WANDAVISION (2021)

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as Wanda and Vision
  • Original Air Date: 15/01/2021
  • Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Monica Rambeau, Josh Stamberg
  • Creator: Jac Schaeffer

Marvel’s experimentation with format, style, storytelling and presentation works for most of the part

WandaVision starts with the viewer watching a 1950s inspired Monochrome situational comedy (sitcom) that is in a 4:3 aspect ratio. This sitcom stars Wanda and Vision and is about the couple spending their days in the town of West View. Through the first two episodes, we witness them face different personal and professional challenges as the couple tries to blend in with the neighbors and the locality that they inhabit. Strangely, nothing is made clear about how they ended up there or how Vision, who was killed by Thanos in The Infinity War was alive. As the episodes progress it becomes evident that something is not right about the sitcom. We learn that it is being telecast live out of its timeline and is being watched by the agents of an organization called S.W.O.R.D. The organization is essentially investigating the disappearance of the entire town of West View and their search leads them to the sitcom that one of their experts finds embedded in the host of other signals that are emanating from the location that was West View before it disappeared.

If that was not enough, not everything in the sitcom feels right. Wanda gets pregnant, becomes a mother of twins and the twins grow up to 11 years of age within the span of one episode. This episode also introduces us to the character of Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) who plays the character of Geraldine in the sitcom. She happens to be the first character in the sitcom that references anything pertaining to the real world and is blasted off the show and the world by Wanda. She lands up at the S.W.O.R.D. site set up right outside the border of the anomaly and what used to be the town of West View. With her arrival at the S.W.O.R.D. site, things begin to make some sense and we are presented with a mystery and a drama that is ripe with emotion and surprises.

WandaVision is many things in one. To start with it is a series about how Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) decides to cope with her grief after she loses Vision to Thanos. The events of the series happen somewhere between the events of Infinity War and Endgame. Once the idea behind the town of West View starts to dawn on the viewer, it becomes apparent what exactly is happening there and why it is happening in a certain way. The series has the feeling of novelty on its side because of how Wanda’s version of the truth plays out and hops from one decade to another thereby remaining fresh in terms of visuals and aesthetics. However, what remains at its core is Wanda’s tragedy and her inability to hold on to anyone that she truly loves and how that manifests into an insatiable desire to inhabit a fairytale in which she has a loving husband, sweet kids, and a life as normal as one could expect.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda

To live in this reality, Wanda has to dig deep in her psyche to come up with the kind of prowess that would give her the necessary strength and reach to bend a town of more than 1000 people to her will and bewitch an entire community. Even without her knowing it herself, she is en route to unearthing a being that would go on to define her in the future. This aspect of the show makes it an origin story of Wanda and what she will be known as in the future. I just loved how the makers gradually arrive at this aspect of the story and how well they made this bit not only work but also justified it with a potent load of emotional depth to back it up. This aspect of the show will most definitely be used in future Marvel films and series and it is easily one of the most well-executed aspects of the series.

WandaVision is an experimental series and there are aspects of it that might feel boring and dragged to many viewers who walk into the series hoping it to be in the same line as what we expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it is one of the best things about the series that it is different, it might also prove to be detrimental to its viewers who didn’t want any changes to their long-loved characters and manner of approach to their stories. What however would work for one and all is the performances by the ensemble cast.

Elizabeth Olsen has to do the majority of the heavy lifting in terms of emotional impact and she does a phenomenal job of that. Her character is the only one who knows what is happening in West View and this creates some interesting dilemmas for her when she has to choose between doing the right thing and doing what makes her happy. These scenes are the highlights of the series. If that was not all, she is forced to visit some of the darkest chapters from her past in order to understand the genesis of her unprecedented power and these sequences effectively add a lot more emotional depth to her character and make us understand the reasons for her doing what she was doing. Her chemistry with Paul Bettany’s Vision is terrific. Going by how Vision looks, it was an enormous feat to normalize him which Paul Bettany alone couldn’t have achieved without the help of Olsen’s enamoring chemistry with his character.

Evan Peters as Pietro

Paul Bettany as Vision is equally good. He has been manifested by Wanda onto the sitcom and Wanda, who has always seen Vision as a voice of righteousness, does too good of a job of manifesting the exact version of Vision that is not afraid to stand up to her when he thinks that something wrong is happening. I loved the bits where Paul Bettany is divided between his love for his wife and his inherent desire to stay in West View and believe everything that he is experienced and his inability to ignore the glaring gaps in logic that question the sanity of his existence. Things become even more bizarre when he comes into contact with multiple individuals who seem to be forced against their wills to stay at West View and apparently have no control over their own actions. The scenes where he questions Wanda are some of the best dramatic bits of the series.

WandaVision being a Marvel series had to have some action sequences and it does. Thankfully these sequences are done very well even though they come a tad bit too late in the tale to be of much impact or importance. The primary antagonist of the series also felt somewhat underdeveloped and caricaturish and the ease with which Wanda takes care of her made the finale somewhat underwhelming. It must also be added that the time frame of the series also posed some unanswered questions that were overshadowed by the fact that I was too engrossed in the drama playing out between Wanda and Vision.

WandaVision is a brave step by Marvel in trying to come up with something different and odd and for that reason alone it must be patronized. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany give it their everything in terms of their rendering of Wanda and Vision and their performance is brilliant enough to hold on to our attention from start to finish. Interestingly, even their 50s inspired a sense of comedy works and extract some laughs. The fact that this series is in many ways an origin story to one of the most powerful characters of the Marvel Universe enhanced its appeal further for me. It will be interesting to see how this series gels in with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also the other series that are on their way to OTT.  

Rating: 4/5 (4 Out of 5 Stars)

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