As if revived by the Hulk’s snap, the MCU has returned! To say I have been looking forward to WandaVision would be a bit of an understatement. After a year without any new entries in the MCU I am starved for some Marvel content. Last Friday WandaVision graced the Disney Plus streaming service and after work I gave the first two episodes a watch. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, so over the weekend I gave both episodes a second and then third viewing. Today I gave them a fourth viewing, I still don’t know what to make of the show.
Did I use a monkey’s paw to make my wish for more MCU content? Truth be told the show isn’t bad, far from it! But I’m not sure if it knows what it wants to be exactly. Perhaps it does know what it wants to be and asks us after thirteen years of MCU greatness to trust it for a few weeks. Whatever the case is it feels like this show should have launched with at least three episodes instead of just the two we got.
Now to be fair I think the show is worthy of praise. It is very easy to make this mini-series a parody of old TV tropes and it avoids that by serving as a love letter to classic television and an homage to it. Immediately from the opening of the first episode to the Bewitched-esque second episode intro animation, the show oozes quality and respect for the classics. The whole premise couldn’t possibly work if not for Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) convincing us that they buy into the camp, and they both totally sell the 50s and 60s aesthetic.
There is a certain earnestness to their campy delivery that almost fools you for a second into believing you are really watching a Nick-At-Nite rerun and that is hard to pull off. Their performances are just about perfect, especially surprising is Elizabeth Olsen’s range considering we are used to her being the heavily Sokovian-accented Wanda Maximoff in the Avengers films. Kathryn Hahn as Agnes flawlessly hams it up as the nosey sitcom neighbor, and she absolutely nails her role.
The cinematography is really well done at replicating the old three camera setup for a black-and-white era sitcom. When the characters are fully immersed in the TV show story beats it films and plays out like a normal sitcom. But whenever something is amiss in the story the camera starts to pull in and focus on the characters in an almost uncomfortable way.
For example in the first episode when Mr. Hart begins to choke and collapses we see the camera begin to close in on Wanda and Mrs. Hart, and it feels a bit Twilight Zone-ish and creepy. I want more of those moments where we see the cracks in the Truman Show-style simulation we have going on here. It helps that these first two episodes are about a half hour each so they respect the audience’s time. But one can’t help but wonder that if they were an hour long each they could pack more exciting moments in.
The first two episodes feel very much like a slow burn, and it is understandable why that is. Settings need to be understood, characters and story beats need to be established, we get that. But that doesn’t help the fact that for a premiere it felt like it dragged it’s feet a bit. We get about 80% of the episode’s story/filler and only 20% of the overall meta-story arch. That will likely change towards the end of the season, but I feel like only premiering with two episodes isn’t giving a great first impression to the audience of what the show can really be.
Most of what I am hearing from word of mouth is that people found the premiere a bit boring and underwhelming. After Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, anything short of a high-stakes brawl with explosions would seem boring. I would urge viewers to at least wait until half the season is out or to binge it when it is all out, I think that would make it easier to watch.
You don’t get to make a show in the style of WandaVision without earning it first. DC could not just roll the dice and take a chance on something like this the way that Marvel/Disney can. The MCU has mostly earned the audience’s trust with very few exceptions (*cough* Ultron *cough*) and has proven to make the strangest of things to work.
I remember when The Guardians of The Galaxy was seen as a huge gamble, a ragtag pack of space mercenaries with very little-to-no presence outside of the comics. A few years later everyone loves Rocket, Drax, and Groot and their faces and names grace everything from Funko Pops to mini metal sculptures. This isn’t the first time Marvel has asked us to hold our preconceived notions at the door and to simply allow the presentation to speak for itself.
The MCU has spent thirteen years earning goodwill and the audience’s trust. I think it deserves a few more weeks to get this whole show out before we write it off completely. There is a chance, however small, that it doesn’t figure itself out by the end of the nine episode run. I really think a three episode premiere would have really strengthened it’s case. As for me, I will stick around because I am intrigued about where this show can end up going. There are enough tiny details to hook me so far and I hope the conclusion of the show is something truly marvel-ous!
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