Disney Plus’ first Marvel TV show “WandaVision” is not the conventional superhero badassery fans are used to, but that’s not a bad thing.
Structured as a mid- to late-20th-century sitcom, “WandaVision” deviates from the grandiose violence and chiseled superheroes of the typical MCU films to present a spectacle of raunchy humor, variable fashion sense and laugh tracks.
Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany), two of the most powerful Avengers in the MCU, star as husband and wife in the deceptively classic “sitcom.” Despite being an unconventional couple (she’s a mutant with witch-like powers, he’s a sentient A.I. with a cyborg body born from an Infinity Stone), there’s a chemistry between Olson and Bettany that makes for a charming shared performance.
The first two episodes explore the couple’s navigation of ‘50s suburbia, attending luncheons, hosting disastrous dinners and dutifully attempting to “fit in.”
If nothing else, “WandaVision” accurately replicates a bygone era of sitcoms like “I Love Lucy,” with its white-picket fences and gossiping housewives. Episode three shifts tone to the Technicolor ‘70s, donning a very “The Brady Bunch” look.
Anyone that has watched “Avengers: Infinity War” knows Vision died brutally at the hands of Thanos. But no one needs to watch the films to know that something is off. While “WandaVision” replicates the humorous dialogue of sitcoms, it is an impostor. Scenes depicting a man in a bee suit emerging from the sewers replace any thought of raunchy, light-hearted fun, with an eerie feeling reminiscent of the “The Twilight Zone.”
Yet the best part of the series is the pair’s struggle to understand why these discrepancies are disrupting their perfect world. With every fourth-wall break, the audience sees a part of their emotions that span beyond their husband and wife alter-egos.
For the first time in a long time, the grief of Wanda losing her brother, Pietro, becomes apparent, something many other Marvel films failed to depict.
As for supporting roles, comedic actresses like Kathryn Hahn present a character whose outwardly enthusiastic personality stems into something more mysterious. Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau slowly chips away at the falsities of this reality, with a smart performance that suggests Wanda and Vision are not alone in their confusion.
Without these emotionally nuanced performances tethering the show to reality, “WandaVision” could easily drift into orbit. The show’s attempts to defy the tropes of the MCU are commendable, but it’s evident that it could easily get sidetracked in the aesthetic of its alternate world. Often amiable sitcoms like “The Brady Bunch” achieve the fun better than “WandaVision” ever could.
But the newest episode offers promise for a greater grip on the “real” MCU. Even if it’s hasty and more of a preamble to the events that transpire in previous episodes, it’s a healthy sign that “WandaVision” is channeling its focus on Wanda’s creeping insanity, rather than bad sitcom jokes. The first four episodes are currently available to stream on Disney Plus, with five more on the way.