance. Marvel is great at creating flawed heroes and noble villains and the MCU is no different. While Wanda being a superhero forcing people in a small New Jersey town to live in a sitcom world due to her trauma is certainly nuanced, the execution was lacking a bit. Wanda suffered from cognitive dissonance and didn’t fully realize what she did was wrong for most of the series. The series did a great job showing Wanda’s mental state as an otherwise good person who was hurting and wasn’t always aware of what she was doing. That was until one single line of dialogue: “They’ll never know what you sacrificed for them”.
This line was said by Monica Rambeau to Wanda after she destroyed the Hex surrounding the town and thus, Vision and her children. Keep in mind, when Wanda had this field around Westview, the people were brainwashed, manipulated, and forced to live apart from their family in order to create the false reality Wanda set up. The people in the town were literally begging her to kill them before it was over with. When she finally freed the town, everyone gave her death glares and walked away. The show seems to want us to think the people were being unfair to Wanda for hating her when they had every right to do so. Monica saying “They’ll never know what you sacrificed for them” absolves her of any responsibility. The word sacrifice implies Wanda was under no obligation to destroy her husband and children but did so out of a desire to save lives. In actuality, she had to make things right and own up to her own actions. There was no sacrifice involved and the townspeople didn’t owe her anything. Just because she was hurt, it did not give her the right to hurt others regardless of intent and I wish the show would have addressed that better.
Aside from that, the other main villain of the show besides Agatha was the director of SWORD, Tyler Hayward. Early on, he realized Wanda was the cause of reality going wonky in the town but for some reason when he brought this up, he was presented as being in the wrong… except he wasn’t. In order to prove how wrong he was, the show kinda went out of its way to make Hayward into a moustache twirling villain who was out to kill Wanda and her children while brushing aside any character who dared to bring up the fact that she was an Avenger. Again, they could have added a lot of nuance to the character by showing him conflicted about what to do with Wanda, but they didn’t.
The show had a great premise and was a nice change of paste from typical superhero fair. Delivering some mind-blowing payoffs and exploring the morally grey aspects of the characters would have made it great.