Marvel has officially entered the fourth phase of its cinematic universe. This new era beckons several highly anticipated releases like Black Widow, an untitled Spider-Man film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Black Panther II, among many others. While Marvel had initially slated Black Widow to kick off the fourth phase of the MCU, the pandemic pushed its release date back to May of 2021. The delay left the experimental series WandaVision to take up the mantle of the Phase Four gatekeeper. While the premise of WandaVision roused my skepticism, its recent finale left me excited to see what else Marvel has in store.
For the uninitiated, WandaVision opens with Wanda Maximoff and Vision navigating their suburban life in Westview, NJ. The series pays homage to sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, Full House, Malcolm in the Middle and even Modern Family, with the historical period of WandaVision changing every episode. But what begins as a dreamy, grayscale slice-of-life sitcom eventually transforms — quite gracefully, I might add — into an electrifying installment of the MCU.
Before I continue to speak on why WandaVision swept me off my nerdy, nerdy feet, I will pause for the obligatory SPOILER WARNING. If you have yet to finish WandaVision, or Avengers: Endgame for that matter, kindly stop reading now.
The series gets off to what some have criticized as a slow start. Emulating The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy in its early episodes, some fans felt cheated out of the Marvel experience. Indeed, had it not been for the Hydra-themed commercials and Wanda and Vision’s superpowered antics, it would be easy to forget you were watching a Marvel show altogether. But in a piecemeal fashion, WandaVision returns to familiar territory. I, for one, applaud WandaVision’s pacing, its restraint. It allowed for tension to build among the residents of Westview. It allowed us, the audience, to watch each episode with mounting anticipation as we kept asking ourselves, “What is really going on here?”
WandaVision pulls off its avant-garde premise thanks to its formidable cast. Elizabeth Olsen masterfully captures Wanda Maximoff’s grief and makes her eventual metamorphosis into The Scarlet Witch feel heart-wrenchingly human. Even with Olsen’s powerhouse performance, actors Paul Bettany (Vision) and Kathryn Hahn (Agatha Harkness) manage to steal the show. Both characters confront the world of Westview, infusing their performances with equal parts humor and humanity. I could go on forever, applauding the likes of Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau), Randall Park (Jimmy Woo) and Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), but for the sake of brevity, I will stop here.
Unfortunately, the show has its hiccups toward the end of the season. We learn in the seventh episode that the true villain of WandaVision is Wanda’s loveable-but-nosy neighbor Agnes, AKA Agatha Harkness. While her re-introduction as WandaVision’s Big Bad was excellent (I have had “It Was Agatha All Along” stuck in my head since the episode aired), her character arc and execution left something to be desired. I had completely fallen for her character in the early episodes of the season. Still, once Agatha Harkness dawned her spooky purple robe, she transformed into a plot device. She helped excavate Wanda’s tragic backstory, and she was the impetus for several fight scenes, but aside from the bells and whistles of the superhero franchise, she provided the show with little else.
I also have to address the really, really fast elephant in the room: Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. Peters originated the Quicksilver of the X-Men universe, a world that legally could not intersect with the Avengers franchise prior to the Disney-Fox merger in 2019. Now that the rights to the X-Men and the Avengers reside with the same company, crossovers are at long last possible. So, when he first appeared in Wandavision, the possibility of Marvel embracing the multiverse so early into Phase Four electrified fans. After all, with rumors swirling around the upcoming Doctor Strange, Deadpool and Spider-Man films, it made perfect sense for Marvel to plant the seed for what is to come in WandaVision. But, when we discover that Agatha Harkness had cast an actor to play the part of Pietro Maximoff, WandaVision forced the door labeled “Multiverse” shut, at least for now. This is not to say that Evan Peters will not return to the MCU for future films, but I am disappointed that they did not explore his role further in WandaVision.
Even though the show has its faults, the finale moved me to tears. Wanda Maximoff’s grief comes to a head as the world of Westview crumbles around her, and even though the episode gets caught up in the trappings of every other superhero show, it eventually ends on a poignant, heart-wrenching note. We witness Wanda wishing her loved-ones goodbye as she relinquishes control over the small town. In all my time obsessing over Marvel shows and movies, no scene has left me feeling so moved, so gripped by a character’s grief.
WandaVision is not your typical superhero show. It is an ode to iconic television sitcoms as much as it is an ode to humankind. If you have not seen it yet (shame on you for ignoring my spoiler warning earlier), I implore you to do so now. Even if superhero shoes have not spoken to you in the past, WandaVision just might.