‘WandaVision’ is thrilling evolution for the MCU

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Photo credit: Disney

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany star in “WandaVision.” All nine episodes are now available on Disney+.

By Noah Sparkman, Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has evolved, ambitiously leaping into new thematic frontiers.
Their most-recent foray into live-action television, “WandaVision,” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the titular duo. All nine episodes are now available on Disney+.
Upon its announcement, many fans were skeptical. A superhero sitcom starring two characters who were generally B-listers of the franchise seemed like a bold move on Marvel’s part, and many worried that this may be their first true failure.
However, for some fans, this seemed like something fresh. Perhaps Marvel was reaching beyond everything that they had tried before, and maybe we were in for something special. With the show now having concluded its run, it is safe to say that the latter is certainly the case.
“WandaVision” has comprehensively breathed new life into the franchise, proving that superhero entertainment can be more than loud fight-scenes.
Like many MCU entries thus far, there is a lot of fun to be had with the show. The homages to classic sitcoms are frighteningly accurate and frequently provide genuine laughs.
There is also a sense of intrigue resonating from the show’s central mystery, which kept fans theorizing endlessly while the show premiered, and is bound to hook viewers into binge-watches in the future. In , watching the answers gradually be revealed is satisfying and often enthralling.
In addition, the series contains an unforgettable crew of characters, and the ensemble portraying them is certainly on their A-game.
The show has an outstanding supporting cast, including Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings and Randall Park. The most notable from among this group is undoubtedly Kathryn Hahn, whose scenery-chewing excellence is one of the franchise’s more memorable turns.
However, they are almost completely outshone by the brilliance of Olsen and Bettany in the lead roles, who turn in what is perhaps the MCU’s best work to date.
One thing needs to be clear; this show is not faultless. In the early going, the heavy reliance on the sitcom recreations can become grating, and it begins to feel as though actual plot revelations are being put on hold in favor of repetitive gags.
The series also suffers from tonal whiplash at times, shifting quickly from creepy teases to whimsical sitcom humor.
Despite this, exceptional writing is what propels “WandaVision” into uncharted territory for superhero entertainment.
This is certainly a series about goofy comic-book characters created decades ago, but writer Jac Shaeffer has the ambition to give it more substance than the average superhero flick.
Delving deeper into themes like trauma and grief than any other installment of the franchise has thus far, the show breaks new ground with a surprisingly emotional look into the head of a broken superhero.
In the MCU, Wanda has been to hell and back, witnessing the deaths of her parents, her brother and Vision himself. For so long, the franchise has been trying to convince viewers that she is someone to feel empathy for, but without much development, it has always been hard to attach to her character.
“WandaVision” finally changes that.
As the audience is given a more intimate look into the life Wanda wishes she could have had, the loss that she endured begins to feel all the more tragic. Her love with Vision finally feels believable, and his death in “Avengers: Infinity War” feels significantly more painful in retrospect.
What hurts even more are the persistent reminders that her time in paradise simply will not last forever. The show constantly hints at the fact that she will have to face reality, and it is clear to the audience that it is only a matter of time until that occurs.
Wanda is slowly forced to come to grips with the trauma she has undergone throughout her lifetime, and is at her breaking point throughout most of the show. Her journey is made ever the more compelling by Shaeffer’s strong dialogue, which is arguably the best the franchise has ever seen.
“What is grief, if not love persevering?” Vision asks her in one of the show’s later episodes.
That weighty question is one Wanda must contend with as the series progresses. The internal battle she fights forces her to face parts of her past that she would rather choose to ignore, and the show ultimately becomes a chronicle of her road to recovery.
Themes of this nature being addressed in such a poignant and interesting manner is something almost unheard of in superhero films. It is extremely refreshing to see from Marvel, particularly given that we are now almost 13 years into the MCU.
Viewers will walk away touched by what they have witnessed, something the franchise has always had an issue with.
Even with its faults, the show is brave, and that is something to admire in this age of blockbusters. By its end, “WandaVision” has truly revolutionized the way that superhero entertainment is thought of and leaves audience members with new expectations for their emotional and thematic relevance going forward.

This story was originally published on Hayes Talisman on March 12, 2021.