Critics Of WandaVision Are Missing The Point

WandaVision, the first Disney+ MCU show, is a breath of fresh air after a decade of Thanos-centric storytelling in the movies.


When 2020 passed without a single Marvel Cinematic Universe release, fans were anxious for the next piece of the massive puzzle, after being accustomed to getting new servings regularly. However, the releases of Black Widow and Eternals on the big screen were delayed, while Disney+'s Falcon and the Winter Soldier was pushed after production was halted during the pandemic. Finally, though, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. WandaVision became the first MCU Phase 4 entry and, it should be argued, it's also one of the strongest projects Marvel Studios has released yet. What's more, it's doing that on TV through Disney+, a first for the franchise.

Not only did WandaVision end the drought of MCU entries, but it's helping to redefine what a live-action Marvel story can be. On one hand, WandaVision is a celebration of TV history, with different episodes paying tribute to different eras of family sitcoms--from 1950s shows like I Love Lucy to early-'00s favorites like Malcolm in the Middle. Each episode has painstakingly recreated the shows it's inspired by, from the ridiculously silly special effects of old sitcoms to the fourth-wall-breaking moments of later eras, in which characters speak directly to the camera--not to mention a new era-appropriate theme song each week.

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Beyond that, though, WandaVision is a story of loss, trauma, and coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. That's surprising given the characters of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have more or less been third-tier players in the MCU. Now, they're thrust to the forefront and given the kind of character development most of the MCU roster could benefit greatly from, telling a genuinely heartbreaking story.

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Which is why it's so surprising to find criticism of the show that calls it a Marvel movie stretched into nine episodes of television, or a series lacking a central villain that gives it the kind of depth people have come to expect from the MCU. Complaints like this are missing the point of WandaVision completely.

Make no mistake about it, while the show fits into the larger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there is likely a "greater power" behind so much of the terror that's unfolding (we see you, Mephisto), searching for a "big bad" on which to blame the events of the show is a waste of time, because it's already been introduced. The trauma Wanda has experienced is the villain of this story.

This is a woman who was experimented on, watched her twin brother murdered in front of her, found herself responsible for an untold number of accidental deaths that led to the Sokovia Accords, then chose to kill the only being she loved to save the universe, only for Thanos to rewind time and kill him even more brutally in front of her, rendering what she did pointless.

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Throughout each episode of WandaVision, this character is brought face-to-face with everything that haunts her, from the reappearance of her dead brother to seeing her beloved Vision as he was in death, to seeing this picture-perfect reality she's conjured being ripped apart at the seams. What's worse, this is all presented as torment she's bringing upon herself, creating victims of not only the actual people of Westview but whatever's left of Vision in the process.

It would be difficult to tell a story of this magnitude comprehensively in a single movie, if only because there's so much to unpack. And now it's being doled out in episodic doses every week, leaving viewers to sit with each installment for days, theorizing, discussing, and digging deeper while the anticipation builds for the next installment.

That might not be ideal for those trained to expect their MCU stories in larger chunks or even people accustomed to Netflix's full-season releases of shows. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to entertainment. Different types of stories are told differently and releasing all of WandaVision at one time would not only be far less exciting, it would be a disservice to the individual episodes.

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WandaVision is appointment TV. Every Friday (or Thursday night, depending on how late you stay up), the next chapter of the story unfolds. Sure, it would be great if the episodes weren't dropping at midnight on the west coast, but having a new episode of the series to look forward to watching--and look forward to talking about--each week also keeps the MCU alive while movie theaters remain closed.

Beyond that, though, these episodic releases show WandaVision is in no way simply a Marvel movie's worth of story stretched to take up an entire TV show. Having a season of TV allows for much more exploration of the characters and plot than you'd get in a single film. It makes for a richer experience, and it sets the tone for what's to come in the MCU.

After all, following Endgame, in which the Avengers finally bested Thanos, saved the universe, and saw at least two core characters take their final bow, the future of the MCU is going to be different. There are new characters and teams on the way, the expansion of the universe through TV shows on Disney+, and years of new stories to tell. Kicking it all off is a show that has managed to spotlight underutilized characters, bring back seldom-seen fan-favorites like Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Agent Woo (Randall Park), set up future films like the next Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange movies, and also adapt tried and true TV formulas, some of which are over half a century old, making them feel new and fresh again.

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After nearly a year of movie theaters being closed and so any blockbusters being delayed, getting a weekly dose of the MCU is a reason to celebrate. More than that, however, getting a weekly jolt to the system like WandaVision, a show that manages to expand the Marvel universe while focusing in on two characters, is a gift that should be hard to complain about.

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