After a promising start, find out if Wandavision sticks the landing…
What a trip! We’ve finally come to a close on Marvel’s WandaVision, and things won’t quite be the same: internet theorists will have to find something else to do until the next piece of Marvel content drops; I’ll find it way harder to tell what week it is; and if they didn’t already, people will rate Elizabeth Olsen as a major heavy-hitter from now on. But was the show good overall?
Short answer: yes! In my review of the first two episodes, I’d mentioned that there wasn’t much of a central plot to tie the decade-hopping fun together, and this is more than satisfied by the last two episodes of the show. It retroactively loads the previous episodes with oodles of depth, making the whole thing extremely rewatchable. The showmakers took the sitcom gimmick just as far as it could go and then no further, which I find extremely admirable (think how long they could have stretched this thing out).
The highest praise has to go to Elizabeth Olsen, pitch-perfect in every iteration of Wanda and especially so in the last two episodes. She and Paul Bettany as Vision will likely move a large portion of the audience to tears in their final scenes. Not too cheesy, not too generic, not too obscure – they lie somewhere between all of that in an organic resolution that stuck the landing far more than I ever would’ve expected from a show that started out as scattered as it did.
Part of the emotional impact of the modern-day episodes, I think, is down to Marvel finally dropping their tendency to employ bathos – undercutting serious moments with jokes (think Tony calling Rocket a Build-A-Bear… right after half of humanity and his adopted son died). There was plenty of genuine comedy to be had in the sitcom episodes, and this is, wisely I think, dropped almost entirely in the last two episodes. In an oddly-meta way, Wanda was using comedy as a way to hide from the horrors of reality, and I hope more Marvel content sees this uncompromising approach as an option in future instalments.
Speaking specifically about the last couple of episodes, Kathryn Hahn absolutely killed it, slotting her right in the top-tier of the ‘I just want unlimited power’ supervillains, even if she wasn’t given the material to provide much emotional depth. Vision’s fight did give me a bit of an uncomfortable flashback to Man of Steel, but that was quickly remedied by the battle being resolved with a philosophical debate. I genuinely wish more conflicts in media were resolved via logic-ing the villain into defeat (see: In Bruges and that one heist episode in Rick & Morty).
The effects on Vision do get a little bit naff at the end but it’s not enough to ruin it entirely. I don’t want to take away from the incredible practical and digital effects work on Bettany throughout the rest of the show. All the flashy red and purple explosions in Wanda’s fight look fine, as does the overall look of the modern-day segments – to their credit, it’s almost indistinguishable from the level of polish present in the main movie series. I have my own gripes with the unremarkable cinematography present in the MCU but that’s a different story.
I’m not fully sure how I feel about Ralph/Fietro boiling down to a dick joke in the end – I certainly loved it a lot more than the Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3. I think I liked it because, like a lot of you, I was following along with all the people on the internet theorising that he would be Fox-version Quicksilver, or Nightmare, or Satan himself, so it’s kind of satisfying to watch that all collapse like a flan in cupboard (though I am a little disappointed that the people in the ads didn’t turn out to be Wanda’s parents).
Monica (Teyonah Parris) ended up having not much to do in the end, which I’m fine with – after all she’ll get her moments soon enough in Captain Marvel 2. The Nick Fury-style end-credits scene set that up quite nicely, as did Wanda’s, teasing her role in Doctor Strange 2. Thankfully, the set-ups don’t overshadow the central story, something Marvel had a tendency to do in their Phase 2 films.
As a measure of what to expect from Marvel’s Disney+ suite, this is an excellent start. While the style is unlikely to be imitated, the level of commitment and creativity from everyone involved, and the overall polish present in the finished product is something that’ll almost certainly have me tuning into Falcon & Winter Soldier later this month. See you then to do this all over again!