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Review

WANDAVISION 1×01-02 Review

Neil review’s the first two episodes of WANDAVISION calling them “quirky, off-beat and oozing in classic sitcom style.”

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WandaVision (Disney+)

Synopsis

Marvel Studios presents “WandaVision,” a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) – two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives – begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. The new series is directed by Matt Shakman; Jac Schaeffer is head writer.

Review

After 23 movies you could be forgiven for thinking that the Marvel Cinematic Universe peaked with Avengers: Endgame. With 13 years of storytelling under their belts I certainly felt there was little more that Marvel Studios could do to surprise me. That was until I got my first look at WandaVision, the most creatively invigorated Marvel project to-date.

Executive Producer Matt Shakman has taken two relatively straightforward characters and built an incredible world around them. These first two episodes alone feel thick with visual cues and references to the wider Marvel Universe. Yet after almost an hour – episode one clocks in at 26mins, episode two at 33mins – I feel no closer to understanding the mystery behind the black and white, sitcom setting.

Aside from a pair of incredibly likeable leads, WandaVision succeeds due to its unwavering attempt to recreate the world of classic series like Bewitched. Aside from some twisty endings, both of these episodes remain in the black and white, 4:3 aspect ratio with little time dedicated to the outside world. Or parallel world. Or whatever is going on outside of fake-TV-land.

Leaning in so strongly to the sitcom aesthetic works two-fold. Firstly it absolutely succeeds in leaving the audience feeling bewildered. I had no idea what was going on, it seems neither do Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) or Vision (Paul Bettany), but at the same time I was enamoured with the world they now inhabit. Secondly, it provides the MCU’s first streaming series with a solid jumping off point from which to launch an entirely new phase of storytelling.

The chemistry between the two leads remains in tact from their time on the silver screen. There’s a warmth to their scenes together which makes the relationship feel honest despite the magical powers and synthetic backgrounds. Spending more time with them, particularly in isolation from the Avengers and without a Thanos on their trail, is a welcome break from the norm for the MCU.

We get to meet a number of the series supporting players in these two episodes. Kathryn Hahn is an instant standout. She dives headfirst in to the performance style of cliched sitcoms and steals every scene. Every moment feels delightfully stilted and forced. Her lackadaisical performance is pitched perfectly for the material. But with rumours of much more to her character it’s going to be interesting to see how she develops.

As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I was delighted to see Emma Caulfield turn up in the second episode. Her portrayal of Dottie feels not too far from Anya so it was an absolute scream to see more of her in that type of role. I hope WandaVision has much more material for her in the coming weeks.

In terms of storyline, both episodes feature a “story of the week,” which feels, at face value, disconnected from the overall mystery of the season. But what Shakman and his writing team do is use these paper thing sitcom plots to further visualise and convey that all is not right with the world. From dinner with Vision’s boss and his wife (the delightful Debra Jo Rupp) to the debut of Illusion and his glamorous assistant, everything is just a half-step off and so I was constantly looking for hidden meaning.

Ultimately the mystery as to how Vision has returned from the dead and who (or why) he and Wanda are trapped in this world will keep audiences coming back. But if these two episodes are anything to go by then WandaVision has plenty more to entertain fans.

Verdict

The first two episodes of WandaVision offer up the MCU’s most unique entry yet. Quirky, off-beat and oozing in classic sitcom style.

WandaVision stars the returning Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision. Joining them are Kathryn Hahn, Kat Dennings, Randall Park and Teyonah Parris.


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