It seems like quarantine has been going on forever. I remember when Marvel’s “Black Widow” was delayed due to the pandemic and thinking “dang… I’m not gonna see anything Marvel-related for a long while.” Then, bam, it’s suddenly September and I see a trailer for “WandaVision” on Disney+ and thought, “what?” Little did I know, that was the feeling the show was going for, in the best way possible.
“WandaVision” follows the super-powered couple Wanda Maximoff and Vision as they start a new life in the form of a 50s sitcom; wait, sorry, 60s. Oh, my bad, 70s? And by that, I mean each episode jumps a decade in its style of storytelling and filmmaking. This sounds a bit jarring, but the show does this in a very careful and masterful way.
“WandaVision” is a fun and eventful television show that shines through its plot, its characters and its mise-en-scene.
Let’s get to the most important part of any story: the plot (no spoilers here). With each episode jumping a decade in time, the story seeming to move day by day, you’d assume the plot would be convoluted. It is thankfully the opposite.
Each episode is carefully crafted and told, providing question after question about the world being built. With each new episode there is some minor frustration of wanting answers and seemingly getting none, but it highlights how compelling the plot is. Each development stokes the desire to understand fully how our characters got here and what is actually happening. Each episode feels important, offering little breadcrumbs to the situation as it unfolds.
The biggest downside to the series is the episodes dedicated to explaining what’s happening from a (literal) outside perspective, but even these episodes provide fun scenes and interactions. Some jokes come across as corny, but never unfunny or unwarranted, and it’s a gift to see a plot put so much care into its pacing and storytelling. Also, to so fluidly tell a story with 23 movies behind it, requiring only a passing understanding of the movies, is something special itself.
Now, it may seem like acting is easy at a baseline, but going from episode to episode acting appropriately to each time period? Woah boy, does the cast come through. Elizabeth Olson does an absolutely stellar job making Wanda Maximoff an interesting and complex character beyond the Marvel films she has appeared in before. Paul Bettany took Vision from a fairly one-note character to a compelling and comedic android with a lot of heart. How do you make a character who knows everything more compelling? Make him know nothing. Kathryn Hahn, playing Agnes, is a great comedic character that adds a ton to each scene and always seems to know more than she’s letting on. Plus, Randal Park as FBI agent Jimmy Woo is always lovely to see.
Finally, the mise-en-scene stands out in this series. Basically, this is the set and set dressing and it is stellar through and through. With each decade time jump, the WandaVision household changes to be appropriate to the time period it is set in. It fits perfectly and never jumps out but the little style choices to resemble the time period. In the first episode, Wanda is using her powers to make dinner, and the plates are clearly floating on wires. Now, this could have been easily done with CGI, but the commitment to have the antiquated style of visual trickery in the scene only highlights how wonderfully and carefully director Matt Shakman dove into telling this story.
I can’t lie to you, I enjoyed this series a lot more as a film studies nerd, fom the meta jokes it makes within each decade to how the filming style changes with it.
Without experience in film studies, this is still an excellent story and a fun, confusing and tear-jerking show that will leave you wrapped up in its mystery immediately. I am giving “WandaVision” a highly deserved 5 out of 5 stars, with only minor plot lulls that still do not detract from the story. Go stream “WandaVision” and enjoy the chaotic masterpiece that it is.