Marvel Studios’ WandaVision was, largely, a triumphant debut for its Disney+ slate of series — but maybe not for some of the reasons one might think. It’s not the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) at its finest — I still give that honor to the film Captain America: the Winter Soldier — but the new format has given the MCU a blueprint for what should be some quality storytelling going forward.
First, a disclaimer: I originally had no interest in WandaVision — mostly because I have no love for the sitcom genre and, as MCU characters go, Wanda and Vision are two of the ones I care the least about. And to be frank, the first couple episodes were a slog. Old sitcoms, to me, are cringeworthy endeavors, and the only thing that kept me from tuning out was the overwhelming curiosity to find out where this was all going.
But once we started venturing out of SitcomLand (or WestView, if you prefer) and started digging into the how and why, things got interesting. It’s no coincidence that some of my favorite episodes are the ones that spend the least amount of time in the realm of the sitcom, but the format served the story, the characters, and the MCU as a whole well.
I cared so little for Wanda and Vision, in part, because they were but bit pieces in the MCU films — some of which were so stuffed to the gills with characters (and focusing so much on the big names) that it was hard for Wanda and Vision to truly get the spotlight. (It also didn’t help that Vision came from one of my least-favorite MCU films, Avengers: Age of Ultron.) Now they have a TV show in which to shine, and the format made for some fantastic character development — development that simply wasn’t possible in the Avengers films that were more apt to focus on the Starks, Rogers, Thors, and Danvers of the world.
WandaVision, as a serialized story, was better able to serve the characters. Standout performances from Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany (and let’s not forget Kathryn Hahn) helped. But comic books, as serialized stories, aren’t always best served by the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Sometimes, the series format is better suited for these tales and characters (and good on Disney+ for not releasing the whole series at once to be binged; we’ve lost the joy of anticipating a new episode of something, and I hope this is the beginning of a return to that).
WandaVision even added some context to some of the films. Those Eureka moments are a lot of fun to experience.
But what I enjoyed most about WandaVision was how it did something we so rarely see in the superhero genre: it allowed a superhero — a female superhero, at that — to experience a story about grief. Grief is so rarely examined in superhero fiction, and when it is, it’s almost always for a male superhero and it almost always devolves into the hero flying into a blind rage that results in epic fight scenes and, depending on the hero, a body count.
Female superheroes seldom get even that luxury. But WandaVision allowed Wanda to experience, reckon with, navigate through, and even deny her grief. The grief over everything she lost, not just after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, but the grief over everything in her life. The trauma of her childhood, the trauma of what happened to her and her twin brother Pietro. Whereas the films couldn’t deep-dive into all of that, WandaVision makes all of that front and center.
That’s not to say WandaVision was perfect. It wasn’t. There’s the ever-present whitewashing of Wanda’s character. There’s the fact that the finale fell into the typical MCU trap of big, flashy CGI fight scene followed by everything being cleaned up a little too tidy. There’s the fact that Wanda’s character still has a massive plothole in it (a plothole that made sense when she was first introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the MCU couldn’t even so much as breathe the ‘M’ word… but now?).
Still, WandaVision proved the Disney+ series format can work and it provided female superheroes with the kind of story they’re not usually allowed to tell. I’m looking forward to what the other series can give us (especially after that post-credits scene — more Monica Rambeau, please!) and I hope the MCU continues experimenting with its storytelling. Because I think the MCU’s at its best when it tries to do something outside the typical flashy superhero epic.
About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.