Monday, March 8, 2021

TV Show Review: WandaVision - Complete Series

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Marvel adventure in classic sitcom trappings
Cons: For some, the early episodes; for me, the payoff was a bit weak
The Bottom Line:
Marvel hits TV
Mystery, classic sitcom
Unique blend, it’s good

“Life Moves Fast in the Suburbs.”

I hadn’t been planning to watch the Marvel shows on Disney+, mainly because I hadn’t been planning to get Disney+.  But when I changed my mind on that, I decided I’d watch WandaVision as it rolled out over the last nine weeks.  It’s been quite a ride, and a mostly enjoyable one.

Being the casual Marvel fan that I am (I’ve watched all the movies, but only once each), I didn’t remember for sure who Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are.  Fortunately, Disney+ did have a cheat sheet of sorts for me with Marvel Legends, allowing me to watch some scenes of them from mainly Age of Ultron and Infinity War to help remind me of their characters and where they’ve been.  If you haven’t seen those movies, this show will spoil them for you, so either be prepared for that or watch those movies first.

This is a show that is kind of hard to describe.  It follows Wanda and Vision as they live their lives in the suburb of Westview.  Vision has a typical office job and Wanda is trying to adjust to her life as a stay-at-home wife.  Each episode is designed like a sitcom from a different era, with the first two even being in black and white before we switch over to color.  We get episodes inspired by such classics as The Dick van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch, to name the first three.

However, everything isn’t as it appears in their ideal world.  We get hints that something strange is really at work.  Who or what is behind it?

The first few episodes really are a slow burn, living more in the sitcom world (complete with a laugh track) than the real world.  It’s episode 4 where we get a glimpse of what is really going on, but that only leaves us with more questions.  From there on out, we get the story told from two different points of view, the sitcom world and the real world, as we build toward the climax.

The level of detail that went into this show is phenomenal.  Each episode, the show picks a different classic sitcom from a different decade as the basis for the show.  They roughly move through the decades, although we get two from the 1960’s and they skip over the 2000’s. The character’s hair and costumes change to match the decade, which I expected.  The sets change each week as well.  I’m not talking just decorations or furniture, but the entire layout changes at times to emulate the layout of a classic sitcom home.  I know some fans struggled with the first few episodes, but I didn’t.  As a fan of classic sitcoms, I was in awe at what they were doing to invoke each era, and how perfectly they were doing it.  I mean, we even get a different, era appropriate theme song each week.

Having heaped that praise on the show, I will admit that the jokes for the sitcoms weren’t as strong as I would have liked.  I was amused, but I wasn’t laughing like I would have been if I were watching the classics they were trying to emulate.

However, I’m willing to give them a pass since the sitcoms were just as excuse to set up a wonderful mystery.  Even as the sitcom aspect became less and less important, I was still hooked because I had to know just what was going on.

I’m not done praising the show.  I must mention the actors.  They do a fabulous job of playing their characters as sitcom characters.  If you are paying attention, the performances change slightly from episode to episode to capture the characters and acting of the era.  Yet they are still recognizable as Wanda and Vision.  It’s all deftly balanced and it looks effortless.  I’m sure it was anything but.

The cast is rounded out by supporting players from the Marvel universe.  Honestly, I had to get some help figuring out who all of them are since they have popped in briefly in a movie here or there but not been major players, but I enjoyed them and their performances even without all the backstory.  Naturally, there are new characters as well who round out the show.

In keeping with the sitcom motif, the early episodes all clock in around 30 minutes.  The last couple of episodes, as everything is finally coming to a head, are longer.  Still, at only nine episodes, you won’t be investing too much time when you sit down to watch this show.

For me, the biggest disappointment was the payoff of the final episode.  I felt like, we’ve been building to something, but it just left us hanging until the movies the characters would be in next come out, which won’t be for another year yet at a minimum.  Don’t get me wrong, they wrapped some things up, and the action and emotion in the finale was wonderful.  But I was left with a feeling of “that’s it?”  And I know that Marvel movies are designed to lead into each other, but I still get more of a sense of resolution than I got here.  Or maybe it’s just because what we got wasn’t what I wanted.  Maybe once I see these characters again, I’ll feel differently and get this show a little more.

But I still definitely suggest you watch WandaVision.  Overall, it is a fun show that will keep you spellbound until you’ve watched the whole thing.

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